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?