The Letter Testament

I’ve been reading through the New Testament this year. I’m almost finished and I just noticed the most obvious thing — I’m reading someone else’s mail! Twenty-one of the 27 books of the New Testament are letters not addressed to me. 

What does it say that three quarters of the scriptures that define the new covenant are mail? It may not mean anything, of course. It may be that God chose to be revealed in this genre simply because it was the most common form of communication in the first century. But it might also show us something else. 

Letters are transient. They were the most immediate, most temporary forms of communication in the first century. They were the instant messages of Paul’s day. The texts and tweets. The blog posts. 

It may mean nothing that the New Testament is a letter testament. Or it may mean that Christianity was meant to be transient, impermanent, on the move. 

Maybe the church was supposed to be a movement — an adjust-as-you-go, keep-up-to-speed, multi-front advance. 

It may mean that the church was never meant to be an institution. Institutions produce books, libraries, membership rolls, and tenure. Movements produce letters, group chats, go-fund-mes, and evangelists. 

There’s a lot to learn by reading through the New Testament. But the most obvious lesson may be the most counter-cultural. What would it be like if, after all these years of Christendom, the church regained her impetus as a gospel movement?