THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT also known as the Stone-Campbell Movement…
is a religious movement that began around the beginning of the 19th Century. Many Christians on the American frontier, having tired of the division that had come to characterize their religion, began to seek a unity with their Christian neighbors based upon a recovery of the simple practices of ancient Christianity. They sought to leave behind the creeds of denominations of the day in favor of allowing the Bible to be their only guide for Christian living and church organization. A common hope among these early restorers was for the impact their unity would have on the world around them. They believed their unity would lead to dynamic growth of the church throughout the world, culminating in the return of Christ.
Nearly 200 years later Smyrna Church of Christ remains committed to this plea for the restoration of New Testament Christianity. While history has shown us that restoring and retaining New Testament Christianity is quite challenging and never complete, we continue to strive toward this ideal. The Bible remains for us the guide for Christian living and for the organization of the church. And we deeply desire to join with our Christian neighbors in the pursuit of the New Testament ideal, believing it will pave the way for the unity of Christians, the reaching of the world and the return of Christ through simple obedience to the commands and principles of the Bible.
The Restoration Movement has deep roots in Rutherford County that go back almost 200 years Barton W. Stone, a noted Labeleader of the early movement, is reported to have been at work evangelizing and converting people within Rutherford County as far back as 1812. Rock Springs Church of Christ (located only a few miles down the road from the Smyrna congregation) is the oldest congregation in the county, dating back to 1832. Smyrna Church of Christ began about 150 years ago. At that time in Smyrna, Christians were meeting together in different homes around town. The Hight/Page house, formerly located at 603 No. Lowry St. (just a few hundred yards from the church), hosted such meetings. In Smyrna: The Church The Town (written in 1968), the late local historian Walter Hoover reports that Alexander Campbell, another early leader of the Restoration Movement, held a gospel meeting in the Hight/Page house. He reports further that Campbell had come to Smyrna at the invitation of A.W. Page, Bill Dunnaway, Jim Gooch, Levi White and Miss Cora Holloway, who had traveled together “to West Tennessee to attend a meeting conducted by Alexander Campbell.”
While the historical record of the Smyrna church’s early years are somewhat scant, we do know that during this time a group of Christians, led by Levi White, was meeting in a building jointly occupied by the Masons and the Methodist Church. Our predecessors are reported to have met upstairs in the area occupied by the Masons. We also know that in the early 1880’s David Lipscomb held a meeting in Smyrna at which five people were baptized into Christ. Among them were Mrs. Granville Lipscomb (Leila White, daughter of Levi White), Henry Davis and a Mr. Mason from LaVergne. These baptisms took place in Harts Branch (located on today’s Front St. just down from our church building). In the following week, Brother Granville Lipscomb led a meeting that resulted in several more baptisms.
This growth of the congregation resulted in the search for a larger, more permanent meeting place. The Webster Home located at today’s 111 Division St. (a structure that still stands across from our building) housed a school that provided a regular meeting place for these Christians. In 1881 the Levi White family donated one acre of land to the church at its present location. However, the first church building was not built until 1888. Upon its completion, Brother David Lipscomb was invited to preach the first sermon in this newly erected building. He gave a Bible to the church to mark this very special day.
That building served the church for 35 years. During this time regular Sunday attendance steadily increased and reached a weekly average of between 30 and 40 people. Students from Nashville Bible School (present day Lipscomb University) provided regular teaching and preaching for the congregation. Also, several well known preachers spoke at the Smyrna Church in the early years. Among them were F. D. Srygley, E. A. Elam, C. M. Pullias, S. P. Pittman, J. S. Batey, Batsell Baxter, E. W. McMillen, Acuff, Grover, B. C. Goodpasture, E. H. Ijams, Charles R. Brewer, R. C. Bell, Ward, Young, Shaffer and Lanier spoke at Smyrna during this time. And, Warmath Peebles, Smyrna member, carried much of the responsibility for leading Bible classes during this time.
By 1922 the first church building was found to be inadequate for the congregation’s needs. It was at this point that a new brick building was contracted and constructed in the place of the original building. This building has been improved and added onto several times and remains an integral part of the church’s current facilities. Church offices, the small auditorium and the Smyrna Christian School Two Day program are all currently housed within that building that was completed in 1923. Our church’s fellowship hall and auditorium were constructed in 1983 and 1989 respectively. The Education building was added in 1995.
Growth and changes in our church’s building reflect the steady growth of our church and community over the last 140 years. At the time of our congregation’s inception, Smyrna was a fraction of its current size and population. In the 1870’s there were less than 400 residents in Smyrna. Now there are approximately 40,000 people living in Smyrna.
Smyrna: The Church The Town by Walter King Hoover (Nashville: McQuiddy Publishing Co.) 1968.
Rutherford County Historical Society Publication No. 29 Summer 1987
This list comes from Smyrna: The Church The Town by Walter King Hoover (Nashville: McQuiddy Publishing Co.) 1968. Hoover’s list does not include first names. First names provided here are the most likely possibilities. Special thanks to McGarvey Ice and the Disciples of Christ Historical Society for providing these and other suggestions that helped with the writing of this history.