by Doy Moyer
We sometimes hear talk about finding the original church. In the search for the original church, we may then make the mistake of thinking that we can find a line of churches that go all the way back to the 1st century to prove which one is the right church. Besides conflating the universal and the local senses of “church”, the mistake is in thinking horizontally instead of vertically. No one can trace some pristine, unbroken line of churches in a linear fashion back to the apostles. That's not how this works. Further, churches and movements through time often moved away from the teachings of Christ. Even if we could prove an unbroken line of churches, that would not prove that we are the correct church (universally) because we could be part of a historical line that moved away from the truth over time. However, it's not an unbroken line of churches that we are to be looking for, and this complicates matters far too much.
What is vital is fellowship with God, and we can learn the teachings of Jesus through the apostles and seek to follow those now. This is not some search for an original line of churches; this is a search for God, the purpose for which we are made (Acts 17:27). We are attempting to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33). This is something every generation can do regardless of the state of churches up to this point. Being part of the original church (universal), then, is not about membership in an unbroken line of congregations, but rather being one of Christ’s disciples in whatever time we live. If every linear path of churches failed through time, we can still open God's word to follow it now. The call of the gospel is reconciliation with God. As Paul said of their work in the first century, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20). We do well in seeking to mirror this today. Reconciliation with God is true restoration.