People have asked me several times to explain how today’s churches compare to the first-century Church. Good things can come from the Christian culture and church business model we experience today (some missions, some training, some benevolence, and governance). However, they’re limited in scope and pale in comparison to the overshadowing abuse of Scripture, lack of discipleship training, and overarching concern about supporting the business of church.
Jesus intended for us to do three things per His commandments: treat God the Father appropriately, treat our fellow humans charitably, and spread the good news of salvation. This is what the early Church did despite great persecution and poverty, and they succeeded by sharing resources and using spiritual gifts. Everyone was on the same functional level and they filled roles as the Spirit of God enabled them. Today, churches are segregated business units with paid professionals, organizational charts, and exorbitant capital and operational expenses. The focus has, therefore, shifted from evangelism and charity to managing the business, and attracting and appeasing consumers of religious and emotional experiences.
A picture is certainly worth a thousand words, so you’ll find below a table that summarizes Church roles and responsibilities. It includes a comparison of the ancient and modern Churches and related Scripture references.
Function or Role
|Evangelism||One of three critical functions; To be done by all||Not a priority or typically nurtured; Related to a lack of discipleship and training efforts||Psalms 96
Romans 1:16 and 10:12-15
|Benevolence: Brothers & Sisters in Christ||Critical for survival; benevolence is one of three critical functions of the Church; we’ll be judged by Jesus for our involvement; To be done by all||Not a focus for resources or activities (only about 1% of funds collected)||Matthew 25:41-43
Acts 2:45, 4:32-35, and 6:1-5
2Corinthians 8:10-20 and 9:1-5
|Benevolence: Traveling Evangelists||Critical for survival; benevolence is one of three critical functions of the Church||Some missionary support; most care of missionaries/traveling evangelists comes from individual followers of Jesus outside normal ‘tithes’||Acts 20:34-35
|Discipleship||One of three important functions of the Church (the other two: benevolence and evangelism); done by those more mature in their faith||Not generally a priority as evidenced by Scriptural illiteracy and lack of programs (95% or more of those who say they believe in Jesus don’t read the Bible or regularly engage in study)||Matthew 28:19-20
Romans 6:17 and 10:17
Colossians 1:28 and 3:16
Titus 1:9 and 2:3
|Governance||Oversight through mature Christians and Bishops (overseers)||Multiple levels of responsibilities; incumbents are usually paid||Acts 14:23;
1Timothy 3:1-13 and 5:17
|Fund Raising||Done for benevolence without mandate or limit||Done through threats of robbing God (OT Scriptural misuse) or promises of prosperity; Funds are used primarily for salaries, real-estate, or related business expenses||See ‘Benevolence’ scriptures above|
|Worship||Outward; participatory||More inward; audience and performance-based||Ephesians 5:19
Which ‘Church’ do you belong to?