I suspect the answers to that question will be all over the lot. We each have a laundry list. How we would prioritize the list will vary according to our starting point.
But let me pose the question another way. Do you think the church has ever before faced as severe crises as it faces today?
In this Vincentian Mindwalk let’s explore the problems faced today… and those of the early Church. Maybe we can learn from the way the early church faced its problems.
Problems we face today
Many in the United States are unaware of a bigger picture.
One of the biggest challenges facing Christians today is religious persecution. According to Open Doors USA, an organization that tracks religious persecution, over 340 million Christians face high levels of persecution and discrimination in 2021.
Christians today also face opposition from secular authorities and institutions. In many parts of the world, Christianity is seen as a threat to the dominant cultural and political ideologies. Christians who speak out against these ideologies or who refuse to compromise their faith are often marginalized or even persecuted.
In the US we are very aware of cultural clashes. The Christian message is often at odds with the prevailing cultural norms and practices. Issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and gender identity are highly contested,
Christians today also face internal dissension as different groups and factions develop within the Christian community. Theological disagreements, worship styles, and political affiliations are just some of the issues that can cause division within the Church.
Problems faced by the early church
One of the biggest challenges they faced was persecution. The Roman authorities saw Christianity as a threat to their power and authority. They were determined to stamp it out. Christians were often arrested, imprisoned, and even executed for their faith.
Early Christians faced opposition from religious institutions. The Jewish religious authorities saw Christianity as a heretical sect that was undermining the Mosaic law.
The early Christians also faced cultural clashes within. Jews and Greeks brought different assumptions to Jesu’s message.
Finally, the early Christians faced internal dissension. Different groups and factions developed within the Christian community.
All these crises appear in the pages of the Acts of the Apostles!
What we can learn from the early church
In the pages of the Acts of the Apostles, we also see how they faced these tensions.
An underlying theme is a tension between the Church’s desire to preserve its traditions and teachings and the need to adapt to changing circumstances. As we focus on readings from the Acts, pay attention to the ways the Church has responded to these crises.
One of the key strategies used by the early Christians to overcome challenges was to rely on their faith and trust the power of the Holy Spirit. They believed that God was with them and that he would help them to overcome any obstacles they encountered.
The early Christians also relied on the support of their community. They understood that they could not face the challenges of their time alone. They relied on each other for support, encouragement, and resources.
Perhaps most importantly, they were committed to the mission of spreading the Good News of God’s enduring love and building the church. They believed that this was the most important work they could do. They were willing to make sacrifices and endure hardships in order to accomplish this mission of being light to the world.
Aren’t these principles the basis of Pope Francis’ call for a synodal church?
How would you rate yourself on
- Trust in the Holy Spirit
- Support of the community
- Commitment to sharing the Good News that God already loves us