Thursday, September 11, 2008

Restoring to the New Testament Ideal

Introduction to the Restoration Ideal #8

The Church is the Body of Christ. If we are going to follow Christ then we are required to be part of the Church, and the main way we show that we are part of the Body is our participation in a local church family. The Restoration Movement is focused on restoring the Body of Christ, the Church, to the ideal found in the New Testament. Much of this happens at the local level in individual church families. It is about what we believe and teach as well as how we live.

If we are part of Christ Body that means that we are separated from the world. Yes, we still live and participate in the world, but our lifestyle and our standards need to be different. Our church families should be loving communities where people can find acceptance, love, forgiveness, healing, help, and purpose. Leggett writes:
“The church as Christ conceived it became a beautiful fellowship as the disciples loved one another, bore each other’s burdens, and shared together. It possessed unity” (Introduction to the Restoration Ideal; p. 18)

Ideally this is what the Church should look like, but we well know that the Church has not always lived up to this standard. Even in the New Testament we read about divisions and false teachings that threatened to tear the church apart.

This has become a greater problem as the Church began to find acceptance in the world. Rather than living according to the Jesus’ standard, the Church has often adopted the standards of the world. Leggett points this out on page 19 when he writes:
“More and more, as time passed, Christianity became secularized. One historian says, ‘The doors of the church were thrown open so wide, that the distinction between Christianity and the world was obliterated.”

The Church as gone through times of secularization and reform. The inevitable result has been different denominations. It was this denominationalism that the founders of the Restoration Movement wanted to overcome. Having experienced the ugly side of denominationalism (which really isn’t apart of our landscape today) they came to believe that denominational sectarianism was a scandal to the movement of Christ Jesus (p. 22). While we may not experience the extreme sectarianism that was evident in Christianity in ages past, we can still see the damage that it caused as we study Church History. In this regard the Church has been her own worst enemy.

The Restoration Movement sought to restore unity and love among the many followers of Christ. In some aspects we are closer to this goal than we have ever have been before. A quick look at the Christian Bloggers link list I have will show us that we are far more accepting of people with a different faith heritage. That doesn’t mean that we still cannot benefit from the ideal of restoring the Church to the principles of the New Testament. What are these principles? Marshall Leggett ends Chapter 2 by pointing them out:
“This restoration movement can be introduced in several ways. But perhaps the best is through the central ideas of four of its early leaders. These early leaders of the movement, and the central ideas for which they stood, are:
Barton Warren Stone and the Ancient Name,
Thomas Campbell and the Ancient Book,
Alexander Campbell and the Ancient Order, and
Walter Scott and the Ancient Gospel.” (p. 24)

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