Lessons from the Early Church

Justo Gonzales (who is not an evangelical) has a chapter called 'The Christian Life' in his book "The Story of Christianity," that was really good. Keeping in mind that the pertinent time period was the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, here are a few reasons why:

"Another common characteristic of these early communion services was that only those who had been baptized could attend. People coming from other congregations were certainly welcome, as long as they were baptized." (94) Closed communion, and Gonzales is a Methodist!

"The most remarkable characteristic of those early communion services was that they were celebrations. The tone was one of joy and gratitude, rather than sorrow and repentance. In the beginning, communion was part of an entire meal." (94)

"Also, in order to preserve and symbolize the unity of Christians all over the world, each church had a list of bishops of other churches, bot near and far, for whom prayer was to be made during communion." (95) A good application of this is to know and pray for evangelical churches in your area. Advertising with statments such as 'we do church diffently' probably doesn't promote unity.

"But, as the church became increasingly Gentile, it was necessary to require a period of preparation, trial, and instruction prior to baptism. This was the 'catechumenate,' which, by the beginning of the third century, lasted three years. During that time, catechumens received instruction on Christian doctrine, and were to give signs in their daily lives of the depth of their conviction. Finally, shortly before being baptized, they were examined and added to the list of those to be baptized." (96) For Southern Baptists, a good application of this practice is to not baptize 6 year olds!

"There are also some historians who are inclined to believe that some churches-Rome included-were not led by a single bishop, but rather by a group of leaders who were called either 'bishops' or 'presbyters.'" (97) One must keep in mind that biblically speaking, the office of bishop (or overseer) is the same as that of presbyter (elder). Gonzales also notes that in the 2nd century, the leadership of the church was entirely masculine. (97)

"Therefore, evangelism did not take place in church services, but rather, as Celsus said, in kitchens, shops, and markets." (99) The scattered church, not the gathered church was missional. The worship service is for believers.

"One should note that Christianity spread mainly in the cities, and that it penetrated the rural areas slowly and with much difficulty." (99) Sounds like Keller knows his history.