by Jeff Tunnell
In their book, â€œThe Churching of Americaâ€, Roger Finke and Rodney Stark have examined denominational statistics on the US church between 1776 and 1850. They concluded: the â€œProtestant â€˜mainlineâ€™ (Anglicans, Presbyterians and Congregationalists) began to collapse rapidly, not in the past several decades as is widely supposed but in the late eighteenth century. Hence by 1850 the Baptists and Methodists â€” vigorous, evangelical sects in that era â€” dominated the religious landscape.â€ These two denominations grew significantly because they reached previously unchurched people. In 1776 only 17 percent of the population was affiliated with a church. By 1850 that number had doubled to 34 percent. Most of the growth was as a result of the gains by the Methodists and Baptists on the frontier.
The â€˜mainlineâ€™ denominations had been infected with secularism resulting in a loss of vigor in evangelism. For Finke and Stark secularization means â€œto move from otherworldliness, to present a more distant and indistinct conception of the supernatural, to relax the moral restrictions on members and to surrender claims to an exclusive and superior truth.â€ The consequence of secularization is a diminished commitment to evangelism. Itâ€™s hard to witness to a faith that lacks conviction and offers so little. The message of the mainline churches had become too vague and too accommodating to have an impact. As a result, the mainline churches watched from the safety of the larger towns and cities along the Atlantic seaboard while the Baptists and Methodists moved west with the frontier.
Shotly after this is when General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, came on the scene in England and then his work spread to the USA. His passion for souls, summed up in his own words, “Go for souls, and go for the worst”, infected many. Starting with a small group of converts, his “army” grew to over 1,000 workers in a seven-year period, which continued to grow until it had touched every contintent of the world!
In his message “Who Cares”, General Booth saw a vision of lost humanity drowning in the angry sea of sin, while others who had been rescued from the sea were safely on a large Rock within the ocean. He concluded simply, “All who are not on the rock are in the sea.” This fact remains the same today, 150 years later. There is NO MIDDLE GROUND and no other religion provides salvation; if people do not accept Jesus as Savior they will spend eternity in Hell.
Evangelism and Multiplication are core values of the Kingdom of God and practices of the cell movement & structures. How are you making them a part of your overall ministry?
4 thoughts on “Who Cares?”
You wrote, “In 1776 only 17 percent of the population was affiliated with a church. By 1850 that number had doubled to 34 percent.”
I was involved in ‘multihousing ministry’ 1990-1993 and served as Director of Multihousing Ministry with the Pikes Peak Southern Baptist Association in Colorado Springs, CO, in 1993.
In her book titled “Multihousing Congregations” written in 1991, Barbara L. Oden states that 4% of the 28% of the US population who live in multihousing claim affiliation with a church while 40% of the 72% in single-family residences claim affiliation with a church. That was in 1991. I believe (please correct me if I am wrong) Barna’s latest statistic is 17% of the US population are ‘in church’ on any given Sunday.
You then wrote, “General William Booth… summed up in his own words, â€œGo for souls, and go for the worstâ€. And you end your article with, “Evangelism and Multiplication are core values of the Kingdom of God and practices of the cell movement & structures. How are you making them a part of your overall ministry?”
God used my wife’s and my involvement with multihousing ministry to launch us into cell-based church ministry and called us to reach the 96% of the US population who live in multihousing who are not affiliation with a church.
We are making evangelism and multiplication core values of the Kingdom of God a part of our overall cell-based church ministry by first and foremost, identifying/relating with the people God has called us to serve. This required us to sell our dream home, a 3 bdrm, 2 bath, 2 car garage brick home, and move into a mobile home in a multihousing neighborhood.
Make no mistake about it, the 96% of the US population who live in multihousing who are not affiliation with a church is a ‘hard nut to crack’. Talk about â€œgoing for souls, and going for the worstâ€, just listen to folk song singer – Todd Snyder’s song titled “Doublewide Blues” to understand the mindset of folks who live in mobile homes. Yes, a ‘hard nut to crack’ but what a great mission field we in the cell-church movement have right here in the US of A!
You also wrote, “If people do not accept Jesus as Savior they will spend eternity in Hell.”
How about Mario Vega’s illustration (at the symposium) of ‘knocking on our neighbor’s door late at night and asking for help because our house is on fire and our children are trapped inside’? Was that POWERFUL or what!
That, I believe, correctly identifies the difference between evangelism (or rather — lack of) in the US of A and the evangelism taking place in San Salvador, South Africa, and the other countries represented by the great men of God who spoke at the symposium.
We pastors in the USA must catch their passion and boldly proclaim that if people do not accept Jesus as Savior they will spend eternity in Hell.
Solid word, Jeff. Send us revival and Lord, please help us NOT to compromise the message. . .
I see that you mentioned William Booth’s vision. Reading this vision changed my life! In case you’re interested, here’s a video version of General Booth’s vision that I created: http://www.sermonspice.com/product/25941