Lessons on spirituality from the early church
“How did the Christian movement create a sense of belonging that made people feel included, loved and cared for?”
First the Christian community welcomed outsiders, regardless of their background, and thus overcame the obvious divisions of gender, ethnicity and class that characterized the Roman world. There were . . . no distinctions in rank and outward appearance, or weath and education, or age and sex. 56
In chapter two from Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries, Gerald L. Sittser focuses on the Belonging that took place in the early Christian communities.
- They did not use organized rallies, high-profile evangelists and big budget programs to win recruits. If anything, Christians maintained a low profile to avoid public notice. The church attracted outsiders through a natural network of relationships. 57
- Second, the Christian community provided a high degree of social stability, which caught the attention of people who lived in a world that seemed to teeter on the verge of chaos. 60
- Roman culture emphasized reciprocity; helping the poor and homeless, therefore, was simply not the norm. But Christians emphasized stewardship and charity, based on an ethic of love. 62
- Third, the church cared for people during periods of intense crises. 63
- Finally, pastors helped to create a sense of belonging by functioning as shepherds of the flock, providing pastoral care from cradle to grave.
- Christian pastors attended to the practical concerns of everyday life, striving to create a seamless unity between creed and conduct, religion and life. They taught the Scriptures, visited the sick, provided for the destitute, comforted the afflicted, maintained church unity, administered the sacraments and disciplined errant church members. 65
The following passage out of 1 Corinthians 12 must have been important to those early church believers.
- “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–20 ESV)