Our lost connection to the first church

Everyone and their dog wants to emulate the “New Testament Church”. Many movements in fact claim to be doing just that, especially ones on the communal living side of things. We have church planting networks named things like “Acts 29” to invoke the same ideas. As I’ve mentioned before though, despite many whole books be written on the subject, the fact is we really don’t know much about what the early church looked like, not enough to even begin to emulate it or to decide what about it was worth emulating. Jenkin’s here mentions how the annihilation of the near eastern church is Syria cut off what was our last legitimate link to the very first Christians.

Throughout the history of the faith, Christians have used the primitive church as an idealized standard by which to judge their own days, and have tried as far as possible to construct their own faith and practice according to the tenets of New Testament Christianity. Yet the better we understand the authentic worlds of the Christian East, the harder it becomes to contemplate any such vision of a “return to basics.” Timothy [Bishop Timothy of the Eastern Church, 780 A.D.] and his contemporaries genuinely did live in a world that had a recognizable continuity from the earliest church, a pattern of organic development in terms of social and economic arrangements, of language, culture, and geography. We can debate how far that world represented authentic primitive Christianity, but it is quite certain that no later ages could possibly replicate the apostolic world anything like as faithfully. The loss of continuity – the loss of the core – makes moot later efforts to enforce culture-specific regulations of the earliest Christian communities.

-Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity, p.26