Sunday, April 2, 2017

Methodist Minister Describes Spiritual Famine in Church, 1900

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer as reprinted in the Roanoke Beacon, Plymouth, N.C., April 13, 1900

Decline of the Church…Its Causes as Described by a Methodist Minister of Ohio

At the Glenville Methodist Episcopal Church last evening the Rev. John F. Fisher, presiding elder of the Cleveland District, spoke upon the general topic of the decline of the church. “A grave condition,” he said, “confronts the Methodist Church. There has been a decline of 21,000 in membership during the past year. We congratulate ourselves that in the Eastern Ohio Conference there has been a gain of 2 per cent. and in the Cleveland District a gain of 4 per cent.

“The reason for this condition of affairs is a spiritual famine in the churches. The gulf between capital and labor threatens us on both sides; one side ‘not many mighty, not many noble are called.’ On the other strange forces are alienating the poor. The labor unions organized most compactly are much influenced by men hostile to the church. Their gatherings are generally on the Sabbath, thus keeping the men out of our reach. The submerged tenth has been allowed to pass out to other agencies.

“We seem in some places above our business. One border of this church has been frayed by thin speculations and vagaries of Christian Science. The powerful camp meetings of our forefathers have been superseded in many localities. This literature found in our homes is too often too light to nourish strong religious character. Books that furnish the reading for our youth are not selected with the same care with which we choose our friends. Amusements are sought after as if they were a necessity. Like little children, people of all ages think they must be amused.

“The moral and spiritual forces of the church necessary for the building of great and Christlike characters seem to be side-tracked. In many places the spirit of the world is dominant instead of the spirit which is of God. With some of our people the services of God’s house seem to be attended when it is convenient. This has been brought about by self-indulgence. The spirit of self-indulgence which characterizes France has struck this country, and there is no use denying this fact.

“What we must do is to hold to the Word of God as the law of the Nation, and when sin threatens stand firm against it.”

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