Some things weigh more heavily, possibly unhealthily, upon my personal studies than others at times. I assume that burden is true for most. In a recent discussion, one where grace was extended by all sides, the statement was made by one party, “Of these things being discussed, we still practice obedience to them; why others do not, I have no idea (paraphrased).”
That is a telling reality if in fact my friend and his churches of service have and are following verbatim what many have resigned to cultural practices during the days of the early church.
I am beyond confident this is not true for the majority of us. I speak not negatively, just that there is some obvious picking and choosing going on around here.
An eerie forecast I recall is that from the Catholic Church, when Luther and others marched away, deeming that the Protestant movement would become unmanageable, that schism would birth schism upon schisms, until finally, fragmented, the movement would cease being an effective influence in the world around her.
Protestantism has evolved to the place where the gospel is conveyed through an endless number of means, where most anything anyone requires so that they might hear and believe can be found within a set of walls somewhere. I have a hard time accepting this is what Luther envisioned and wonder deeply had he been privileged with seeing forward would he not have left hammer and nail in his tool shed.
For me, and I say this with gratitude, I am glad he did not have the gift of seeing what Protestantism would become, not knowing how it would appeal in his day. That will sound weird to some and others will scold my reflection no doubt, but I trust that Jesus is doing just as He chooses.
If, as God has decreed, all authority everywhere has been given to Him, and He is reigning justly from His Throne, then everything is going just as He determines because He promised, “I will build My Church…“
This is why I concur with Scot McKnight and many who herald a message just like his. I think he has tapped into something huge, concluding that the church was never meant to look the same in every place and time. Rather, she is meant to carry the unchanging gospel to ever-changing cultures.
The diversity of the body of Christ as it is today is boundless in speaking into the lives of an even more diverse population than ever before. We might describe it this way.
The Church is becoming all things to all people so that she might save some in all places and all times.
If there is anything to be discouraged by in this state of the church, it is our unwillingness to see the benefit of diversity and our refusal to be one as commanded.
I believe that my quoted friend is honest in his relating their adherence to first century customs, and I believe there is a need for some to have this stability to hold on to. I also know there is another community that will never be reached by such strict mimicking. Isn’t it possible that there is a need for both? Hence, a diverse church able to minister to all?
One of my absolute favorite places to read proves the possibility of this being a reality; Jess’ site, All Along the Watchtower. There, believers from a multitude of the mixture of differing views gather to read and write, finding a common ground in Christ Jesus and His good news.
It is in this all-powerful gospel, and it alone, that unity awaits, even beckons, regardless of how radically diverse God chooses for His children to become. And for a small uptick… God used a servant nail to put it all in motion.