Friday, October 02, 2009

Declaration and Address 200 Years Later

As some of you will know, I have recently discovered my love for Church history. I have always enjoyed history, but never really got into the Church's history until my time at Lincoln.

This weekend marks an important anniversary for the Christian Churches, of which Fox Valley Christian Church is a part, as well as our movement's brothers and sisters in the Churches of Christ (non-instrumental) and Disciples of Christ.

This weekend... October 4th... is the 200th year celebration of our movement's founding document, "The Declaration and Address" by Thomas Campbell written in 1809.

The Christian Standard has posted a collection of articles about this important document. I think this 200 year old document, that most in our churches haven't even heard of, has something important to say to us today.

First, Campbell's words: "That the Church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the Scriptures, and that manifest the same by their tempers and conduct, and of none else; as none else can be truly and properly called Christians."

The Church (with a capital C) is bigger than my little group of Christian friends that attend a single congregation. The Church is bigger than even our Restoration Movement brothers and sisters. The Church is made up of those who everywhere call on the name of the Lord and follow His Son Jesus Christ with their lives. It's easy for us to believe and live like the Christians who meet inside the four walls of my church are THE church. But Thomas would want to remind us this weekend that that isn't true. (Check out Jesus' prayer for the Church and his followers... John 17:20-23.)

Second, Campbell's words: "That although the Church of Christ upon earth must necessarily exist in particular and distinct societies, locally separate one from another, yet there ought to be no schisms, no uncharitable divisions among them. They ought to receive each other as Christ Jesus hath also received them, to the glory of God. And for this purpose they ought all to walk by the same rule, to mind and speak the same thing; and to be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment."

It's easy to view the church down the street as competition. But the reality is that the congregation down the street is working toward the same goal that we should all be working towards: CHANGED LIVES. The church needs to remember that we are supposed to be about introducing folks who don't know to a Savior Jesus Christ who loves them passionately and died for them so that they could have an eternal relationship with the God who created them. That is the goal. And if that's happening in the church down the street, then that's a win for us. If that's happening in our church, then that's a win for the congregation down the street. (See Matthew 24:14.)

Third, Campbell's words: "That although the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are inseparably connected, making together but one perfect and entire revelation of the Divine will, for the edification and salvation of the Church, and therefore in that respect can not be separated; yet as to what directly and properly belongs to their immediate object, the New Testament is as perfect a constitution for the worship, discipline, and government of the New Testament Church, and as perfect a rule for the particular duties of its members, as the Old Testament was for the worship, discipline, and government of the Old Testament Church, and the particular duties of its members."

We don't spend enough time in our Bibles. I'm to blame as well. Most of us own a Bible, but rarely do we read it. Everything in found within it's pages to show us how to live life properly. Instructions are found within it's pages as to how the church should function. There is no clear picture within it's pages of what the church should look like exactly, but what we have is several pictures of how the early church operated. But rarely do we open this book. We need to change that... desperately. (Check out Acts 17:11.)

Finally (and there's more, I'm just choosing to cut it off here for now...), Campbell's words: "That all that are enabled through grace to make such a profession, and to manifest the reality of it in their tempers and conduct, should consider each other as the precious saints of God, should love each other as brethren, children of the same family and Father, temples of the same Spirit, members of the same body, subjects of the same grace, objects of the same Divine love, bought with the same price, and joint-heirs of the same inheritance. Whom God hath thus joined together no man should dare to put asunder."

As I said before, the Church needs to learn how to get along again. If we do, there won't be anything that can stop us (check out Matthew 16:18).

If you would like to familiarize yourself with this document that launched the Restoration Movement, you can read it in it's entirety HERE. The document is long and the language isn't that familiar to our ears. But I think that 200 years later, Thomas Campbell still has some important words for our ears.


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