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Two Churches of Christ on opposite sides of the world…
The apostle Peter was called from his fishing boat to become a “fisher of men.” Little did he know the call to “follow me” meant he would spend the majority of his remaining life as a cultural transplant in foreign lands.
Two thousand years later, cultural transplants from three different continents have been called by God to live as spiritual exiles. “Renewal Through Restoration: An Uncommon Call to Christian Discipleship” shares the common commitment of these men to restore, not just the letter, but the spirit of early Christianity.
The contributors are Benny Tabalujan, an Asian Australian who lives in Melbourne; Steve Wilson, who grew up in Sydney, Australia, met his wife in Florida, worked with churches in Tasmania and lives in Brisbane; and Allen McNicol, a Queenslander who studied at Abilene Christian University, Yale and Vanderbilt and is a longtime resident of Austin, Texas. Each of these Australians has served as an elder of a Church of Christ and knows what it means to be “sojourners and exiles.”
The book ponders “what returning to the habits and ethos of Jesus and His earliest followers may look like in our day,” the authors write. Their primary topics are renewal through restoration, being in Christ, living as God’s people and engaging the world. The book calls us to restore the spirit of the early church by restoring a Christlike spirit of discipleship in our personal relationships, in our spiritual communities and in our relationships in the world.
Tabalujan writes two chapters on each of the four topics, followed by responses by McNicol and Wilson. Part three concludes with a thoughtful discussion by biblical scholar Everett Ferguson on the identity of Churches of Christ, extending the discussion of the communal aspect of disciples living as God’s people.
The book is well written and easy to read, flowing like a spiritual, Socratic dialogue among friends from three different generations. Each writer contributes thoughts on the four discipleship topics from their distinctive spiritual and cultural perspective.
One of the unique storylines of this book is the reflections of spiritual and cultural transplants who have lived on three different continents. Each author shares a common commitment to answer Jesus’ invitation to “follow me” in our generation.
Peter would be pleased to know that, 2,000 years later, these sojourners would write in a kindred spirit of his book. Each of these writers is calling spiritual exiles to the true spirit of discipleship. They challenge their readers to truly “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15).
DALE HARTMAN and his family spent twelve years as missionaries in Sydney, Australia, before returning to Oklahoma to serve as minister for the Eastside Church of Christ in Midwest City, Okla., in 1991. He now serves on staff for the North MacArthur Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.
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