10 Marks of the Early Church

Today’s post comes from David Fairchild’s website found here. Interesting stuff. Incidentally, Rodney Stark, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington and raised a Lutheran, says of himself, “I’ve never been an atheist. Atheism is an active faith; it says, ‘I believe there is no God.’ But I don’t know what I believe. I was brought up a Lutheran in Jamestown, North Dakota. I have trouble with faith. I’m not proud of this. I don’t think it makes me an intellectual. I would believe if I could, and I may be able to before it’s over. I would welcome that.“* (emphasis mine)

10 Marks of the Early Church

Rodney Stark and other sociologists tell us there were 10 values of early Christians that stood in stark (no pun intended) contrast to the pluralistic pagan culture of Rome. Let’s prayerfully think through these values and match them to the witness of our own churches. Do we see the city existing for us or do we see our church and our lives existing for the city?

1. They refused to attend blood thirsty entertainment. They wouldn’t go to gladiatorial events because they believed it defiled humans who were created in the image of God.

2. This made them appear to be anti-social. Tertullian and Augustine both write about these events in a negative light.

3. They did not serve in the military to support Caesar’s wars of conquest, which made them appear weak.

4. They were against abortion and infanticide. In this culture, both were considered acceptable. To throw your baby out on the dung heap if you didn’t want it was not taboo.

5. They empowered women by showing their value and dignity in places of learning and service which had previously been exclusively for men. Christians held women in high regard and treasured them rather than viewing them as just a step above expendable children and servants.

6. They were against sex outside of marriage. This fidelity was considered odd and against culture. Sex was viewed as nothing more than a desire like eating or sleeping. Christians held a high view of the bed and kept it pure and would not engage in sex outside of marriage.

7. They were against homosexual relationships. This was odd in a time when same sex practice was not frowned upon.

8. They were exceptionally generous with their resources. They shared what they had with one another and welcomed others in with a hospitality that was unparalleled. They were radically for the poor. In a time when the poor and downtrodden were viewed as getting what they deserved, they were aggressively committed to loving and serving people in the margins of society.

9. They mixed races and social classes in ways that were unseen in their gatherings, and for it they were considered scandalous.

10. They believed only Christ was the way to salvation. This was in a time when everyone had a god and could believe something entirely different and it was totally acceptable to be polytheists and pluralistic. Christians dared claim that Jesus was the only way and refused to bend to other gods.

Our city has yet to see a group of people that hold these practices simultaneously.

If we held the values 1-Refused bloodthirsty sports, 2-Refused militarism, 4-Empowered women, 9-Mixed races and classes, and 10-Were radically for the poor, we would be considered liberal by conservative ideology.

If we held to values 3-Were against abortion, 5-Forbid sex outside of marriage, 6-Forbid same-sex practice, and 10-Insisted that Jesus was the only way for salvation we would be labeled conservative by liberal ideology.

We don’t fit into the relativistic landscape of our time, nor rugged individualism or traditional hierarchical legalism. We simply don’t fit into current categories. We don’t fit neatly into conservative or liberal categories. This is because we are resident aliens.

Whenever Christians pick up the values of the Gospel and begin living them out in our city we are on the one hand vilified for our values and at the same time oddly attractive in ways that often confound our most vocal opponents. If we experience neither vilification nor attraction what qualities of our life are missing which mark Kingdom citizens through history?

 

*for entire interview with Rodney Stark, click here.

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8 thoughts on “10 Marks of the Early Church

  1. ggwfung says:

    these 10 beliefs seem exceptionally high minded. A great welcoming of people and their differences, and what we would consider strong ethical and moral beliefs today. Points 8 and 9 seem exceptionally charitable.

    ggw

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  2. pasturescott says:

    …and yet we see this imprint indelibly tattooed on the Lord’s people in the first century (Acts 2:44-47). The Lord is waiting for His people to live out of this other Life (Jesus Christ) again. And so is the world…thanks ggw!

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  3. PB and J says:

    scott

    these marks are really convicting to both sides i think. i have been really drawn to middle ground in the past couple years as well. because i started reading the Scripture for myself about 4 yrs ago now, and i started to realize that the “faith of my fathers” (ie conservative, fundamentalist) had good characteristics, but also a lotta horrible ones.

    i will say that i am not great at all marks, but i am trying to incorporate all into my life. i have spent a lot more interracial time. i am applying for conscientious objector. etc. but at the same time i am not throwing out what i see that is consistent with what i was raised to believe.

    i am really trying Sola Scriptura.

    peter

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  4. pasturescott says:

    Peter, my friend,

    Would to God we would all approach living as you: ‘sola scriptura’. With man, these things are impossible but with God, all things are possible! Spend some time with me in the Sermon on the Mount over the coming days; this is the life our Lord has called us to and He wouldn’t be calling us to it unless He would equip us and live it through us…

    Bless you, fellow traveler,
    Scott

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  5. PB and J says:

    scott

    its really funny you should mention the sermon on the mount. about 1 yr ago i was reading the sermon on the mount and realized JC says at the end “whoever keeps these words of mine”…

    i realized that in many ways, the sermon on the mount is JCs interpretation of the Torah. its his perspective on how we are to be obedient. pretty cool.

    then a few months ago i finished cost of discipleship (bonhoeffer) and he spends a huge amount of time in the sermon on the mount. i think he came to the same conclusion.

    this also has a lot to do with why i am liberal in conservatives eyes and conservative in liberals eyes.

    grace and peace
    peter

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  6. pasturescott says:

    At the fellowship where I pastor, we are counting the cost and considering the lifestyle of being “outside the camp” (Heb 13:13). Anyhoo, what several are seeing is that this life is the Sermon on the Mount lifestyle, what I have heard called, “living the fasted lifestyle.” Oh, how I hear the Savior calling His Bride to meet Him “out there,” where there is mourning, dying, hunger, thirst (is this beginning to sound like the wilderness where Jesus was [Luke 4]?)…any takers?

    BTW, Peter, where are you serving? Stationed?

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  7. PB and J says:

    right now i am in iraq, but i am out of ft drum, ny. however, my wife grew up in atlanta so she is with her mom. i was also at ft benning for about a year.

    peter

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  8. pasturescott says:

    Be safe, my friend, and continue to stay well in the Lord. We who are stateside, are constantly lifting you all to the Lord and are grateful for your service and sacrifice. May God keep you, Peter, and bring you safely home. He has a ministry for you!

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