Jump Start # 2938
Nehemiah 8:4 “Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden podium which they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand; and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah and Meshullam on his left hand. “
Ezra stood at the wooden podium. Others render this as, “Ezra the scribe stood at a wooden pulpit.” Pulpits—I know a thing or two about them. For more than forty years I have stood behind pulpits. Some were big and fancy. One in India was made of marble. The one at my home congregation is white. I have an old one that sits in my office, likely one of the first pulpits in the history of our congregation.
But the other day, I had the honor to stand behind a pulpit in a very, very old church building. I have been there many times before, but on this occasion, I got to preach. I had an audience. It was a log church that was built in 1791. It holds a huge place in restoration history. This was Cane Ridge, the actual church where Barton W. Stone preached. The wonderful church in Paris, KY asked me to come on a Saturday and to give a couple of lessons in that Cane Ridge log church. In the first lesson, I talked about the history of that church building and the events of the 1801 revival. Fascinating stories about all the events surrounding those few August days in 1801. Estimates range wildly from 10,000-40,000 being present. The governor of Kentucky was in attendance. It stands as one of the largest religious gatherings in this country.
More important than the old log church building was the spirit and the atmosphere of what happened. Multiple preachers from common denominations, such as Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian, all preached a common salvation. Amazing things happened as the crowds emotionally got caught up in the moment. Some fainted. Some ran screaming. Some fell to the ground and were jerking and shaking, as if in a seizure. This was not happening to just a few, but scores of people seemed to be influenced. The first hand accounts are hard to believe.
In my second lesson at Cane Ridge, I talked about the restoration principles that came from there and that impacted a turning point in the thinking of many people. Creeds, and a hierarchical system of churches and leaders were some of the first things to go. Back to the Bible and back to God’s ways became the sounding call throughout the prairies of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. The frontier preacher was a farmer by day and a preacher by night. He had more impact than the school trained preachers sent from the East. Simple Bible preaching filled the air and people responded. Less than twenty years after the Cane Ridge events, more than 500 congregations came into the fellowship of the simple N.T. pattern. Like a fire burning across the prairie, this movement, spirit and desire to be nothing more than a N.T. Christian spread. Religious papers fanned the flames even more.
That restoration spirit is still alive today. The church is either going to follow culture and let culture take the lead, or it will transcend culture and stay with the Lord. Every generation must be taught. Every person must decide for himself. How much like the original do we want to be like? How close to God’s pure idea do we want to imitate?
Restoration isn’t history. It’s a way we look at things. Either we look forward and become progressive and open the doors to innovations, changes and new things or we look backwards and we try to follow that original plan of God. Forward or backwards? Do we feel that what God has given us, including the church, is perfect and all that we need, or is the church constantly evolving. Can we improve upon what God has given us?
The garden in which Adam called home was perfect. It was paradise. Adam did not have to leave the garden to find seeds to plant. Everything he needed was there. He was not lacking anything. It is that way with the sacrifice of Jesus. God sent the best of Heaven. He sent Jesus. His sacrifice satisfied, or was the propitiation for our sins. Jesus lacked nothing. And, so it is with God’s word. Everything we need, Peter said, has been given to us (2 Pet 1:3). And, so it is a matter of being satisfied with what God has provided for us. Is it enough to do what God wanted, or is it lacking? Do we need to add, improve and constantly update what God has for us? Is it fixed or is it fluid? Is it absolute, or is it changing?
The answers to these questions are reflected in the direction that both people and churches are going today? Are we content with God’s ways and do we believe that they will still work as well today as they always have or do we feel that there is a need to modernize the message, introduce new definitions for the church, and change the direction that God has put the church on?
Restoration or progression…looking backwards or looking forward? This is something that every person and every church must face. I’m one who still believes in that restoration spirit. I’m one who is still looking for that primitive way of God. I’m one who believes that God gave us everything that we need and that it will do the job today.
What a blessing it was to stand in that old, old log church building where some of those first sparks of Restoration began. This was truly one of the greatest joys in preaching for me. I felt humbled to be there and I felt intimidated knowing the giants that had spoken long ago in that same log church building. We stand upon the shoulders of many who have helped us along the way and others someday will stand upon our shoulders.
Ezra stood behind a pulpit. Barton Stone stood behind a pulpit. Today, I stood behind a pulpit. God’s message—preached to honest hearts will bring changes that light a fire for restoration in each of our hearts.