As a lifelong participant in the Restoration Movement, I was intrigued recently when I heard Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian Church) talk about restoring the New Testament Church. I was listening to a series he preached in 1990 called “Blueprint for Revival.”
The restoration language along with the blueprint/pattern language (Goebel Music, anyone?!) grabbed my attention. The message was about “the internal spiritual dynamic that makes a church biblically normal.”
Based on scripture and history, he said there are four steps to restore what he calls “New Testament normalcy.” The four steps are…
1. The church faces a great crisis.
The first step, according to Keller, is coming up against a major crisis. You see this over and over again in the book of Acts. Persecution causes the movement to spread. As the disciples scattered, they shared their faith (Acts 8:4).
Early in Acts the church faces a crisis when the Sanhedrin threatens the disciples (Acts 4 and 5). This doesn’t stop the movement, it seems to be a catalyst for growth.
China comes to mind. From 1983 to 1993 there were several thousand Christians imprisoned. That didn’t stop the growth of Christianity in China, it seems to have been a catalyst. Now, the church is growing rapidly there.
2. The church seeks God in an extraordinary way.
When the church seeks God desperately in the midst of the crisis, it’s a step closer to restoring NT normalcy, according to Keller. A good example is the disciples’ prayer in Acts 4:23-31 after being threatened by the Sanhedrin. Rather than cowering in fear, they seek God in an extraordinary way.
3. God works in an extraordinary way.
As Keller talked about this point he referenced George Whitefield’s journals. Whitefield would frequently write that “God came down” during a time of preaching or worship. What he meant was that the felt presence of God was evident.
Obviously, God is always present. But, there are times when we recognize it more clearly. According to Keller, God’s presence is obvious during these awakenings. A good example is at the end of that prayer in Acts 4…
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken.” (Acts 4:31)
God’s presence was obvious.
4. “New Testament normalcy” is restored.
The fourth and final step, according to Keller, is when NT normalcy is restored. And I love how he describes, what I would call, the restored NT church. He says there is a “tremendous balance of…”
- Intellectual depth/understanding of God’s word
- Intimate fellowship
- Anointed worship
- Aggressive evangelism
- Compassionate social concern
I’m not looking for a crisis but I can’t deny scripture and history. Often, it’s the response to a crisis that causes a movement to spread. This has been true over and over again. It’s undeniable.
It was opposition within Israel that served as a catalyst for the NT church to grow.
It was opposition from Rome that caused the movement to spread to the ends of the earth.
It was opposition in China that served as a catalyst for explosive growth.
This makes me think about the “win this nation back” sentiments I hear from time to time. The idea is that a lot of us want the U.S. to become more Christian, creating a more conducive environment for Christianity. I have to admit, there’s a part of me that finds that appealing.
But, biblically and historically, opposition from the state serves as a catalyst for the kind of growth we see in the New Testament.
According to Keller, seeking God in an extraordinary way in the face of crisis allows us to experience God’s presence in a fresh way. This paves the way for the restoration of the New Testament church.
It’s something to think about.
What do you think? I’d genuinely like to know. Please leave a comment below.