Urban Lessons from the Early Church

If you are wondering what role early churches had in influencing culture and social structures, you might find helpful this quote from Tim Keller's presentation at Lausanne. And maybe we should ask ourselves: How should we offer "charity and hope" to the homeless and impoverished as the early churches did in urban centers? Or should we?  Or only hope but no charity?  How did the early church understand its mission? Is it possible that at times we are held captive to our modern era with memory of a failed social gospel and fears of repeating that mistake, then think we have gone back to the New Testament in affirming a stance on or against issues of social justice, and need to hear how early Christians understood the implications of the gospel?


 "To cities filled with the homeless and impoverished, Christianity offered charity as well as hope. To cities filled with newcomers and strangers, Christianity offered an immediate basis for attachments. To cities filled with widows and orphans, Christianity provided a new and expanded sense of family. To cities torn by violent ethnic strife, Christianity offered a new basis for social solidarity….People had been enduring catastrophes for centuries without the aid of Christian theology or social structures. Hence I am by no means suggesting that the misery of the ancient world caused the advent of Christianity. What I am going to argue is that once Christianity did appear, its superior capacity for meeting these chronic problems soon became evident and played a major role in its ultimate triumph…[for what Christians] brought was not simply an urban movement, but a new culture" (Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, 161-62).


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