The Christian Churches/Churches of Christ had their origin in an early nineteenth century religious movement to unite Christians everywhere on the teachings of the New Testament. One source of this movement was a revival meeting in Cane Ridge, Ky., which brought together several thousand people of different denominations for the purpose of bringing people to Christ on the American frontier. The date was 1801.
The other source of the movement was a father and son team coming out of the Presbyterian Church in northern Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania who were disillusioned with the divisions in their denomination. The chief leader in the Cane Ridge movement was Barton Warren Stone (1771-1844), who urged church people to come together and wear the name “Christian” only. The churches he helped establish thus became “Christian Churches”, designed to put away sectarian names in Christianity.
The chief leaders in the Virginia/Pennsylvania movement were Thomas Campbell (1763-1854) and his son, Alexander (1788-1866). Both had come to the new world separately from Northern Ireland in the years, 1807-1809. Both had independently resolved that denominationalism impeded world evangelization and that the only way of getting Christians united for such a task was to restore Christianity in its original form. Working together they began to establish “Churches of Christ” based on what they discovered in the New Testament: Immersion of confessing believers as the true form of baptism, the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week (Acts 20:7), the name “disciple” as the name ordinarily used for followers of Jesus, and self-governing congregations. They adopted slogans like, “Where the Bible speaks we speak, where the Bible is silent we are silent”; “The Bible only makes Christians only”; “No book but the Bible, no creed but Christ”; and “We don’t claim to be the only Christians, but Christians only.”
In 1832 the two movements came together and began to spread rapidly. Alexander Campbell became the dominant spokesman of the united movement. A powerful debater, editor of a national journal, founder of a college, editor of a modern English translation of the New Testament, and national figure (the only religious leader ever to preach to a united session of Congress), Campbell gathered around himself an influential group of adherents who worked tirelessly to establish churches, colleges, various journals, and a national missionary society.
After Campbell’s death a second generation of “Christians only” carried the work forward until by 1900 it had become the fastest growing church group in the United States. In 1908, however, some of the churches which were opposed to the use of musical instruments in worship formed their own distinct fellowship called “Churches of Christ.” Much later, in 1968, another group, theologically liberal, established a separate denomination, “The Disciples of Christ.”
Today Christian Church members number up to one and a half million in the United States and Canada, and including many on the mission fields overseas. God has blessed the churches with many fruitful and practical agencies, among them the North American Christian Convention and National Missionary Convention. There are multiple church planting agencies, missionary groups, colleges and day schools, service camps, counseling programs, chaplains in every branch of the military, and benevolent homes for abused children and senior citizens.
The churches do not think of themselves as a denomination, but rather a loving fellowship of self-governing congregations. The local church is usually led by a minister or ministerial staff working under the direction of Elders elected or appointed by the congregation. We believe that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for the unity of His followers will finally be realized, and continue to work toward that end. The Centerville Christian Church was established in 1839 and has never strayed from the Gospel which brought her into existence.