“In one way or another, virtually every troubling trend in the current world of evangelical Christianity is rooted in misunderstanding about the church. What is her proper mission? What is her role in an increasingly secular culture? What should her priorities be? How should a local church function? Why is church membership necessary? or is it? What is the basis for true unity? This excellent book shines the clear light of Scripture on those and many other questions. Since Christ loved the church enough to die for her, every believer ought to share that passion. Jeffrey Johnson clearly does, and I believe you will find his enthusiasm contagious.”
– JOHN MACARTHUR, Pastor/Teacherof Grace Community Church in Sun Valley,California and President of The Master’s College and Seminary
This is an excerpt of a review by Terry Chrisope, Associate Professor of History and Bible at Missouri College, of the book Revival and Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism, 1750-1858., by Iain H. Murray, available from Monergism Books
The final third of the book describes the popularization of revivalism in American Christianity. A theology and practice similar to those of Methodism were to flourish in the East under the impetus provided by Charles G. Finney who, though not originating these methods, became instrumental in popularizing and spreading them. The theological underpinning of Finney’s approach was the assumption of complete human ability to respond to the demands of the gospel and the corresponding need to utilize all available means to promote what was called "revival." Division among Christians occurred as adherents of the older theology of revival as a sovereign work of God raised questions about and objections to Finney’s "new measures" and the theology which underlay them. Those who raised such questions were soon castigated as being "anti-revival" and as opposed to evangelism, although this patently was not the case. It seemed to many that a new era in evangelism and revival was being born, and the claim appeared to be supported by the numbers of new converts being produced. The use of the prescribed means of protracted meetings, emotional appeals, and altar calls were supposed to unfailingly produce the desired revival, and if they did not it was due to human fault rather than to any contrary purpose in the divine will. This new approach swept Baptists and virtually all other Protestants before it and became the accepted understanding of revival by the end of the century. Any remembrance of the older concept of revival was all but lost.
Murray’s study is quietly powerful and persuasive. His argument gathers strength as it advances through the book. A brief review can hardly do it justice. But some of the issues that Murray raises are worthy of noting here and should provoke serious discussion, especially among Southern Baptists, who, generally speaking, have assimilated and institutionalized the methods advocated by Finney and his followers.
The first and perhaps most fundamental issue to be raised by this book is that of the theology of conversion. Prior to approximately 1830 a Calvinistic conception of human inability and the necessity for the operation of divine grace prevailed among American Protestants except for the Methodists. A corresponding understanding of revival as a sovereign outpouring of divine power accompanied this view. After 1830 the Methodist theology of conversion (known as Arminianism or semi-pelagianism) became gradually but widely accepted. This view sees conversion as dependent on the response of the autonomous human will rather than being the result of the special work of the Holy Spirit. This theology was associated with a new view of revivals, one which saw them as the product of the human means used to promote them. This revised understanding of conversion and revival had no more energetic proponent than Charles G. Finney, whose views came to prevail among American evangelical Protestants.
About three out every five unchurched persons in America are self-described Christians, according to a new survey unveiled Monday.
Notably, however, a majority of these self-identified unchurched Christians hold a biblical view of God, reports The Barna Group, which conducted the survey.
According to Barna, 68 percent of unchurched, self-identified Christians believe that God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe and that He still rules that universe today.
Furthermore, a much smaller but still significant proportion (35 percent) believe the Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches.
The survey suggests, based on past studies, that nearly four in ten (37 percent) of unchurched Americas avoid attending church service because of painful past experiences with the church or people in the church.
The five major complaints that LifeWay Christian Resources found among the unchurched that it had interviewed previously included Christians treating other Christians poorly; Christians having “holier-than-thou” attitudes; believers talking more than they listen; Christians refusing to get involved in the lives of the unchurched; and Christians saying they believe but do not attend church.
“The unchurched really want to see a Christian live incarnationally,” commented Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention .
“Most of them will gladly listen to us if we show love toward them and toward other Christians,” Rainer added. “Most of them desire to see a Christian live his or her faith as well as speak about it.”
According to Barna, nearly one in five (18 percent) Americans can be considered “born-again” Christians – those who say they have “made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today,” and believe they will have eternal life with God only because they confess their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
Overall, the survey found that 28 percent of the U.S. adult population is unchurched, or nearly 65 million people. When the number of children living with unchurched adults is also included, the number rises to 100 million people.
Barna’s latest national survey on the unchurched, conducted August 2009 through February 2010, was based upon random samples of 4,020 adults. Of those adults, 1,144 where unchurched and 703 were self-identified Christians.
The interviews were conducted by phone.
Michelle A. Vu
Christian Post Reporter
Desiring God.org– If your pastor asked you not to talk about the doctrines of grace, what would you do?
If you were a member of an Arminian church, and your pastor asked you not to talk about the doctrines of grace, what would you do?
I would ask him what he means: “Do you mean at home with my kids? Do you mean in conversation when somebody asks me? Do you mean Sunday school on the doctrine of salvation? What do you mean?”
And if he said, “All of the above,” I would leave the church. I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily do that immediately. I would say, “Whoa. So you’re forbidding me from doing what the Bible requires me to do, namely, to speak the truth in love. Since I can’t follow Christ here under your leadership, you’re asking me to leave.”
But I would say, “Could we just study and pray about this?” And if he’s willing to engage in any kind of process, I don’t want to encourage people to leave. I don’t want to encourage people to walk away from their churches. I want them to work at being there and ministering and caring and being unified as much as possible.
But if all of that comes to naught, I think something as much as, “You may not speak about the things that are very dear and precious and central to your understanding of the gospel,” that would probably mean you need to find another church.
The Christian Post-The nation’s largest Protestant denomination reported a decline in membership for the second year in a row, according to the National Council of Churches’ 2010 yearbook of churches.
The Catholic Church, meanwhile, rebounded from last year’s reported membership loss with a 1.49 percent growth, joining church bodies including the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ as the few large U.S. denominations with reported growth.
Also reporting growth in NCC’s 78th annual Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches were the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses – though a significant number of the two organizations’ core beliefs are considered by conservative Bible scholars as contradictory to historic orthodox Christianity.
Notably, the NCC reported in its announcement of the 2010 yearbook’s release Friday that eleven of the 25 largest churches did not report updated figures.
What is a Healthy Church Member?, is a new book by Thabiti Anyabwile, and on todays program, Mike shares Pastor Anaybwile’s 10 marks of a healthy church member. For Christians, playing an active part in the local church is not optional. God intends for every believer to contribute to the mission of the local church and experience profound spiritual growth as a result. Also, Mike shares results of a recent survey concerning Christian radio and who listens. (This is a repeat broadcast)
- What Is a Healthy Church Member? by Thabiti M. Anyabwile
- Survey: Only 3 in 5 Christian Radio Listeners Tune In for Music
“And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:22,23
What direction is the church headed? What are some of the major issues facing the church today? Mike shares a classic interview with Dr. Albert Mohler, getting his insight and perspective on wy Christians should be alert to what is happening in the contemporary church.