SHAWNEE CHRISTIAN CHURCH IS A RESTORATION MOVEMENT CHURCH
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY ‘RESTORATION MOVEMENT’?”
It started in America around the beginning of the nineteenth century, when a number of God-fearing men and women felt a desire for returning to the church described in the New Testament. They grieved over the divisions within Jesus Christ’s body and bride (His church) and the denominational creeds that only serve to separate believers from one another.
In the sixteenth century, the Protestant Reformation corrected many of the evil abuses of the Roman Catholic Church. Some of those early leaders were horribly mistreated; many suffering painful deaths. As the name implies, their intent was to reform what they saw as errors in the Roman Church, rather than to restore the church to its apostolic doctrine and practices.
What resulted was a growing number of denominations — people who followed the various teachings and views of Luther, Hus, Calvin, Wesley, and many others — even as those men pleaded for them to not do so. But man-made traditions and dogma can hold on tenaciously!
There was no thought in the minds of the restorationists for founding yet “another church” in America, when so many existed already.
The result of a tendency for the various immigrant groups to settle in the same general regions meant that their national church, whatever that might have been, was perpetuated in a new land. Even today we can still find denominational “pockets” throughout the nation— descendants of the immigrants who brought their religious views with them.
For example, regions of Minnesota and Wisconsin have large Lutheran or Episcopal groups, while the New York and New Jersey areas are largely of Catholic or Jewish cultures, and southern states are largely Presbyterian or Baptist in faith.
The plea of the “Restoration Movement” was for a Christian unity previously unknown because Jesus prayed for one body (John 17). The Restoration Movement sought that people would agree to follow the Bible only, rather than the creeds and confessions of well-intentioned men of the Reformation period.
Recognizing that the Old Testament was God’s rules and laws only for Israel and therefore not binding on Gentiles, the Restoration plea was to the New Testament as the sole authoritative covenant between God and all people of every nation. The only confession, or creed, was the one found in Matthew 16:16, “Jesus is the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God.”
Unity among all Christians on such a simple platform seemed reasonable and desirable.
A study of the early years of the Restoration Movement reveals rapid growth in the popularity of the ‘plea’ in the young nation which was unseen for centuries in Europe. The plea for unity within Christendom seemed to move like a wildfire!
As more souls were touched by that simple proposition for untainted Christianity many of the denominational “shibboleths”* disappeared. But – human nature being what it is – disagreements arose over long-held traditions and practices which some were not willing to surrender. Most were resolved amicably by an honest search of the Scriptures.
However, disagreements arose again among a new generation of converts to the plea, who misunderstood the plea for unity as a plea for union – a vast difference!
- The plea for unity, based on the simple principles of: Scripture alone; no creed but Christ; the New Testament as the sole rule of faith and Christian life was a breath of fresh air for many seeking after spiritual truth and practice.
- A plea for union, on the other hand, is really to merge denominations – an impossible task because the various traditions or doctrines are co-mingled and left untested by an unbiased study of God’s Word.
We believe that the plea to restore the Lord’s church to its true nature, based on Scripture alone, and Christ as Lord, is still a viable and desirable calling.
If this plea is appealing to you, we invite you to attend an Independent Christian Church/Church of Christ and decide for yourself if it is a place that you can call home.
*shibboleth: a test of conformity or acceptance (ref. Judges 12 for a war between the people of Ephraim and Gilead)