There’s a great temptation to think that the goal of any and all true renewal in the Church should be to return to the exact life and practice of the early Church. Even movements within the Catholic Church have fallen into this particular trap, which goes by the names of “Restorationism” and “Christian Primitivism.”
I invite you to spend 2 minutes listening to Catholic evangelist Steve Ray share a startling insight he had about this as he began to look seriously at the Catholic Church while he was still a Baptist. This is an excerpt of a talk that Steve gave at the Agana Cathedral Basilica in Guam in 2006.
“And for a scary moment I took my Baptist glasses off and stared into the horizon and guess what I saw?
This beautiful oak tree standing in the field. This beautiful oak tree, the Catholic Church, which was standing there and I had never seen it before. It had been covered with fog, the fog of lies, the fog of misrepresentation and caricatures.
And I looked out and I saw that beautiful tree, at one time it had only been an acorn. And that acorn had been planted in the ground by Jesus. He said that when the seed is planted it will die, but unless it dies, it cannot bear fruits. And Jesus was buried in the ground, he said like wheat. And when the seed died, then came forth fruit.
It’s like the oak tree growing, and two thousand years later this oak tree is beautiful. And it’s huge. And it covers the whole world and it’s big enough for all the birds of the world to build their nests in.
But I said that the oak tree doesn’t look like the acorn. It doesn’t look what the apostles started. That was just a little tree. But God never intended the acorn and the little tree to stay a little tree! You don’t plant a tree to only grow this tall!
When you plant an acorn you want it to grow into a beautiful tree, and that what the Church did and of course it’s going to look different today then it did in the first century. I would expect it would. When I look at my baby pictures, I look very different now than I did when I was a baby. I have about the same amount of hair! <<laughter>> But other things look different.
So I saw for the first time this beautiful oak tree, and my wife and I started to look at it and ask questions about it.”