Jump Starts Daily

Jump Start #3524

Jump Start # 3524

Ephesians 2:20 “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone”

  One of the deep dives I take in my study of the American Restoration Movement is to read collegiate dissertations that were written about the Stone-Campbell Movement. These are thesis for masters and doctrinal degrees. Currently I reading one from the University of Memphis entitled, “The Post-termination rhetoric of the American Restoration Movement.” Unless you are a restoration fanatic like I am, that title is enough to put most people to sleep.

  In essence, what this piece is addressing, after the Civil War, and the death of leader Alexander Campbell in 1866, the movement didn’t have a replacement leader and so the Restoration Movement subdivided, following four lesser leaders who were very different in their ideology and theology. W.K. Pendleton led the direction of education; Isaac Errett led the progressive branch; Tolbert Fanning, in the South, balanced unity and faithfulness to God’s word; Indiana’s Benjamin Franklin, led the militant fight against changes and progressivism in the church. After Campbell, the church splintered into four different directions, eventually leading to the Disciples of Christ, Independent Christian Church and the churches of Christ.

  There are two major assumptions the author makes that cannot be made. First, Campbell didn’t keep the movement totally together. There were voices raised against Campbell’s Missionary Society when it was first introduced. Second, although Campbell was extremely influential, especially through his writings and debates, the movement never viewed him as the leader of the pack. Many regional papers were published and they had a major impact on area thought and direction.

  Now, if you have stayed with me, and are not bored to tears yet, here is the thought where the author missed it. Campbell did not choose a replacement leader because there was not supposed to be one. Trace the history back to our passage today. The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and Jesus Christ. After the apostles, who took their places? Who were the next leaders in the church? No one. The church was to be led by the Scriptures. Each congregation was to be independent.

  Who is the leader of the church today? Jesus. No podcast, no blog, no preacher, no church has direction over the brotherhood. That very thought is denominational and the very things that the early restorers opposed. Campbell was important but there are so many things that I disagree with him about. Most today know very little about him other than his name. His influence was for his generation.

  So, that leads us to some important thoughts:

  First, each congregation sets its own course and direction. Churches do not fellowship one another. Churches do not tell other congregations what to do. In Revelation 2-3, we find one congregation hating the deeds of the Nicolaitans while another congregation was embracing them. That’s just the way it is. There is no centralized, official word. It doesn’t come through a college, a paper, a website or any other place because it does not exist.

  Congregations, like our homes, each have their own atmosphere. Some are formal. Some are casual. Some are by the book. Some are loose with the book. Some are warm and friendly. Some are cold and lifeless. When we all follow the same concepts in the N.T., we tend to look alike. When we don’t, we don’t. Each congregation must decide for themselves the path that they will travel.

  Second, the design of God is for us to be led by the divine Christ and His word, not fallible man. The study of Restoration History reveals that many people and congregations flip flopped back and forth on different issues through time. Had Campbell lived and been active beyond the 1860s, the movement would have still divided. It was leading that way quickly with a progressive and conservative battle taking place over instrumental music. Movements don’t divide. Individual congregations do.

  Third, our eyes must always be upon Jesus, not man. It is to Christ that we stand or fall. Within each congregation we have leaders. Some are shepherds. Some are preachers. Some are godly men and women who have stood for the Lord and kept things going through the years. But, even with that, our faith is not in what they say, but the Lord. When we blindly follow the wishes of others, we may find ourselves no longer on the same path with the Lord. Leaders can fail.

  Historians who try to write about what they do not understand, see things that do not exist.

  To Christ, be loyal and be true, He needs brave volunteers.