Ever hear of a guy named Ernest Loosley? Me neither. Whoever he was, though, he wrote one heck of a good book. When the Church was Young was originally published in 1935 in London, England, then edited and revised in recent years by Seedsowers publishing house. In this little offering, not even 100 pages long, Mr. Loosley takes a refreshing look at the early church, setting her example over against the traditional church of his (and our) own day.
Before you stand back in fear, however, let me assure you that the author is no advocate of New Testament blueprint-ism. His aim is not to show us some cookie cutter pattern of first-century church life and demand that it be replicated in our day. As I said, his approach is wonderfully refreshing, even liberating, and bears not a touch of that “here’s how they did it, so we should too” mentality. All throughout the book his emphasis is not so much on form but on the indwelling Spirit who guided our spiritual ancestors, with a call for us to abandon ourselves to follow that same Spirit. In the foreword Mr. Loosley states,
The experience of the early church was very much like that of a young and growing child. There was newness and freshness in her. She knew exploration, experiment, discovery and wonder. ‘Some new thing’ had come into the world and those who found it were engaged for years in trying to understand and to explain what it meant.
He goes on to quote from Dr. Streeter’s book, The Primitive Church:
It is permissible to hint that the first Christians achieved what they did because the spirit with which they were inspired was one favorable to experiment. Perhaps the line of advance for the church today is not to imitate the forms but to recapture the spirit of the primitive church.
A fitting introduction to what turns out to be a very insightful look at first century Christianity. Read this book and you will be challenged to confront the shallowness of your own walk with Christ, as well as the glaring differences that exist between the quality of church life shown in scripture and the kind most of us know today. In chapters 1-7 Loosley examines the startling fact that when the church was young, she had
no fixed organization,
no New Testament (!),
no vocabulary of its own,
no dogmatic system,
and no day of Sabbath rest (not in the Gentile world).
He then goes on in chapters 8-10 to to consider what the church did have when she was young, which was
a store of teaching from Christ,
and a gospel.
These final chapters are short, but they are the cream of the crop. Read them for yourself. Then along with Mr. Loosley, let us “get back to first things.”