Tell me if you’ve done this before. When facing a problem in ministry, you ask, “Well, what would the 1st century church do?”
It’s a common impulse for evangelicals. When we think about how to use our time, how our churches should operate through the week, or what our worship gatherings could look like, we turn to the New Testament churches to see what they did. We go back to God’s word to understand the staples of ministry. We see they “devoted themselves” to teaching, so we teach. We see that they cared for the poor, so we care for the poor. We see that they sang and prayed together, so we sing and pray together. We see that they evangelized, so we evangelize.
It’s always good to go back to Scripture. But only considering what the early church did can result in what I call a “desert island hermeneutic.” We end up skipping over 2,000 years of church history—with all the liturgy, apostolic succession, and sacramental ...1