Please remember that the early disciples did not have the New Testament as we have it today in book form. It was just beginning to be written and its last part, the book of Revelation, was written later by the apostle John around the year 90 A.D. Amazingly, the early church did not have that precious and cherished book known as the New Testament. Those early disciples were the New Testament, so to speak, for they were the living epistles of Christ, known and read by all men!
Only in the fourth century, the New Testament was finally compiled.
In 323 A.D., Constantine officialized Christianity as the state religion and nominated himself to be the head of the Church. He decreed all pagan temples to now be the amalgamation of all religions under Christianity and under his headship.
Until that time, what we know as the New Testament had been carefully and laboriously copied and recopied in hand-writing on expensive parchments by calligraphers, scribes whose services were very costly. A complete New Testament was very expensive. Few could afford one.
Since most people were illiterate, even if you had a complete New Testament in those days, you could not read it. Those who were affluent enough also hired a literate reader that could read it to them, an event to which many illiterate relatives and friends would attend.
Since they could not read, many lovingly memorized vast portions of the New Testament.
Often during their work-day they would meditate and pray to God, using the very words they had memorized. The way they did it was like David used to do. The Psalms are to us a window, through which we see what was the practice and enjoyment of the early believers–their talking with God.
Most of the Psalms are a record of the personal and living conversations between God and David.
During the first three centuries the believers joyfully practiced this talking with God. As they would recall the Word of God that they had memorized, God was talking with them. This practice spontaneously generated their prayers, their talking with God. Every day, God and they conversed, they had frequent living dialogues!
A vivid example of this are the epistles, in which the writers often burst into prayer, such as you read in the book of Ephesians.
In the fourth century Christianity mutated. In 323 A.D., Constantine had “christianized” the pagan temples. Now instead of all the believers sharing alike their daily new experiences living with talking with God, they got polarized into two extremes, clergy and laity.
In the new and big temples, it was thought to be improper for the poor and uneducated to speak, so these became the silent laity. Those who spoke were the privileged and educated clergy. Thus, the church lost its original spontaneity and total participation of all believers sharing and testifying. The laity became the silent majority and the clergy became the verbose minority. Thus, the pristine purity and living testimonies of the early believers sharing of their lively experiences and living conversations with God, was lost. In the temples, gradually the laity became more and more silent, while the loquacious orators of the verbose clergy orated… and orated… and orated!
All this had a very damaging effect on the simple, daily, living conversations of the believers with God. That too mutated. Eventually, when the clergy would announce, “Let us pray the Lord’s prayer” the laity had lost their practice of continually talking with God. So they responded mechanically, like a regiment walking in step, being far more conscious of not saying the words too fast nor too slow. Religiously droning the words that once had been the Spirit that gives life, those precious words become the dead letter that kills. The living, spiritual experiences of talking with God ceased and were replaced by the religious tradition of monotonously repeating memorized prayers.
Even today you can hear this same boring litany, this droning of the Lord’s Prayer echoing in the cathedrals of just about every denomination presently existing. Most of the laity simply set their minds on automatic pilot, dream about surfing in the beaches of Hawaii and let their mouth drone the memorized words, just like a parrot repeats words it does not know what they mean. Alas, the early joyful practice of talking with God is almost extinct today.
Nevertheless, through the centuries God always had some, who in spite of the chilling effect of the religious traditions of the chosen-frozen clergy, joyfully practiced talking with God.
From Communing With God – Chapter 7
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Updates from Cuba
Starting in the 1990’s Fred was significantly involved with Cuba. The Lord has continued to move strongly in Cuba through many brothers and sisters in Christ including some key workers who Fred helped to disciple. Since 2009, a project to evangelize the whole country has reached over 2 million Cubans with hundreds of thousands of new believers added to the kingdom of God. The work is ongoing with plans to evangelize the entire island country. See below for recent news from the work in Cuba.
Updates from Cuba