Strange as it may seem, one of the newest groups to hit the KU campus is a model of the oldest Christian church in history--that of the apostles and new converts recorded in Acts 2. Composed of students, married couples, and traveling singer-evangelists, this group calls itself a church, but acts more like an overgrown family, with all its members deeply attached to one another and to God.
The Biblical description of early Christians emulated by these young people is as follows: "The believers all met together and had everything jointly; they sold their property and their belongings and distributed them to all as anyone might have need. Daily they regularly frequented the temple with a united purpose and at home they broke bread together. So they received nourishment, praising God with happy and unruffled hearts, and enjoying the good will of all the people, while daily the Lord added to the group those who were being saved" (Acts 2:44-47).
Like their forerunners, these young Christians (they range in age from 18 to early thirties) have abandoned worldly pursuits such as careers, acquisition of material wealth, and reputation-building. In the place of these goals, they have put serving God, loving one another and evangelizing the world with the message of Christ. They lead Bible studies in many sorority and fraternity houses and dormitories, spending hours each week in private conversations with students about spiritual topics. They eat together, engage in natural prayers and studies of Scripture, and each Sunday afternoon they hold an informal communion service which they call "breaking bread."
They often visit other churches in Lawrence, but emphasize that "The building isn't what makes a church, according to the New Testament. We have a true church--a body of believers in Jesus Christ--right here in our house." Noticeable absent are many of the outward symbols usually attached to churches: the dressy clothes, internal organizations, priest or minister, expensive church building, religious vestments and symbolic paraphanalie are all missing.
What can be observed is simply a pair of enormous old frame houses at 1201 and 1209 Ohio (living quarters for the men and women) with one living room arranged as a meeting place for meals and study sessions. Besides a smattering of couches and overstuffed chairs, the room offers a piano, tapes and books on Christian topics. On its wood-paneled walls hang large posters illustrating texts which are always quoted from modern translations of the Bible.
Here from 20 to 60 young people gather several times a day, dressed in the current uniform of the young" bellbottomed blue jeans and sweat shirts. Although obviously products of the Jet Age, these young people are distinguished from their contemporaries by being clean, quiet, well-mannered, and industrious: one leave the group feeling confident that its conduct is only of the highest moral order. Here the "brothers and sisters" are all recognized as equal in their standing before God. Preaching responsibility is shared by several of the mature fellows, whom the group calls "elder brothers." None of the youths gives an "oddball" impression, yet all have unique ideas about life and these ideas crop up in every conversation.
Bread and wine are their only religious symbols, since these are the only ones officially ordained by Christ. As one girl puts it, "A lot of tradition about religious observances has grown up through the centuries that isn't a legitimate part of Biblical Christianity. We have tried to cut through all this dead wood and revive the basics."
They are generally evasive when finances are mentioned, usually just smiling and claiming, "God meets our every need. He caused a miracle to take place so we could live in these houses, He provides our food and pays our bills. Somehow, whenever we need money, He sends it." How? All the men work, and the girls find any odd-and part-time jobs the [sic] can; also, Christians in conventional circles make occasional donations.
The general belief among this group is that owning property (houses, church buildings) is a "weight" which hinders their mobility and fluidity. They prefer to be free to go anywhere God may lead--and to go immediately. The only debt they are willing to contract is the "debt of love" held by Christians toward their fellow-men.
Tracing the history of this young church is something like chasing phantoms in a fog: its "membership" is different every day, and each person's story is unique.
They then proceeded to "blitz" the southwestern states, evangelizing students and establishing numerous small churches near college campuses.
They next turned to the Midwest, this time aiming their efforts at major cities. Already, strong bodies have formed in Kansas City (near the U.M.K.C. campus) and here in Lawrence.
"God has by His grace spread a number of small nuclei throughout Mid-America."
"We feel it was the Lord who stopped the radical element that was moving into the K.U. area a year ago: His Word sanctified the campus."
At that time, the Blitz Group held numerous rallies in front of Strong Hall, featuring a folk-style singing team and student preachers. They distributed thousands of pieces of Christian literature and developed a strong nucleus of new converts.
Watching the activities of this unusual "organization" (I use the term loosely!) may prove to be one of Lawrence's most interesting and heartening experiences during this academic term.