In 19th Century America a movement arose that grew exponentially in line with the rapid growth of a new nation. Amidst the diversity of Christian groups present at the time a group of Christian leaders sought the need to create a unified church based only on the ideal of the 1st Century Church. These leaders believed that if the churches simply restored the Early Church in their time there would be unity between all Christians and denominationalism would cease. This movement became known as the Restoration Movement. The Idea was noble. In fact every church generation should always calibrate its contemporary ecclesiology with that of the 1st Century Church. But it is easier said than done. In hindsight, the Restoration Movement became schismatic, sectarian and fractured. Nevertheless, there are numerous lessons to be drawn from the movement that can benefit the quest of the Modern Church. Not only does the developmental and progression issues of the movement add insight to modern ecclesiology and missiology, but the principles projected by the Restoration Movement are also invaluable. To make the study relevant to the contemporary ecclesial situation it is also necessary to explore the Modern Church. Three particular movements grab the attention of this research. Firstly, there is the Emerging Church movement taking root from the West. Secondly, there is Fresh Expressions flowering from Anglicanism in Europe. And thirdly there is the House Church Movement taking shape globally. The correlation between these three movements reveal contemporary trends shaped primarily by postmodernism. These trends, curiously enough, seem to progress by default into a direction of “restorationism”. What we find therefore is a movement in early America seeking to consciously restore early Christianity, and a global ecclesial trend in the early 21st Century unconsciously restoring early Christianity. It is within this reality that we ask the “so what” question and extract lessons from the American Restoration Movement that can add value to the current quest of the Modern
Church. In this way the restoration of the Early Church in the 21st Century might just be more successful as it heeds mistakes previously made on a similar quest.
Dissertation (MA (Theology))--University of Pretoria, 2017.