Rethinking Restoration

Churches of Christ have their origins in what is commonly referred to as the “Restoration Movement” of the 1800’s. The movement’s name comes from its goal of “restoring New Testament christianity” or “restoring the New Testament church”. The pioneers of the movement were reacting to the excesses they witnessed in existing denominations. Their solution was to begin anew by returning to Scripture and following the pattern they found there, rejecting subsequent human innovations.

This blog post from 2009 still reflects some of my reservations about this goal of restoration. Since I’ve written them there, I won’t write them here.

port arthur church 01

Part of my reluctance to embrace the goal of restoration stems from the image it paints for me of a museum. I picture the church as an antique on display, or as Colonial Williamsburg, or Port Arthur. It becomes a reminder of how things used to be. These sites teach valuable lessons. Mostly they teach us to be thankful we didn’t live back then. They’re interesting to visit, but no one wants to live there.

Perhaps you’ve experienced a church like that. It has restored everything from the first century beautifully. It worships precisely in the approved manner and is ruled by correctly authorised men. It’s an interesting place to visit, but not a place you’d want to live.

Then it occurred to me… or maybe I read it in a book or heard it somewhere…

There are several examples in the Bible where Jesus, the apostles, or a prophet restore life to someone. That last phrase caught my attention, “restore life to someone“. Without dismissing the need to worship God in ways meaningful to Him, or to have godly church leaders, the power of the early church was not in its forms and structures. The power of the first Christians became evident when the Holy Spirit infused them with new life that they shared with others.

Jesus restored life to people in numerous ways.

At times Jesus literally raised the dead. He also touched the quarantined. He healed the sick. He ate with the outcasts. He welcomed the isolated. He gave hope to the hopeless. He loved everyone.

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.  1 Thessalonians 5:9-10

Jesus ultimately died to give us the gift of new life. He rose from the grave to defeat death and give us the hope of eternal life.

I’m proud to be part of a Jesus movement with the goal of restoring life to those who hurt and live without hope or purpose.

I don’t live to argue over pews vs chairs, instruments vs a cappella, one communion cup vs many, or hymns vs contemporary music styles. Those conversations have a place. I live to receive and then to give life.

The biblical story begins and ends with a Tree of Life. Jesus described himself as the Bread of Life while offering Living Water to those with a thirst.

May we each choose to be life givers and speakers.

 

Matt Dabbs wrote a valuable article with a similar theme HERE. Here’s a snippet, “We can have churches that haven’t converted a single non-Christian for years, decades, and yet their failing on Jesus’ very obvious command to go and make disciples somehow doesn’t disqualify them from being the true church.

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