Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Connection: Church Growth and Spiritual Formation - Evangelistic Excitement

While the views of our D.S. and my personal perspective were shared in the previous two installments of this series, this one references a publication of the Texas United Methodist Historical Society. It is entitled The Methodist Excitement In Texas and was published in 1982 as a history of Methodism dating all the way back to the colonization of the then-Mexican province led by Stephen F. Austin.

The book draws its name from a letter Austin wrote as result of noise “excited Methodist preachers” made in public preaching and the threat that it presented to keeping the peace in the province of a country where Catholicism was the state religion. Introduction of Protestant beliefs in Austin’s colony would place him in contempt with Mexican authorities; hence, he penned these words to Josiah H. Bell in 1829: “It will not do to have the Methodist excitement raised in this country.”

Regardless of Austin’s preferences the “Methodist Excitement in Texas” only intensified. Methodist circuit riding preachers followed the Westward expansion of the frontier as new settlements were established. Much fruit was borne from the fervor of all of this evangelistic activity. Soon Methodists became a major political force in the delegated conventions of 1832 and 1833 to propose changes to Mexican regulations.

Later, Methodists would be a part of the shaping of what would become the new Republic of Texas. Many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Methodists, as well. If the spread of Methodism was undaunted by the anti-Protestant requirements imposed by the Mexican government during the colonial era, it caught on like wildfire during the time of the republic: “During the time of the republic, the Methodist preacher – whose denomination claimed more than half of all church members in the republic – took the lead in moral reform as he had in education.”

Clearly, Methodism had become a dominant force in the development of moral, ethical, and religious beliefs in the new republic. By claiming over half of all church members in the entire country the Methodist movement had the ability to shape the destiny of an entire country with its doctrinal beliefs. And, from the back woods to the frontier, the circuit riding preachers dedicated their lives to doing just that.

In lieu of circuit riding preachers, how do you see CLMs reviving “Methodist excitement” in our churches today?

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