As we look at the fresh move of God and the apostolic Church that Jesus is building, let’s take a brief visit to the Early Churches seen in the New Testament, especially the Book of Acts. This can be exciting and challenging at the same time as early Christians had a totally different concept of church than we often do today.
Most of the things that we associate with church today didn’t exist inn the first dew centuries. The Early Church did not have church buildings, budgets, pulpits, pews, church bulletins, or a professional clergy class that led them. They didn’t even have video projectors. So, here is some of what the Early Church would have looked like….
1> You would not necessarily meet on a Sunday morning for your weekly worship assembly. Believers who came out of a Jewish background would have gathered on a Saturday night after sundown after the Jewish Sabbath ended. The first day of the week started at sundown on Saturday and so they gather at the start of every new week.
2> They would not be meeting in a “church building.” These did not come into being until the mid 300’s. The Early Church met in a variety o venues. They used the Temple courts in the city of Jerusalem. The School of Tyranus in Ephesus. They would hold large open-air gatherings. But, their primary meeting place in every city and town was the homes of believers.
3> Early Church gatherings were not particularly quiet nor solemn. As you entered the courtyard of the home where the believers were meeting, it would look like there was a major party going on. Some would be playing musical instruments, some would be singing, dancing, clapping hands.
4> You would feel very welcomed, loved, and accepted in spite of there not being any officially appointed “greets” at the main entrance. Everyone is engaged in making people coming into the gathering feel welcomed and loved.
5> After the worship and celebration food is brought in and people find a seat to begin the meal. This meal was often called a “love feast” or the “agape.” It would start with prayer and thanksgiving for the food and fellowship. A leader would take a cup, say a blessing, and pass the cup around so each one could drink. He would then pick up a loaf of bread and offer thanks. It is also passed from person to person. That was The Lord’s Supper in its original context. Then the supper meal would begin.
There were variations on the supper. For example, sometimes at the start the bread was passed around and each person broke off a piece for themselves. Prayer was offered and everyone ate. The cup was passed around, after prayer, at the end of the supper meal to end the evening with more prayer and then worship.
6> The meal is a joyful time filled with stories of what the Lord was doing one everyone’s lives. Testimonies were shared. Often, someone would stand and read a letter that had been received – sent to them by a believer in another house church or even by an apostle who was a spiritual father to the particular group. These letters that were read were often a result of questions being asked of the apostles by the local leaders.
When the reading and discussion about what was heard ends and the meal is over, worship starts up again…