I grew up with a real affinity for scripture. I heard over and over again that the Bible is the inspired word of God. I heard it is our example. Even our pattern. I heard it informs our practice and doctrine.
Flowing out of all of that was the idea that we were restoring the New Testament church by going to the New Testament and doing what we found there. The problem was, when we said restoring the New Testament church, we meant worshiping how they worshiped and teaching various doctrines that they taught. That was it. Mission accomplished! Or was it?
Imagine watching the restoration shows on History channel and they only restored half of an item. Would you say it was restored? Or what if they restored the look of an item but not its function, its purpose? Would you say it was restored if it couldn’t do what it was originally made to do?
Can we say we have restored first century Christianity if we aren’t on the same mission they were on? If we aren’t fulfilling their purposes? If our emphases are different than theirs? What if we lack real disciple-making methods, when they certainly took that quite seriously.
Can we say we are them if we only do part of what they did? We thought we had completed the restoration without also imitating their purpose. Our purpose became getting doctrine right in the midst of the denominations to bring them to the truth. Their purpose in the first century was to make disciples of the nations (as Jesus commanded).
Can we be them if we aren’t them all the way?
This isn’t so much a setup for bashing our movement, but to be an attempt to show that Churches of Christ are uniquely positioned to be front runners in disciple-making movements that are lacking in the global West.
I am a firm believer that when you choose your philosophical approach that you must take it all the way of where it takes you. If we are trying to be them (we should be trying to be Jesus, not them) we would do what they did and what they did wasn’t just in the assembly.
What would happen if we took our philosophy of early church imitation seriously?
Or how about an even better question – what would happen if we took imitation of Jesus seriously?
The reason the early church made disciples was because they were following Jesus’ command and Jesus’ example.
How on earth can we continue to neglect this while still making the claims about our overlap with the first Christians? If you plopped a first century Christian in our fellowship they would wonder how on earth we ended up where we are and our lack of doing what Jesus said while claiming the opposite. It is beyond me and it is so blatantly obvious that I have no idea how I missed this all of these years.
Our philosophy, taken all the way, would put us right in the middle of God’s work in the disciple-making movements that are going on around the globe. Why? Because we say we take the bible seriously but on this point we don’t do what it says. I believe we would/will see revolution and revival if we would take our beliefs all the way.
Matt, you said: “The reason the early church made disciples was because they were following Jesus’ command and Jesus’ example.
How on earth can we continue to neglect this while still making the claims about our overlap with the first Christians?”
That’s one tough question!
Maybe we should stop trying to over lap and end the grid lock! I personally believe the church on Earth was designed to be fluid (not patternistic) in approach to making disciples and helping them grow spiritually as time progressed so that the church could be relevant to the time it was in. A young ACU female who was going into ministry wrote on her blog one time that it was about being missional in the church and the society of the time and if she could not do so with all the restrictions that were on women, she wondered if she should go into ministry. Until we have removed all restrictions on gender in our churches and enabled all of our brothers and sisters in Christ to use their gifts as needed, we will not have accomplished anything and making disciples will continue to not be taken seriously. The task to be accomplished will probably take several more generations to complete, if we can survive that long without making the disciples we could and should be making.
We shouldn’t be waiting on people to change things for us to do what Jesus said. No one has to ask an elder if they can disciple someone.
Then, technically, why does one need a congregation to disciple? Specifically, why does one need a congregation that requires an elder’s permission to disciple? In other words, why submit to a gatekeeper?
The cofC made disciples, only of Paul and their internal policies, not so much of Jesus. Merely believing in Jesus was insufficient for salvation. You had to get everything right. Everything including having the right opinions, no kitchen in the church building, and a whole host of other issues was necessary to avoid hell so that was what people were made disciples of, not Jesus. Everyone somewhat knew that other denominations converted people to Jesus (only) but they did not get everything right and so were going to hell.