Duplicating the Original
People today are often looking for something new and different in their religious experience. In trying to lure people who have this mindset, many churches are using catchwords like "contemporary" and "casual" to describe their assemblies. Social programs (such as day-care and counseling) and recreational facilities (such as gymnasiums and fellowship halls) are constantly being added, revised and updated in order to stay on the cutting edge. Churches that don't modernize themselves in these ways are ridiculed as still being in the Dark Ages.
In Jude 3, God's word exhorts us "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." Notice that we are to contend for a faith that was delivered once for all time in the first century AD. Since the Dark Ages occurred hundred of years later, a church that is still in the Dark Ages would actually be too modern!
Our goal should not be to find the new and different, but to discover and hold onto the ancient and unchanging. The Scriptures teach this concept in a number of different ways:
(1) We Are To Sow The Seed. God's word is like seed (Luke 8:11). The apostle Peter described God's word as "incorruptible" seed which "lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:23). Seed brings forth after its kind (Genesis 1:11-12). You can't grow watermelon from cantaloupe seed! Just so, you won't grow new and different, ever-changing churches if all you are planting is the unchanging seed of God's word! Jesus warned, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted" (Matthew 15:13).
(2) We Are To Follow The Pattern. In 2 Timothy 1:13, Paul charges Timothy to hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus." Consistently following a pattern will produce the same results every time. It is simply impossible for new doctrines and innovative programs to come from following the same old pattern.
(3) We Are To Go Back To The Beginning. In 1 John 2:24 we are instructed to "let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning." We are assured that, "if what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father." Our relationship with God depends not on some novel church program, but upon sticking with the original gospel and doctrine of Jesus Christ.
We are living in a world that believes that everything can be improved. And perhaps many things can be. The gospel and the Lord's design for the church are not among them. We will not improve on the original no matter how hard we try. Let us in humble faith simply strive to duplicate the original.
By Steve Klein-- via The Bulletin of the Church of Christ at New Georgia, April 28, 2002
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