"There was, in short, general assent to the belief that the churches' teaching and practice had to be consistent with its origins in the work of Christ and of the first generation of his disciples. The seriousness with which this conviction was held is demonstrated by nothing better than the tireless regularity with which early Christian writings are attributed to one or another of the Twelve -- or, like Didache or Epistula Apostolorum, to the entire college of the church's founders.
The common life of the churches, moreover, was shaped by shared institutions which functioned as instruments of unity and continuity. The disciple was admitted to the church by the rite of baptism. This involved not only washing but also the making of a traditional confession of faith, and it presupposed instruction in the meaning of that faith and in the style of life that it demanded. The regular assemblies of the community, which took place on the Lord's Day (Sunday) in celebration of Jesus' resurrection, involved not only prayer, praise and the reading of the Scriptures, but also preaching, prophecy, and the celebration of the Lord's Supper or eucharist. These regular common actions were occasions which both shaped and interpreted the life and identity of the community, and they provided a matrix in which a common symbolic language was preserved and developed.
Of equal importance int he life of the second-century church was the discipline of the community. The church was a 'separated' body whose members were expected to conduct their lives in a certain style. There were disciplines of fasting and prayer. It was understood that Christians did not enter into second marriages, put unwanted babies to death by exposure, or practice abortion. They were to have nothing to do with pagan festivals or with any occupation which could be construed as them putting them in the service of the 'demons' they understood the pagan gods to be. All of this meant, of course, that they could have little to do with the public life of any city in which they dwelt, since pagan religion was inevitably a part of the very fabric of that life. Above all, however, they were to love the brethren and to practice almsgiving and charity. 'Fasting is better than prayer, but almsgiving than both.' Ignatius' most eloquent condemnation of heretics comes in his allegation that 'For love they have no care, none for the widow, none for the orphan, none for the distressed, none for the afflicted, none for the prisoner, or for him released from prison, none for the hungry or thirsty.' I Clement knows of believers who have sold themselves into slavery to support the needy. Christian communities not only lived by a discipline, but they also functioned as close associations in which systemic mutual assistance was organized and practiced. This fact, too, no doubt contributed to a sense of cohesiveness and to a low threshold of toleration for fundamental disagreement or conflict."(citations omitted). So to recap, the early Church:
- Took doctrine very, very seriously, to the point of writing letters of support and/or rebuke to sister churches or fellow Christians
- Was sacramental, centering its initiation around baptism and its worship life around the regular celebration of the Eucharist
- Practiced regular fasting and prayer
- Was anti-divorce and pro-life
- Was anti-syncretism (unionism was not yet a "thing" among Christians)
- Centered the life of the Christian outside the liturgy around prayer, fasting and almsgiving
- In particular, took almsgiving much more seriously than most American Christians do today
- Considered unity to not merely be outward unity, but unity of belief, faith, the Sacraments and the Christian life
One claiming to mirror one's doctrine and practice around the early Church should take note. And this list should concern everyone reading it, though to be fair, some will have more concern than others.