What Is Church? 1.0

With this post, I begin exploring the nature of the church (also this same post is is being discussed on another blog I contribute to called A New Kind of Church, which is being rebirthed so give it time). As we know, the church has looked very different in every age and, if we were willing to admit it, had a very different theology in each of these ages. The goal is not to find our ideal model in some other era but to recapitulate the radicalness and revolutionary ways in which gospel changed the world during these various times. Thus, I start off my journey with the first century and will begin working my way forward through history.

One of the first things that I see as we start in the first century is the Eucharist/communion/breaking bread/common table fellowship. This was at the heart of the community. It was a whole meal with a blessing of bread and cup in the middle of the dinner. It was a table of confession of belief and sin, a table of forgiveness and peace, a table of mutual participation in pain and hurt, and a table of survival (possibly the only meal anyone would have especially in the impoverished and highly persecuted areas).Such a scenario does not work very well in most areas of western society, although it is still very much alive and viable in other areas of the world. So, what can we in the west draw from this way of doing church in our day to understand how we can act in order to change lives and world?


  1. I would be interested in understanding the evolution of the eucharist from the early church until now. I agree that the early church seemed to be centered around this meal and thus centered around Jesus. Many of us in the protestant church have bad eucharist theology. This is another example of the need for Catholic/Protestant cooperation to form Christian thought.

  2. Justin,
    I look forward to this series of posts. I agree with you that the church has looked different with every era, but you lose me when you say "with very different theology in each of these stages." To what kind of very different changes do you refer?

    You are right to suggest that the communion table/love feast played a major role in the 1st century church; it is so prevalent in Acts. We are missing out on something here, no doubt.

    I'm a little confused by your comment. How can Catholic/Protestant cooperation aid in poor "Eucharist theology"? As bad as some Protestant denominations' theology might be in this area, it is definitely no worse than Catholic theology. The teaching that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ does not bring anything helpful to the discussion.

  3. Travis,
    It is my opinion that as a result of the reformation and the "protest" against the Roman Catholic church, the pendulum of theology swung too far in many areas. Eucharistic theology is one of the pendulum swung too far. In order to get away from transsubstantiation, many protestants marked the Eucharist as a symbol only, without the presence of Christ within. I hold to the traditional Anglican view, that Christ is within the elements, albeit in a mysterious unexplainable way, but present none the less, without going as far as saying it is literally his "body and blood".

    So, I think Roman Catholic/Protestant conversations would be helpful in this and other areas of theology.

  4. This discussion is a good example of the various theologies that have existed throughout church history. Although we can always find fringe theologies throughout history (often these give rise to many contemporary theologies), the dominant theology in "Christendom" has definately changed throughout the centuries.
    As far as the ideas regarding the Eucharist, I am definately someone who thinks that there is much error in every sect whether Catholic, Orthodox, Mainline, Evangelical. I believe it comes from a misunderstanding of the communal nature of the gospel. I will have more to say on this in the next post.