Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wanted: some reformers

I have noticed for quite awhile that several large and innovative Christian organizations had their genesis at about the same time. The organization I serve with (Youth With A Mission) celebrates 50 years next year, and Operation Mobilization had their 50th a couple years ago. Teen Challenge began 51 years ago. All were started by men with unique visions that have continued to this day. There may well be other organizations that fit the same template, but those are the three that I often think about.
I started checking on the age of the founders and started seeing something that is almost creepy, it is so peculiar.
I guess it makes sense that an organization that is now 50 was started by someone in their young twenties, but in about 10 minutes I thought of 11 men that are incredibly active (two have passed away) in the conservative evangelical church. They all have had a very strong media presence, and all began large ministries.
Now for the almost creepy part—Of these 11, 9 were born between 1930 and 1940.
As I said before, it stands to reason that people who are now 70 to 80 years old have had a life time to have a profound influence on the church. However, I doubt if you could find very many a decade or two younger who have had a similar influence.
Here are the men and their dates of birth (according to Wikipedia).
Billy Graham (1918) Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
Bill Bright (1921) Campus Crusade for Christ, wrote The Four Spiritual Laws (passed away in 2003)
Pat Robertson (1930) 700 Club, and many other Christian/political organizations
David Wilkerson (1931) Teen Challenge
Jerry Falwell (1933) Liberty University, Moral majority and Thomas Road Baptist Church TV presence (passed away 2007)
Jimmy Swaggart (1935) Jimmy Swaggart Ministries
Loren Cunningham (1936) Youth With A Mission
James Dobson (1936) Focus on the Family
David Mainse (1936) 100 Huntley Street (Crossroads Christian Communications)
George Verwer (1938) Operation Mobilization
Jim Bakker (1940) The PTL Club
Yes, some of these guys have been in the center of some spectacular scandals, but most are still faithfully serving God. Yes, some of them are best known for what they are against, but again, most have a pretty positive reputation. Perhaps most of them are cut from fundamental/conservative cloth, but they are a product of that era, after all—they come by that foundation honestly enough.
I just find it very interesting that that particular generation has had such an impact on the world, and on the church.
How about the rest of us?
Are we as visionary?
Are we willing to leave our comfortable denominational security as some of them did in order to follow the path they felt compelled to travel?
Are we pushing the envelope of our surrounding church milieu the way most of them have had to?
Are we seeing the potential in today's culture and technology the way they did?
As we look at the church today, we may be crying out for a new Reformation, we need a Luther, Zwingli or Calvin to stir up a complacent church.
Every generation needs someone to take what they have been given (in our case, 2000 years of Christian history) and make it appropriate and alive for that generation.
The 11 men I mentioned (with probably even more women!) poked and prodded the church of their day. Some of them left the security of a sending church and went out on faith and vision, and made a difference. Most of them adapted to new media technology and have used it widely. Most of them saw a hole that they could fill.
I think it's time for another gang to make a difference. Are you up for it?


Lon said...

hrm, that's an intriguing insight... i think the leadership network seeded a lot of leaders today a lot of folks across the spectrum from emergent to the new calvinists have roots there... but yes, i too am wondering who's fueling the next generation...

Luke said...

consider me signed up ;-)

have you seen my reformation the sitcom yet? i'll have to send it to ya.

Al said...

Thanks, Luke! I'm not in charge of the new reform movement (yet!), but now that you are my 10th follower, I only need 2 more to make a nice dozen. 12 seems like such a nice number of disciples (I mean followers).
Loved your sitcom, but I guess I need to learn more about church history to get all of the fine nuances. Was it done as a specific project for school, or just because you wanted to have fun?

Luke said...

church history project. i did a profile on each of the reformers too.. but it's better to check 'em out on your own. i like the "armchair theologian" series as it's a readable presentation of the personalities and theologies of these protestant and catholic (Erasmus, anyway) reformers.


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