Imagine the experience of having a Christian family from the first century congregation at Philippi spend a month at West-Ark. Suppose they were guests in your home for a week. This family spent a normal week with your family. Their children did everything your children typically do. As wife and mother, you arranged for that wife and mother to accompany you through a typical week. As a husband and father, you arranged for that husband and father to be your "shadow" for a typical week. They got an honest look at life in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

In this month, they also experienced typical life in the congregation. That included Bible classes, morning and evening worship, fellowship, a "family meeting," a funeral, a wedding, teen studies and activities, children's world, a care group, visitation with the Hilltoppers, quilting with the quilting ladies, delivering a meal to someone who needed it, a hospital visit, etc.

If for a week the two families spoke the same language, interaction overcame major culture shock, and the two worlds did not clash, what would the experience be like for their family and your family? We could write a book about such a week. I doubt that today's morals, violence, or marital instability would shock them. All of those were worse in their world.

Two things might shock both families. First, they would not recognize Christianity as we practice it. Christian activity centered around church buildings and church membership would be strange and new. Christian realities without apostles or the Holy Spirit (as they experienced Him) would be strange. Even printed Bibles would be strange and new to them.

Second, I think they would react to our society and the church like this: "We do not believe that Christianity as we knew and experienced it can exist in this world and time." I can see how they would believe that. Why? Too much had changed! If we struggle with just the changes from the oldest to the youngest living generations, can you imagine their struggle with the changes between the first and twentieth century worlds?

May I share a thought? God loved and saved people in the first century. God loves and saves people in the twentieth century. If this world continues, God will love and save people in the twenty-fifth century--and I cannot image what that world will be like!

No amount of change prevents God from loving and saving people. Regardless of how extreme the differences are from century to century, God loves and saves people. Regardless of how extreme the changes are within a century, God loves and saves people. Our challenge: if God can love and save us, we must learn to respect each other. Our highest goal should be to love every person God saves. Our minimum goal must be to respect every person that God saves.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 19 April 1998

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