Our hope is our web site will help you, as a church leader, to gain a better understanding of the church as it was originally set up by the Apostles. We believe that the basics of New Testament church life are generally relevant to any culture, any time, with few exceptions.
Some of the basics, as we see them, are:
- The Agapé. The Lord’s Supper was originally celebrated each Lord’s Day as an actual meal, a fellowship feast. Communion should be a wonderful time of blessing, fellowship and encouragement for God’s people. This Holy Meal was one of the main reasons for the weekly church meeting, as it should be today. It is a sacred, covenant meal that is like rehearsal dinner for the marriage banquet of the Lamb.
- Participatory Worship. Church meetings should be participatory. Brothers in the congregation with oral spiritual gifts should have liberty to speak, per 1 Corinthians 14. Any brother in good standing with the church should be free to contribute to the meeting (via a teaching, a song, a testimony, a prayer, Scripture reading, etc.). The prime directive for anything said or sung is that it must be calculated to build up, to edify, to encourage the church. The things that occur in the meeting should depend on how the Holy Spirit has sovereignly led various brothers to prepare during the week. Of course the leadership participate as well, but a big part of their ministry is also to be sure everything shared is edifying and in alignment with historic Christian orthodoxy and ethics.
- Preach The Word! The early church was devoted to the apostle’s teaching. According to 1 Corinthians 14:26, a critical part of participatory worship is the “lesson” (ESV)—the in-depth exposition of God’s Word. Church leaders and others gifted in teaching will of course do most of the teaching. Each Lord’s Day gathering could thus have three phases: a time of participatory worship and sharing that is open to all the brothers, the ministry of the Word taught by a capable teacher and communion celebrated as a fellowship meal.
- Small Congregations. Since the early church gathered mostly in privately-owned Roman villas, the typical New Testament church necessarily had to be smaller rather than larger. Excavated first-century Roman homes that were known to host church meetings could hold 65-70 people. There were 120 in the upper room of Acts. We believe that Christ’s church functions best in a generally smaller setting. The ideal is for a local congregation to contain scores of people, not hundreds and certainly not thousands. Every letter in the New Testament was written to a church where everyone knew everyone else. Smaller congregations help foster community, accountability and intimacy among the members of the body. Since many homes today will not hold as many people as did Roman villas, we should be open to creative alternatives (modified homes, renting homes big enough to host the church, small home-like church buildings, etc.). Early believers also did not have to worry with where to park all the cars that it takes to bring 100 people to church!
- Elder-Rule Through Congregational Consensus. Major church decisions are to be made under the headship of Christ by the consensus of all the brothers, but with elders given special consideration in the consensus process. An elder’s primary authority lies in his ability to persuade with the truth. Though elders are very important to the functioning of the church, important decisions are to be made by the church corporately, not by its elders in isolation.
- Family Atmosphere. Church is to function more like a family rather than a corporation. It is to be relationship based. Foremost is each believer’s relationship with our Triune God, then with each other. In the essentials there is to be unity, in the non-essentials liberty, and in all things love. Further, churches are to be family-friendly. The church and the family are to be integrated, not segregated. Age-graded Sunday School and Children’s Church too often only serve to further divide families. Children belong in church meetings and Bible studies with their parents.
- Treasuring Timeless Traditions. There are really only two choices for church practice: whatever it is that you want to do versus the ways of the apostles. We are committed to follow apostolic patterns (traditions) for church practice. These are practices that are derived directly from the New Testament, not church history. In short, we believe the patterns for church life evident in the New Testament are not merely descriptive, but are actually prescriptive (2Th 2:15, 1Co 11:2). How can we improve on God’s design?
Such a church in an Asian or Latino country would certainly look different in outward style than one in a posh suburb of London. The food, music, language and homes would be unique to each culture, but the internal basics would still be the same.
In stating the above convictions, we do not intend to imply factiousness, elitism, spiritual superiority, nor arrogance. We love and appreciate all those who belong to Christ, regardless of how they live out their church life (Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, etc.). These are deeply held convictions with us, and we humbly present them to the church at large in hopes of persuading our brothers and sisters to enjoy the benefits of New Testament church practice along with us!
Our desire is to provide resources and training for church leaders in how the early church met together in community. To this end, we conduct Weekend Workshops on our Lord’s design for His church. On this web site you will find articles on New Testament church life, can listen to many topics being taught, view PowerPoints and watch videos from past conferences. You can also download ready-to-print PDF files to help you teach about early church practice.
To Jesus alone be all the glory, power, and honor!