The restored church looks at problems in the churches today and says, “Aha! We’ve lost our way! We must go back to the New Testament to rediscover our original vibrancy.” This is an intelligent realization. Unfortunately, what tends to happen next is that we latch onto some peripheral matter of early church life and prescribe it as the missing feature. It’s what my friend Peter Morris calls the Last Detail, or the Lost Detail — the thing that will make all the difference once it is restored: “speaking in tongues!” “the five-fold ministry …” “a love feast” … “no church buildings!” “no paid pastors!” … “a plurality of elders!” … “healings!” …. Inevitably, after being seized upon as “the secret,” this lost detail assumes a significance far beyond all sane proportions. Eventually, maintaining and celebrating this distinctive detail becomes the church’s raison d’etre. After all, it’s what makes “us” special.
The Church on the Other Side, Brian McLaren