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?