The First Century Church Wasn’t Trying to be the First Century Church

Last year at the Spiritual Growth Workshop in our Reaching the 20s & 30s class Eric Brown said this, “The New Testament church was not trying to be the New Testament Church. They were trying to be Jesus.” That hit me right between the eyes. Before we teach these things we have a pretty good idea of what each other are going to say and I had no idea Eric was going to shift my paradigm so quickly right there in the class like that. The Church of Christ has a tradition of trying to recreate the first century church. The thought is that since they were closer to Jesus and the apostles that they must have been exactly how the church is supposed to be (pay no mind to the occassional nature of the epistles and how basically all of them were written to address problems in these churches). If we come along and try to be something they weren’t even trying to be we miss the whole point. When we try to be Jesus, the church thing will happen. When we get caught up trying to imitate people who are trying to imitate someone else, we get one generation away from getting the point of the whole thing.

By the way, Eric’s point is biblical – Romans 8:29, 2 Cor 3:18


Guest Post: Using the Gospels in Evangelistic Bible Study by Eric Brown

I asked Eric Brown to do a guest blog post sharing his thoughts about evangelism. Eric preaches in Gainesville, Florida and is a good friend of mine. I think you will appreciation and learn from his thoughts. Here is what he had to say,

Over the past few years I’ve heard people say that they don’t know how to do an evangelistic bible study.  It would be one thing if these were “babes in Christ” but this has come from some people who have been Christians for years.  I’ve even heard of some trained in bible and theology make this claim which gives me the impression we’ve made this way too complicated.

For several years now the question I have loved to ask is “Would you like to read together the stories of Jesus’ ministry and teachings?”  If they say yes then when we get together we simply open one of the Gospels and begin reading and discussing that Gospel chapter by chapter.

My goal is to try to teach them as little as possible but to allow Jesus to be their teacher from day one.  I’ve done other “evangelistic bible studies” in the past but I’ve come to believe that there is no better way to do an evangelistic study than to simply walk with the person through a Gospel chapter by chapter.  Below I want to share several reasons for why I think walking them through a Gospel chapter by chapter is the best way to do an evangelistic study.

  1. The Gospels (Matt, Mark, Lk,, Jn) were made for this very purpose, it’s the reason why the early church called them Gospels!  Gospel is the English word for the greek word ‘evanggelion,’ so their called Gospels because they are the Evanggelion.  So if you want to do an evangelistic study with someone use the Evanggelions- Gospels.
  2. It allows Jesus to speak for himself and not me for Him.  Jesus gets to define who he is and what the kingdom is and what is most important to Him.  Jesus is to be their teacher, not you or I. Jesus instructed us ‘Nor are you to be called teacher, for you have one Teacher, the Christ.’  (Matt. 23:10)  We are not to be another person’s “Yoda.” (The NIV or ESV Study Bibles can provide good answers for most questions that are asked and for the questions you can’t answer you can reply by saying you don’t know.  People need to know we aren’t disciples, we aren’t even saved, by our knowing everything but by our trust in a person.  The reason we are called to live by faith as a disciple is precisely because God doesn’t give us all the answers!)
  3. It allows us to walk alongside the person in both humility and appropriate confession.  Anyone who reads and talks about the Sermon on the Mount without humility and confession is just hypocritical!  We’re asking people to be vulnerable to confess they are sinners in need of a savior.  We must be willing to do no less.
  4. It shows proper respect for scripture by honoring and trusting the way the Gospels are written and how the inspired Gospels are presenting the Gospel of Jesus and the Kingdom of God. It gives the proper respect due to Jesus and his word.

Imagine that you are having a Christmas party and you have invited me and told me to invite a few of my friends.  I take you up on the offer but before the party I come to your home and rearrange your furniture in a way that I feel is…better.  It would be better if you had the couch here instead of there, it would be better if we painted the living room walls a darker color with an accent wall.  It would be better if you had a few more pieces on your walls and less pictures on the mantel of the fire place.

Even if you did not add or subtract anything from the house most of us would be highly offended because the way we have arranged our house is an expression of who we are.  In the same way, I believe that the Gospels are written and arranged the way they are to present Jesus and the kingdom of God in the way that God would have it.  We can’t improve on this.  We believe the Gospels are inspired, we aren’t.

Eric asked me to share the link to the Jesus 101 study as another way to walk through the Gospel of Mark with someone.