Restoring the New Testament Church

You know, maybe that’s not such a bad idea.

But there’s really only one way to do it. And it has nothing to do with trying to re-create the way church was “done” in century one; analyzing structures and customs and laws and hermeneutics and praxes of a day long since past, then trying to imitate them and adapting them and staying within them and never straying outside them and shaking our fingers or fists at those who don’t “do” church as well as we think we think they should be “doing” it.

Restoring the New Testament Church is the natural result of restoring souls to the God they have either never known or have wandered away from – through His Son, gifted by His Spirit, penitent and confessional and washed clean of sin and dedicated to drawing ever closer to their Lord.

If we really gave our hearts away to God and to the desperate needs of others, it would happen. And it would happen in the same ways that it did more than nineteen hundred years ago.

Those unreached by God’s love would be turned to worshipers by the generosity we would show. They would open their own hearts to the Story of the Christ by our answer to their question “Why do you do this for us?”: “Because Jesus loves all.”

We’ve made a terrible mistake in thinking that restoring the church is the means by which we can bring people to Christ.

Bringing people closer to Christ is how His church is restored.

And while it’s true that sometimes we learn by doing, most of the time we love by doing.

Not by talking about it. Not by analyzing it. Not by meeting in our distinctive church buildings and worshiping our distinctive way and maintaining our distinctive air of piety.

All we have to do, really, is focus our lives on Christ; being like Him and loving like Him and serving like Him. Because, in a bizarre Moebius loop of cause-and-effect, when we serve others we serve Him. When we care for others, we care for His needs. When we feed and heal and clothe others, we feed and heal and clothe His body; His church.

There was an early time – before greed and racial tension and hierarchical jealousy and other selfishness set in – when the church was a group of people restored to God:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

They did it because they loved unreservedly, just as Jesus prophesied and promised them:

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

They did it because that’s exactly what He did:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

If you love, you give.

If you love, you give up self.

That’s His idea of restoring the church.

How does it compare to ours?

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11 thoughts on “Restoring the New Testament Church

  1. Well, I’m definitely going to have to chew on that one for awhile. I think you really have a good point. After all, Christ doesn’t look at the external (how we “do church”) so much as the internal (how our lives reflect his).

  2. Several years ago I read a book (that I occasionally see advertised here on your page as being in the Zoe store) called “A Church That Flies.” It’s been awhile since I’ve read it, but seems like I remember one of the main points that he tries to make is that we need to pay attention to what it is about the NT church that we’re trying to restore. Are we trying to get back to doing everything exactly the same way they did? Or are we trying to get back to the same <>results<> that they had???How do we get those same results? Well, as you so eloquently put it, “We love by doing….When you love, you give. When you love, you give up self.”Thanks for a great post, Keith.

  3. This was not your longest post, but this may be your best post…..ever. You couldn’t have been more dead on target.What chapter is this going to be in the book? 🙂Love you bro,DU

  4. As great of a post as this is, David, I’m not sure how it’s going to fit in his soon-to-be-written book on eschatology.Your book on eschatology is like Jesus isn’t it? It’s coming, and soon, right?No?Oh well, a girl can < HREF="http://mmlace.blogspot.com/2007/06/i-had-dream.html" REL="nofollow">dream<>, right?

  5. Exceptional post, Keith! Especially when you write:<>“If we really gave our hearts away to God and to the desperate needs of others, it would happen. And it would happen in the same ways that it did more than nineteen hundred years ago.”<>May your tribe increase!-bill< HREF="http://spiritualoasis.org" REL="nofollow"><>a spiritual oasis<><>

  6. As Jim Rome would say, “rack it”.Great post Keith, this is easily…well maybe not so easily…your most insightful/powerful post. I am not sure why, but I entered into a debate with those from the more conservative end of the Churches of Christ over at divine reflections blog. If you want the web address I can oblige, but I am sure you do not want to waste your time. I am talking directly with those those took out that add against the Quail Springs Church and calling out their minister as a wolf in sheeps clothing. The issue? Musical instruments. So sad. For someone like me trying to crawl his way back to the faith he once loved, these folks make it difficult. Your post, however, gave me a shimmer of hope.Thank you.

  7. There has been a huge swing in how this debate is playing out. It used to be that the CofC would debate other churches about their use of instruments. Things have changed. The debate is no longer with other denominations. It is now in among our own fellowship. It will have to be dealt with and the way it is dealt with will either unite or divide. Let’s hope it does the first.

  8. Keith,Great thoughts on this topics. I think we need to keep it on the forefront. As Dan Kimball says in his book “The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations”, “While many of us have been preparing sermons and keeping busy with internal affairs of our churches, something alarming has beeen happing on the out outside. What was once a Christian nation with Judeo-Christian worldview is quickly becoming a post-Christian, unchurched, unreached nation. New generations are arising all arounds us without any Christian influence. So we must rethink virtually everything we are doing in our ministries.” I agee with Dan. We must rethink everything. The Church needs to understand that worship can change and the way we connect with and experience God can change. The message though never changes. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The way do things must change in order to reach the lost. The fastest growing churches right now are the “emerging churches” that are mission minded. I believe the Church of Christ is going to look very different over the next decade. My prayer is that we will be authentic in all we do. Excellent post brother. Keep it up!Kinney Mabry

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