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Restoration History

Barton W. Stone

Barton W. Stone

Alexander Campbell

Alexander Campbell

The family of Churches known as Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, and Disciples of Christ began in the early 1800s in both the United Kingdom and the United States. During this period in history, the Church tended to be legalistic and seriously divided. The Restoration Movement began as groups of Christians became increasingly convicted about the desperate need for unity in Christ’s church. They felt that only a thorough reformation of the Church would bring the followers of Christ closer to the unity that they sought, and from that conviction a new movement of “New Testament Church” was born.

The portion of the movement that occurred in the United States was led by two men we remember in particular; Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell. Stone and Campbell worked separately for revival of a new unified church from the turn of the 19th century until 1824 when they met.

By the 1840s, there were also churches in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. That century was a time of extreme growth for the movement, and by it’s close, the Christian Church was the fifth largest in the United States.

An evangelist named Walter Scott also made a significant contribution to the Christian Church by defining five basic emphases by which people could come to Christ and membership in His Church. His “five finger exercise”; faith, repentance, baptism, the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit, helped to further define and clarify the essence of this new body of believers.

Despite the phenomenal growth and push for unity, by 1906 the group currently known as Churches of Christ (a cappella) had already become distinct from the main body, although there has recently been more action taken among those congregations to embrace the body as a whole again. From the 1920s to 1960s, further division occurred resulting in two other entities; the more liberal and ecumenical group, and the more conservative and independent group.

The founding members of the Restoration Movement dreamed of a Church that was “essentially, intentionally and constitutionally one”. To see the Church “united in essentials, tolerant in non essentials and loving in all things” is still our mandate today.