By Darrel Rowland
Churches across the country are shedding denominational names, and well-known Evangelical leaders, such as Francis Chan, are expressing the importance of biblical baptism.
“I find that denominational preachers are really finding an interest in our doctrine and our stand,” says Ben Merold, minister-at-large with Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, Missouri. “At about the time they’re kind of coming our way, we’re not making much of our doctrine and our Restoration Movement stand.”
Victor Knowles, founder of Peace On Earth Ministries, remarked, “It is more than passing strange that while some Evangelicals (Francis Chan and others) seem to be coming closer to ‘our’ position on baptism, some of ‘our’ brethren and churches are edging away from the position they once took. We are like ships passing in the night.”
A popular YouTube clip among Christian church/church of Christ leaders—the short version is at www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXuIvievIA0—shows Chan pointing out that God never says to raise your hand or walk down an aisle to be saved.
“What he proscribed was repent and be baptized,” said Chan, author of Crazy Love and other popular books.
Daryl Reed, lead minister of DC Regional Christian Church, noted that more and more churches are loosening or disassociating themselves from denominational ties.
“We were the ones that actually spearheaded that thought,” he points out. “The elevation of Scripture has become commonplace now. Mainline denominations are dying out.”
In northern Virginia, New Life Christian Church has reached out to fledgling Anglican churches formed when the Episcopal Church “threw the Bible out,” lead minister Brett Andrews said. Those who disaffiliated themselves from their old denomination formed a church planting group that has been headquartered in New Life’s facility for about seven years.
“We would disagree on some issues and we’ve had those discussions,” Andrews said. “But we agree we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.”
Glen Elliott, lead pastor of Pantano Christian Church, invited a nominally Southern Baptist church to partner in a church plant.
“They have joined but asked us to take the lead,” he said.
Rick Rusaw, lead pastor with LifeBridge Christian Church in Longmont, Colorado, notes that his church is aiding two church plants that weren’t rooted in any denomination. But both have added weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, and one has begun to baptize biblically.
Sometimes those outside give the Restoration Movement more credit than those inside, Rusaw says.
“We plant more churches per capita, we have more large churches per capita, we get involved in more opportunities for service per capita. And a lot of groups are moving toward us on the Lord’s Supper and baptism.”
Bob Russell, retired senior minister at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, has seen several churches taking biblical stands because of interactions with Restoration Movement adherents.
“One local Baptist church has gone to eldership largely because of our influence,” he said. “One local Methodist preacher was immersed.”
He recounts a conversation with one Baptist leader who wondered: “Are you baptismal regenerationists?”
Russell replied, “No. We are saved by grace through faith. But where you put the sinner’s prayer we put baptism.”
After that brief exchange, “The light seemed to go on for this man and he understood our position much better,” Russell said.
Darrel Rowland is an adult Bible fellowship teacher at Worthington (Ohio) Christian Church and public affairs editor of The Columbus Dispatch.