“The modern church is nothing like the early church!”
is the common lament amongst Christianity nowadays. And I see where they are coming from. Comparing our local bodies with the dynamic movement in the book of Acts is like comparing a paper airplane with an F-23.
Where’s the power, holiness, self-sacrifice, radical giving, etc. etc. etc?!?!
So much heresy, apostasy and stupid-sy in our weak fragmented modern expression of the body of Christ.
But I also say: Not so fast my friend.
In the beginning, the early church had issues. Serious soul-boggling issues:
A few years into this Jesus movement Paul had to write an epistle to the church of Corinth because they were divided by doctrinal teams, blatantly immoral, puffed up in knowledge, lawsuiting brothers, heterodox in teaching, and generally loveless (1 cor 1:10-13, 1 cor 5:1-13, 1 cor 13:1-10).
Get this: Even a ridiculously nasty case of incest was breaking out in the Corinthian church (1 Cor 5:1). And West Virginia wasn’t even a state back then.
You really think your church is that bad off now?
The Colossian church had a goofy case of New Age angel worship permeating it (Colossians 2:18). So much so, it would have made Oprah Wan Kenobi proud.
The Galatian church had some legalistic Jewish leaders propagating new laws that would have garnered high fives from Westboro Baptist Church (Galatians 2:11-16). Just a couple of years removed from pure apostolic teaching and the gospel was already “perverted” in Galatia (Galatians 1:6-10).
The apostle John had to write against the sneaky theology of Gnosticism, a crazy movement that would make Harold Camping and illuminati conspiracy theorists rejoice (1 John 4:1-3)
There were even serious racial tensions in the earliest forms of the church. Tensions it took the apostle Peter a few years to personally grope with and smooth out (Acts 6:1-7).
With all that hot mess, the historical church has survived and many cases thrived.
Nothing much has changed.
The church back then, and your church now, is still the means by which God wishes to install His invincible Kingdom. He delights to use broken, stumbling, petty folk and make them graceful ambassadors of His eternal purposes.
His historical and paradoxical beloved church is full of scoundrels like us. Blood spattered grace bonds us together in a fellowship greater than our foibles.
Sure, the modern church is weak.
But most assuredly, the modern church is powerful.