by Aaron Earls
Why does the church look like it does today? What has been the most influential churches and trends over the past 100 years?
In an attempt to answer this question, Elmer Towns wrote The Ten Most Influential Churches of the Last Century. It examines the 10 historic spiritual shifts that have occurred since the first part of the 20th century and identifies a church at the center of each transition period.
At Ed Stetzer’s blog, you can read the foreword he and Warren Bird wrote about Town’s list and how it can be beneficial to churches and leaders today.
Here are the top 10 trends of the last 100 years.
- Pentecostal/Charismatic movement — Regardless of one’s opinion on the Azusa Street Revival of 1906 and the resulting growth of Pentecostalism, the impact this movement has had on global Christianity cannot be denied.
- House churches in China — Forcing Western missionaries out of the communist country has not led to the extinction of Christianity there. In fact, house churches have led to exponential growth.
- Rise of multiethnic and multicultural churches — As we discussed in our issue on the subject, our culture is becoming increasingly multiethnic and multicultural. Both for practical and biblical reasons, the church should better reflect the demographic makeup of our culture.
- Largest megachurch in history — Central Full Gospel Church in Seoul grew to more than 800,000 members using 35,000 small groups meeting across the city.
- Southern Baptist Convention — The SBC grew from a small, regional denomination to the largest Protestant one in America primarily through growth in their Sunday School program.
- Expositional preaching — The Scofield Reference Bible and C.I. Scofield’s teaching at Dallas Theological Seminary led to a shift away from motivational sermons to expositional teaching with the Bible at the center.
- Seeker friendly — Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago designed church services to be as welcoming to the non-Christian as possible.
- Praise and worship music — Hillsong Church in Australia and many others have given the church a new hymnody with the explosion of praise choruses and other new music.
- New media — Christian leaders were among the first to capitalize on radio and television preaching, as well as online education.
- Relaxed services — Calvary Chapel sought a way to make Baby Boomers feel comfortable in church with music and dress that felt less formal than previous church cultures.
Do you agree with the list? What do you think has been the most influential church trend over the last 100 years?
Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of Facts & Trends.