A Movement Begins With A Question

Jonathan Storment

I got a letter a few weeks ago from another church in some other town. And this church letter was filled with what was wrong with the world, and how the gospel was going to fix all of that. But the more I read the letter the more I realized their whole vision wasn’t about fixing the world, but about such a small part of it. In fact, the whole thing that they were wanting to fix was just one hour on a Sunday morning. Now I’m related to this church. We both come from the same movement, something called the Restoration movement, which started a few hundred years ago with men and women who were passionate about what God was trying to do in the world.

They looked around and saw churches arguing about the most petty things, and thought that if we could just get back to the way the earliest Christians were, if we could just recapture what animated and sustained them, then we’d be all right. Now what’s interesting about these first Restoration people was that they knew how big the Christian story was. Over and over again they would talk about how the Gospel was about bringing Heaven to earth, that Jesus was about doing something in this world.

David Lipscomb would say that in God’s future the earth itself would become Heaven. James Harding would say that this world is God’s training ground for his followers, and that one-day he would refine it, and live among us on this world. Even Alexander Campbell, one of the main starters of this movement, said that God was not going to waste anything he created; he would re-create, regenerate the world, but annihilate nothing. For them, the Gospel wasn’t about some other place, but about this world made right, and God living among us.

So the Highland Church of Christ is a church in West Texas. We live in Abilene, and a while ago we started asking the dangerous question, “What difference does it make that we believe in Jesus?” Are the people around us better, is the city better, is the world better because we believe that Jesus is God in the flesh? Jesus had a dream for a world that was different than this. And while we can’t change everything, we, as His followers can do something.

We believe that it should be good news for the people around us that we believe in Jesus, whether they believe it or not.

So we decided to do something. Actually, a lot of somethings. We looked around us and realized that there was a disproportional amount of homelessness in Abilene; we want to do something to help that. We realized that every day there are at risk kids who go to school without the resources to pay for their meal. We want to do something about that.

We realized that, like in other towns, the level of education you receive can depend on what side of town you are born on, So we’re working to create tutoring centers in these areas. We realized that on the other side of the world thousands of people are dying every day, because they don’t have access to something as basic as water.

That’s not the way God intended for the world to be.

And maybe it’s time for his people to do something about it. There’s a passage in the book of Acts where Peter has just healed a man, and the religious leaders are hacked off about it. Something is happening that they can’t understand or control, and Peter responds by standing up and preaching. He tells them that this is a preview of coming attractions, he tells them that this was done by Jesus, and that Jesus will remain in Heaven until the time comes for the Restoration of all things.

Think about that. The restoration of all things.

When God makes death pay back what it owes.

When God does for the world what he did for Jesus.

And that brings me back to that letter I got a few days ago. The dream of the Restoration movement has always been about trying to restore what the earliest Christians were like. But you can’t restore what the earliest Christians were like without restoring what the earliest Christians cared about.

Which was the restoration of all things.

They knew that the world wasn’t the way God created it. And one day He was going to set it all right.

They believed that God, in Jesus, had started something that couldn’t be stopped, and that their jobs were to partner with Him in bringing the Kingdom of God. They’d bring a bit of Heaven to earth. There and then, Here and Now.

That’s what sustained the earliest Christians then, and it what the world needs today. That’s what we are doing. This is the Gospel making a difference in this world.

This is about the Restoration of All Things.

This is A Restoration movement.