Christ’s message to the world spread quickly in the first century through the work and sacrifice of the Apostles. It was a message of hope to a world suffering from inequality and abuse, hard labor and sickness and the ultimate death to darkness and nothingness. Christ’s message of the defeat of death and the promise of eternal life brought hope to the average person and meaning to the intellectuals of the time. The Apostles, following the “Great Commission of Christ” (Matt. 28:19-20), empowered by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and equipped with both the “message” and personal conviction, stood bravely in front of tyrants and the learned men of the time preaching the power of Christ over death and His promise of eternal life. They moved from town to town proclaiming the “Good News” to all who would listen, baptizing those who would accept the “message” and teaching them how to observe those things which Christ had com- manded them. The Apostles established Christian communities which continued to proclaim the “Good News”, adding more and more members to those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).
The main concern of the Apostles and the leaders of the Early Church was the salvation of human beings by bringing them to the Faith in the Risen Lord and attaching them to the Church (the Body of Christ). Their life as a community was simple, centered around the teaching and preaching of the words of Christ and the joining together in the “Agape Meals”, the Eucharistic dinners where the more affluent brought food for everyone and they all shared in a meal before they received from the blessed bread and cup-the Body and Blood of Christ. The Early Christians were characterized by the love they had for God and the affection and kindness they showed to each other. This was a major factor in the growth of the Early Church, as people of the surrounding community impressed by the love of these Christians joined the ranks of the Church as followers of Christ.
As Christians of the 21st century, we have much to learn by looking at the Early Church. There, we will find how we can live authentic Christian lives, not as we desire, but as Christ intended for us. From them we will learn what made Christianity attractive to others in the midst of an abusive and uncaring society. We will certainly learn that the Central Mission of the Parish (the Christian community) is to help people discover Christ’s message and convince them to follow His teachings so that they may also have eternal life. Our Faith, our life example and our love for God and each other will be the greatest arguments for fulfilling the Mission of the Parish.
The Great Commission of Christ (Matt. 28:19-20): “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded to you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. Amen.”
The Rev. Dr. Papageorgiou is pastor of Holy Transfiguration Church in Marietta, Ga. He writes and lectures extensively on theological themes and issues.