What Does Restoration Mean?
Dear Bro. John:
"I often hear members of churches of Christ speak of ‘restoration' and ‘Restoration Movement'. Just what do these terms mean?"
To restore means to put something back into its original condition. Thus we restore antique cars and furniture. Works of art are restored to their original beauty. Things only need restoration if they have been changed, become worn, tarnished or damaged.
When Christ established his church on this earth it was the perfection of glory. You can read about it in the Book of Acts and the epistles of the New Testament. Those who should have been friends of the church, soon set about to change the church to meet their own ideas of religion. So numerous have been the changes that there is very little resemblance between most modern churches and the church revealed in Scripture.
Near the beginning of the 19th century a movement arose in America to go back to the Bible and restore Christianity as it was in the beginning. The movement was spontaneous and arose among several denominational bodies at the same general time. Abner Jones and Elias Smith sought to restore the church among the Baptists of New England. James O'Kelly led a similar movement among the Methodists of Virginia and the Carolinas. Barton Stone began restoration effort among the Presbyterians of Kentucky and Tennessee. Thomas and Alexander Campbell led a similar effort among the Presbyterians and Baptists of Pennsylvania and Virginia.
None of these men sought to establish a new church. They were seeking the old church as established in the Bible. They called on their neighbors to "Go back to the Bible and be Christians only." Their goal was to rid the church of the accumulation of man-made teachings and practices that had been attached to it over the centuries and to revive and restore those things that had been lost by neglect or willful exclusion.
The concept was accepted by a great multitude and the movement to restore New Testament Christianity spread like wildfire across the young nation. Having a common goal, members of these various movements gradually coalesced. Because Satan never quits trying to corrupt the Lord's church, the work of restoration is never completed.
Churches of Christ are heirs of those early pioneers and we continue the work of restoration. Our watch word is expressed by Jeremiah the prophet, "Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way; and walk therein..." (Jeremiah. 6:16).