I'm tired of starry-eyed revisionists who speak of the Early Church as modeling the perfect form. She didn't. The Early Church was bigoted, loose, petty, and naive. Its earliest members showed preference to those with sheared foreskins. They gave more charity to pure-blooded Jews than migrant proselytes. They broke laws and upset economies and started turf wars.
And yet the "word of God continued to multiply" (Acts 12:24).
The Early Church grew in spite of herself. She grew because God had a mission and chose the church for its execution. She could not die because God put His resurrection Spirit in her. It fills the church even to this day.
But the church described in the book of Acts was not given as a mold for post-modern America. The Early Church's boldness and prayerful dependence is remarkable, but her ecclesiology is antiquated. We should not expect to gather daily for bread-breaking and apostolic teaching. Too many people are gluten intolerant. Too many miles separate brothers and sisters in Christ. Skype and Facebook cannot bridge the distance.
Jesus launched the Early Church in a foreign land, proclaiming Christ in a foreign tongue. The apostles spoke Jesus in their context: the 1st Century Mediterranean world. Values of honor, kinship, and limited good dominated.
Our context is different. Our native language is individualism, tolerance, consumption, and entitlement.
What Would the Early Church Do? is the wrong question, because their doing (i.e., behavior) grew from divergent beliefs and values. Simply mimicking the form of the Early Church without understanding its culture is as ridiculous as a rural church pretending to be Willow Creek. (Bill Hybels looks bad in overalls.)
Over the next few blog posts, I'll consider What the American Church Should Do? (WWACSD?) to join God's mission. My focus will include teaching, community, worship, discipleship, and service.