Historically, the Churches of Christ family has been billed as a Restoration movement, yet most Protestant communities also believe in restoring aspects of New Testament practice. Historically, too, weekly Communion has been a priority, and yet its practice often minimises a focus on the centrality of the Cross in favour of mini sermon opportunities for budding preachers (appended with: “Let’s eat and drink in Jesus’ name. Amen.”) We are also a non-credal movement but often struggle to be certain about the nature of the essentials that apparently require our unity.
What is truly unique about our movement? It is difficult to distil into a few sentences here, but perhaps it might resemble an interdependence centred on our foundational salvation-focused ‘frontier faith’ of the 1801 Cane Ridge revival of the Second Great Awakening. The freshness of such encounters with God tends to be lacking in Western Christianity today, giving way all too often to some dry traditions within which few come to Christ.
Consider what our churches might look like if we cultivated the kind of revivalism of 1801 which was affirmed by early Churches of Christ leader, Barton Stone, who wrote: “The scene to me was new and passing strange. … Many, very many fell down, as men slain in battle, and continued for hours together in an apparently breathless and motionless state—sometimes for a few moments reviving, and exhibiting symptoms of life by a deep groan, or piercing shriek, or by a prayer for mercy most fervently uttered. … With astonishment did I hear men, women, and children declaring the wonderful works of God.”
Rather than resembling Evangelicalism, Pentecostalism (or any other kind of ‘ism’), any true ‘Church of Christ’ would ideally continue to showcase the vital and dynamic faith of a New Testament Christianity centred on the greatness of God, the work of Jesus, and the power of the Spirit (not just Father, Son, and Holy Bible).
It would, however, need each of us to hunger for and lead the kind of experience of faith that might continually inspire new generations of Christ followers today.
What sort of leadership will this require of us in a post-COVID world that craves life-transforming encounters with God in our primary gatherings (even beyond showcasing four songs, a communion message, announcements, a sermon, and a coffee!)? What changes could you bring in prayerfulness, worship, public leadership, personal ministry, and supernatural gifts of the Spirit to inspire revitalising freshness to your ministry this year?!