DID YOU KNOW?
When my son was in his pre-teens, we often enjoyed hiking-trails together with a group of church friends. We had marvellous fun and often experienced something new and fresh, e.g. drinking from a bubbling mountain stream in the heat of the day while perspiring under a heavy backpack. I remember one particular stream high up in the Amatola mountains (Eastern Cape, South Africa) – no drink of water has tasted as good since! I was thinking today that often the closer one gets to the source, in this case a mountain fountain, the purer and more enjoyable the product.
In these blogs of mine we have been trying to get to a purer biblical understanding as to God’s Church. Many things have personally helped me, e.g. the re-reading of Luke’s Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles (together 25% of the NT), resulting in a new grasp of Jesus and His kingdom message. Many books and authors have also helped in my journey. I had been aware of a publication ‘Pagan Christianity?’ by Frank Viola for some years, but only got to read it studiously in recent weeks. What a refreshing but disturbing experience! The subtitle reads ‘Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices.’ I was particularly keen to learn of Viola’s sources, their historical accuracy, etc. His sources are impressive, as I quickly evaluated from years of theological and church historical study. Viola is hardly guilty of sweeping generalisations and superficial evaluations, as I had perhaps expected in such a radical book with such radical claims.
Back to our theme ‘DID YOU KNOW?’ The average ‘Christian’ assumes that our Communion celebrations are solidly tied to the earliest teachings, traditions and practices of the NT Church. Not so! Just one example. For the first approx. two hundred years, ‘Communion’ was part of a normal meal in a home setting, with each believer participating in the breaking of bread and the drinking of the cup. No hasty tag-on to a Morning Service. No tiny, tasteless cube of bread and sipping from a miniscule cup of grape juice, initiated and overseen by a special person in special garb! No miserable faces, pretending seriousness at our often superficial comtemplation of our Saviour’s physical sufferings! (I’m NOT minimising the latter). Rather a joyous meal together, commencing with the breaking and enjoyment of fresh bread (is there anything better!?), a sense of generous thanksgiving for all God’s lavish blessings in Christ, and then concluding the family meal with a cup of wine, the sign of Christ’s victorious death and ‘a rich and satisfying life’ here on earth (John 10:10, NLT), culminating at the banqueting table of the Lord at His return!
My son (now in his mid-thirties) and daughter-in-law have been reading the book as well, as also some of my house church colleagues. The trouble is, ‘what do we do with it?’ Recommending it to some of my pastor-friends could just mean the end of their careers and dependable income. At the same time it could set many free to enjoy Jesus and His Church ‘rediscovered!’ I am praying for humility, discretion, boldness and love.
[PS. The book is published by BARNA. I recommend that you get and read a copy for yourself!]