Posted by: naccm | February 10, 2010

A Movement…Turning a Good Phrase by Dave Embree, Missouri State Univ – Part II

This is part II of a post by Dave Embree on the phrases/slogans that have been foundational to the eccelsial structure and culture of the Stone/Campbell (Restoration Movement) from its conception.  Dave is a 31 year veteran of campus ministry and teaches religion at Missouri State University.  You can find Part I here.

The Restoration Movement (now more politically correctly called The Stone-Campbell Movement, though I still like the prior better) was not built on or by theologians; it was called into being by preachers, and preachers love the turn of a good phrase.  Some of those phrases became the rallying cries that brought together nearly 500,000 people during the movements first 50 years. They were good thinking then, and provide some good insight for now.

No creed but Christ; no book but the Bible; no name but the divine name. The European churches and their American franchises were deeply divided over creeds and names.  So Stone, Campbell and the gang were hardcore on this one: no Nicene creed, Apostles creed.  No Book of Common Worship nor Institutes of Calvin.  No Campbellites or Stonitesindeed, that arrogant name of Christian church was regarded to be the most Biblical and generic non-divisive name they could come up with, and they saw church of Christ as simply being another way to say the same thing.  They did not see the term Christian as having negative baggage, though they did often call individual believers disciples, since that was what Jesus had done.

Calling Bible things by Bible names. Christian churches are very reluctant to use terms like clergy and laity, as the Scriptures do not make such a distinction.  The exact role and title of the person who administers and speaks regularly for a given congregation has long been a matter  of much debate. Reverend is unthinkable! Pastor means shepherd, which sounds a lot like elder. Minister means the same as deacon.  Some seem to be called to be evangelists, whereas others arent so effective in that role.  Most commonly accepted term historically was preacher.  As a kid growing up, I knew congregations which were reluctant to use the term Easter, since the term is derived from a pagan holiday and is not used in the New Testament.  And it is interesting that Hank Hanegraff, whenever he speaks of anything related to the Restoration Movement, points out that Barton W. Stone did not even believe in the trinity.  His statement is not exactly true, as Stone believed in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but did not believe in using the non-biblical term trinity.

Not the only Christians, but Christians only. This statement was one of the defining attitudes of the early Movement, but somewhere along the line became, Yes, we are the only Christians. In campus ministry we are probably far more congruent with this slogan than some of the others in our practices, and some of the questions directed our way are the direct results of our open membership.  For some light reading (in nineteenth century vernacular English), read Thomas Campbells Declaration and Address, in which he identifies all those who have offered allegiance to Jesus as brothers and sisters in Christ.  There were no dividing lines based upon understandings about end times, Biblical inerrancy, styles of worship, or initially even over modes of baptism (though eventually this became a clearer example of where the Scriptures speak…) Christians only is still why the broader body prefers to identify themselves/ourselves as non-denominational, as Christian is not to be a dividing nom, but a unifying passion.

So thats where we come from, and even if your personal heritage is different, and even if most of the churches which support you dont know much of that, these statements encapsulate some of the principles from which we have spring and by which we might all work better together.  In the twenty-first century, it is fascinating to me to see how many church bodies are adapting some of these principles overtly or practically, and it is a shame that we arent looking for more ways to live and minister alongside one another.  Lets get back to our basics: Unity; Liberty; Love.

Next week:  Mike Amstrong, A Heroic Heart – How These Principles Shape Our Campus Ministries



  1. I think it’s fascinating that our movement started as a unity movement. And it’s unfortunate that somewhere along the line, many of our churches have become some of the most insular, non-unity churches in their respective towns (this certainly isn’t universally true–I’m mostly speaking from my experience growing up in a small town in southern IL).

    I don’t know how we address that or what our role in changing the larger culture of the Xian Church is/should be, but it’s a fascinating history, nonetheless.

  2. […] A Movement…Turning a Good Phrase by Dave Embree, Missouri State Univ – Part II […]

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