In The Beginning...
We can only imagine what it must have been like to really have been in the body of believers during the time of the early church. It is disappointing to see how institutionalized the church has become since then, and how many people have been lost in its generic nature. We are taught in large groups instead of being able to ask questions or offer an insight. Pastors are often under pressure to be all things to all people. Then too, many people have been disillusioned by what they perceive as fruitless and sometimes fraudulent spending of the money donated to Christian ministry. Many people are also frustrated with “church policies” which attempt to legislate behavior and authority, reducing or completely blocking the effectiveness of the holy spirit of God, often making them feeling unfulfilled, or worse, being made to feel that they are unloved outsiders.
The Church of the Ancient Christian Faith’s (COTACF) function is to develop small group churches in homes and other meeting places, and to be able to help place people in groups where they can feel comfortable and be free to express their needs and concerns before like minded group members, and get straight answers to honest questions. We believe that many people in our community would respond to this system better than to a formal church setting. Services can be held on different days of the week so as to make it easier to allow people to connect to a group when they are most able, and to allow qualified leaders to test the waters to see if sheparding a group is right for them.
Toward this end, we are always seeking elders and deacons for home church leadership. We are also seeking those who could open up their home or meeting space to hold a church service but not necessarily lead the group.
Elders and deacons are not required to have formal Bible college training, but those who have been eager seekers of the Word and are driven to reach and teach others for the cause of Christ, and are mature in their faith. Our programs for leadership development are exciting and amazingly eye-opening. We examine some of the ways that “church” can be made better by going back to the original ways that Christians conducted themselves and their meetings.
Who We Are
Our core beliefs are often similar to many mainline denominations, but how we apply those beliefs is what sets us apart.
We believe first and foremost, that Jesus was the perfect example of human behavior, in both his life and death, and by following His words and ways we can live lives that are truly Christian. In order to do this we must live Mark 12:30-31. By loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength, and by loving and caring for our neighbors as ourselves, and really doing it, not just talking about it, that only then can we become as God truly wants us to be. The result of this is that we look at how we can enrich others as much as ourselves, and often go without some of the “material extras” to give to others, which we do with great enthusiasm, because we truly love and care for them.
We also believe that tithing, giving the required tenth, does not apply to the modern church. We follow 2 Corinthians 9:6-15. Those who sow generously, reaps much, and that we give not out of reluctance or pressure from others, but out of excitement in being able to contribute to the work of God. We also recognize that many need to spend their money to provide just the basics for their families, or are getting out of debt, so these people are encouraged to donate time, talent or other resources as their contribution.
We also welcome the kind of people that Jesus associated with. We are not concerned how you dress, your position in life or what sin you struggle with, but only that you come and accept the love and healing that God wants for you. For us, humility, acceptance and forgiveness bring great power and freedom through Jesus Christ. These are but a few of the things that we believe that often set us apart from other churches.
We feel that there is an important perspective to be embraced from the account of the people (Acts 17:10-12) in the city of Berea, which is now in modern day Greece. They were a noble, fair-minded group who were eager to receive the message that the apostle Paul brought them, and they also checked the scriptures daily to verify that he spoke the truth. Too many churches today are made ineffective by people accepting the “denominational line” without studying the word for themselves. No denomination or pastor is infallible! None!
Our services allow for interaction, based on 1 Cor.14:26, and are designed to edify and strengthen believers. The primary form of service is in a small group meeting, where each group is its own church, generally meeting in a home. They pick the style and form of the service they will use, within scriptural guidelines. Church leaders are in place to guide and facilitate. This allows a person or family to join a group that fits them best. This system most closely follows the practices of the early New Testament believers. Today, we sometimes use the term "Ante-Nicene", to describe churches that are going back to practicing Christianity the way it was in the time of the early church.
The Modern Institutional Church of Today
(The Typical Denominational Structure)
Churches today generally meet in building which creates significant overhead. It then becomes important to have enough members donating money to support this building. A larger number of members create financial security for the church. Numerical growth through “marketing” and program development become important. Yet, in some cases, the only significant use of the building is for one or two services a week. Most of the money collected from members goes to support the building and staff expenses. Members are encouraged to give the tithe, that is, a minimum of 10 percent of their earnings.
While formal college training in biblical and ministry studies is beneficial, the pastors they turn out usually end up in a church that really just offers them a job for which they work long hours doing everything but sweeping the floors! The pastor’s family life can suffer for the benefit of church members. Further, the pastor and/or a select group of leaders run the worship service, leaving participants to generally sit passively during the monologue sermon. Often, attending the service is a goal unto itself. The Lord’s Supper is usually observed monthly, quarterly, or annually.
Church of the Ancient Christian Faith
The church meets in smaller, cohesive groups in a home or other meeting place throughout a local area. Elders who lead and teach are local laymen who live and work in the community. Generally, there is more than one elder in a group. Meetings are interactive giving members a chance to speak up and participate. The goal of the meeting was not only worship, but to help develop the spirituality of all the members. In an entire local area only one or two people would work full time and need to be supported financially. Members take on staff work part time and on an unpaid basis.
Communion is shared at every worship service, usually once a week. It is both reflective and joyous. Money contributed goes to assist the needy and provide for Christian workers, often given by members both voluntarily and sacrificially. Service to others, both in the church and in the community is emphasized and encouraged.
The New Testament church that the apostles built according to Christ’s directions was one church with Jesus Christ as the head. It was one family with a relationship founded on the love of Christ. It was intimate and aware of each member’s needs, gifts, strengths and weaknesses. It was a church unfettered by having to support many expensive “temples”, for they were the living temple of Christ. It was a church that was able to ignite the world with the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and His saving grace. It was a church made up of believers who held their faith as a way of life in unity, not purely a social activity and not only as an obligation.
We Are “New Testament Episcopal”
We are an “episcopal” church; meaning our form of church governance is in accordance with that established in the New Testament Scriptures. (With Bishops, Presbyters and Deacons). While maintaining the traditional New Testament episcopate we do so in the same spirit of corporate love and mutual care that is evident within the Church of the apostolic era. Our leadership is but a part of the “Eldership” of the Body that cares for, edifies, encourages and preserves the Church.
We are a “sacramental” church. We hold that the sacraments are visible signs of God’s grace and are powerful aids to the spiritual growth of the individual believer and the Community of Christ. The primary sacraments of the church are Baptism and the Eucharist or Communion (the Lord’s Supper).
The COTACF encourages the “form of worship” instructed to the early church by the apostles. We utilize various liturgical expressions as adapted throughout history, by the broader church. Individual churches have flexibility in how they conduct their services.
We hold that a chief purpose of the church is to perpetuate the historical sacramental tradition as instituted by Jesus Christ and preserved through the apostles and the church. We maintain that the sacraments are channels for the evidence of God’s grace. Therefore we make the sacraments available to all. At our gatherings all reverent, penitent, and faithful Christians are welcomed to receive Communion.
We are a contemporary embodiment of the eternal Body of Christ. We maintain that the God reveals the truth through His holy spirit in means appropriate to the age and that the outward forms of the apostolic tradition of Christ’s church does, indeed, keep pace with human development while maintaining the ageless truths of the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We strive to embody the truth of all ages in both our corporate and individual worship as lead by the holy spirit of God in accordance with the Holy Scriptures.
We function in a very different way compared to most churches, as you can discern by what you will have read so far. In each small group church are elders who guide the church and often will share in teaching the group during meetings. They also make themselves available to help members at other times during the week as needed. One of the elders may be an ordained deacon, but the deacon does not “rule” over the others elders.
From there, churches are organized into parishes, usually in groups of two to five, and generally by location. They are cared for by a presbyter. They could also be referred to as “pastor”, although each member of the church body does have a pastoral ministry. Finally, there is the bishop, whose primary ministry is to assist, train and guide all of the elders of the local body.
What make us so effective though, are our people. Those who are willing to share their time, talent and love with others unselfishly, knowing that if a member of the church community or the community around us needs support, they will get it. From something as simple as helping a single mom get her car started to providing essential transportation for those who cannot afford it. Watching children during an emergency or simply to give mom and dad a break they otherwise could not afford or helping a member of the church family with making an important social or business connection or with a project by sharing their computer access. It could even be sharing food, or donating a couch or some clothes to a family in trouble. Whatever it is, our people stand ready to care!
It is our vision to provide care and service to those in our churches and the community at large, to show true and genuine Christian love to them and to provide service that can help them heal from the wounds that life inevitably inflicts on them and which also can enrich them so that they will know that God is real and he loves each and every one of them.
We also understand how important is to provide proper training and guidance for our leadership, so that what has been started will grow and continue with excellence.
Since our churches do not have the same overhead as regular institutional churches we can put our offerings toward uses other than building and maintenance costs. We use our resources to provide benevolence, evangelism and support for Christian workers who need it.
We are however, willing to have buildings that could be used for various gatherings of the local church as well as to provide services and evangelism for the community at large, provided that it is utilized fully.
The Problem Some Evangelicals May Have With All This…
Sometimes people from some Protestant denominations have trouble with some of the concepts in this website as well as in the church. Having been raised in a Protestant denomination myself, I do understand your concerns. A bit of an explanation is required. One thing that I have not often heard of is Protestant (especially Evangelical) churches offering complete courses in early church history. You may have been exposed to the journeys of Paul, etc., but never exposed to the information about what happened to the church during the first few centuries, because if they did, you would learn that the real trouble started after 325 A.D., when the church went from privately meeting in homes to having large government sponsored public places of worship! What followed was, primarily, the Roman Catholic Church. So when the protestant reformation developed, even though the new church had integrated right practices from their earlier church brethren, many were rejected during the reformation so that the reformed church appeared more distinct. I, as well as my fellow workers have put in countless hours to verify all that you read here is true. We have no ax to grind with any denomination, we hold love in our hearts for all believers and we simply have chosen to go back and use and sometimes adapt some of the practices of the earliest church for today’s world, those started during the apostolic era and make them live in our modern times. I would be pleased to answer your questions and concerns regarding any and all of the issues in this website.
++Archbishop Timothy Buss, Th.D.