Yesterday:  Disciples History

Disciples Today

Today our nearly 3,800 congregations still share these characteristics:

  • Each congregation is self-governing and calls its own pastor.
  • Worship services may be formal or informal, and include lay women and men in leadership.
  • Open discussion of issues is encouraged. Diversity of opinion is common
  • We are growing in racial and ethnic diversity.

Key Persons In the Development of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Barton W. Stone
(1772 - 1844)

Presbyterian minister Barton W. Stone was born in Port Tobacco, Maryland, December 24, 1772.  He died in Hannibal Missouri, November 9, 1844.  Stone was educated as a school teacher and entered the ministry through the Presbyterian Church. He served a church in Cane Ridge Kentucky, and after hosting the historic Cane Ridge Revival of 1801, he and several others formed the Springfield Presbytery denouncing all human creeds and appealing to the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice.

They soon dissolved the Springfield Presbytery, and published theLast Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery, one of the documents the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) considers key in its development.  They dissolved their denominational ties to enter into unity with "the body of Christ at large."   They called themselves, simply, "Christians."

Thomas Campbell
(1763 - 1854)

Thomas Campbell was born in County Down, Ireland, February 1, 1763. He died in Bethany, Virginia (now West Virginia), January 4, 1854. He came to America from Scotland in 1807.  He was chastised by Pennsylvania church authorities for refusing to use Presbyterian creeds as terms of communion. In 1808 he and others founded the Christian Association of Washington, Pennsylvania. That group adopted the  motto, well-known by Disciples, "Where the scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." 

Campbell and others were called "Reformers," for their desire to restore the Church's first century roots. This way of life came to be known as the "Restoration Movement." 

Near Washington, Pennsylvania, Campbell and his son, Alexander, and the Christian Association established the Brush Run Church, which, in 1815, became part of a nearby Baptist Association. 

Reformers and the Baptists differed on key issues.  By 1830, the Reformers cut their last ties with the Baptist Association and became known as "Disciples." 

Thomas Campbell's passion for Christian unity is summed up in his proclamation that: "The church of Christ upon earth is essentially, intentionally, and constitutionally one." This statement is the first and key proposition of Thomas Campbell's Declaration and Address, a work called by some the "Magna Charta" of the movement that preceded the denomination known as the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).



Alexander Campbell
(1788 - 1866)

Alexander Campbell was born September 12, 1788 in the County of Antrim, Ireland. He was raised as a Presbyterian. He attended the University of Glasgow, Scotland.

In 1809, Alexander arrived in America from Scotland, and joined his father, Thomas, in western Pennsylvania.  He carefully read and fully endorsed the principles of Thomas'Declaration and Address.  Biographer Nathaniel Haynes says that Thomas and Alexander Campbell were "one in their aims, spirit and work."

The younger Campbell was a prolific writer.  In 1823, he founded the periodical The Christian Baptist.  After the Reformers dissolved ties with the Baptists, Campbell founded a new publication called The Millennial Harbinger.  He was a talented debater, and in 1829 drew attention to the Restoration Movement in a widely known debate with social reformer Robert Owen. In 1837, he engaged the Roman Catholic John B. Purcell, archbishop of Cincinnati, in a widely publicized eight day debate on the traditions and beliefs of the Catholic Church. 

His public speaking skills, writing, and articulation of the place of reason (but not pure rationalism) in Christian faith propelled him into the leadership of the "Disciples of Christ."

A dedicated scholar and educator, Alexander Campbell founded Bethany College, Bethany, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1840 and served as the school's first president.

Key Dates in the Life of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)


The "Christians" and the "Disciples of Christ" agreed on basic beliefs and aims and united with a formal handshake in Lexington, Kentucky, and created a new Christian movement on the American frontier.


The "Christians" and the "Disciples of Christ" functioned and grew as a "movement," often referred to as the "Stone-Campbell movement." During this period, Disciples often described the relationship of the Christians and the Disciples of Christ as a "brotherhood." In 1960, the Commission on Brotherhood Restructure started the task of designing a new form of organization. Throughout the 20th century, American Asian, Hispanic and African American Disciples congregations multiplied.  


A representative assembly meeting in Kansas City overwhelmingly approved the Provisional Design for the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Church historian D. Duane Cummins writes:

"Approval of the Provisional Design marked the passage of the Disciples into denominational maturity. Officially named the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), they became a church."


During the 2005 General Assembly in Portland, Oregon, an almost unanimous gathering of Disciples voted Sharon Watkins as the first woman into the position of General Minister and President.


                                                    Today:   Ozark Christian Church

Today, Ozark Christian Church is part of the Christian body known as "The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).  Often, we call ourselves simply "Disciples".  We are part of the Stone-Campbell Movement, founded on the American frontier in the early years of the 19th century.  We are related in that Movement to the Churches of Christ and independent Christian Churches.  We are a community that abides in covenant relationship with other Disciples communities.  Centered in scriptural authority, we believe that God is specially revealed in scripture, and that scripture reveals the way we are called to live together as community.  

There is no central authority, and identifying doctrine that makes us who we are.  We are, instead, identified by the love, respect and inclusiveness we foster among all people.  Individuals are encouraged to read and explore the Bible, and to attend Christian Education classes.  We point out and clarify, rather than dictate Biblical theology and doctrine.  Each person is free to formulate and live out his/her own meaning, based upon what the Holy Spirit reveals to each.  Diversity of interpretation and expression of opinion are welcome here.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), as a denomination, actively seeks the unity of all Christians, regardless of denominational affiliation.   It has been said that "Unity is our polar star."  Therefore, believing that the mandatory recitation of creedal statements as proof of faith is an exclusionary act, serving to keep out those who do not believe "properly", we do not use the historic creeds of the Church as tests of faith.  We ask only that baptismal candidates and those baptized Christians who would identify with us by letter  of transfer affirm a simple belief in "Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God," and that they publicly "accept his as Lord and Savior."

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) embraces the two great sacraments of the Church:  Holy Baptism and the Lord's Supper.  Baptism is administered to those of consenting age, normally by immersion.  However, recognizing that there is "one baptism" and that it is the free grace of God that is efficacious, we recognize all Christian baptisms, no matter the candidate's age, or form of baptism.

We celebrate the Lord's Supper or Holy Communion each Sunday, as the central act of our corporate worship.  Believing that there is one Eucharist, or meal of thanks, celebrated at all times and in all places, and believing that it the Lord's Table around which we gather, it is Christ who offers the invitation to all Christians to sup with him.  Therefore, all baptized followers, regardless of denominational affiliation, are most welcome to join us about the Table, as we join in that great feast.

We also embrace other signs and occasions of God's grace.  Marriage, Ordination, Blessing of Small Children, Spiritual Direction, Anointing of the Sick, and Christian Burial are all outward and visible sign of God's grace at crucial moments of our lives.

Since we Disciples have always been about the business of bringing Christians together in the common bond of love in Christ, you will find us heavily invested in ecumenism, especially in areas of outreach and relief.  It is the impetus for our formation as a distinct denomination within the whole Body of Christ.  We affirm that "we are not the only Christians, but Christians only."  Bible-centered, open, inclusive and affirming, and rooted in Tradition of historic Christianity.  That describes the The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).