There has been an amazing change of mood within Christendom in recent years. Less than a decade ago a spirit of optimism and assurance permeated the life of the Church in America. A great interest in religion seemed to be abroad. Never had religious books and articles been more in demand. Newspapers were devoting more attention to stories of ecclesiastical events and movements than at any other time in our century, and most of the treatment was favorable. Belief was popular. Church membership was growing steadily, both in numbers and in proportion to the total population of our country. The supply of candidates for the ministry was at a record high; new churches were being erected all across our land. It seemed as if we might be on the verge of a great religious revival.
But something has happened to the Church. In many quarters today we find a spirit of discouragement and defeatism within its leadership. Growth continues but at a slower rate. We are constantly reminded that Christianity is becoming more, rather than less, of a minority movement in the midst of the world’s population explosion. The Church and its ministry are increasingly the object of criticism in the press, the literature, and the conversation of our day. There is bewilderment and uncertainty where formerly there was confidence. It is not so easy to arouse enthusiasm, to secure new members, or to sound the advance as it was.
Quite obviously the optimism that prevailed a few years ago was not well grounded, nor was a great triumph for the Church at hand. By the same token, there is no real reason for dismay. Our task is difficult, but it has never been otherwise. It is well that we should examine the situation before us, and that we should understand the ...1
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