The Faith and Practice of the Earliest Christians
by Tony Jones
Reviewed by Clint Walker
I have had an interest in the Didache for years. So, when I had the opportunity to read and follow a video study of this book that guided the practice of the early church, I seized that opportunity.
I was especially excited to watch The Faith and Practice of the Earliest Christians because Tony Jones was leading the DVD study. I did not know that he had also written a book on the Didache, and written a translation of the Didache himself. This made the study even more exciting to get into.
The Didache was, for lack of better words, the membership covenant of one of the earliest Christians in the ancient world. As such, it informs its readers what the early church did as they practiced their faith in the area near the border of Syria and Israel. The Didache gives believers clear instructions on how their faith should be practiced on a daily basis.
The video goes through the subject matter within the Didache in a clear and understandable manner. It rotates between Tony Jones talking to the viewer, him leading a small group discussing the Didache, and a few slides with quotes, questions, and subject headings as well.
My favorite sections of this study are in the middle of the video. The discussion of basic living in the Way of Jesus, and some practices of personal and spiritual formation were thought provoking. The lessons on "how to be church" were instructive as well. I thought the pratice of praying the Lord's Prayer three times a day was an practice worth attempting. I also was interested in how the people at the time of the Didache practiced baptism. Some of the instructions about baptism would be helpful for the church to think about today, and to reinstitute into common church practice.
My least favorite sections of the video are the beginning and the end of the study. I felt like in these sections, not much of interest was said.
This video has low production value. Nowhere is this more evident than in the first and last sections of the video. For many students, the lack of budget will keep them from paying attention and learning as much in this study of the Didache as they could. Which is really too bad. Tony Jones does a great job of drawing lines between the people in that church and people in the church today, and of showing the relevance of the early church to our situation in the 21st century American church.
All in all, I commend Paraclete for puting this study together. The Didache needs to be discussed more, and referred to more, even though it is not holy writ. Maybe these resources with get the coversation beginning.