Second, we’re not being honest about what we’re trying to do. We’re not even trying very hard to go all the way back. We take a vast amount of theological, historical, and cultural baggage with us when we look back. Even people who read authors like N.T. Wright in order to understand the first century Palestinian context stop too short. When I hear people saying they want to do church the way the early church did it, they don’t really mean they intend to strip down their evangelical systematic theology, their Western wealth and (white) power, their Protestant Reformation, their Christendom power, their Augustinian conceptions . . . they just want the pragmatics of meeting in peoples’ houses and sharing possessions and giving money away to those in need. The idealism is commendable in some ways, but it’s mostly just that – idealism, and an artificial idealism at that.*
I would like to suggest that if we really want to get back to basics in the way we embody the bride of Christ, we do so more honestly. When Pentecost took place, and the church was both born and unleashed in a series of radical events, they were creating something truly new, without a template. They had a religious memory and heritage, which they honored in many ways, but they also knew the rules had changed. We, too, have a religious memory and heritage – some of which can rightly be honored. But if we’re going to do/be church the way they did it back then, we’ve got to be creative enough and courageous enough to know when to break the rules of our day, and take some risks. In our fear of abandoning “orthodoxy,” I think the vast majority of us lack the courage to break those rules. We’re so beholden to our denominations, our subculture, our seminaries, and (once again) our power that we chicken out.