“Sheep counting,” wrote Claire Cox, “is an age-old remedy for insomnia, but not when it comes to clergymen. It only serves to keep them awake” (The New Time Religion, p. 25). Not since the Depression have ministers had so much cause for sleepless nights as they have in 1968. Like Little Bo Peep they are wondering where all the sheep are. According to surveys conducted by Dr. Laurus B. Whitman of the National Council of Churches, last year’s gain in church membership was 9 per cent, the lowest figure in three decades. “The churches had better begin to run scared” was Whitman’s interpretation of the facts; “the overall image suggests that the church really has to begin to think of herself in danger.” Protestantism is in an “evangelism crisis.”
This is surprising, because many of the Protestant churches of America developed from evangelistic movements. The Disciples trace their ancestry to the revival preaching of the Campbells; the Methodists originated in the Wesleyan Awakening in Britain and America; the Baptists owe their strength to missionary labor along the American frontier; the Society of Friends emerged through the inspired witness of George Fox; and the Lutherans, Anglicans, and Reformed stem from what was perhaps the mightiest evangelistic movement of modern times, the Reformation of the sixteenth century.
The Reformation was an eminently successful spiritual movement. It started in Europe’s most heavily populated region, the Empire; it swept the large cities and urban areas; it captured the imagination of the young generation; it transformed all aspects of social life; and it resulted in a reformed and renewed Church. There is much for the twentieth-century Church to learn from this evangelistic movement. What, then, ...1
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