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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

The New Testament Church We Wish We Knew

I have ben thinking about the cost of becoming a first century Christian and growing a first century church.  I facilitated a Bible study on The New Testament You Never Knew by the British theologian, N. T. Wright.  As a personal goal, I read through the entire New Testament paying close attention to the teaching used to diffuse church splits and champion unity in Christ the way Christ wants.

Becoming a follower of Jesus was not easy in the first century. Culture normalized self-centered indulgence and immorality.  First century Christians living within years of Christ’s resurrection would not bow to anything that Christ had not validated.   This submission grew their strength and magnified their unity.  Not because they banded together to defeat some cultural issue, but because their unity in Christ was more important than being accepted in their culture.   

 I’ve stopped hearing much about wanting a first century church.  I think it’s because a first century church wouldn’t make it in our church culture.  We haven’t made people curious about who we are.  We aren’t demonstrating a unity that makes people take note of us.  We have failed one of the most important last teachings of Christ: “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35, NIV)  Instead, our disunity makes news.

What will wake us up?  Persecution?  It always worked in the first century.  It continues to be the loudest witness in several world areas.  But we miss the message if we think it is about persecution.  It starts with unity in Christ.  Unity, not sameness.  Unity that produces a harmony so powerful, it becomes our best witness.  Then, we can use our words.

Jesus prayed for us on the last night before his death.  We need to hear his prayer again.  See Jesus sweating blood, bowed with weight of what is before him.  Listen again to what he prayed for us in this century and ask yourself:  How am I answering his prayer:

*Holy Father, . . .

protect them by the power of your name

so that they will be united just as we are.

I am praying not only for these disciples

but also for all who will ever believe in me

through their message.

I pray that they will all be one,

just as you and I are one . . .

And may they be in us

so that the world will believe

you sent me.

 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that

they may be one as we are one.

May they be

brought to complete unity 

to let the world know that you sent me

and have loved them even as you have loved me.

  To which I pray sincerely: Lord, have mercy on us!

*John 17:11b, 20-21, 22, 23, NLT

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