The Non-Religion of Jesus Followers

The social and religious environment of first century Mediterranean peoples had expectations of what constituted a religion.

Religions sacrificed animals as part of high worship. The priest killed an animal and prayed to his god for atonement or crops or whatever. The Jewish religion was recognized as a religion because it looked like a religion.

Then along came Jesus. He appointed apostles, not priests. He didn’t make a big deal out of ritual sacrifices.

The movement grew and people gathered mostly in small groups for teaching, worship, and fellowship meals. No killing animals. Part of the teaching was that there was one sacrifice that ended the necessity for endless sacrifices.

The Romans didn’t know what to think. This new movement wasn’t a religion. So, what was it?

There was a small group that met over the course of several years. We met at a woman’s house. She had coffee made. We sang worship songs, studied from the Bible, prayed.

There was another small group we were part of that met after worship to share a meal. We did this for a year or two.

Both experiences were similar to the Acts ekklesia gatherings.

Then the idea came to go back to Acts. To worship with song and prayer and listen to a teacher. These grew to “mega-churches.” But the mega-churches are nothing without their small groups that meet for worship, study and prayer. Just like the old days.

The other thing that the early organization (sort of) did was appoint deacons to look after the physical welfare of the people. Later, Christ-followers in Rome took that tradition and served as nurses and healers during an immense plague that hit Rome. The church grew tremendously because of that witness.

Perhaps today we should add to our adoption of the Acts 2 church by doing more than the monthly canned food drive. We could minister to our neighbors like those Roman spiritual ancestors. It would make a huge difference in the way “welfare” is done. It would make a huge difference in the spiritual life of the church. It could eliminate at least one of the contentious political debates that pollute our minds.

How do we reach out with teaching, worship, praying, and also meeting physical needs?

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