- Paperback: 344 pages
- Publisher: Rutgers University Press; Reprint edition (October 1, 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0813518385
- ISBN-13: 978-0813518381
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,379,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Churching Of America 1776-1990 Reprint Edition
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Starting with Colonial times, it reviews the quantitative analysis and the qualitative conclusions as well. It determined that much beginning from these times on has been distorted by bias and not using the best census material available.
They deduce that successful church movements base their focus on otherworldliness, starting out thus as sects which grow. The tendency however is to eventually make minor concessions to the culture, thus shifting the emphasis away from what gave them success, high tension with their culture towards lowered levels. This cyclical pattern they have found repeated over and over, the sects becoming churches thereby giving birth to new sects that revitalize the church and grow.
The pattern begins with the upstart Baptists and Methodists outgrowing the established Congregationalists, etc. Then themselves, especially the Methodists losing their dominant position to new groups.
Their conclusions are fascinating, disputing much of the established findings of scholarly American Christian history. Rather than finding the changes in churched American as attributable to sudden cultural/societal glitches, rather the authors find "a long, slow and consistent increase in religious participation form 1776 to 1926--with the rate inching up slightly after 1926 and then hovering near 60 percent. Second, they conclude that the primary factor is what they term "the sect-church process" (roughly sketched out above) in supporting the progress in America.
The future? They place confidence in humans as "rational beings, not puppets enslaved to the strings of history and always have the capacity to choose." Their surveys and literature they use suggest that American will continue to want and find or start movements which maximize otherworld rewards sufficient to inspire sacrifice.
One must remember this is sociology speaking, not theology. Theology of the best kind tells of God's unfolding plan of salvation (heilsgesitche) which will occur exactly as God has planned. True faith, belief and membership in this salvation is His doing through His church, where His Word and Sacraments are truly spoken and distributed.
The 214 years of American religious history covered by this book represents the transformation from a time when as a nation most people took no part in organized religion, to a time when nearly two-thirds do. The continual founding of new religious movements during this two-century period has allowed for a freshness that could not be controlled by institutionalized religion.
The control exercised by established churchlike religious organizations in the past actually led to their decline. They could not survive in a free market religious economy. Methods of establishing control included identifying a state-endorsed church, controlling who could be ordained and serve as pastors, and having a non-congregational polity or form of governance.
While it may seem to be a contradiction, it the high expectations that religious organizations--particularly congregations--place on individual believers that results in a tenacious and growing church movement. What was true in 1776 is still true in 2000 and beyond. To discover the secrets of past and future success and vitality, purchase and read this book.
United Methodists: note that our church has been shrinking since _1850_ as a percentage of the American public. Basically since the circuit riders dismounted and we established seminaries.
The conclusions are frightening and will make you reevaluate "what's wrong with our church". If this book is correct, most of the solutions suggested by other books will not address the core issues.
You must read this book!!!