The Bible says that we are to teach the commandments of God to the next generation (Deut. 6:6-9; 2 Tim. 2:2). Serious believers must ask themselves how well they are passing the baton of faith to those who will come behind them. This includes not only the Bible, but also the principles of interpreting and practicing the Bible. Historically, the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ have promoted what has been called the “Restoration Plea” – a call for people to return the faith and practices of the church in the New Testament.
Not long ago, I read an article that suggested it might be time to rethink or rename the Restoration Movement. The writer gave anecdotal evidence that our plea was becoming increasingly irrelevant to the younger generation. One young leader commented, “I still have a place in my heart for the Christian churches, but my friends ask why I bother. They think the Restoration Movement is dying…” I began to wonder if young people who have been raised in our churches are even aware that they are part of a larger fellowship of believers with a rich history and a tremendous plea. Previous generations spent their lives seeking to model the church and faith after the example given in the New Testament, without many of the creeds and rules of the denominational world. I wanted to test the theory that we might be losing this emphasis, so one night I asked my teenage children, “What do you guys know about the Restoration Movement?” My son responded, “It’s a group of people who are trying to do church like they did it in the Bible.” I was pleased with his answer, but I still had uneasiness in my spirit that perhaps we (church leaders) were not doing enough to educate church members about the principles of the Restoration Movement.
I’m not suggesting that every Christian needs to be able to identify Alexander Campbell or Barton W. Stone. Nor must one be familiar with Thomas Campbell’s Declaration and Address in order to be saved. I would much rather see people indentifying with Jesus and the apostles, and being familiar with the Word of God. However, our forefathers were on to something when they encouraged people to “take the Bible only, and be called Christians only.” I believe it is a plea that is worth sharing with our children and folks who are new to the faith. Even some who are not part of our movement have noticed this. Evangelical professor and author Scot McKnight writes, “I'm convinced one of the most untapped sources of evangelical theology and ministry today is the Restoration Movement, sometimes called the Stone-Campbell Movement, and known to others as the Christian Churches and the Churches of Christ. My experience confirms to me time and time again that these folks are quietly at work in the gospel.” It was a good reminder to me that our churches and organizations are setting an example for others in the religious world.
Recently I started teaching a class called “Principles of the Restoration Movement.” We are covering a lot of Bible. But the class members (new believers and long-time church members) are embracing these principles. I’m trying to pass the baton. Are you?