Expanding the Movement of Restoration

  • Read Acts 3:11-26 here.
  • You can listen to this sermon here.

The early leaders of the Restoration Movement emphasised restoring the structure and worship of church to its New Testament origins because they believed existing churches had moved too far away from that model. In The Crux of the Matter, Childers, Foster and Reese make this observation:

“Like us, they searched the Bible for information that would address their concerns, and address them in ways that made sense in their time and situation. …Constantly changing human conditions demand a constantly renewed approach to Scripture.” (2001, 154)

In many ways the Church of Christ is the way it is today because we stopped reading Scripture to answer the questions of our time and situation.  We’ve continued to teach the answers to the questions of 200 years ago.  While many of those questions continue to be relevant, some do not.  Our contemporary culture also asks questions that Stone and Campbell couldn’t have imagined.  For instance, environmental stewardship is a relatively new theological discussion.  Do Christians have a special responsibility toward Creation?  (A friend of mine published a discussion guide on this topic available on Amazon.  Or you can visit his website: www.IsJesusGreen.com)

One of the exciting aspects of the Restoration Movement is the name “Restoration”.  While it has previously had a fairly narrow focus on “restoring the New Testament church”, we have an opportunity to expand that application.  In many ways the whole of Scripture describes a movement toward restoration. In Acts 3:21 the apostle, Peter, described the return of Jesus as “the time … for God to restore everything , as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.”  History culminates, not in destruction, but in restoration!

If the church exists as an outpost of God’s kingdom, then we must adopt His mission as our mission.  As God works toward restoration, then we must also.  But what does this look like?  I believe it means that the church and its members will involve ourselves in social and humanitarian causes that work to restore justice and equality in our society.  When we see decay and brokenness we recognise the need for God’s restorative healing to work. This need may exist in a marriage, or in a neigbourhood, or a nation. The grand scheme of restoration involves eliminating hunger, disease, war, environmental pollution, discrimination, etc. While we live in a world impacted by sin we can’t eliminate all of these, but we can make a difference for God.

To see an example of a church that has committed itself to the expanded theme of restoration visit the website www.ARestorationMovement.com. The Highland Church of Christ in Abilene, TX has committed itself to restoration projects within the church, the local community and around the world.  You can listen to the sermon that launched this project here.

Of course, restoration of a spiritual relationship between God and humanity through the death and resurrection of Jesus remains the primary mission of the church.  But proclamation of the Gospel still fits within a greater context of the restoration of Creation which we cannot ignore.

  • What’s your first thought at the idea of linking faith with environmental stewardship?
  • What comes to your mind when you think of Christ returning to “restore all things”?
  • Can you think of examples from the New Testament that demonstrate an enlarged Restoration Movement?
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3 comments

  1. K. Rex Butts

    I’m enjoying your posts on Restoration. As a child of the RM and particularly the CoCs, there are ideas about the RM that I like and others which I now find to be inconsistent with scripture itself.

    I love the fact that we can be “Christians only” (and I embrace the original idea of “Christians only but not the only Christians) rather having to identify ourselves as a _______ Christian. However, the idea that we are called to restore a primitive pattern for church that must be deduced from the pages of scripture because God, through inspired biblical writers, never gave us a clear set of instructions like he did for Noah to build the ark… Rather than following a church pattern, scripture teaches us that we are to follow Jesus. Do that and we’ll live like Jesus envisioned his church being…and then we’ll be participants in God’s restoration project, the healing and redemption of our broken world. Now that excites me!

    Grace and Peace,

    Rex

  2. markwagner

    I understand your point about being good stewards of the environment and I don’t disagree with it. However, I don’t quite understand how this view of restoration squares with the Day of the Lord described in 2 Peter 3.
    “The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.” After that point the restored new heaven and earth will appear.

    • ozziepete

      Glad you’ve found these interesting Rex. Next week I take a more traditional turn, but I hope you’ll tune in anyway. 🙂

      Mark, I don’t make as big an emphasis of the environmental issues as some do. When I mention Creation at the end of the post I’m thinking more of “the world the way God created it”, including human relationships and values, not just the environment.

      I’m still trying to get my head around all the aspects of viewing the return of Christ through a restoration lens, rather than a destruction lens. The view is largely based off of Romans 8 which includes statements like this in v21:

      “creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

      Another example is Colossians 1:19-20 that talks about redeeming more than just humanity:

      “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

      Regarding 2 Peter 3 I found this comment in a blog by Bobby Valentine that I think gives a non-traditional perspective.

      “Peter, in his short epistle we call 2 Peter, describes the day of the Lord in chapter 3. Yes, this world will be destroyed. But we must not assume the word “destroyed” means nonexistence. Peter compares the final destruction by sea of fire to destruction brought by a sea of water in Noah’s flood (3.5ff). The world did not cease to exist in Noah’s day . . . but it was “destroyed” (Peter uses the same Greek word in both v. 6 and v.10). Peter in verse 10, after saying the world would be destroyed by fire, says the earth will be “laid bare.” Much as it was laid bare after Noah’s flood. So, as Mark Black writes in his commentary on 2 Peter, Peter is talking about the purification of the world by a sea of fire. That purification ushers in the “new heavens and new earth” (3.13)”

      So it’s not as though our efforts to redeem the environment survive the fire, but they still represent the restorative work of God in the world.

      If your interested in further reading (there’s a lot of it) from this perspective, check out the series of articles on the topic by Bobby Valentine that begins here: http://stoned-campbelldisciple.blogspot.com/2007/04/heaven-pie-in-sky-or-meek-inheriting.html

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