When things go wrong with a computer programme, particularly one that has been updated, there is inevitably an option to reset the programme, to restore it back to the manufacturer’s original design. So, when there’s a bug, or when a programme has been developed beyond its usefulness, many people find the reset option to be very useful indeed. Me included.
As a consequence, I have often thought how useful it would be to have a reset button on other things too. And, for me, the church is one particular organisation for which I would like to have such a button. After all, since the first century AD, when the church was established, the church has changed considerably, and not always for the better.
Indeed, the church these days is involved in welfare programmes (to the public), hospitals, nursing homes, retirement villages, schools., etc. It has adopted practices, like the conduct of weddings, funerals, and the baptising of non-members. It has developed rituals. And it has changed Communion from being a meal into part of a worship service. And those are just the obvious things. But none of which were features of the New Testament church.
Now many of these practices may have been started with good intentions. But they haven’t always stayed that way. Indeed, some of them have already fulfilled their original purpose, others have gone beyond what was intended, and others have simply lost their way. And worse, many of them have now become obstacles to the church’s growth and mission.
So, if there was a reset button for the church, that could help get rid of the bugs and reset the church to its original purpose, I would willingly press it. The question is, though, how many others would be willing to press it with me?
Now some might say, “It’s already been done. That is exactly what happened at the reformation, in the sixteenth century. Someone pressed the reset button then.” But the problem is that it was only a partial reset—it took the church back to an earlier version. It certainly didn’t restore it to its New Testament foundations.
And therein lies the problem. Because the church is desperately in need of a reset button. And that button needs to be pressed. But not just to go back to a certain time—to a favourite thing that we love about times gone past. But all the way. Furthermore, it’s a button that we need to be continually pressing to keep the church on track. Because, whatever our motivation in starting new things, we need to keep away from the upgrades and additions that so easily lead our people astray.
Posted: 11th February 2018
© 2018, Brian A Curtis