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What do Kids Know About Church History?

What do Kids Know About Church History?

How Were First-Century Churches Different From Most Modern-Day Churches? 

"They didn't have air conditioning, carpet or nothing," says Dylan, age 5. Actually, it was "the way the seats were lined up," says Milese, 6. No, that wasn't it at all: "because there were no chairs back then," says Halie, 6.

You all missed it, says Hannah, 6: "They did not have toys back then or church dresses."

Many interesting answers, but Gracie, 7, wins the award for the most thought-provoking: "Church was different back then because they didn't have one."

Say what? What’s a church without a church?

The first-century church spread around the world without church buildings. Most people think of church as a building with a certain style of architecture. When the Bible refers to the church, it’s not about buildings. Rather, it's all about a spiritual building called the body of Christ and the bride of Christ.

That spiritual building consists of all who have ever believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior. "Living stones" is the Apostle Peter's metaphor for Christians. They are the building blocks that make up this living organism called the church. To call any building a church is a misnomer (Ephesians 2:19-22 and 1 Peter 2:4-5).

When believers assemble in the name of Christ as a church in a particular location, they are local expressions of the universal church. In the early church, Christians met in houses, in fields and even in the Roman catacombs.

"In the first century, they didn't have churches, but every day in their homes, they praised God, broke the bread and drank the wine," says Jimmy, 11. "Now we do all of that, and more, but we gather our community together and rejoice in one building."

Jimmy, your church sounds fantastic. But many who assemble aren't so fortunate, says Mikelle, 11: "In the early church, all the members were alike and together. They met at the church every day and even had meals together. Today, we may know a few other members of the church, but we don't even know everyone's names. We certainly don't see them every day."

"In the old days, they went from house to house having dinner," says Braxton, 7. "Today, we have different churches that talk about God. And we don't go house to house having dinner no more."

In previous columns, I've mentioned that the Lord's Supper is a fellowship meal. There's not one instance in the New Testament where the Lord's Supper is anything other than a meal. By definition, a "supper" is a meal. By reducing the Lord's Supper to something less than a fellowship meal, we're missing most of the community aspect of the church that made the New Testament church so dynamic.

"It was different because they split their stuff with others. And every night, they ate at others’ homes," says Kyle, 7.

The Jerusalem church had a difficult time. It was not easy being a Jewish Christian in Jerusalem, the very place where the Lord Jesus was tried and crucified. In this time of extreme hardship and persecution, Christians came together and sold property so that they had all things in common.

Think about this: The lives of Jerusalem Christians spoke to people's hearts to the point where the Scripture records: "And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47).

Memorize this truth: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).

"Church is different today because we get to sit on chairs, and they had to sit on the wet, soggy ground," says Bilwood, age 6.

There's nothing worse than a soggy toga.

"Church was different because they had church on the outside, not inside," says Hunter, 7.

While Hunter is referring to Christians meeting out-of-doors, there's another kind of meeting that's not so innocent. Some suppose that the mere act of going to church will make one a Christian. That's like saying that going to a garage will make you a car or drinking coffee in a doughnut shop will make you a police officer.

Without the reality of being born again by placing your trust in the Lord Jesus as your savior, going to church is only a religious activity. Jesus said his Father was looking for those who would worship him in spirit and truth. 

"Long ago, people had church at people's houses," says Joshua, 11. "They ate bread, read the Bible and drank wine. Some people preached in temples. They took their food happily and sang praises to the Lord. They preached the word of the Lord in every city."

Joshua, your description reads like a good summary of Acts 2:42-47. First-century Christians lived the adventure of seeing God work in their midst. Early Christian gatherings were open and spontaneous (1 Corinthians 14:26).

"Church in the first century was different from ours because the women and little girls had to wear a veil to church. And if they didn't, they would get their hair shaved off," says Lauren, 9.

Whoa! Imagine the emBAREassment of forgetting your veil if this really was the practice of the early church. This brings us to the hotly debated biblical text of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Shall I say that the debate gets a little hairy?

Some say women should wear a veil when assembling with Christians in church. Others say a woman's long hair is her covering and glory. For a fuller development of the hair vs. the veil argument, please visit the website of my friend, scholar Steve Atkerson.

Whether you're hairy or veiled, there's one thing both sides agree upon -- submission is the key to our salvation. The Lord Jesus submitted to his Father in his ministry and in bearing our sins on the cross. Apart from his submission, there would be no salvation.

The woman's covering is a sign of submission and recognizes God's hierarchy (God-Christ-Man-Woman) in the church. Is the Lord Jesus any less equal with God the father because he submitted to him in all things? Absolutely not! Even though he submitted to his Father to accomplish our salvation, he is co-equal with him. Submission is a beautiful thing, not a sign of inferiority.

The most liberating document ever written for women is the New Testament. The same Apostle Paul who wrote that wives should submit to their husbands also wrote that there's neither male nor female in Christ "for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). This was revolutionary in the first century, when women had virtually no rights.

The roles in marriage and the church run parallel to the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Just as Jesus gave himself for his church, men should follow his example by giving of themselves in the home and at church. Domination by force is the way of leadership in the world. Service in love is the way of Christian leadership.

Do you need to rethink church?

Listen to a talking book, download the "Kids Color Me Bible" for free, watch Kid TV Interviews and the Mission Explorers Documentary at Bible quotations are from the New King James Version. 


Publication date: September 7, 2012