A concerned writer warns, “If some among us don’t believe that the church is essentially distinctive, but believe that we’re just another denomination, then the call for change will be loud and clear. We should rather hear God say, ‘Ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls’ (Jer. 6:16).” [The same concern about change occurs in many other fellowships as well, to which the following remarks may be adapted.]
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When he speaks of “the church,” this brother refers to the non-instrumental fellowship of Churches of Christ, a subgroup born in the 19th-century “restoration movement” of Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell. The problem comes when one flatly equates any such distinguishable set of people with the body of Christ universal, the church “for which Jesus died.” I am confident that many people who constitute the Churches of Christ are also part of the body of Christ — and that some found there do not even know Jesus Christ. I am equally certain that the far greater part of the body of Christ consists of individuals through the centuries and today who were never associated with the historical movement we call the Churches of Christ.
This writer urges us to comply with Jeremiah 6:16. If we took this passage literally and in context, we should all have to become Jews, or at least Gentiles who worshipped God at the Jerusalem Temple and who kept the Law of Moses. If we take the language seriously but with a Christian meaning, it calls on us to be true to Jesus Christ, to follow the apostolic teaching carefully, and to base our lives on solid, healthy Christian doctrine. That is exactly what I and many others are trying to accomplish in calling for change.
We believe that the Churches of Christ always missed some truth, and that we gradually lost some truths that we originally possessed. We believe that we as a group are inherently no better or worse than any other group of Christians. We believe that when we tell others to seek out and to follow biblical teaching — even if that means forsaking all tradition, heritage, “what your parents taught,” and “what the preacher said” — that we must do that very same thing ourselves. This is neither easy nor always pleasant to do, but our comfort cannot be our standard or guiding force. Jesus may come any day and we might die any minute. The times are too serious for playing games.