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?