Monday, October 18, 2004

Winds of change

I don't want to lock myself in a box of only posting formal essays on this site. Beginning with this post, I will comment a little more casually on things as I see them, but I will probably not maintain permanent links to these posts in the sidebar menu. Some of these posts will be more applicable to the small segment of restoration movement churches that I'm familiar with (Church of Christ), but if you're from a different background, I guess you can just consider it "local color."

So, for what it's worth...

It seems to me that there are winds of change blowing through the churches. For those who instinctively think that all change is bad, just consider that most of Paul's letters to the churches were instructions for them to change. It doesn't take long for a church or a society to get nudged by the culture into the wrong direction. I think we all need a gentle tug back to the center of our faith sometimes.

Like it or not, the winds of change are here. As uncoordinated scripture readings often mesh seemlessly with the sermon presented from the pulpit, I've noticed a recurring discussion of unity among Christians. The Bakersfield, California congregation recently had their Labor Day meeting on the subject. I don't know the substance of what was presented since I wasn't able to attend, but I'm curious to learn more about what was discussed.

At the Anaheim congregation, we recently had a powerful lesson on Paul's letter to Titus about "sound doctrine"--that it was not considered by Paul to be peripheral debates and doubtful disputes, but exhortation to live godly lives. Recognizing the difference between the gospel, which brings us into citizenship in the kingdom, and Christian doctrine, which encourages us to remain in the gospel and live a life worthy of it, is one of the most unifying realizations a Christian can make.

We recently had another talk from a guest speaker at Anaheim on the subject of unity, uncoordinated with any of the previous discussions that I've been aware of, followed by a sermon yesterday about the two different definitions of the word "truth" (the "truth of the gospel" as opposed to "truth vs. fiction"). All of these lessons have been helpful, substantive, and unifying.

That was followed by some personal conversations later in the day with several brothers whose minds seemed to be centered on the question of unity. Maybe it's just me, but I sense a trend among people who recognize that brothers bickering with brothers over who is "right" on a particular doctrinal interpretation is patently against the New Testament teaching on being unified and longsuffering with brethren.

So what do I make of all this talk?

I'm not going to answer that, because my wife accuses me of being too optimistic sometimes. But let's just say that hope springs eternal that good Christians everywhere will put aside doctrinal partisanship and recapture the soul of the restoration movement.