For example, there is agreement that the early church generally met in homes. Early church gatherings were participatory in nature. The early church gathered to celebrate the Lord's Supper as a meal. The early church had non-hierarchical and multiple elder leadership.
The fascinating part of this is that we in the modern church act like there is not agreement about what the early church looked like and how it functioned.
Let me explain. In the modern, Western church we agree that we must follow what is commanded in scripture. We may not always carry this out, but we at least say we agree with it. We do not, however, agree about how the modern church should deal with what is modeled in scripture. Because of this, churches look and function very differently from each other.
If there was great disagreement over what the early church looked like, then it makes sense that modern churches would look so different from one another. Disagreement would naturally lead to this.
But there is agreement! Since there is agreement, it seems logical that we would then agree to try to look like what we see.
Since we see meeting in homes, it seems like we would try to do this at least some of the time. Since we see participatory gatherings, it seems that we would structure our church meetings so everyone could speak. Since we see the Lord's Supper celebrated as a meal, it seems that we would move toward doing the same thing. Since the early church had multiple eldership, it makes sense that we would move toward having more than one pastor.
We are in the odd position in today's institutional church of agreeing on what the early church looked like, but at the same time rejecting much of what is modeled.
Why do we do this? Why do we agree on what came before us, but then act as if we don't agree by not following the NT model?
The reason is that we are comfortable in our traditions. Traditional Christianity in the USA says that we meet in big buildings, only a few people are invited to speak during gatherings, we celebrate the Lord's Supper apart from a meal, and one pastor either serves alone or is the "senior pastor."
In order to be biblical people, we must look at what we see in scripture. We see agreement on the early church. We know what they did well and what they did not. The scriptures have given us a clear picture of what they looked like and did.
The question we have to ask is whether we are willing to change to follow the agreed-upon biblical model. Will scripture or tradition hold sway?
Some people may read this post and say that we have freedom in the church to not follow what is modeled in the early church. They will say that what we see is descriptive but not prescriptive.
I hear that said a lot, but I've never heard a biblical reason for saying that. It strikes me that we have a tradition of doing what we want to do in the modern church as long as it is not forbidden in the bible.
There is agreement on the early church. In light of this agreement, let's stop asking whether or not we are required to follow this model. Instead, let's ask how we can best follow the early church model.
Since we agree on what we see in scripture, let's agree to follow it.