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Friday, 7 December 2012

Restoration - Movement and Message 1

In the last couple of posts I have mentioned restorationism and the restoration movement. I realise that some of my readers may well not understand what I mean by this (though many will). So let me try to explain.

The restoration movement (originally called the house church movement, though those house churches were later referred to as 'new churches' and most recently as apostolic networks) had its roots, I think, in the 1950s with a small group of men, like Arthur Wallis, from a Brethren background who came under the influence of the Pentecostals, having been baptised in the Spirit. With a strong non-denominational spirit and outlook, and some reservations about Pentecostalism, they began exploring what a New Testament model of church should look like. They also had discussions about revival, the kingdom of God and the end times (eschatology).

Some of them also interacted with the charismatic movement in the 1960s, though, contrary to how some think, this movement did not grow out of the charismatic movement (there was mutual influence between the two), but had its own distinct history. The distinction from the charismatic movement became increasingly clear as charismatics or renewalists were happy to see a renewal of the historic denominational churches and institutions; whereas restorationists wanted to see the structures of church restored to the New Testament ideal - new wineskins for the new wine of the pentecostal-charismatic experience. It has been well argued that, in large part, the house church movement grew out of a combination of Brethren ecclesiology (about the structure and function of church life) and Pentecostal experience.

This movement really began to flourish from the early 1970s onwards and another key figure, Bryn Jones  emerged. Bryn was from a much more Pentecostal background than Arthur Wallis but also committed to non-denominationalism. In key meetings called by Arthur, there was more discussion about eschatology (beliefs about the end times), the kingdom and particularly the role of Israel. From these, there emerged a far more positive view of the end-times than the largely doom and gloom, escapist eschatology that many of these men had grown up with among the Pentecostals and Brethren. They placed a greater emphasis on the teaching of kingdom here and now, of positively influencing and transforming this world, rather than escaping from it. The word restoration came not only to refer to the restoration of the church, or to God restoring lost truths to his church, but to the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). It was about God's ultimate purpose and that involved the transformation of the world. It was this message of the kingdom that gripped me as young man in the 1980s, and I have come to believe that this movement's eschatology was and is ultimately of greater significance than its ecclesiology. I shall share more about why over the weekend, as well as indicating other things that I think are the legacy of this movement and indicate some sources for further study for those interested. If anyone wants to challenge me on my perspective/interpretation of the history please feel free. Questions also welcomed.

2 comments:

  1. I agree, but the movement was never meant to leave a legacy of a better form of eschatology but to leave the world transformed and revival in the world. Its a disappointing legacy and in fact it never did go beyond the charismatic renewal in terms of the power and spiritual authority it wielded. It was and has been a useful stepping stone to something new, but it got lost itself along the way I believe.

    Sorry to be so negative. The whole thing was a huge disappointment. It was the best thing around at the time and the new thing God is doing is still emerging but Helen and I couldn't go back and join those churches now.

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    1. I appreciate your honesty, Deane, so no need to apologise. Although I sympathise with your frustrations to some degree, I am not so negative. I am hoping to blog this weekend on what I see as the legacy of the movement. Perhaps the problem in part was that we claimed and expected too much from it. We should have seen it as a continuation of the church's pilgrimage instead of the culmination of it; it would then leave us able to embrace the revelation entrusted to it while remaining open to God then leading us onto the next stage of the journey. That's more or less where I am at in my thinking, I guess.

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