THE MODERN CHURCH ERA -1648-2003- AD
When the Era of Reform ended in 1648, the next one hundred years was an age of intellectual enlightenment. These thinkers mainly abandoned organised religion and believed that God let His creation to run without intervention.
Christianity, by the year 2000, was a worldwide religion with more than half of its supporters living in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Christianity in the modern world is the story of an international church.
Theological Challenges. The rise of modern science and the Enlightenment called into question the authority of the Scriptures, creeds, and clergy. Many prominent thinkers insisted that religion's true purpose was moral behaviour, personal feeling, or social progress. Some Christians responded by adapting Christianity. Others reasserted traditional forms of religious authority. Another challenge arose when political rulers attempted to shape or control the church.
Christian Growth and Development. There were evangelical revivals that followed the reaction against the enlightenment thinkers although many factors contributed to Christian growth. Both Catholic missionary Orders and Protestant mission societies translated the Bible into many languages and established Christianity in many parts of the world. These converted Christians began to build local churches, and to send out their own evangelists.
Colonial settlements on several continents helped spread Christianity to new places. In the early phases of colonial settlement, Europeans expected uniformity of religion. Competition grew among Christian denominations which also contributed to growth.
Renewal and Revival. The primary concern of renewal and revival movements is to awaken people to faith in Christ. Through this emphasis on conversion, renewal and revival activities have helped make Christianity a global religion. Pietism began as a renewal movement within Europe, and soon spread around the world through its missions. Puritanism sought to reform the Church of England.
John Wesley began Methodism as a renewal movement within the Church of England, but it spread around the world through missions and evangelism. He found surety of his salvation through Christ alone and this led to a fresh upsurge of gospel preaching. He and his brother won many converts in the unevangelised England.
The Salvation Army continued the trajectory begun by Methodism, offering both conversion and social reform to urban poor.
An epoch-making revival in America called the Great Awakening that was sparked by a visit to the country by George Whitefield, who was an associate of Wesley in Britain.
Human Adversity. In the eighteenth and nineteenth-centuries, international trade networks and the new industrialization created wealth and opened new doors for Christian undertaking. Yet modern nations also brought great suffering, including the African slave trade and urban poverty in prominent cities such as London or New York. Some Christians profited from human suffering, while others merely ignored it. Many Christians, however, strove to end slavery and to alleviate urban poverty. Their humanitarianism was one Christian response to suffering.
With the arrival of large numbers of Christian missionaries from Europe and America, to countries that were previously non-Christian many converted believers were strengthened. These believers suffered acts of vengeance and maltreatment from their neighbours. Sometimes these outbursts would mistreat the foreign missionaries. Some countries reacted by closing their borders to all Christian missionaries.
Nineteenth century evangelicalism combined fervent revivalism with social reform in the United States. But perhaps the greatest global revival movement is Pentecostalism, which has gained millions of adherents in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
In the Twentieth-century there was upheaval with two world wars, but this seemed to make people once more receptive to the Christian Gospel and Billy Graham was joined by other evangelists who attracted growing numbers to faith in Christ.
Another sincere approach to human suffering was taken by Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose ministry to the dying, personified a reflective life with Christ.
The Charismatic Movement was a new form of Pentecostalism, which spread to all the mainline denominations and there was a major resurgence of Evangelical Christianity in the last half of the Twentieth Century.
At the close of the Twentieth-century, the largest Christian congregation in the world was a Pentecostal church in Korea.
Religious freedom cannot be taken for granted in the modern world. The Twentieth-century has witnessed the persecution of Christians in many parts of the world.
Ultimately the future of The Church, the body of Believers of Christ, does not depend upon man but upon God.
QUESTIONS 1] What is Revival? 2] Who was know for the beginnings of revival in Britain? 3] What movement had the greatest global revival in the 20th Century?
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