Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
In an earlier post I mentioned that I’ve been reading and learning a lot about the early church. Many of the things that occur in Catholic Masses and Protestant services, like incense, choir robes, pulpits and pews didn’t exist in the early church. The early church met in homes and public forums and the services were much more participatory. The concepts of clergy and laity also did not exist in the early church. According to author Frank Viola:
Clement of Rome, who died in about 100, was the first Christian writer to make a distinction in status between Christian leaders and nonleaders. He was the first to use the word laity to distinguish them from the ministers. Clement argued that the Old Testament order of priests should find fulfillment in the Christian church. Tertullian was the first writer to use the word clergy to refer to a separate class of Christians. Both Tertullian and Clement popularized the word clergy in their writings. The New Testament, on the other hand, never uses the terms clergy and laity and does not support the concept that there are those who do ministry (clergy) and those to whom ministry is done (laity). Thus what we have in Tertullian and Clement is a clear break from the New Testament Christian mind-set where all believers shared the same status.(1)
As I have been thinking about these things it occurred to me that over the years the Body of Christ has been trained to become passive observers and has neglected it’s mission to go and make disciples of all nations. The result of this corporate lethargy and consumer mindset is that the Body of Christ has developed some nasty bedsores over the years. I mean once in a while the paid professionals turn us over in our beds which helps, but we are never going to get better until we get out of bed and start doing what we have been commanded to do by our Head Jesus. Beds are comfortable but they can be deadly.
The Great Commission is to go and make disciples. True discipleship spreads from self, to family to others. Disciples make disciples who are equipped to make disciples. The kingdom was meant to multiply and grow exponentially not by addition.
Acts 2:42-47 gives a beautiful picture of the early church:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
So how about it Body? It’s time to get out of bed and get busy being the Body of Christ to a hurt and dying world that desperately needs to hear and feel the love of Christ through you and me.
(1) Viola, Frank; Barna, George (2008-01-17). Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (p. 113). BarnaBooks. Kindle Edition.