14 July, 2024

Hope for a Movement

by | 1 July, 2024 | 1 comment

By Shawn McMullen

While working on a research project for a seminary degree, I visited Bethany, West Virginia, home of Bethany College. The school was founded in 1840 by Alexander Campbell, more than two decades before West Virginia became a state. 

Having studied the history of the Restoration Movement as an undergraduate student, I felt well acquainted with Campbell. But despite all I knew about him, I wasn’t prepared for the connection and admiration I would come to feel toward this Christian leader. 

My visit began with a tour of the Alexander Campbell home. I walked through the formal parlor where Campbell and Margaret Brown were married in 1811. Years later, in 1854, family and friends gathered in the same room for the funeral of Alexander’s father, Thomas Campbell. I stood in the expansive dining room where the Campbells entertained guests—national dignitaries and common travelers. 

I walked the grounds and stepped inside the brick study Campbell built outside his home in 1832. I stood at his desk, looking up at the hexagonal skylight that illuminated the little building, and thought how only time separated me from this spiritual giant who labored here for decades writing books, preparing for debates, and editing The Millennial Harbinger

I visited God’s Acre, the Campbell family cemetery. I stood at Thomas Campbell’s graveside. I read the inscription on the marble monument to Alexander Campbell: “In Memorial, Alexander Campbell, Defender of the faith once delivered to the saints.” 

With each new experience I felt a growing closeness to the man I had once known only through books, articles, and class lectures. 

I left the family cemetery to visit the Bethany College campus. As part of my research, I had made arrangements with the college archivist to view the Campbell collection. Expecting access to only a few key items, I was overwhelmed by the opportunity she presented to me. I found myself in a small room, holding in my hands aging sheets of yellowed paper—Alexander Campbell’s class notes taken while a student at the University of Glasgow. She then unlocked a glass bookcase, giving me access to Campbell’s personal library. I read from his Bible and leafed through several books and commentaries he regularly used in his studies. 

In those moments, holding in my hands some of the very works Campbell held in his, I felt a special affinity toward him. It was as if, in some way, I was reliving history. I felt awe and gratitude for the man and his ministry. My experience put me in touch with the history of the Restoration Movement in a more meaningful way than I had known before. And I’m grateful for it. 

This issue of Christian Standard, the final issue in a series of three, focuses on the future of the movement Campbell helped to launch. In preceding issues, we looked at our past and asked ourselves what we’ve learned. From there we looked at our present and considered where the past has led us and how we’re currently stewarding the opportunities God is giving us. This issue addresses what’s ahead for our movement. It’s filled with encouragement, a healthy dose of reality, and hope. 

  • In addition to his regular column, our publisher, Jerry Harris, has written an overview of the foundational principles of the Restoration Movement—key commitments we must keep as we move into the future. 
  • John S. Dickerson explains the vision he has cast for the church he leads to help each new generation of believers form a biblical worldview as they chart their futures.  
  • Steve Poe points us to the nature of truth and the importance of pursuing God’s truth in a culture that increasingly values its own truth.  
  • Dave Stone challenges us to share the beauty and simplicity of the Restoration Plea with churches that are desperately seeking it.  
  • Orpheus Heyward reflects on the unity Christ prayed for and encourages us to live it out among the various streams of our movement.  
  • Phil Claycomb shows how our growing regional church-planting movement is leading us into a season of vibrant growth and discipleship.  

Back to Bethany. As I pored over the books and papers in the Campbell room, a painting on the wall caught my attention—a portrait of “the sage of Bethany” with Campbell’s own inscription at the bottom. It read:  

Yours in the hope of immortality, 
A. Campbell 

In a way, the inscription summarizes for me what the Restoration Movement is about, and why its future matters. We’re not perfect—as a movement, as a fellowship of congregations, or as individual believers. But we’ve discovered solid and simple ways to view God’s Word and to be the church. And as we continue faithfully on this path, more and more people in this world will share in the hope of immortality. 

1 Comment

  1. Irene Osborne

    Great article Shawn . Glad you got the opportunity to go and experience the Thomas and Alexander Campell lives here on this earth . May we never forget our Restoration Movement History

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