Sunday, February 19, 2006

Does Anyone Still Believe in Restoration?

I've been prompted by a comment left by my new amazing friend Don, and a brief discussion between Mark, Ger and myself to revisit the whole topic of Restoration and what it meant back in the 1970's and does it still have relevance today? I recall that Terry Virgo dealt with this extensively in a Newfrontiers magazine that is unfortunately not available online anymore. It is the August-October 2002 edition and I shall refer to it in a bit with some quotes.

What Did It Mean 'Back Then'?

As per much of the Charismatic Movement in the 1970's, it was quite difficult to find a standard theology textbook for the beliefs that were so passionately held to. Probably the best books today for anyone interested in researching this would be Professor Andrew Walker's "Restoring the Kingdom - The Radical Christianity of the House Church Movement" (for a more objective critical yet fair evaluation. See Mark Heath's review here) and Terry Virgo's "No Well Worn Paths" (specialised to Newfrontiers). Also Bryn Jones "Radical Church" is an extremely monumental book. Not only is it an excellent outline of Restorationism, but it is also his 'magnum opus' written just before the Lord called him home.

I think one cannot better this account by Prof Walker of actually being at the Dales Bible Week, for an assessment of what "Restoration" meant to the people.

"It was the 6th August 1982. I was at the Dales Bible Week in Yorkshire ... as I walked around the hundreds of tents and caravans housing some eight thousand people, it was impossible not to feel the excitement and enjoyment that everyone was experiencing ... In the evening, a huge wave of some five thousand (maybe seven thousand) people surged into the giant hall of the Great Yorkshire Showground. The rousing songs and choruses reflected the language of majesty and kingship that I had been hearing throughout the day. "All hail King Jesus" was one song ... This language of sovereignity and glory was matched by the corresponding sense of being kingdom people; soldiers of the King; "Gird up your armour ye sons of Zion ... we'll win the battle with great rejoicing ... I hear the sound of the army of the Lord ... its the sound of praise, its the sound of war ...".

When the preacher for the evening, Bryn Jones strode to the microphone he described the reality of the demonic powers that controlled our cities ... he left us in no doubt that we were in a state of war ... Outside in the growing dark, the crowds weaving their way through the caravans were singing and humming songs of the kingdom ... "The church of God is moving ...". Everyone is relaxed yet triumphant".

For a more refined and theological view of what was happening, I recommend the audio messages of Ern Baxter when he spoke at the Lakes Bible Week in 1975 on the "King and His Army", and most particularly the Dales Bible Week 1976 on "Where Are We Going?".

What Happened?

I have given a great deal of thought to this. The more cynical would pragmatically argue that "Restorationism" simply isn't meant to be, and may have adopted a more pessimistic amillenial view of the end times. Andrew Walker examined a number of possibilities including heavy shepherding and discipleship, doctrinal deviance and the splitting from the Dales Bible Week to other small Bible Weeks. However his arguments are unpersuasive.

What Does It Mean Today?

So to Newfrontiers and Terry Virgo. The inspiration for him writing the article came from a question posed by a London Bible College student who was interviewing him. Terry wrote; "I was fascinated by the question and assured the students that we had by no means abandoned our commitment to Restoration. We believed in a restored church and embraced Haggai's promise that the glory of this latter house would surpass the glory of the former (Haggai 2:9)". He then went on to explain his evidently more worked out and thought through understanding of Restoration;

1. Spiritual Authority.

He said; "God's ultimate goal is that the church should become a 'mature man' (Eph 4:13), a body with many functioning members ... the church will arrive at this maturity only through the equipping ministries of the gifts of the ascended Christ ... some were to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers". Terry is absolute that he does not think that Restoration will happen or has any chance of happening without the functioning 5-fold Ascension gifts (or Ephesians 4 Ministries) in full operation in the church.

2. World Mission.

One of the perhaps less understood and grasped concepts in the 1970s - 80's was perhaps a commitment to this - Mission to the Nations. Terry admitted that the Charismatic Renewal brought a measure of a personal blessing in the baptism of the Spirit and gifts, but noted that the renewal was never meant to remain a personal thing. This is something heavily on Newfrontiers heart - thus prophecies that come from their ranks such as "1000 churches" in the UK.

David Devenish wrote an article entitled "A Vision for an End Time Glorious Church" and he also brought some extremely useful definition and understanding to the concept. He said;

"First what was meant by 'Restoration' was that the Church should be restored to New Testament truth and practice ... however Restoration meant more than this, which brings us to the second component of the Restoration vision. As well as Biblical doctrine and practice being restored, Restoration means that we put our hope in the prophetic promises of an end time glorious church affecting every people group. This is not triumphalistic. We recognise that a glorious church will be surrounded by an increase of evil ... it is through difficulty that we enter the Kingdom".

Much of the Restoration vision is bound up indeed with a great deal of Old Testament prophetic writing. Restorationists would argue that while much prophecy has been fulfilled in Christ - the key is that there is much yet to be fulfilled. I think that a healthy Restorationist doctrine will combine both our responsibility and God's sovereignity. We are well aware that unless God pours out His Spirit in revival, we are doomed. Yet at the same time we must plant churches with a zeal that surpasses anything yet seen if we are to see God's House restored in our day.

It must be made absolutely evident that Restorationism is not something that is exclusive to Terry Virgo and Newfrontiers or Keri Jones and Ministry Without Borders, but Iain Murray's outstanding; "The Puritan Hope - Revival and the Interpretation of Prophecy" (it can be read online here if you can't find it in the shops) makes it abundantly clear that the Puritans saw the spreading of the gospel as inevitable and relentless before the end. Thomas Goodwin said; "There will come a time when the generality of mankind both Jew and Gentile shall come to Jesus Christ. He hath had, but little takings of the world yet, but He will hath before He hath done".

So Terry Virgo concluded; "Does anyone still believe in Restoration? We most certainly do!". And I can only utter Amen to that!


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SJ said...

Excellently dealt with, and key that the point is made that the issues still stand today!! Restorationism HASNT died out with the Charismatic Renewal!! But I do think that it needs some vital and important clarification. It was birthed in it's present element in the heady heights of the 1970's - fine. But now we are not currently in a place of renewal, and that is where the cynicism and disillusionment creeps in. Or to picturise it as Ern Baxter would ... we are not currently round Sinai (a place of God's manifestation) or an oasis (a place of God's refreshing). So it is probably quite a key time to get to the Scriptures and see what they have to say.

So while this was an excellent introduction to the whole issue, can we - your faithful readers - demand of you, that a little more effort is put into looking at those prophetic passages of Scripture that speak of promises that are "YET TO BE FULFILLED"??! I think that would be an enormous help and blessing to us.

Thank you!

WBooth said...

Yes again, that is a good question and a valid request which was also applicable to the Apostles and Prophets question (btw is there going to be one on the Evangelist??! Or the P/T??!). Surely everything that we must believe in and cling to and hold to has to be undergirded with Scripture. The one Scripture that Terry quoted is of course a key one. And quite frankly looking around at today's church - CAN WE say that the glory of this house surpasses the former house?? I don't think so! Just as one of my favourite songs is; "Famous One". Well IS HE famous??! I'm not sure. Yet ...