Recently my daughter graduated from High School. Her younger brother will follow in her footsteps in a few years. As I reflected on their young lives and contemplated the fact that they will soon be living on their own, I wondered where their faith journey would take them. They have attended Restoration Movement churches their entire lives, but lately I have been asking myself what I want to pass along to them regarding their spiritual heritage.
I want my children to know that we are a people of the book. When we use the Bible as our primary source for teaching and preaching, we are following the example of the early pioneers of our movement. Alexander Campbell (and others) emphasized the return to the Bible, apart from the teachings, traditions and doctrines of men, as the guide and rule of a believer’s life. Many times my children and congregation have heard me echo that old phrase, “The Bible only makes Christians only.” Our goal is to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. I must admit that it is easier said than done. However, the Scriptures must be the place where we turn to find God’s will for our lives and for His church.
Even so, I want them to realize that we do not have a monopoly on truth. Nearly all of our early leaders came from denominational backgrounds. Much of what they learned about God and His Word came from their experiences in those churches. Truth is truth regardless of the pedigree of the person speaking it. We should be grateful for the diligent work of Bible translators and missionaries; teachers and preachers and writers. The Reformers paved the way for those who would come along after them, those we now recognize as the “Restoration Forefathers.” Today we still benefit from the insight of people who are not from “our tribe.” We must never come to believe that our movement has a correct understanding of every point of doctrine, and by implication everyone else is wrong.
I want my daughter and son to understand that our movement is just that, a movement. The restoration of New Testament Christianity is something that we long for; something that we move towards as we continue to study the Bible and witness to a world that needs Christ. There is no new truth – God is not giving additional revelation. However, perhaps we have more to restore. Maybe there are some issues that we need to restudy and rethink. Are there practices that Scripture commends that we have neglected? Are there actions that we need to cease? Are there attitudes that we need to adjust?
I want my children to have their own faith and be independent thinkers and students of the Scriptures. Of course, my desire is that they remain in this movement. But I want them to do so because they really believe in its principles and pleas, not simply because it is our family tradition. However, our children will not know these things unless we take the time and make the effort to teach them. What are you teaching your kids these days?