There are some instances when things we learn from history can clarify or even revolutionize fundamental assumptions. In these times, history is less about old facts than current faith. It is discovering the lenses through which we have been seeing everything are distorted. Distorted lenses change how the world looks. Sometimes these distortions don't matter much. Other times, they matter a great deal.
In three upcoming posts on adorate.org, I am going to examine how events in the early 1840s in a church in Oberlin Ohio will fundamentally change how millions of Christians practice Sunday worship.
But, I am not just talking about changes in what churches do in worship. The practices of churches direct and reflect the theology of churches. Everyone knows our beliefs influence our practices. What is critical is to understand that practices just as consistently reframe and revise beliefs and assumptions. Since this second process occurs slowly over decades, the staggering scope and degree of these changes can occur without awareness or resistance.
I know delving into history does not garner high scores in reader interest. This is particularly true in the case of busy Christian leaders mining the blogger-sphere for useful ideas. But, in this instance, I want to make it clear I am convinced these changes are going to both prostitute worship and undermine evangelism by radically redefining both.
So, the next three posts on adorate.org will examine: (1) the typical Protestant worship Finney experienced as a young man; (2) Finney's place as Protestant America's first genuine superstar and the specific changes he introduces in worship at the First Congregational Church of Oberlin, Ohio; (3) the enormous impact these changes will eventually bring about in both the practices and theology of the worship of American Evangelicals.
In the end, you might agree or disagree with my conclusions. Either way, if the information is these posts is largely new to you, you won't be able to look at the Sunday worship of many churches in exactly the same way again.