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RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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Church: The Early Church

What were the very first churches like?

 

When the Bible talks about church, it isn’t really talking about a building. ‘Church’ is the name given to people who follow Jesus, who meet together to worship God and learn to do what God asks them to. It is the people in the building who are the real Church (with a capital ‘C’) – although buildings are also known as churches. The very first churches were built around communities of people who met in each other’s houses. This passage from the Bible explains what it was like to be part of a church in the first century:

‘All the Lord’s followers often met together, and they shared everything they had. They would sell their property and possessions and give the money to whoever needed it. Day after day they met together in the temple. They broke bread together in different homes and shared their food happily and freely, while praising God. Everyone liked them, and each day the Lord added to their group others who were being saved.’ (Acts 2:44-47)

It’s clear that they did a lot of sharing! Early Christians sold the things they owned to help out anyone who was in need. They would read the Holy Scriptures together, pray together and sing songs together as a way of worshipping God. And because they cared for each other so much, a lot of people wanted to join them. People often ask whether you need to go to church to be a Christian. Based on this idea of church, it seems that going to a church building every week doesn’t necessarily make you a Christian. Not going along to church wouldn’t stop you being a Christian. But if you are a Christian, you are part of the Church. And many Christians choose to go to a nearby church every week in order to worship God together and to support each other as they live their lives as a Christian.

Did you know? The Church has a birthday? It is called Pentecost – the day when God sent his Holy Spirit to the disciples, who then in turn started to tell people about Jesus and invited them to follow him. That was when the first groups of Christians – or churches – came into being. You can read all about the events of this special day here or in the Bible, in Acts chapter 2. The Book of Acts is found in the New Testament, after the four books about the life of Jesus (the gospels). Acts is a kind of sequel to the gospels. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John describe how the disciples met Jesus and came to believe that he was God's Son and chosen Messiah. The Book of Acts shows how they shared this message with other Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) in Jerusalem and beyond; and how they established a new community of 'Christians' - the nickname first given to the believers in Antioch (in Turkey).