“Normative Behavior?”

How should we determine what is “normative” for the life, order, and worship of the Christian church? Many would suggest that Christian practice in the early church provides a norm for modern worship, but is this true?

I happen to be among those who like the home atmosphere for study and worship. I believe there are many who would come to a home to study the Bible who would never think of attending an established church. I also believe the format of the first Christian assemblies provided much more opportunity for discussion, questions, objections, etc., than the format in our modern “churches.” People grow better when they have opportunity to express their views, even when those views are erroneous. Many sit in the pews for years with such views undetected. Besides all this, someone has remarked that the back of another person’s head is not a very edifying spectacle. In fact,if I had my way, mega-churches would not exist. My view has always been that when an assembly reaches a certain size, it should voluntarily divide and establish another assembly. The question is, is that the “biblical norm”?

When I preach or teach, I do so from a Bible app on my iPad. Early teachers and preachers didn’t have iPads. In fact, they didn’t even have Bibles in codex form. The scrolls they used were made of papyrus and were hand written. Am I violating the “biblical norm” by reading Scripture from my iPad? If I am, then someone who reads from a Bible bound in codex form is also violating the biblical “norm.” Does it violate the “biblical norm” to meet in some structure other than a home simply because the early Christians met in homes? Could it be they met in homes merely as a matter of necessity or perhaps to avoid persecution? What about meeting in the open air if a group gets too large for anyone’s home? Do you suppose they passed offering plates? If they washed one another’s feet as part of their cultural norm, does that establish a norm for every culture, for all of time?

For quite some time the almost universal answer concerning the establishment of biblical norms has been that historical passages do not prescribe normative behavior; they are merely descriptive in nature. Our teachings and our standard of practice and polity must be drawn from didactic passages, not from historical passages.


2 Responses to ““Normative Behavior?””

  1. August 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    My thoughts about the church:

    1. We are to meet together.

    “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near”. (Heb 10-25 ESV)
    2. And attend to certain things:

    “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42)

    3. Using our talents and gifts build up the body of Christ: (Eph 4:12, 1 Cor 12)

    I think that when the ‘size’ or ‘venue’ prevents the above we might not be as healthy as we could be. When the above in operation we just might have a healthy group of believers united for the work of the ministry. If I were asked what the church should look like, I think I would sum it up by pointing to all of the above.

    While some things in the NT model should be ‘normative’ in a healthy church, others are merely descriptive, as you say. That might be in a larger corporate setting, or in a home group. I think a good combination would be solid doctrinal teaching/exegetical preaching combined with smaller groups, either in a Sunday morning Bible study or home groups that are able to discuss the sound exegetical preaching from the pulpit, although pulpits have given way to ‘stages’.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: