Congregationalism or….

Perhaps, among the thousands of traveling and local preachers employed and engaged in this glorious work of saving souls and building up the Methodist Church, there were not fifty men that had anything more than a common English education, and scores of them not that; and not one of them ever trained in a theological school or Biblical institute, and yet hundreds of them preached the Gospel with more success and had more seals to their ministry than all the sapient, downy D. D.’s in modern times, who, instead of entering the great and wide-spread harvest-field of souls, sickle in hand, are seeking presidencies or professorships in colleges, editorships, or any agencies that have a fat salary, and are trying to create new fangled institutions where good living can be monopolized, while millions of poor, dying sinners are thronging the way to hell without God, without Gospel;

This is a quote of the famous circuit rider Peter Cartwright over a hundred and fifty years ago, written in his journal or autobiography. Of all the books I have this book is definitly in the top ten, maybe top five. I’ve only put down a very small portion of his lament, of how the flagship of Christianity of that day was going the way of the congregationalists. I read this part last evening just before retiring for sleep and I stayed up a couple hours it affected me so much. I’ve read it before, last winter and even had these pages underlined and marked for easy reference.

To anyone that ever read what I wrote on the old Healing Waters blog, this is not new news, although I’ve never approached it from this angle before that I know of. Cartwright laments about the vibrant old Methodist church turning congregational and in effect, dying a slow death. What was once a vibrant thunderbolt of Christianity, Biblical Christianity was softening into “church”, traditional dead church. And for me those over one hundred and fifty year old words hit deep in my heart because when a person reads the Bible he sees the pure Christianity that was poured out over this young nation and watched as it became more and more “dignified” and gradually settled into the mush called religion. I might continue this here and there because its one of the things dearest to my heart.

And I guess being from a slightly different mold than most in society today I see things different than many. I read my Bible and most of the things about church today are not in my Bible. In fact many things that are done are even talked against in New Testament scripture. In the early years of the Methodist explosion their exploits were closer to the Book of Acts than almost anything else I’ve ever seen or studied on my own. Last evening I was impressed in my heart about two things. The words are congregationalism and the other, vintage faith. In congregationalism it strikes me as an implosion, not an explosion. Old time Christianity, Book of Acts Christianity and cases as the Methodist expansion were faith explosions. There is a huge difference, like night and day. One looks in, the other looks out!

Even in the Charismatic church I do believe that they could be labeled congregational. For the simple fact they don’t look outward, just mostly inward. The focus is mostly, what can we do in church. Very, very few people get saved this way or drawn into the church seriously following God. It becomes a social center with godly fringes draped around. Most new people in churches like this are from other churches. Even the so called modern “super churches” are congregational, mostly drawing away folks from smaller congregational churches into their larger group. But still, the great commission is not what drives these churches at all. The great commission looks out, the congregational looks inward. The congregational simply does not do the great commission. I never really thought about this until last evening reading wise words from a simple country preacher that helped change the face of early America.

Maybe this is why I get a sick feeling so often in church. I truly love church, I love our church, but I must admit without a doubt it is following the congregational way. More and more. Today so many believe more and more programs are the answer to all in a congregational church, but the slow death keeps creeping in because of it. Look at this nation! After decades of churches looking in rather than looking out, the nation changes, for the worse. What ever happened to commissioning eager young men to go and spread the Gospel, commissioned by the local church to do the duty of the church? I am dwelling on this, very much.

The Holy Spirit rarely moves in a congregational setting, in congregational thinking. When a person looks back at real revivals of the past they never see congregational works, its always expansion works, taking the Gospel to any and all. A congregationalist will look at revivals of the past, such as Asuza Street and say it only last two or three years and fizzed out. They cannot see beyond their congregational nose because the effects of that revival lasted almost seventy years, strongly and are still going strong in many parts of the world today! True revival always throws congregationalism upside down !

Just thinking to myself this evening, maybe shouldn’t even be writing stuff like this. But I’m dwelling on this, dwelling allot. Why is it everytime the church sends out men with little or no education there’s a Holy Ghost explosion, and why is it when it gets all proper and dignified in the eyes of man, things go flat? Why? Its pretty much absolute, this always happens! The person quoted at the top of the page, Peter Cartwright, got his license to preach handed to him by another circuit rider named Jesse Walker. Peter was dumbfounded to say the least. It came out of no where. He could barely read or write, he had absolutely no Biblical training, no theological backround at all. And what happened? Almost twenty thousand people personally baptized by Peter himself. Because of a license to preach written on a piece of scratch paper handed to him by a circuit rider.And the recorded revivals from his preaching and the other uneducated circuit riders have really never been matched in this day and age. Where they went the POWER of God would fall, it was incredible to say the least! I want this again, to see God move like He always does when the church is in proper order!

Published in: on July 23, 2009 at 8:03 pm  Comments (10)  
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  1. Thank you for this post, I added a little more detail over at my blog with a direct link to the book online. Looks like another book has been added to the list πŸ˜‰

  2. Thanks Joe!

    I figure that later I can link to the book here and save myself considerable typing in the future πŸ™‚ Thanks!

    God Bless!

  3. Vintage Faith!!!
    I LOVE that!!
    Tom my friend, I empathize with every word you have written. As a former youth pastor, evangelist and itinerant preacher it is grievous to not ‘belong’ anywhere other than cyberspace. I even have my family saying ‘you USED to be a man of God, now you don’t even preach’. How it tears my heart out. They cannot see the walk Father has many of us on. I truly feel He is raising up a BODY! Not another movement that turns into another denomination. A living, breathing organism that only moves, speaks and does as He wills. It will be made of men and women from all walks, educations and races. Completely sold out to Him.

    We will teach as He leads, then allow Him to confirm His words with signs miracles and wonders. Not the other way around. Ahhhhh, to see the Glory of the Father manifest in His sons and daughters!!! What a Glorious time that will be.

    It fascinates me as I continue to follow your life, ministry and journey how these ideas, beliefs and words have the spark, build and then come spilling out under the unction of Holy Spirit!!

    God bless you my brother as we travel down this narrow path He calls The Way!!!

    May we see each other face to face soon, and if not we already know each other after the Spirit which is more precious than gold!!

    Love and Peace to all,

  4. Hey Brian!

    This is the time we were created for and I figure we might as well do what we were created for. And I believe what we were created for most likely isn’t for something in the usual mold of things.

    “We will teach as He leads, then allow Him to confirm His words with signs miracles and wonders. Not the other way around. Ahhhhh, to see the Glory of the Father manifest in His sons and daughters!!! What a Glorious time that will be.” ……Yes! Music to my ears! We sure are in one accord!

    Since writing this post that’s been one of my main topics to dwell on during the day. An unusual topic for sure, but when a person starts straightening some of this stuff out life becomes much more simple. The narrow path becomes more visible. It goes against the main flow I understand, but its all true never the less. Gets us out of that seemingly comfy zone that a person can get into being a church goer and reminds us of what church is, what Biblical Christianity is!

    Thank you so much for the encouraging words, they truly are needed at times and I appreciate them ever so much!

    God Bless!

  5. Came across this site. Thought you might like it.

  6. Forgot to mention one thing. In church today we had a guest speaker Dean Berg. Very good preacher. You can see his site at Well he was handing out cd packages at the beginning. Well guess who had the fastest hand.. That’s right me. Well I got a cd called The Triumphs of Faith. It’s not only about Faith, but old Faith. This is a collection of timeless and treasured articles from the 19th century. That part was on the cd. This volume is from 1881. These are people of faith before the Azuzu Street Revival. Can’t wait to listen to it. Well have a wonderful Sun. Chow.

  7. Sorry me again. the website above was missed typed.

  8. Hey RJ!

    Thanks for the revival site! Never ran across that one before.
    I met Dean Berg a couple of years ago and last October was able to have supper with him out at the cabin where they do youth for our church. I think we might have the same CD, my wife is fast with raising her hand too πŸ™‚ When you listen to those old quotes and stuff you might notice a difference in how folks thought of God and our faith walk back then. Its something I envy, to say the least!

    Thanks and God Bless!

  9. Morning Tom,

    Happy Monday friend. Mine wasn’t so happy already. Looks like ol Goodyear is going to get some more of my money. Changin tires in the dark is downright frustrating!! Oh well, I hope it ain’t setting up for that kind of week.

    A good post Tom, and I couldn’t agree more. I’ll tell you, it sure has been interesting going from the Catholic faith into the Baptist one. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Both are congregational, although I do believe that the Baptist’s are less so…. I would like to offer this up though. I wonder if the youth need more of a congregational style to stay interested in the church. I love how the Baptist church will involve the youth and interweave them throughout the congregational things they do… youth orchestra… youth activities… that kind of thing… Not so much the word early on when they don’t understand it, but just kind of a “keep them interested until they are interested” kind of attitude. I dunno… Its just an observation. Since you are one of those super youth leaders, I’d have to rely on your judgement πŸ™‚

    Things have been tickin right along here. My youngest boy’s room is empty now and I’m startin to clean out the attics at our house. It’s plum amazing how much stuff an attic will hold for 20 years…. Our church rummage sale is Saturday though, so I’d better get it finished….

    Well buddy, I guess I’m off for a sawdust bar and a cup of joe….

    Have a GREAT day,


  10. Morning Brad!

    Well, today maybe swath oats if it dries up a bit. Cloudy this morning with wet grass, no rain but tough for swathing as of yet. Had us a great weekend to say the least, I did my yearly volleyball workout, (I do this only once a year), and they warned me I’d be sore today but I ain’t πŸ™‚ Tough old farmer πŸ™‚ And I was the only one playing wearing cowboy boots!! Although it did feel like I was getting a blister on my ankle during the intense parts!! Anyway,I was on the winning team πŸ™‚

    Tough question about youth, and it could take about a million pages in order to answer it. But my main thing with kids is building a trust factor, (and carry a big stick πŸ™‚ ). Stay simple,have some fun, and be ready to answer any and all questions the best a person can, cause they have questions,they haven’t quite learned how to put on a show like the adults do and act like they are satisfied. I was just listening to a radio show the other day baling on Christian radio and they were talking about how many decades later the simple things the kids learned in children’s church and youth still stuck with them, an amazing show!

    I’d better get back outside, was just in to check the radar is all. Just got done with pasture checks and pumping water tanks full. Nice day really, Praise the Lord. I’m hoping to have a little time to post in the evenings besides get ready for another church service next week with yours truly doing it!

    God Bless!

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