Used with permission.


A critic of this ministry says that we in the Churches of Christ have restored the New Testament church. Our mission now, he says, is to guard the truth and not to lose our identity and become simply another denomination.

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We might say that we wish to be nothing more than simple Christians after the New Testament order -- with all the risks and ambiguities that aspiration will involve. We might insist that "our" congregations are free under Christ alone -- wondering whether the very pronoun "our" contradicts such a claim. We might scrupulously avoid linking local churches by any formal denominational structure -- yet honestly acknowledging the informal interlocks, networks and influences that more or less control us all. But we must realize that we are a part of history. Our movement did not fall out of the clear blue sky. It had roots, ancestors, environment, just as all earthly movements do.

We can recover the sense of being a "movement" in at least two respects. We can remember first that we belong to the church universal, and at best make a contribution within that larger picture. Second, we can remember that one never "restores" unless he keeps "moving." It is unmitigated hypocrisy for anyone to urge all his religious neighbors: "Just go by the Bible, regardless of what your parents, church, or anyone else has ever taught you to be," then respond to his own critics within by intoning "what faithful gospel preachers have always taught." Our children are neither blind nor deaf to such foolishness, and those we have taught to be honest will reject it outright. Still some will shake their heads and ask why so many are "leaving the old paths."

Our "identity" must finally be no more than that of any faithful Christian in any age of the world. Separated from trusting faith in Jesus Christ, "distinctives" are worse than worthless. Then they also instill self-righteousness and compete with the true gospel. In the day of judgment there will be no point in bringing God a package of tracts proving our "soundness," or dragging in a bundle of arguments that state our "identity" and distinguish our "distinctives." Nothing we can bring will see us through that Day. We can only point then to the sinless Son of God, slain for our sins and raised for our justification. Better to lighten our baggage now in preparation for what will then be inevitable! We can appreciate our history (everybody has one) while keeping it in perspective.