The principles of the Restoration Movement are often expressed in simple slogans:
“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, love.”
“No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible, no law but love.”
“Not the only Christians, but Christians only.”
“The Bible only makes Christians only.”
Christian churches and churches of Christ trace their modern origins to the early nineteenth-century American frontier, where under the leadership of minster Barton W. Stone, some Presbyterian leaders in Kentucky published The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, putting to death their denominational connections. They said, “We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit . . .”
This movement later came to be called the Restoration Movement, which was characterized by its belief that to achieve unity in Christ it would be necessary to let go of human traditions and loyalties to dynamic personalities. Christ alone could be exalted. The ideal of the church that emerges from the pages of the New Testament must be the standard for today’s congregations.
While gratefully acknowledging their debt to great reformers like Luther, Calvin, Knox and others, these “Christians only” believed their reforms remained unfinished.
Barton W. Stone
Four Founders: Alexander Campbell, Thomas Campbell, Barton Stone, Walter Scott
The only way to determine what the church should be and how Christians should behave is to study New Testament documents in which the churches of Christ are presented in splendor—and in shortcomings.
Thomas Campbell published his now famous Declaration and Address in 1809 where he stated some of the principles of the Restoration Movement:
That the church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one; consisting of all those in every place that profess their faith in Christ and obedience to him in all things according to the Scriptures . . . .
That . . . there ought to be no schisms, no uncharitable divisions among [local congregations].
That . . . nothing ought to be inculcated upon Christian as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion; but what is expressly taught and enjoined upon them, in the Word of God.
That . . . the New Testament is as perfect a constitution for the worship, discipline and government of the New Testament church, and as perfect a rule of the particular duties of its members; as the Old Testament was for worship, discipline and government of the Old Testament church . . .
That . . . [no] human authority [has] power to impose new commands or ordinances upon the church, which our Lord Jesus Christ has not enjoined.
Today there are about 6,000 congregations in the United States that identify with the Christian churches and churches of Christ, and roughly the same number overseas. There are over 30 Bible colleges and seminaries educating and training preachers, teachers, and missionaries. There are over 1,000 foreign missionaries serving on six continents, and over 1,000 other agencies such as benevolence, church camps, children’s and nursing homes, radio and TV programs, evangelistic ministries, publishing houses, etc. These churches meet together annually at the North American Christian Convention (NACC) and the International Conference on World Missions (ICOM).