We live in a century that has many attributes of the first century. Every century has its own distortions of Christianity but very few of them were quite as close to being like the first century than our 20th century.
The people of the first century were bored with life and sought out any and every new thing that might fill the longing they had for something worthwhile. The same thing is true of this generation.
It was time of violence. People killed and were killed with little thought of the value of life. The same is true today. The lives of innocent people are snuffed out with little thought of the importance of the life.
In the first century there was a great amount of hostility toward Christians. We have seen more and more hostility developing toward Christians in the latter part of this century. David Barrett in his book, Cosmos, Chaos and Gospel: A Chronology of World Evangelization, states that he believes there will be 500,000 martyrs a year by the year 2000. Whether or not his prognostications are correct, we do know that the world is becoming more and more hostile toward Christianity.
There was widespread immorality in the first century. One does not have to be very observant to know that immorality is everywhere and practiced by multitudes.
Christians were surrounded by pagans in the first century. We, don't usually think that we are, but in reality we live in a pagan world. Many gods besides the true God of heaven are worshipped by people in our day. Christianity developed a formal and rather sterile form of worship centuries ago. It requires of people a conformity in following a carefully scripted order of worship with rituals in many churches that can be extremely boring. Even among churches which are not so ritualistic, such as the Churches of Christ, one still finds that he knows exactly what is going to happen and when. There is a greeting, three songs, a prayer, a song, the Lord's Supper, preaching, an invitation, a song and then dismissal, if it varies, it will not vary much. If the preacher is pretty good then we feel it was worth it. If not, and the songs were pretty good, we feel it was worth it. If both are pretty bad, then we feel that maybe we would have been better off at home.
I don't mean this to be sacrilegious but I am just stating it as it is. I doubt that things were this way in the early church. They seemed to enjoy each other, enjoy being together and enjoy worshipping God. Why was this so? Why isn't it as joyous today as it was then? Are there answers to this question?
Maybe there are and maybe they are so plain to us that we are unaware of them. Those early disciples met often in each other's homes. The scriptures say, "They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:46, 47).
Can we recapture this joy and sense of fellowship that they had and enjoy our being together as they did? I will write more on this soon. – Arthur W. Atkinson.