What We Need Is An Occasion For Daring

Our nation desperately needs a new holiday. The old ones are worn out and the citizens are weary of trying to pump them up every year. To remedy this situation, I have a suggestion: let’s make May 20 “Adventure Day.”

Oh, I can hear that question in your mind: “Why should May 20 become ‘Adventure Day’ in our nation?” Simply because that date is associated with many noted people whose lives were filled with daring and adventure. Permit me to spread my scholarly researches before you. The following events occurred on May 20:

1498—Vasco de Gama arrived in India after a difficult voyage.

1506—Christopher Columbus died in poverty, waiting for his ship to come in, while his wife cried, “Sale on! Sale on!”

1818—William Fargo, one of the founders of Wells Fargo, was born.

1856—David Livingstone completed his difficult march across Africa, west to east. (He heard a chief say, “Go east, white man, go east!”)

1927—Col. Charles Lindbergh started his nonstop flight to Paris.

1932—Amelia Earhart began her famous flight that made her the first woman to fly across the Atlantic. Actually, she had flown across the Atlantic four years before, but that was as a standby passenger and it didn’t count.

Now, have I convinced you? Of course I have!

How, then, shall we celebrate “Adventure Day”? By each of us doing something daring and adventurous. I append some examples.

If I were Dr. Carl F.H. Henry, I would use only three-syllable words all day. If I were Dr. Robert Schuller, I would stand in my pulpit and demonstrate how David killed Goliath. If I were Dr. Bill Bright, I would share a nontransferable concept (if there is such a thing). If I were Dr. Ted Engstrom, I would arrive late to a “Managing Your Time” seminar, and then receive a telegram reminding me I was supposed to be in a meeting somewhere in Asia Minor.

Get the idea? Now, it is up to you to decide how you will spend this day. Away with caution! Be an evangelical adventurer—and nobody will recognize you!


The Unmeasurable Ingredient

I was amused by the juxtaposition of the two articles in the March 27 issue: “Church Growth: A Limitation of Numbers?” where the danger of sciences such as sociology, which measure only quantifiable growth, is followed by an article by a professor of sociology in which the effectiveness of evangelism is measured in part by statistics (quantifiable growth).

Apart from this, I am afraid I would fall into the category of people Terry Hulbert categorized as those to whom it seemed that Petersen used “an axe instead of a scalpel.” Besides the obvious references throughout Acts that McGavran has mentioned, one of McGavran’s original church growth colleagues, A. R. Tippett, spoke forcefully to the work of the Holy Spirit: “You can take a Christian fellowship group and study it anthropologically as an institution, and see ‘how it ticks,’ but if you carry your research to the ultimate conclusion you will have to admit that there is still one element which registers in your data but cannot be explained in human or processual terms. I call this the non-cultural factor. It is, of course, the Holy Spirit. He is at work. Anthropologically I know how the church ticks, but another factor has to be introduced before the ticking is regulated as it should be.”

Petersen has evidently overlooked this quote as he implies that church-growth advocates leave out this element.


President, O.C. Ministries

Santa Clara, Calif.

Thank you for using the article on church growth in which Petersen has the audacity to question and analyze the “sacred cow” of numerical growth at any price. Big is not necessarily beautiful, nor is bigger better.

Petersen is being very fair and appreciative of those who have given us needed help in becoming visionary, but he sounds some needed warnings about being captivated by the multitude syndrome. What is the mission of the church? “Be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

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Evangelical Free Church

McCook, Nebr.

I become very perturbed over these people who set themselves up as experts on numerical church growth. This is not growth, it is expansion. And expansion is not what the church (the body) of Christ should be striving for; rather it should be growth in Christ. A church could expand to 5,000 members and still have zero growth. Real growth of a church should be measured in the growth of each member in Christ.


Waterbury, Vt.

I could appreciate Petersen’s concern over reducing people to cold, hard statistics, but it must be remembered that church growth is a discipline not unlike the other disciplines that go into the make-up of the Christian faith. Most people would be distressed if they were made to read books on theology all the time, where our basic doctrines are defined in minute terms. As I look back on having to do this in seminary, I realize now that this information is presented so that it might be applied with caution and sensitivity as we attempt to teach and preach the nature of our faith.

Church growth applies to the church in the same way. For years we have been fed statistics that to a large degree infuriated lay people, and befuddled pastors and staff members. The church-growth discipline gives us a way of interpretation and finding out what these numbers and trends mean in an ever-changing world.


Valley Baptist Church

Middletown, Pa.

“Church Growth” helpfully critiques the underlying premises of the church-growth movement. The writer’s dialectical approach, setting opposing views over against each other to arrive at a judicious and restrained position, is commendable.

But he veers from this method when he says, “The church is an organism, not an organization.” Moreover, he signals this as his point of greatest disagreement with the movement he critiques.

Why not be dialectical here too? Is not the church, wherever it exists concretely in this world, both an organism and an organization? Why must it be only one or the other? In both Testaments, organization is an important aspect of the life of God’s people. All of nature shows us that unless organisms get organized they not only fail to grow, they cease to exist.

I have observed a few of those who want to repudiate organization in the church as in some way evil. If they win their point with those they lead, the result is not pure organism. They set aside existing structures only to replace them with organization according to their own lights.


Bishop, Free Methodist Church

Etobicoke, Ontario

Using All Scriptural Means

Firebaugh’s report, “How Effective Are City-wide Crusades?” [March 27], comes like the touch of a friendly hand on a weary shoulder. The science of evangelism is providing us with fresh, clear understandings of how to communicate the gospel. Let us utilize all scripturally endorsed means of evangelism in a unified whole.

Perhaps we could start by engraving in stone Firebaugh’s fundamental maxim that “crusades are effective to the extent that they mobilize individuals in an area. For this the role of the local church is paramount.” Personal evangelism does not make crusade evangelism unnecessary; rather, personal evangelism makes crusade evangelism effective. Crusade evangelism provides the greatest focal point for the intensive, concerted exercise of personal evangelism.


Assembly of God Church

Oregon City, Oreg.

In some cities where church-growth seminars have been held, crusades have often provided the only adequate basis for achieving the outreach goals of a local congregation. In other situations, seminars have motivated churches to want to grow, but many such congregations have lacked the creative skills to plan effective ways to reach out to the communities they serve. Against such a background, a crusade has often provided an excellent basis for many of these churches to realize the hopes and goals the church-growth seminars had earlier projected.

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Billy Graham Evangelistic Association

Chatswood, Australia

Survival Issues Confronted

I was glad your March 27 editorial, “SALT II: The Only Alternative to Annihilation?” addressed the problem of nuclear war. Evangelicals have avoided it for too long. Homosexuality, the ordination of women, abortion, pornography, and other such matters fade into insignificance when compared to the possibility of the annihilation of our human race. I can’t imagine the prophets being silent on the subject.


Edmonds, Wash.

Concerning a new SALT: the Scriptures teach that God-fearing nations should not make agreements with God-opposing governments. The history of Israel is an example to us. God will vindicate his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night.


Twisp, Wash.

Thanks to isolationism, McCarthyism, and “flower childrenism,” talk among responsible people regarding issues of war and peace has become mutually exclusive. The ultimate irony is that the issue of peace has itself become a battleground between extreme factions at both ends of the social and political spectrum.

The beauty of your editorial is that it seeks to “break down the dividing wall of hostility” that exists between these two camps, and often stands tall within the hearts of individual believers. You offer inclusion. No longer do we think in terms of us or them but instead, in the larger sense, as stewards of this earth, of the whole creation.


Beechmont Presbyterian Church

Louisville, Ky.

The growing likelihood of nuclear war is the greatest moral issue of our day. I was greatly heartened, therefore, to read the editorial on SALT II. To some, the nuclear arms race may seem like an issue that should be restricted to political science. But the preservation of life on earth is a profoundly religious matter.


Elkhart, Ind.

Your statement, “Monetary costs of the imminent arms race threaten to destroy our free society” is a standard liberal argument. It bypasses the alternative to a free society—godless communism. Our total resources should be spent on annihilating this enemy. Of course, this would not have to be with nuclear weapons only.


Rockford, Ill.

Positive Performance

Carl F. H. Henry’s comments [March 13] about the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) demonstrated a lack of understanding regarding its history and role. The record will show that NAE has enjoyed a fair measure of success in what it set out to accomplish some 39 years ago, namely, (1) to provide an alternative to the Federal Council of Churches (today the National Council of Churches), (2) to overcome the isolation that existed among conservative Christians, and (3) to provide a positive Christian witness through effective evangelical cooperation.

NAE is not an evangelistic association. We believe evangelism is the work of the churches we serve. But our Evangelism and Home Missions Association has a solid track record in this regard, and a casual reading of the personnel involved in the forthcoming American Festival of Evangelism (Kansas City, July 27–30) will reveal that NAE is making a significant contribution to its total program development. Further, our Office of Public Affairs in Washington, D.C., has provided evangelicals with accurate, timely information, enabling them to be responsibly involved.

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As for NAE’s supposed failure to effectively coordinate fellow evangelicals in the mainline ecumenical churches, I suggest Henry look again. NAE has provided and continues to provide fellowship and support for evangelicals in mainline denominations. Some of our strongest and most faithful supporters are mainline churches that are well known for their evangelical stance, and six of our past presidents came from mainline denominations.

Henry should understand that a large percentage of the evangelicals in mainline churches are preoccupied with the struggles going on within those denominations and are not in a position at this time to consider fellowship with other evangelicals across denominational lines. Our experience has shown that when these evangelicals are ready to identify with evangelicals outside their own churches or denominations, they have little problem in joining NAE. They are attracted by its solid statement of faith, by its record of responsible united action, and by its success in working with local churches from more than 70 denominations.


Executive Director, NAE

Wheaton, Ill.

Facts And Figures

The force of Koteskey’s article, “Growing Up Too Late, Too Soon” [March 13], is weakened by an inaccurate assumption that age at menarche from 1000 B.C. to about A.D. 1840 was 18. There is ample evidence to suggest that the age in classical antiquity was 14. For example, the Hippocratic corpus gives the age as 14. The same age is given by Aristotle (d. 322 B.C.); by Soranus, Galen, and Rufus (all second century A.D.), and by Oribasius, a fourth-century A.D. physician.

During the Middle Ages, Salernitan medical literature, and Hildegard of Bingen, one of the earliest German medical writers (twelfth century) indicate a lower limit of 12 and an upper limit of 15. In the thirteenth century, Gilbertus Anglicus gave 12 as a lower limit; Bartholomaeus Anglicus, 14; and Albertus Magnus, 13. Thomas Aquinas writes that girls generally became pubescent in their twelfth year. In the fourteenth century, John of Gaddesden gave a range of 12 to 14, and in the fifteenth century, Ortolff of Bavaria indicated 12 as the lower limit.

Given Koteskey’s assumption that both girls and boys did not reach puberty until 18 years of age prior to around 1840, it seems quite remarkable that he did not find it at least somewhat strange that the Puritans encouraged early marriage. Although prepubescent children do engage in various kinds of “sexual” activity, if Puritan children did not go through puberty until 18 years of age, it seems unlikely that their elders would have hastened their prepubescent children into marriage so that they would avoid the premarital sexual relations for which they would not have had physical capacity.


Bellingham, Wash.

Ronald Koteskey replies:

Nothing Mr. Amundsen says weakens the force of my article. My assumption was that “puberty was later than the ages at which teens could go to work and be legally married.” In order to claim that adolescence existed in antiquity or the Middle Ages, Amundsen would have to show that the average age at menarche was below the legal age for marriage—and in none of the data he cites was that the case. Note that in most cases he cites the lower limit was 12, exactly the legal age for marriage. Thus there was no adolescence. (For simplicity, I drew the figure with the age of menarche straight across at age 18. It would have made the figure confusing to have it weaving up and down across the legal age for marriage for boys.)

The Puritans, like the other cultures mentioned, encouraged marriage at puberty or as soon after that as possible. Even though the average age at menarche may have been 16 or 17, many (about half) would have reached puberty before that time, and these are the ones who would be encouraged to get married.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published. Since all are subject to condensation, those of 100 to 150 words are preferred. Address letters to Eutychus and His Kin,CHRISTIANITY TODAY, 465 Gundersen Drive, Carol Stream, Illinois 60187.

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