The Leadership Of The Church In Modern Life -- By: Howard A. Bridgman

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 071:283 (Jul 1914)
Article: The Leadership Of The Church In Modern Life
Author: Howard A. Bridgman

The Leadership Of The Church In Modern Life

Howard A. Bridgman

The prevailing note in current discussions of the church is a doleful one. Anybody with his eyes half open can assume the role of a prophet of despair, and chant his little dirge over the decline of the ancient and venerated institution. It is a patent fact that people do not go to church as they themselves used to, or as their parents did. Recently in London a daily newspaper, intending to take a careful census of attendants upon all the churches on a certain Sunday, was dissuaded from doing so by certain Free Church leaders, who felt that the revelations could not but be disheartening from the point of view of the church. As I write, comes this private letter from an editor of the leading religious paper in Great Britain, in which he writes, “Again our membership and Sunday-school figures are down. Worse than all, the churches are listless and lifeless.” Moreover, while, in this country, church membership shows fairly good increase from decade to decade, as compared with the growth of population, much of it is nominal; and to-day, outside even of that rather enigmatic relationship which classifies as adherents all the brothers-in-law of the church—the summer boarders and the men and women who attend on Easter Sunday only, there remain at least twenty million persons not connected with the church by even such slender ties as these. That means that the number of persons totally unreached, and so far as we can

say unaffected, by the church in its organized life, is as large as the entire population of this country in 1845.

One might dwell, too, upon the dwindling and decadent prayer meetings, the decline in candidates for the ministry, the hesitancy of the church to discern and defy wrongs, the absence of a clear message and carefully thought out program, the chronic indifference of multitudes, the calm disdain with which they pass by on the other side, the fiery indignation with which certain associations of men and women denounce the church for its inconsistencies and weaknesses.

Now what about such an outburst of pessimism? Shall we of the churches dispute its substantial accuracy, or shall we present as persuasively as we can a number of counter considerations that offset to a considerable degree the savage indictment? I for one am tired of diagnosis. let us proceed with a positive program. Whatever the merits or demerits of the church, its look must always be forward. If in three particulars the church can mount to a high level, it will gain in prestige and power.

First, the righteousness and efficiency with which a church administers its corporate affairs determines, to a considerable degree...

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