The idea of restoring primitive Christianity from the pages of the New Testament is not a new idea. In nineteenth century America, the idea would flower and spread like wild fire through the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement. It was rooted in the Scots-Irish experience. By 1860, it was the fourth largest church in America with 200,000 members.
The Restoration Movement began as the merging of two distinct philosophies. The first came out of Kentucky Scots-Irish Presbyterianism during the “Second Great Awakening.” Barton W. Stone preached at the famous Cain Ridge Revival of 1801. Soon afterwards, he and others would withdraw and become known as “Christians.” The second was founded by Alexander Campbell and his father Thomas Campbell; immigrants from Ballymena, County Antrim. The Campbell family would tentatively align themselves with the Baptists. By the 1820s, the Campbells withdrew and became known as “Disciples.”
Christians and the Disciples had common views: believer’s baptism by immersion; baptism being essential to salvation; Christian unity free from denominationalism; and a restoration of the New Testament Church. These parallel movements would unite in 1832.
There are today three main branches of this movement. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) took the path of Liberal Protestantism. The Christian Church/Churches of Christ took a conservative middle ground. The non-instrumental Church of Christ took a more varied path ranging from ultra-conservative to liberal.
The main archive is the Disciples of Christ Historical Society: www.discipleshistory.org which collects for all three branches. Another archive is the Discipliana Collection at Barton College: www.barton.edu/geninfo/discipliana.htm The Center for Restoration Studies at Abilene Christian University: www.bible.acu.edu/crs/ concentrates on the non-instrumental Church of Christ. Always check the Family History Library for microfilmed records of Restoration Movement congregations.