The original dream of the Restoration Movement was to bring unity to Christians by restoring to the church certain practices and commitments it had lost. Have Churches of Christ restored the church of the first century? The answer must be, “yes and no.” Or better, we have where we have and haven’t where we haven’t.
We have done a great service to the church by restoring practices that were neglected in the religious setting of Stone and the Campbells. Our emphases on believer’s immersion, weekly communion, congregational singing, and local church leadership are healthy witnesses to other Christian groups. We should not abandon those practices at the very time when many others are adopting them in a spirit of unity.
But in many areas, we must admit that we have not fully restored New Testament practices. We do not have the depth of spirituality and prayer life the early Christians experienced. We do not challenge the dominant culture the way they did, sometimes at the cost of their property and lives. We do not have the expectation of the Second Coming of Christ that pervaded their lives. In these and many other areas, restoration is an unfinished work.
It may be that a view of Scripture that was too narrow also contributed to a misunderstanding of restoration. We want to restore God’s house according to the “pattern” of the Bible. But recent discussions of hermeneutics reminds us that the biblical picture of the church does not read like a blueprint. Instead, it is more like a heart-felt description of what God’s house can be, a description from the Architect and Builder of that house.
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 their Lord. We are not there yet, but we are on the journey.
(Excerpt from Renewing God’s People: a Concise History of Churches of Christ)