A Warning from the Past for Churches Today


A friend of mine shared this quote with me, and I think it is most poignant for churches today.


J.H. Thornwell, the great Southern Presbyterian theologian of the nineteenth century, noticed the churches in his day moving in a dangerous direction, a direction that he feared might compromise the very message of the church. In a letter written in July 1846, Thornwell warned:

Our whole system of operations gives an undue influence to money. Where money is the great want, numbers must be sought; and where an ambition for numbers prevails, doctrinal purity must be sacrificed. The root of evil is in the secular spirit of all our ecclesiastical institutions. What we want is a spiritual body; a Church whose power lies in the truth, and in the presence of the Holy Ghost. To unsecularize the church should be the unceasing aim of all who are anxious that the ways of Zion should flourish.


(This quote is from a book about  Jonathan EdwardsA God Entranced Vision of all Things.)


3 thoughts on “A Warning from the Past for Churches Today

  1. I wholeheartedly believe that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better/more successful. I’ve been in a large church and was miserable at the lack of true conviction among both staff as well as members. I’ve also been in small churches where they don’t have great technology, nothing to really attract, it’s just obvious that they love God and love people. I’ll take the latter any day.

  2. I believe most churches want attendance instead or repentance. We (body) are called to reach the lost and not build empires. Churchs like Saddleback believe that since the numbers are up they must be doing good but are they? Is it a work of the flesh or the Spirit? Do these churches truly believe that the Bible is sufficent or do they trust in social sciences to run a church (i.e. pop psycology). I pray that our pastors will truly look toward God for Spiritual growth and not at what the rest of the so called “mega churches” are doing.

    Final thought….do churches need to be cultrally relevant to reach the lost or can we reach the lost with the Gospel / preaching Christ and Christ crucified?

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