“We want to be a church that is restored and always restoring. We do not discard our current biblical practices but we also seek to reclaim others we have neglected. We hold on to the best of our tradition but we move forward to what God calls us to be in a new generation. ‘Churches of Christ’ describes both what we are and what we strive to be: churches that fully embody the life and character of our Lord. We are not there yet, but we are on the journey.” ~from Renewing God’s People, by Gary Holloway and Doug Foster
We concluded our study of Renewing God’s People in our adult Bible classes this past Sunday with a time of reflection on the history of our American Restoration Movement and of pointing to the future as Churches of Christ. We asked some tough questions and engaged one another in difficult conversations. In our wimp-free (apologies to Randy Galloway) Jars of Clay class, the mix is about equal between those of us born and raised in and by the CofC and newcomers to our tribe. And the discussion was faithful. And full of hope.
Despite the final few chapters of the book outlining our recent sorry history of division (and divisions within those divisions!), sectarianism, and an over-emphasis on human effort to the neglect of God’s Holy Spirit, we focused our attention on the beautiful parts of our CofC heritage we’re all very interested in retaining. As a group, we really latched on to our movement’s origins. We’re still today moved by the original vision of being Christians only, of breaking down the barriers between disciples of Jesus and churches, of the Scriptural call for the unity of all believers. We’re proud of the way our tradition has always upheld the Bible as God’s holy revelation and will and authority for his people. And, as misguided as it’s been at times, evangelism is clearly in our DNA. We’ve always been very interested in reaching out to others and bringing them in to the Kingdom of God.
Of course, a look back at the past is only worthwhile if we use it to contemplate the future. And we’ve concluded in our Bible class that a reclaiming — some of it might possibly need more of a reworking or tweaking — of the very best parts of our history and heritage is exactly what’s needed to guide us into a more faithful future.
Yes, let’s go back to breaking down the walls between Christians and Christian denominations. Let’s focus on the many things we have in common in our Lord Jesus Christ and not on the few differences. Let’s pray more and dispute less. Let’s become as one so, in the words of our Christ, the world may believe.
Yes, let’s continue to uphold Scripture as the authority for God’s people. But let’s do away once and for all with the three-part “command-example-inference” hermeneutic. Let’s read and apply the Bible as the continuing story of God’s mighty works on behalf of his people and his people’s struggles to live faithfully into the story. Let’s stop pretending that the Bible contains every answer for every particular church problem. Let’s live into it, let’s assimilate it into our lives, let’s taste it and breathe it, let’s glory in it as the mind-blowing good news that it is. Let’s view the Bible as a vivid description of a heavenly feast, not a cookbook full of recipes.
And, yes, let’s get back to evangelizing the lost. I’m not talking about inviting your friends from other CofCs to your congregation or even attempting to get your Baptist or Presbyterian friends to switch. No. I’m talking about your friends, your neighbors, your classmates and co-workers who do not have a relationship with our King. Invest in them. Talk with them. Listen to them. Serve them. Pray with them and for them. Don’t just invite them to visit your church; invite them to be a part of your faith community. Bring them in and allow them to experience what it feels like to be in a group that selflessly serves other people, that considers the needs of others more important than their own, that recognizes a bigger picture and lives into that reality.
When we asked our class what they believed God was calling the Churches of Christ to be in the next twenty years, the answers were beautiful and evidenced some serious theological reflection. A church that is known for loving people and serving others. A church that upholds faithful traditions and doesn’t fight over man-concocted ones. A group that cares less about “Church of Christ” and more about “Kingdom of God.” A church that is intimately involved in redeeming the world. A church built on the holy energy of relationships and testimony that prove the power of our God.
Again, from Renewing God’s People:
“If we could wear our denominational name — Churches of Christ — lightly and could view many of our institutional practices as less fixed, then we could again be a movement for the good of the Church at large. We could invite our fellow pilgrims to journey with us. We could be Christians only, not the only Christians.”
Is there a spiritual awakening taking place today in the Churches of Christ? How do you know? What evidence do you see? Can you prove it? What’s happening in our churches, in our culture, in the world, that gives you great hope for our movement?