By Renee Little with Marshall Mead and Daryl Reed
I sit through long meetings to review and approve loans twice each month. We review financials, discuss property location and value, and debate ratios of risk in order to decide whether to approve funding. As a lending institution, due diligence is required, but as lovers of Jesus, we have an even larger responsibility to review and discuss doctrine, leadership, and church direction. We are more than a lender; we are, in fact, a ministry partner. Our mission is to honor God, and the best way to honor him is not just to help his church grow but to ensure a particular church is aligned with God’s design for it. We prioritize being an ally to Restoration Movement Christian churches first while, of course, following all financial rules and regulations.
Independent Christian churches often are Restoration Movement churches but do not even know it. Other churches might be very similar to Restoration churches, and we covet the conversations we are privileged to have with them about small changes they can make to become more like the church described in the New Testament. One change, for example, is to offer weekly Communion instead of monthly. The veteran ministers who serve on our field team are not salesmen; rather, they are Restoration experts who help restore the church to how God designed it. They support the church by connecting church leaders with other church leaders; they become friends and accountability partners through covenant groups. These men show up to celebrate wins, of course, but even more so they ally with church leaders to help fight battles in the trenches. Church leaders can count on them.
Most people love restoration. It could involve restoring antique furniture or a classic car, restoring a church to its original design, or restoring a human heart to its creator. Whatever the case, restoration is the story line we all innately seek. I am continuing to learn about the Restoration Movement’s depth and breadth, and how it “never ceases” and “always reaches.” Whether they are Christian Churches, Churches of Christ, African American Churches of Christ, or churches with other names, we can be reasonably sure they are Restoration Movement churches if their leaders attended schools like Ozark Christian College or Boise Bible College. Then there are other church leaders we meet, such as people serving with the International Churches of Christ. And most importantly, there are churches we are restoring—churches that thought they were alone or churches that can be led to make small yet powerful changes to restore their church to God’s design—and churches that are just being planted.
Christian Standard has compiled a booklet titled “What Kind of Church Is This” which describes distinctive features of our churches. (It can be purchased by going to www.ChristianStandardMedia.com and clicking on the “View” button under “Digital Resources.”)
Defining any movement is difficult if not impossible. The Bible, thankfully, defines the nonnegotiables for us. We are then left with a choice. Gray areas can sometimes be interpreted differently, which can lead to discussions among leaders. I encourage you to read “What Kind of Church Is This?”; perhaps use it in your membership classes or leadership training sessions. Determine whether your church is part of a larger movement; seek allies with whom your church is aligned.
In the nondenominational realm, true allies are hard to find . . . which is even more reason you should find them.
Marshall Mead and Daryl Reed are two allies of the Restoration Movement. I’ve asked each of them to share their story, and I encourage you to consider becoming their ally.
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Lead Evangelist, Orlando Church of Christ
I grew up in the Disciples of Christ denomination, yet it was not until my sophomore year in college that I experienced a biblical conversion. Members of the International Churches of Christ campus ministry studied the Bible with me, and I was baptized into Christ as a repentant disciple at age 20. They were the first Christians who dared to examine my conversion, question my convictions, and challenge my faith. I’m eternally grateful for their boldness! As a result, it has become ingrained in my spiritual DNA to be a skeptic, of sorts, in that I question the faith of others. I am not alone. Consider this Gospel passage:
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us” (Mark 9:38).
I have felt this. I still feel it. Is a certain individual really “one of us”? Yet Jesus sees the bigger picture. He knows of the grander spiritual battle. Jesus taught us that the building of alliances is both crucial and is, in fact, a better witness of him. Jesus built an alliance even with those who (at that time) knew nothing of truth, the Spirit, or salvation.
“You Samaritans worship what you do not know,” Jesus said in John 4:22, “we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews.”
As fewer people—including people of faith—subscribe to a biblical worldview, it is becoming more apparent that “whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39). This is certainly true within the larger umbrella of Restoration Movement churches. Many of us are embracing a comradery with others who are aligned under the name of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture. Perhaps that is because the times have become increasingly evil. The spiritual battle feels more pronounced. True allies are harder to find. And while I do not subscribe to most Catholic doctrines, I have been inspired by the boldness of their pro-life stance. They appear to be willing to withstand the social and political firestorm that is coming against them because of their convictions on abortion. Boldness. Maybe we should give them a cup of water too.
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Lead Pastor, DC Regional Christian Church
In November 2017 I had the great honor and privilege to serve as president of the Eastern Christian Conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania. It was the 50th anniversary of the ECC, a regional conference put on by members of the independent Christian churches and churches of Christ stream of the Restoration Movement.
Our planning committee chose the theme “More to Restore”; the big idea was that God is still in the restoration business. And, as Christians, we all have unfinished kingdom business that needs our attention.
It was an inspiring conference.
Conference keynote speakers came from several streams of the Restoration Movement: Drew Sherman, Bo Chancey, Brian Jones, and Ben Cachiaras from the independent Christian churches, Jeff Walling from Christian churches and the noninstrumental churches of Christ, and Kevin and Tracena Holland of the International Churches of Christ.
I identify with all the above. I was raised within the a cappella churches of Christ. During my years in college, I was actively involved in the campus ministry movement of the churches of Christ. In the 1990s I was trained and appointed as an evangelist within the International Churches of Christ. And, since the mid-2000s, when I “discovered” the independent Christian church stream of the Restoration Movement, I have been closely connected with them.
Students of history are well aware of the natural tendency of church streams to branch off and form separate streams. In geological terminology, streams diverge to form separate streams. Divergent systems result in complex and multiple waterway systems downstream. Unfortunately, divergence describes the landscape of Christendom today.
Convergence of streams occurs when separate flows of water come together to form a larger flow. I share the dream of past reformers and restorers for God’s church in our generation to converge into the united flow of his spirit—the Jesus stream.
After all there is more to restore.
I am grateful Daryl Reed pulled the DC Regional Christian Church out of the International Churches of Christ. I hope he will continue this trend by formally renouncing their false gospel: that a lost person can only become saved and remain saved by following their specific system of discipling (which denies the Personhood of the Holy Spirit and replaces His roles in a Christian’s life with another person – a “discipleship partner”). I am not aware of any congregation that has left the ICOC that has formally denounced their false gospel. May he be the first.
For the rest of the overall Stone-Campbell Movement: treat the ICOC (and its spinoff splinter group, the International Christian Churches) as the Latter Day Saints or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Treat them as a full-fledged cult with a false Christ and full control over its members. They desperately need the true gospel of grace.