I love the study of restoration theology. I am a child of the “Restoration Movement” from the 18th-19th centuries, which has given birth to what most folks in the modern day know as Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches/Churches of Christ. Although this was NOT the intent, it is what has happened in history. While I cherish my heritage, I have come to believe that in general this background is sectarian and as denominational as any other tradition in the Christian faith. Through the years of study and reading, I’ve come to a decent understanding of the motives for “restoring the New Testament church” as it was termed. I’m not foolish enough to think it was completely restored – after all, how could it be if we had 1800 years separating us, regional customs, one-sided letters of instruction (the epistles of Paul to churches or individuals – which would have looked something like the picture to the right), and the charismata present during the early days of the church (the Spirit’s miraculous abilities)?
It’s interesting. The thinking of most of these men became clearly in line with the idea of the church being an inantimate object, something intangible that lies in the character of the disciples of Jesus. AS IN the New Testament, there was no title of this people, they became known as “disciples” first, then later “Christians”, then as a collective body “the Way”, but never the titles listed above. In case you’ve not done a whole lot of reading for yourself about the history, it would be wise to start! One of the best resources to do this study is the website maintained by Hans Rollman, of the University of Newfoundland. (http://www.mun.ca/rels/restmov/restmov.html) He documents some of the massive body of writings by the movers and shakers who came out of that era; men like Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, Robert Richardson, David Lipscomb, and many, many others.
I am part of a body in Franklin, TN that seems to be as Biblical and true to that Restoration spirit that I’ve ever seen. While we have a ways to go in many areas, the concept of the “Lord’s church” and ownership only by him seems natural. The Supper is the central focus of the assembly, and praise, prayer, and teaching takes place at each occasion. TRUE non-denominationalism is hard to find. It is more of a concept, or a mindset than anything, and many in our day are more open to it now than ever, because of the post-modern world or relativity that we live in. The early church was a dynamic body of people who truly loved one another. They were not a commune, but most likely seemed like it. They took part in each other’s lives to a point where unity, fellowship, and daily accountability were central to their being. — This way of thinking is foreign to many people in the fellowship I grew up in. It is familiar to many of them as well! The difficult thing is to cast aside tradition and cling to the things that are true. I’m sure it was hard for Scottish Presbyterians in 1800 (Thomas and Alex. Campbell) and men from every other sectarian background of the Reformation time. I will most likely start writing about some of the men – and their thinking – that I most admire from the history of the Lord’s church.