My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.
On another day, I mentioned how what we in the current church call witnessing is close to what the early church called preaching, and what we call preaching is what they called oratory or speaking. For instance, Acts chapter 18 verse 24 refers to Apollos speaking in the synagogue. Further, in the early church, first believing in Jesus was a way of life. If one was Jewish, it separated one from the Jewish community; if one was not, with faith in Jesus came accepting a morality the Gentile world found strange. Either way, repentance and baptism was not an end all, but the beginning of a new way of living. Second Corinthians chapter 5 verse 17 referred to believers as a new species*; the world had seen nothing like it. After a couple of centuries of the Christian faith spreading across the Roman Empire, even at a time when Christianity was still officially illegal, many of the powerful hired Christians to watch their children and money, because of their reputation for honesty.
Shortly after the apostolic era, more and more, oratory worked into the church, as opposed to every member ministry. Oratory preaching developed an audience-performer dynamic, which changed in some detail over the centuries, but always largely encouraged passivity among the audience.
In the 1700’s, George Whitefield introduced an innovation to preaching—changing the emphasis from what God is doing among believers as a group to speaking specifically to those in the audience who were not believers, to guide them toward salvation. He also originated outdoor meetings for evangelistic preaching. Charles Wesley, John’s brother, was the first to write hymns for invitations to receive Christ. All these changes emphasized the individual and de-emphasized the church in the sense of believers as a group. A later evangelistic trend was pragmatism—if it seems to work, keep doing it.On the recording, at this time, it says, “house churches.” While that phrasing is OK, to say “organic church” is better. I comment on that in blip 94. Also, on the recording, I said, "new creation," which is the most common rendering of that phrase in English Bibles, but I have since become convinced that "new species" is both better yet, and connotes the shock value to our society that what the world saw then was experiencing.