By Matthew Wilson
As a pastor in an independent Christian church, I’m excited and encouraged that many denominational churches are abandoning traditions and conventions and are migrating toward movements like ours that embrace biblical supremacy. In many ways, I believe we are coming out of a dark ages and entering an era of enlightenment. People no longer follow doctrines and practices just because they are told to; instead, they demand to understand the context for what they believe.
In modern history, many Christians relied on the authority of their governing bodies, but now we live in an information-driven age where pastors can easily be fact-checked and congregants do Google searches on their smartphones in the middle of sermons.
This has created greater accountability, and I am thankful for it.
Instead of simply giving answers like “because that’s what we believe,” leaders must now explain why. There has to be a supreme authority—Scripture. “What does the Bible say?”
More churches are including baptism in the conversion experience; people are seeing for themselves that this is how the early church did it.
For generations, people have sought to make quick converts rather than disciples. God’s Holy Word has always told the truth about baptism, and these days people are wrestling anew with that topic. Specifically, is baptism for the forgiveness of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit or not?
With historical accounts more widely available, people are desiring a biblical model bound by biblical accuracy.
Some things—like partaking in the Lord’s Supper—have been sacred to everyone. Still we’ve divided over how often it should or can be done. Many believed that if the Lord’s Supper were practiced too often, it would diminish the significance or the reverence for the practice. But Christians are starting to recognize the biblical precedent for partaking and seeing the utter need for a reminder of how much God loves us.
The participation in Christ’s body and blood carries more value than many sermons today. Great messages and worship sets are constantly available via podcast or Facebook Live, but the opportunity to join with other believers in a unifying remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice is central; it gives us value, purpose, and drive.
Christians are awakening to the need for autonomy as denominations split over cultural issues rather than uniting on biblical issues. In my community, I’ve witnessed the fallout of denominational splits as churches fight to stand for biblical truth and suffer the loss of property. Yet many church leaders and other members of Christ’s body are beginning to realize that the local shepherds in the trenches are better fit to lead the flock; and it is these local shepherds who must deal with the local hurt and struggle that can come from bureaucratic decisions.
Many Christians are walking away from this hierarchy. Pastors are even looking for ways they can minister freely to the needs of their local communities. Previously, denominations were the safest avenue to enter into ministry and to build or plant churches, but now there is a hunger to pioneer.
A Call to Continue
I believe this is the ultimate time for our Restoration plea—for our tribe to stand and lead the way. We certainly cannot compromise when people are coming to us. They are leaving where they were for a reason, and we must offer them the truth without fear.
As this shift occurs and denominations start to look more “nondenominational,” we may feel the pressure to compromise . . . to meet them in the middle . . . to fit in with the larger crowds. But we must do what is godly and right, not what is expedient. We must continue to restore a New Testament model. Let us not enter into denominational confusion but, instead, let’s help light the way to freedom.
While we communicate our Restoration plea to those outside our movement, we can also seek greater unity within our own movement. As a tribe, we need to overcome our own pride and fears. We aren’t perfect—but neither was the early church. They were divided over money, race, and even beliefs; but in many cases the solutions were shown by the Holy Spirit when they sought reconciliation. The Lord blessed them as they led people from traditions and into the way that Christ established. That time is as close as it’s ever been, and we can use the momentum God has given us—as one of the fastest-growing movements in size and in influence—to bring hope and clarity to many.
As a movement that embraces biblical supremacy, we are seeing truth acknowledged and received. We aren’t the only Christians, but as Christians only, we stand united in our essentials. The world is changing, and we are positioned to lead the way!
Matthew Wilson is the planter and lead pastor of Ekklesia, a five-year-old church in the Myrtle Beach area. He has a heart for making Christ and his church famous in South Carolina.