I would highly recommend this book: “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola and George Barna
For those of you who won’t go pick up the book, the following are some key take aways.
Pagan Christianity – book review
Have we really been doing it by the book?
For example: -The early church met in homes for their regular church meetings (Acts 20:20; Romans 16:3, 5; 1 Corinthians 16:19).
-They took the Lord’s Supper as a full meal (1 Corinthians 11:21-34).
-Their church gatherings were open and participatory (1 Corinthians 14:26; Hebrews 10:24-25).
-Spiritual gifts were employed by each member (1 Corinthians 12–14).
-They genuinely saw themselves as family and acted accordingly (Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Romans 12:5; Ephesians 4:15; Romans 12:13; 1 Corinthians 12:25-26; 2 Corinthians 8:12-15).
-They had a plurality of elders to oversee the community (Acts 20:17, 28-29; 1 Timothy 1:5-7).
-They were established and aided by itinerant apostolic workers (Acts 13-21; all the apostolic letters).
-They were fully united and did not denominate themselves into separate organizations in the same city (Acts 8:1, 13:1, 18:22; Romans 16:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1).
-They did not use honorific titles (Matthew 23:8-12).
-They did not organize themselves hierarchically (Matthew 20:25-28; Luke 22:25-26).
The Church Building: Inheriting the Edifice Complex
It can be rightly said that Christianity was the first non-temple-based religion ever to emerge.
When Christianity was born, it was the only religion on the planet that had no sacred objects, no sacred persons, and no sacred spaces.
Constantine’s (ca. 285–337) story fills a dark page in the history of Christianity.
Protestant architecture produces the same sterile effects that were present in the Constantinian basilicas. They continue to maintain the unbiblical division between clergy and laity. And they encourage the congregation to assume a spectator role. The pulpit platform acts like a stage, and the congregation occupies the theater.
The church building is not designed for intimacy nor fellowship.The typical church arrangement creates a sit-and-soak form of worship that turns functioning Christians into “pew potatoes”.
Incredibly high cost of Overhead – the majority of the giving goes to the building (s) and staff before anything goes to any real needs.
Many think that the early churches were large but actually they were 30 to 35 people meeting in homes all over the city. Scripture says the “church in Jerusalem”, church not churches so the church in Jerusalem referred to all the believers who met in homes throughout Jerusalem.
Bad lessons from church buildings – does not enhance fellowship/interaction among believers, many think church cannot be separated from the building.
The Order of Worship: Sunday Mornings Set in Concrete
Hardly any churches include open participation from all members. Suppose the Lord Christ put something on my heart to share with His body;
would I be able to share? If not then is the service really in Christ’s headship?
The apostles visited synagogues for evangelistic purposes, not for church meetings.
The Sermon: Protestantism’s Most Sacred Cow
Remove the sermon and attendance is doomed to drop. It came from the money making Greco-Roman orators.
It makes the congregation a group of muted spectators watching a performance.
It encourages passivity and doesn’t allow mutual ministry or open participation.
It makes the preacher the religious specialist and everyone else second class pew warmers.
How can we really learn from the preacher if we can’t ask questions or how can we learn from one another if we can’t speak?
It doesn’t equip us, it de-skills us.
The Pastor: Obstacle to Every Member Functioning
Remove the pastor and most Protestant churches would be thrown into a panic.
The word “pastor” is only found one place in the entire Bible,
Ephesians 4:11-13 – “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” The word is plural, means shepherds and the 1st century meaning is at odds with the contemporary pastoral role.
By the end of the third century the congregation which was once active now became passive as they now watched the bishop, the forerunner of the contemporary pastor, perform.
By the fifth century the concept of the priesthood of all believers had completely disappeared from Christian practice.
Neither Jesus nor Paul imposed any fixed oranizational patterns for the New Israel.
Sunday Morning Costumes: Covering Up the Problem
To think that God cares one whit if you wear dressy threads on Sunday to “meet Him” is a violation of the New Convenant.
It gives the house of God all the elements of a stage show: costumes, makeup, props, lighting, ushers, special music, master of ceremonies, performance, and the featured program.
As fallen humans, we are seldom willing to appear to be what we really are.
Dressing up for church smacks against the simplicity that was the hallmark of the early church which met in living rooms.
Ministers of Music: Clergy Set to Music
1 Corinthians 14:26 – Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spriitual songs”
Early church worship was done where anyone could start a song and others would join rather than just one person or small group always leading.
Tithing and Clergy Salaries: Sore Spots on the Wallet
For three hundred years followers of Christ did not tithe.
Tithing is from the Old Testament where a taxation system was needed to support the poor and a special priesthood.
The Law, the old prieshood, and the tithe have all been crucified.
Baptism and the Lord’s Supper: Diluting the Sacrements
Through our tradition, we have evacuated the true meaning and power behind water baptism.
Water baptism is supposed to be the believer’s initial confession of faith before men, demons, angels and God, but is has been replaced by the human-invented sinner’s prayer.
The Supper has become an empty ritual officiated by a clergyman, rather than a shared-life experience enjoyed by the church.
It is not in doubt that the Lord’s Supper began as a family meal or a meal of friends in a private house… the Lord’s Supper moved from being a real meal into being a symbolic meal… the Lords’ Supper moved from bare simplicity to elaborate splendor… the celebration of the Lord’s Supper moved from being a lay function to a priestly function.
Christian Education: Swelling the Cranium
The Greek philosophers Plato and Socrates taught that knowledge is virtue;
good depends on the extent of one’s knowledge.
Hence, the teaching of knowledge is the teaching of virtue.
– Herein lies the root and stem of contemporary Christian education.
It is built on the Platonic idea that knowledge is the equivalent of moral character.
Therein lies the great flaw.
Since Plato and Aristotle are the fathers of contemporary Christian education, it is serving food from the wrong tree: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil rather than the tree of life.
Contemporary theological teaching is data-transfer education which rarely gets below the neck.
The fallacy is that men and women who have graduated from seminary or Bible college are instantly viewed as “qualified”.
Those who have not are viewed as “unqualified”.
By this standard, many of the Lord’s choiced vessels would have failed the test.
The words of one pastor sums up the problem nicely:
“I came through the whole system with the best education that evangelicalism had to offer
– yet I really didn’t receive the training that I needed…
seven years of higher educaiton in top-rated evangelical schools didn’t prepare me to
(1) do ministry and (2) be a leader.
I began to analyze why I could preach a great sermon and people afterwards would shake my hand and say,
‘Great sermon, Pastor.’
But these were the very people who were struggling with self-esteem, beating their spouses, struggling as workaholics, succumbing to their addictions.
Their lives weren’t changing.
I had to ask myself why this great knowledge I was presenting didn’t move from their heads to their hearts and their lives.
And I began to realize that the breakdown in the church was actually based on what we learned in seminary.
We were taught that if you just give people information, that’s enough!”
Bible/seminary graduates don’t know what it means to live in a real community of believers.
Reapproaching the New Testament: The Bible is Not a Jigsaw Puzzle
We need to learn to view the New Testament panoramically, not microscopically.
To learn the story of the early church is to be forever cured of the cut-and-paste, clipboard approach to the New Testament.
A Second Glance at the Saviour: Jesus, the Revolutionary
Jesus came as a Revolutionary, tearing apart the old wineskin with a view to bringing in the new.
– The New Testament church had no fixed order of worship.
– The New Testament church lived as a face-to-face community.
– Christianity was the first and only religion the world has ever known that was void of ritual, clergy, and sacred buildings.
– The New Testament church did not have clergy.
– Decision making in the New Testament church fell upon the shoulders of the whole assembly
– The New Testament church was organic, not organizational.
– Tithing was not a practice of the New Testament church.
– Baptism was the outward expression of Christian conversion, immediately.
– The early Christian did not build Bible schools or seminaries to train young workers.
– The early Christians did not divide themselves into various denominations.