Thoughts and Rant From My Personal Study of the Early Church

I’ve been going through a study of the early church, and I have been thinking a lot about the rapid expansion of Christianity.

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There are a lot of reasons why the early church multiplied. At the time the Roman Empire was at peace (Pax Romana) the borders were safe, and people were able to travel freely without concern. The people of the empire shared a similar language (Koine Greek) so people would be able to speak a common language no matter where they traveled throughout the vast empire. And, because of the dispersing of the Jews throughout Asia and Europe, there were synagogues all over the place. Everywhere the early believers went there would be a place to go and share the gospel message.

Those are some of the reasons why the early church was growing, but there are some others as well.

The early church acted differently compared to the rest of the culture.

For example, Christians had compassion for the poor. We know in Acts that the early believers would sell their excess possessions for the poor believers leading to a sense of equality. Even hundreds of years later, Emperor Julian would comment on how not only did Christians take care of their own poor but also nonbelievers as well?! The leader of the government, (who wasn’t a fan of Christians), was dumbfounded by how they treated all people.

We see another example of how they were different; Christians went out of their way to help the babies who were left to die in the garbage. The Roman Empire was known for its lack of affection for babies and its willingness to accept practices of infanticide for a variety of reasons. The early church was known to save the babies from the trash and raise them as their own or give them proper burials if they passed away.

The early church benefited from the stability of the government, but they also benefited for their convictions for the helpless.

Today’s church in the United States is vastly different than the early church. For example, if you go to any Christian leadership conference, you probably won’t find a class about helping the helpless. Yes, you might hear a guest speaker talk about it, or it might come up in passing. But what you will hear is this word “excellence.” You will listen to how your ministry needs to be excellent, and it needs to be a stellar experience for people who are visiting. If you want the right customers, you need to make sure they get a clean building, with friendly people and possibly some sort of gift on the way out.

This is a style of attracting the right people so they can become good givers so that the church to pay for the extras like air conditioning. People need Jesus, but they won’t stay unless they are comfortable

John Crist had a great skit about pastors on easter, you can check it below.

We are far from the early church in many ways, and we have traded what made us different from the pharisaical attitude that Jesus taught against in the gospels. We gave up helping the helpless for catering to the wealthy.

Side note: Living in the Seattle area, I know the homeless situation is very complicated, and our church has had many issues with abusers of the system. But we haven’t given up on helping either. Instead of walking away, we are evaluating how we can help solve the problems not just prolong bad choices.

As Christians, we need to start being different in the way that makes people think “Why are they acting like this?” And I am not talking about being different in wearing denim skirts and homeschooling our kids (those things aren’t bad, but I don’t know how that helps the kingdom). We need to be different in the ways that matter, in a radical love so different than our society, that it touches everyone around us.

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My Good Friday Reflection

It’s been a couple of centuries since the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior. And the more I learn about early the church, the more I am grateful for the courage and sacrifices of those early adopters.

Jesus death was supposed to be the end, but it was only the beginning. Jesus had as many as a few thousand people who followed during his life and when he died just a few hundred remained around.

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But then it started growing, in a few years, it would go back into the low thousands, to almost 10 thousand by the end of the century than in just a few hundred years the growth of the church was a significant part of the Roman Empire.

Against all the odds, in the beginning, it survived and eventually thrived on the hard work of the early believers. So on this Good Friday, as I remember the grace and mercy that comes from Jesus’ death, I will also be grateful for the named and unnamed saints that risked everything for this little movement to become what it is today.

Disappointment With Religious Podcasts

One of my favorite things to do is to listen to podcasts. I grew up listening to talk radio while doing puzzles in the garage and gradually moving away from partisan conversations to ones that will challenge me in every element of my life.

I listen to podcasts about manliness, etiquette, politics, debates, religious and hobbies.

One of the reasons I find podcasts beautiful is the extended conversation usually on a specific topic. There are no quick jabs into a commercial break like talk radio instead it’s a well thought out idea that makes you consider other opinions.

But the one thing that I notice is my religious podcasts (especially evangelical podcasts) every so often to expand on statements that have a generalization of the culture.

For example, they might talk about the current culture and then instead of giving a statistic, they give their opinion with the statement “It is true.”

Well, how is it true? Where does this truth come from? Is the true relevant to today or just a mindless thought that you feel truth?

It reminds me of the t-shirt from Philip DeFranco.

This is just lazy and shouldn’t happen on a medium that has no time limit. And it makes me mad that religion podcasts are the ones that do this the most.

All this does is create blind ignorance and those who don’t and won’t research the statements will spread possible falsehoods to their peers.

If you are a religious person, you need to be better with your knowledge. You are already discredited by many because of their view of “faith” and how they feel a crutch in life. So if you want to be a credible resource, you need to make sure you are spreading real truths with real stats not just a general observation with no evidence.

We Should Be Better Than This

In the song “Hosanna” by Hillsong United there is a part of the bridge where we sing “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” Those words are so powerful to sing, and I wonder if churches in the U.S. want that to be true.

With the reports from the Houston Chronicle about the Southern Baptist scandal, my heart is hurting. And I can’t imagine what God’s heart feels right now. So many victims, so much injustice happening by merely turning a blind eye so ignorance can be an excuse.

It’s a giant mess and because of this many people will never believe in the religion that should be above these evils. I mean the churches are quick to judge “Hollywood” for their misconducts, but it looks like we needed to get the log out of our eye before we judge others.

As a pastor now for almost twenty years, I have seen my share of pastors I knew to get in trouble for these situations. I had to have phone calls from elders where friends of mine wanted to go back into ministry after being fired from sexual misconduct.

I had seen parishioners support their pastor even after inappropriate conversations because he stood up in front of the congregation and repented for his sin. And then when he got fired, the church got heat because he repented.

This shouldn’t be a gray issue, but it looks like from the report churches either do a terrible job with their hiring practices or sadly doesn’t care.

I know the more that will come out, isn’t going to be good and I hope this story stays in the headlines for a while as a wake-up call to the churches in this blessed country because we should be and need to better.

If you haven’t read the article, feel free to read it here

My Favorite Cringe Bible Story

I love watching cringe videos. I don’t know if I am a terrible person, but to me, there is nothing funnier than awkward moments happening to innocent people.

One recent video that I saw that made me laugh, a flat-earther started yelling at a NASA employee in a coffee shop. It was amazing watching this crazy guy accusing the person from lying to the public.

Oh man, it was hilarious.

Because I am the type of person, one of my favorite stories in the Bible is in the book of Matthew.

When Jesus is facing death and Pilate decides to allow the crowd to pardon Jesus. So Pilate brings a known criminal to the crowd with Jesus. Naturally, they will come to their senses and request Jesus to be released.

Pilate asks, “Who should I release?”

Crowd: “Barabas!!”

Pilate retorts, “Okay are you sure?”

Crowd: “Yes we want the criminal.”

Pilate: “Fine, but I am not responsible for this man’s death.”

And this is my favorite part; the crowd say’s “His blood is on all our children and us” (Matthew 27:26)

When they yell this at Pilate, I can imagine people going, “Really?! You want this nasty man back on the streets.” I can sense their stomach being a little knotted, and teeth a little clinched.

And the amusing thing is that I can image God the Father sitting in heaven, with his palm on his forehead saying “Really?! These people have no clue about my laws because they are asking for the exact thing that will save them and their children.”

Leviticus 17:11 speaks about the importance of a life used as an atonement.

“For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

What a wonderfully cringe-worthy experience that became the salvation of the world.

With Easter season around the corner, let us be thankful for naive requests from the people that should have know better.