The Kingdom Journey Series shares how Christians with roots in the Restoration Movement came to embrace Kingdom Christianity.
Name: Eric M. | Age: 22 | Location: Ohio | Rest. Mov. Roots: Independent Christian Churches
1.) Eric, tell us a little about yourself?
I am Illinoisan by birth, raised in the east-central Illinois city of Champaign-Urbana. I am the youngest of six siblings, adopted by my parents as an infant. I currently live and work in Cincinnati, OH, where I am studying to complete my Bachelor’s Degree in Ministerial Education at a local Bible college. My hope is to pursue an advanced degree in the Bible. However, immediately after school, I plan on moving to Mexico to do mission work.
2.) When did you become a follower of Jesus?
I cannot remember a time when I did not believe in Jesus and the Bible. As early as Kindergarten, I knew I wanted to be a preacher and have always been passionate about living for God.
However, I formally gave my life to Christ in baptism at the age of 11.
3. Can you explain your background and involvement in the Christian Churches?
I was raised in a smallish Christian Church a few miles outside my hometown where my parents have been members for decades. The roots in the Christian Churches run very deep on my mother’s side of the family. My late-grandmother helped plant and was a charter member of one of the local Christian Churches and worked a great deal with youth. My late-great uncle was an evangelist and preacher in the instrumental Churches of Christ and a graduate of Cincinnati Bible College (a Christian Church school).
It was not until Bible college (I did two years at a Christian Church school before transferring) that I found anyone my age even remotely as interested and energized by the history and theology (theologies?) of the Restoration Movement as I was. I loved reading Alexander Campbell’s Millennial Harbinger, and consider him and Barton Stone and so many others of Movement personal heroes of mine who have defined and shaped my faith (and continue to do so).
4. How did you become interested in a more “radical”, Kingdom focused Christianity?
It was a gradual journey.
In fourth grade, I read about the Quakers in Pennsylvania and was fascinated by their separated lifestyle, their distinct way of dress, their practice of not bowing before royalty, and their rejection of violence. I knew nothing about how different modern-day Quakers are from their colonial ancestors or anything like that, but I was impacted. I always felt like the difficulty in telling Christians apart from non-Christians, as is so often the case, was strange. I had a longing for something more.
However, because I had no outlet whatsoever at the time for processing this longing, my desire turned to worldly politics, and I became a news and politics junkie. I debated politics often and was sincerely convinced it was God’s will to elect godly members of “my” party and to change the laws of the government to be more Christian. I was quite patriotic and had the desire to even be some kind of preacher-politician (like James. A Garfield or Mike Huckabee). I even sang in our church’s Veteran’s Day program, in which we erected a giant scaffolding flag in our sanctuary and sang a mix of patriotic and religious songs, including all the fight songs of the branches of the military.
To make a long story short, even though I was consumed by politics, I could not run from the feeling something was wrong.
Like when our church would drape the American flag over the large cross in the sanctuary around patriotic holidays.
Or when I saw a image of children killed in American drone strikes and asked myself “how could I as a pro-life Christian support this.”
Or when member after member of my church got divorced, including a clear case of adultery in the church, without so much as a word from the elders, except to congratulate those who re-married.
Or when a godly sister challenged me about my beliefs regarding head coverings forced me to go back to the Bible for study.
Or in discovering books by Frank Viola and David Bercot.
The snowball started in 2012, but it was not until the summer of 2014, after watching a debate on the subject, I knew I was a pacifist (this is my preferred term for resistance). By autumn of that year, I had sworn off worldly politics (which was a difficult drawn-out process).
From there it has been a challenging and enriching journey learning and growing.
5.) What have been some of the difficulties along the way?
One of the pitfalls of this kind of journey is that you begin to create in your mind a perfect church which means you jump from place to place looking for fellowship, never feeling satisfied in your heart. The latter definitely describes me and I nearly joined a well-known false religion (whose members are known for going door-to-door) at one point. That experience taught me a lot about learning to live with imperfections and unanswered questions. I am after all an imperfect person myself!
In addition, I lost friends who could not understand how I had been so previously gung ho about “our” political team and only to suddenly take myself completely out of the game. I was very outspoken about a lot of these things, which alienated me from many people.
As anyone who has been on this journey can relate, it can be painfully lonely. I have supportive friends and family, but I have basically had to figure this all out by myself. But God is faithful and I have been blessed to connect with other Christians online and at conferences of similar mine.
7.) What can conservative Anabaptists learn from the Restoration Movement and vice versa?
I remember one Church of Christ preacher warned the Christian Churches to not become a “form of watered-down non-distinct evangelicalism.” I could not agree more. The Christian Churches need to recover a biblical vision of “success” in the church, which cannot always be judged numerically, and ought to look to the Anabaptists as an example of what it means to stick to the old paths and be willing to be different, even if it means everyone won’t like us.
The conservative Anabaptists would do well to look at strong emphasis on outreach and foreign missions among the Christians Churches, which is something I have always been proud of, and to think carefully about the ways in which adding a-biblical hurdle after hurdle for membership may make for strong community, but also keep people from the full Gospel of the Kingdom.
8.) What church do you attend currently?
I help minister at a small Spanish-speaking (instrumental) Church of Christ in Cincinnati, which I adore. When I am able, I enjoy attending services at a local German Baptist congregation
9.) What encouragement would you give to a reader in a Restoration Movement church who is going through a “Kingdom awakening” of their own?
Know you will lose people.
Know no perfect church exists.
Know you are not alone (and don’t do all your Bible/theology study in a vacuum).
Know you do not have make any big decisions immediately (and probably should not).
If you leave your church, leave well.
Don’t take it all too seriously; be willing to laugh at yourself and make mistakes.
Stay close to safe friends and family.
Be careful of going off a theological cliff.
You have things to learn from Christians in your life who have not yet accepted all the Kingdom principles.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. Pray. Embrace the limitations of your knowledge and trust in God.
10. Finally, what is on your book shelf or what are you reading currently?
Most of what I am reading is for school, but I am also in Jeremy Gardiner’s book on head-coverings and Christopher Petruzzi’s book “Christianity and Politics.”
11. Anything else you would like to add?
While it is easier to curse the dark than light a candle, it is much better we light a candle.
I hope this site is a light, however small, that will help call Kingdom Christians and Restoration Movement folks together, and those who do not know Christ into the Kingdom of the Son.
And for those of who have accepted the Gospel of the Kingdom, I pray we would be compelled to internalize its message, encouraged apply its principles, and equipped share it with others.