I came across a really interesting webpage yesterday. It was kind of random; I found the link from a footnote in David Black’s book The Jesus Paradigm. The link was for the webpage of a group called the New Testament Reformation Fellowship, a loose knit group of people seeking to return the church to her New Testament practices. What was especially of interest to me was that this group, at least at first blush, seems to really grasp the need for restoration in our church practices, not restoration back to 16th century Geneva but instead to the first century. A lot of people are at least on a superficial level making a call for that, but this group seems to really take doctrine and theology seriously as well as fellowship. Far from a vague set of beliefs, they specifically reference some solid doctrinal stances including the doctrines of Grace, solid complementarianism, Biblical inerrancy and they even link to First London Baptist Confession of 1644. From what I have read so far there seems to be an excellent balance between practice and doctrine, a balance that is unfortunately skewed one way or the other in an awful lot of groups and churches. Can you have a Christ honoring gathering when you have rock solid theology and yet your fellowship is Spirit-less and ritualistic? Can you have a Christ honoring gathering with warm and genuine fellowship but where the great truths of the Gospel are absent or watered down? The answer to both questions should be obvious, no! God seeks those who worship Him in spirit and in truth.
I was really heartened by what I have read so far. We absolutely need to return to the simple worship, fellowship and daily life of the New Testament church. But if we do so at the expense of doctrine, watering it down to the lowest common denominator, it will become a Pyrrhic victory. We should not be puffed up by pride in our doctrinal knowledge, but nor should we willfully and intentionally be ignorant of the teachings of the Scriptures.
For example, I have been reading an excellent article on their webpage this morning by Rusty Entrekin, Beware Elitism!. The topic is the danger of elitism among those seeking a return to New Testament church practice. Elitism is certainly a problem all over the place, but it is just as much a potential problem in house churches and other “organic” church gatherings as it is in a hoity-toity Presbyterian church with a huge building and a dozen paid staff. I have seen it from a distance where the fact that an individual eschews the “institutional church” becomes a pride issue. Or where an individual with a domineering personality forms a small group that looks at all others as being virtual heretics and even starts to take on cultic characteristics. You can just as easily take pride in what you aren’t doing as you can in what you are doing. Believe me, I have fallen into this on many, many occasions!
Looking forward to reading more from these men, I think I can learn a lot from what they have written.