The Restoration Movement

Briefly, we identify, and are affiliated with the Restoration Movement which is a Christian movement that began in the United States during the “Second Great Awakening” (1790-1840). The early pioneers were intent on unifying Christians under the authority of Scripture alone apart from creeds, and following the pattern, practice, and beliefs of the New Testament church, hence the name, Restoration Movement. 

The major Christian groups that trace their heritage to the Restoration Movement include: Churches of Christ, Independent Christian Church, the International Church of Christ, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). These groups differ significantly from one another in many ways despite a common heritage. They also share many overlapping principles and practices inherited from the Restoration Movement. Two small groups with some early connection to the Restoration Movement but separated early on include the Christadelphians and the Church of God, General Conference. Together, the major groups represent an estimated 3 million adherents in the United States plus an estimated 3-4 million outside the US.

Generally, the major Restoration Movement churches are viewed  as an affiliated, cooperative group of independent, non-denominational churches (except the Disciples of Christ who formally restructured as a denomination in 1968). Each are congregationally governed and may vary in numerous ways from each other in practice and beliefs but consistently incorporate believers baptism by immersion; weekly observance of communion; elder led leadership; the priesthood of all believers; the basic confession of Jesus as the son of God, our Lord and Messiah; and use of the New Testament as the only required statement of faith. All would acknowledge the twin goals of unity and restoration, accomplished by: 1) using biblical terminology and  Scripture alone apart from creeds, and 2) following the practice and pattern seen in the New Testament church. 

This also means nothing is required of others that is not expressly and clearly stated by the New Testament. For Restoration Fellowship Network, these clear, non-speculative statements of the faith are the following five propositions: 

  • that the Bible is the sole basis for our faith  (1 Cor. 2:13, 2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21);
  • that the Father is the only true God (John 5:44, 17:3, 1 Cor. 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, 1Tim.2:5);
  • that Jesus is the Son of God, our Lord and Messiah, that God raised from the dead (John 20:17, Acts 17:31, Romans 10:9, 1 Peter 1:21), and through whom we are reconciled to God (Rom.3:24-25, Rom.5:10, 2 Cor.5:18-20); 
  • that all who repent of their rebellion against God, accept the free gift of God’s grace, and recognize Jesus as their Lord, are baptized by immersion as an identification with his death, burial, and resurrection to new life (Rom.3:24, Eph.2:8, Acts2:38, Rom.6:3-5, 10:9-10, 1 Cor.15:22,  Col.2:12); and, 
  • that we are to live life in imitation of Jesus so that it glorifies our God and Father (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 1:16, Romans 12:1-2, John 13:35, 1 John 2:6, John 15:8, Romans 15:6)

  • Slogans

    Some of the distinctives of the Restoration Movement of churches can be seen in popular slogans present throughout our history. These include:
    • Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent. Explanation: we emphasize what Scripture emphasizes, not requiring more than Scripture, while not making an issue over areas Scripture does not clearly address.
    • The church of Jesus Christ is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one. Explanation: there is one and only one church established by Jesus. It includes all those who have made him Lord and Messiah, so we are obligated to strive for visible unity.
    • We are Christians only, but not the only Christians. Explanation: while we choose to use simple biblical terminology such as Christian, disciple, believer, or brother/sister, we understand that others may identify with denominational descriptions but that they are no less Christians, even though they may believe differently than us in some matters.
    • In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things love. Explanation: those things which are clearly described and required by Scripture are the only beliefs considered essential, other matters that are not clear or not required by Scripture allow freedom of belief and practice, love should be evident even in disagreement.
    • No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no law but love. Explanation: Jesus is the living embodiment of what to believe and how to live, Scripture is the only authority, not statements of faith, creeds, or opinions, however, love is considered the overarching “governing principle” to live by.
    • Do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names. Explanation: following biblical examples/principles and using biblical terminology is a means of unity and clarity for the body of Christ.

    The Global Christian Connexion, a global missions conference that brings together the three main streams of the Restoration Movement (also called “Stone-Campbell” churches), describes the commonalities as:

    • A concern for Christian Unity. 
    • A commitment to Evangelism and Mission. 
    • An emphasis on Scripture. 
    • A call to Peace and Justice. 
    • A Simple Confession of faith. 
    • Believers’ Baptism. 
    • Weekly Communion
    • Congregational Leadership. 
    • Freedom and Diversity. 
    See the Global Christian Connexion link for more in-depth description. 

    Relationship to the Restoration Movement

    As noted above, the Restoration Movement is a very diverse group and certainly not perfect. Some congregations are extremely conservative, many oppose the use of instrumental music, or other practices, and even isolate from each other. Some are extremely liberal and may accept persons baptized in ways other than immersion, question the inerrancy of Scripture, etc. Doctrinal issues are determined by each individual congregation meaning there can be widely varying understandings. Some emphasize unity at any cost, others emphasize restoration of patterns and beliefs, even to the point of breaking unity over disagreements. 

    Despite its shortcomings, the principles and ideals of the Restoration Movement forms a strong foundation for uniting us in the common cause of telling the Good News that God has made a way to redeem us and restore our relationship with him through Christ. 

    Each of our simple, organic, Christian communities are interrelated microchurches with connection to each other organically and voluntarily, and connected to the larger Restoration Movement ideologically and voluntarily. 

    Learn more:

    Article: Restorationist Manifesto

    Restoration Movement

    Restoration Movement Colleges/Universities

    Paraphrase of Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address

    A short but excellent booklet that briefly discusses values of the Restoration Movement and how these values tie in to the beginnings of the Movement. 

    Contemporary Values of the Restoration Movement