From Revival Ridge to Bible Deism Valley – The Odd History of the Holy Spirit among Churches of Christ (Part 1)

This is the first article in a series of three articles by Dr. Leonard Allen of Lipscomb University on the Holy Spirit in Churches of Christ. I hope you will follow this series closely. Part 2 will post May 4. Part 3 will post June 8.

All of this is a lead up to Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration that is happening June 26-28. Please check out what is going on at Lipscomb with this event. Churches of Christ are in desperate need to reconnect with their history on the Holy Spirit (it is not as uniform as some might think), which is why we are posting this series of articles. We also must get back in touch with a biblical view of the person and work of the Holy Spirit from the Bible itself.

I will be presenting a class this year and I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about that!

Please click this link to get more info on Summer Celebration and their emphasis on the Holy Spirit this June.

Here is Part 1 of Dr. Allen’s series on the Holy Spirit for Wineskins,

From Revival Ridge to Bible Deism Valley:

The Odd History of the Holy Spirit among Churches of Christ

Part 1, Cane Ridge and the Spirit’s Fire

By Leonard Allen

I was raised in a very conservative church that had virtually lost the language of the Spirit. That didn’t mean, of course, that we had entirely lost the Holy Spirit—for there were signs all around, as I look back, of the Spirit’s presence in our community. But the “grammar” of the Spirit was missing. Almost entirely.

Dallas Willard (and before him, J. D. Thomas) gave a name to the doctrine of the Spirit on which I was raised: Bible deism—the view that one “experiences” the Spirit solely through implanting the words, the ideas, of the Bible in one’s mind. This doctrine emerged, not at the beginning of the Restoration Movement that gave rise to modern Churches of Christ, but a few decades into the story. So when we trace the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, we find an odd history: beginnings at Cane Ridge (1801)—“America’s Pentecost”—and eventually, after some twists and turns, a residence in Bible deism valley.

Cane Ridge and the Spirit’s Fire

In August 1801, Barton Stone presided over the famous Cane Ridge Revival in central Kentucky. Attendance estimates ranged from 10,000 to over 20,000 (at a time when the population of nearby Lexington, Kentucky’s largest town, was less than 1,800). So many experienced intense emotional and physical responses, falling to the ground, that some portions of the grassy ridge looked like a battlefield scattered with bodies. Many were converted.

These revival gatherings usually have been called camp meetings. But that term is misleading. They were actually communion festivals following a two-hundred-year-old tradition rooted deeply in Scotch-Irish Presbyterianism.[i] Seeking to imitate the New Testament observance, the church leaders served communion on long dinner tables set up in the aisles of the church buildings. At a large communion service as many as ten waves of communicants might fill the tables, and the communion meal might last all day.

By the mid 1600s this communion service had expanded into a three to five-day event. It usually began on Friday or Saturday with intense preparation sermons. Ministers warned people about coming to the table unprepared, without pure hearts. They carefully screened candidates and gave admission tokens to those judged fit to commune. Following the all-day communion service on Sunday, a thanksgiving service on Monday ended the event.

The communion festivals became the highlight of the church year. For serious believers they were times of intense self-examination and spiritual renewal; for young people they were times of conviction and conversion. Sometimes these communion festivals exploded with revival, including intense physical and emotional effects such as fainting and trance-like states.

These revivalistic communion services aroused controversy and division in the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and Ireland. The Seceder branch of the church, to which Thomas and Alexander Campbell belonged, deeply opposed such trends, viewing them as disorderly and excessive.

As Scotch-Irish Presbyterians immigrated to America, they brought the communion festival with them. Indeed, it was precisely this kind of communion service that took place at Cane Ridge, Kentucky, on August 8, 1801.

Year later, in 1827, Barton Stone looked back on the events of 1801 with hearty approval. “The doctrine preached by all was simple, and nearly the same,” he wrote. “All urged faith in the gospel, and obedience to it, as the way of life. The spirit of partyism, and party distinctions, were apparently forgotten…. The spirit of love, peace, and union, were revived. . . . Happy days! Joyful seasons of refreshment from the presence of the Lord.”[ii]

The beginnings of modern-day Churches of Christ are rooted precisely here. Stone and other pro-revival ministers soon formed the Springfield Presbytery, then quickly dissolved it, issuing one of the founding documents of our heritage, “The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery.” A new movement emerged. Under Stone’s leadership the new “Christian” movement grew rapidly, so that by 1811 it could claim about 13,000 members, mostly in a swath running from central Kentucky through Middle Tennessee to Alabama.

The central themes of the movement were freedom from all creeds and coercive human traditions, restoration of simple New Testament Christianity, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, separation from the fashions of the world, and the millennial unity of believers. This unity Stone called “fire union,” for he believed that any lasting unity could be forged only in the fire of God’s Spirit.

Barton Stone remained an ardent supporter of revival practices for the rest of his life. Some of the physical “exercises” present in the 1801 revival, particularly the one Stone described as holy laughter or singing, apparently continued to be a part of the Cane Ridge and Concord churches for a decade or so under Stone’s ministry. Next month I will focus on Alexander Campbell’s new rational view of the Spirit that soon eclipsed Stone’s view.


[i] Leigh Eric Schmidt, Holy Fairs: Scottish Communions and American Revivals in the Early Modern Period (Princeton: Princeton University, 1989), and Paul Conkin, Cane Ridge: America’s Pentecost (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1990).

[ii] Barton W. Stone, “History of the Christian Church in the West,” Christian Messenger 1 (February 24, 1827), 74-79.

An Invitation to Lipscomb’s Summer Celebration (June 26-28)

“The Holy Spirit Poured Out: For Restoration,
Reconciliation and Renewal”

A fresh filling of the Holy Spirit poured out is our chosen theme and comes from Dean of Bible Leonard Allen’s new book, “Poured Out.”  Join us for 3 days of dynamic messages, life altering classes, powerful praise and fresh encounters of fellowship with other believers—and with God himself.  We hope you’ll bring your gifts and passions and join us for an encounter you may never forget!

Some Speakers Joining Us Include:

* Rick Atchley               * Holly Allen                                 *Randy Harris

*Patrick Mead               * Christopher Jackson             * David Young

* Joseph Shulam          * Buddy Bell                                  * Steve Hemphill

* Rubel Shelly               * Jovan Barrington                     * Jamie Atchley

Join us on campus for Summer Celebration. 
Come expecting a fresh encounter with the Holy Spirit

Register HERE.

Bringing the Generations Together By Dr. Holly Allen

Holly Allen
Chair, InterGenerate Conference
Professor of Christian Ministries & Family Science
Lipscomb University, Nashville, TN

Throughout much of Christian history, the whole body of Christ, that is, all the generations, met together for ministry and worship as well as for most other gatherings; intergenerationality was the norm. However, in the last several decades, all but the smallest congregations have tended to
separate the generations regularly for learning, frequently for fellowship and service, and sometimes (or always) for worship.

Becoming Intentionally Intergenerational
Recently church leaders across the United States and around the globe have begun to question the wisdom of perennially separating the generations and to reconsider the spiritual benefits of intergenerational ministry.

Intergenerational ministry occurs when a congregation intentionally combines the generations together in mutual serving, sharing, or learning within the core activities of the church in order to live out being the body of Christ to each other and the greater community. [1]

Leaders in evangelical churches, emerging churches, mainline churches, missional churches, charismatic churches, Catholic churches—all types of Christian communities—are asking the same question, “How can we bring the generations back together?”

InterGenerate 2017
In 2017, we responded to this avid interest by calling to life a new cross-denominational, international gathering called InterGenerate. [2]

We believe that the Spirit of God is at work formatively—through the community’s worship, through the teaching, through modeling and mentoring relationships, and through spiritually-empowered and gifted roles—in special ways when believers across the life span are present and participating together.

InterGenerate 2017 was a big success:

  • Close to 150 participants arrived from Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and South Africa and from 25 states.
  • A broad range of Christian traditions was represented: Anglican, Catholic, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Baptist, Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, Reformed, Seventh Day Adventists, the Uniting Church of Australia, and several community churches.
  • These participants were senior pastors, professors, graduate and doctoral students, children’s ministers, youth ministers, small groups ministers, curriculum writers, Christian education directors, and other church leaders.

It was a wonderfully diverse, engaged group of people passionately interested in bringing the generations together in our churches.

InterGenerate 2019
InterGenerate 2019 is happening May 20-22, 2019 at Lipscomb University, Nashville, Tennessee. Over 150 participants from across the States and around the world and from over a dozen Christian faith traditions have already registered.

The purpose of InterGenerate 2019 is to bring together practitioners and academics in order to share current intergenerational research, surface intergenerational principles, discuss the challenges and benefits of intergenerational ministry, and share effective intergenerational

Along the way researchers and ministry practitioners will interact with one another, creating a collaborative synergy that will generate fresh intergenerational ministry implications and perspectives.

If you are just beginning the intergenerational journey or if you have already caught the vision and want to become more intentionally intergenerational in outlook and practice, this conference is for you and your ministry colleagues.

The InterGenerate conference will address two pressing questions:
1) First, and most importantly: Why should we bring the generations back together?
2) Second, the necessary consequent question: How can we bring the generations together?

If we jump directly into the how question without sufficiently addressing the why question, we will fail.

Our keynote speakers, along with our paper presenters, our mini-TED talk speakers, our workshop presenters, and our Taste-and-See presenters will not only share how they are intentionally ministering, worshipping, and learning together intergenerationally, they will also explore the foundations for intergenerational ministry:

  • Biblical and theological foundations for bringing the generations together
  • The sociological and theoretical reasons for becoming more intentionally intergenerational
  • Empirical support for intergenerational ministry
  • The benefits for children, teens, emerging, young, middle, and older adults

And through it all, they will share stories from their Christian communities that illustrate how intergenerational ministry is forming children, teens, emerging adults, and everyone else into the image of Christ.

It is our belief that intergenerational Christian experiences uniquely and especially nurture Christian spiritual formation across all ages. Come join the conversation.

You may learn more and register for the conference at
You may also wish to view a brief video at


[1] Holly Catterton Allen & Christine Lawton Ross, Intergenerational Christian Formation: Bringing the Whole Church Together in Ministry, Community and Worship (InterVarsity Academic, 2012), p. 17.
[2] The InterGenerate planning team consists of ten Millennials, Xers, and Boomers who are committed to helping churches bring the generations back together.

April’s Theme: Torah

Twice a year we focus on a particular section of scripture for a month. April’s theme is Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament. This is the foundation of Judaism and ultimately of Christianity as well. The more we get to know Torah, the closer we find ourselves to Jesus. Jesus read Torah and probably regularly prayed portions of it.

Through studying Torah this month we can gain a greater appreciation for the Old Testament and its meaning for our lives today. Jesus said he came to fulfill these things, not to abolish them. If we are interested in Jesus we should be interested in Torah because these are the very things he came to fulfill. Again, the more we get to know Torah, the closer we find ourselves to Jesus.

Torah is also important because of the covenants it contains (with Noah, Abraham and Moses). These are the fundamental building blocks of what we find in the New Testament. Let us gain a rich appreciation for all of scripture as we gain insight on the threads that run through the Scriptures from beginning to end.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments as we discuss God’s word together.

God Cares About How We Care About Politics

I am convinced that God cares about what goes on with politics…not always so much about the politics themselves but about how His people engage in the process.

We cannot claim the political high ground while producing “acts of the flesh” (Gal 5:19-21) rather than the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal 5:22-26).

We cannot spew hate rather than show love and think Jesus is pleased even if the outcome seems right.

We cannot overlook evil in order to support our agenda.

We cannot be more focused on earthly kingdoms than on God’s kingdom.

We can allow Jesus to shape and form our political thoughts.

We can show love to those who have conclusions that don’t match our own.

We can sit down to dinner with people who don’t have to agree with us to get along.

We cannot have the right conclusions while getting to those conclusions through terrible attitudes, ungodly conversations, unrighteous thoughts, and unruly actions.

If the right candidate (which means your candidate, of course) wins but you exhibited these things you are in the wrong,

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Gal 5:19-21)

If the wrong candidate wins (which means your opponent’s candidate, of course) and you still exhibit the fruit of the Spirit, you can still be in the right,

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” (Gal 5:22-26)

As Christians we must go about things in a Christ-like way. Jesus should challenge our attitudes as much as he should challenge our politics.

Before you engage in that next debate or post that meme, ask yourself if you are doing it out of the fruit of the Spirit or in spite of the fruit of the Spirit? Ask yourself if it is a work of the flesh or a work of the Spirit. Jesus will help us sort these things out if we stop and consider not just which political view is right but what actions and attitudes must be exhibited as we have these conversations. Much ground has been lost in the kingdom, not as much over wrong positions, but over ungodly attitudes in the process. God care about the political process and that process is the inner process among His people.