As I said, at the beginning of this blog series...I like Churches of Christ.
I like Churches of Christ because, at our best, we exemplify these core values:
1) Congregational Autonomy
3) Centrality of Jesus & Scripture
4) Apolitical & Kingdom Focused
When these values get highlighted, we're at our best.
The bad news is: We're rarely at our best.
Currently, these values that were core at the start of the Restoration Movement have been lost to a reputation of rigid doctrinal stances, sectarianism, and an inability to renew our churches' practices with the needs of culture.
If we have a future, we have to regain these original virtues.
First, we need courageous church leaderships who will be willing to utilize our great value of autonomy for good. We don't have to be bound to a list of "brotherhood" non-negotiables. Those non-negotiables truly are negotiable unless we plan on allowing a "denominational" pressure to keep us from incarnational ministry that makes the most sense for our time and location. In other words, be the church in this time and this place. God never intended for us to restore 1st century worship traditions. We need a restoration of the Holy Spirit's presence and the church's mission in the world first and foremost.
Second, we've got to get our heads out of the sand when it comes to the universal church. I was at a Church of Christ preacher's lunch yesterday. Somehow, sectarianism has manipulated that group to believe that we have 25 churches in the Denver metropolitan area. Either we're doing bad math or we've lost our vision of unity with any church that would submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ. In Post-Christian America, we no longer have the luxury of sectarianism. It's time to work with others for the sake of the kingdom.
Third, let us recenter ourselves on Jesus. If we don't plan to represent him in our conduct, we might as well remove his name from our signs and buildings. The worst thing we could do is represent his name in a manner that causes people to want to have nothing to do with him. Jesus is the exact representation of God (Heb. 1:3). If it can't be said of Jesus, it can't possibly be true of God. It's time to stop restoring perfect worship and start pursuing relationship with a perfect Savior.
Fourth, let's return our focus to the kingdom of God. Jesus' message was not about the church or even about heaven. His message was centrally about the kingdom of God, God's vision for the world. The church isn't the kingdom. The church is a sign and foretaste that, when it's at its best, gives people a vision of what heaven looks like on earth. We are a colony of heaven showing people the future that is on its way.
I do not love Churches of Christ. I'm not wed to that title. That's sounds more like idolatry than anything else.
But I am tied to these four values and instincts that were a part of our DNA in the mid-1800s. I believe in the vision of that church. And I'm willing to lead a church that is committed to those things.
And to be honest, there are plenty of churches out there (who aren't part of our movement) that get this better than we do. I know of churches across the theological spectrum who pursue congregational autonomy, unity, the centrality of Jesus and Scripture, and an apolitical, kingdom focus better than many of our own churches do.
So, what will it be, Churches of Christ? Can I stay here and lead our churches toward this vision? Will you accept a minister who places these four values at the forefront of his focus?
It's your decision! There are other places I can go to live out this vision. There are other churches that could use a leader committed to these things.
But I'd like to see it happen again with you because you've instilled this vision within me. You've been home for nine generations.
I'll be waiting to hear your response.