I try to imagine, sometimes, what it would be like as a new Christian in first century Rome. How hard would it be to leave my former life, either as an orthodox Jew, or a Samaritan worshiper of Jehovah, or a gentile worshiper of the gods? What would have to change in my home life? My work life? My politics and philosophy? What would it be like to hear Paul or Peter preach? To meet someone who could still recall the gentle inflections in Jesus’ voice, and the wrinkles in the corners of His eyes?
I try to imagine, sometimes, what it would be like to have a new family of fellow first century believers. What would we spend our conversations together talking about? What would we do together? Would I love them so much that I long to be with them when I can’t, when I’m working or traveling?
I try to imagine, sometimes, what our Christian gatherings would be like. Would we always meet in homes with a smaller number? Are there times when more Christians would gather for larger meetings? Where would we meet for those? By the river? In the temple courtyard? Under a tree or on a high hill outside the city?
What would we spend our meetings doing? Singing? Praying? Sharing a meal or two? Would someone always “preach” a prepared exposition of scripture? Or, would we preach to one another with knowing and love-filled eyes as we sang to one another, shared our struggles, encouraged one another, and told each other how much we love each other and Jesus? Would the schedule of the gathering be planned? Two songs and a prayer followed by two more songs? Or would each person share, start a song, lead a prayer when the thought, song, or thanksgiving came to him?
What would the Lord’s Supper be like? A pinch of cracker or flatbread? A sip of grape juice? Would we eat lamb every so often, as Jesus and His disciples did the day He first shared the Supper with them? Would we enjoy a good, old-fashioned potluck, bringing enough food to share with those who may not have as much? Would we sit in somber silence reflecting, or converse in feast-like fellowship about the Savior who died for us?
I wonder, sometimes, what it would be like as a new Christian in first century Rome. I also wonder what that Christian would think of “church” today.