How can a church – rather “movement” regain momentum one it has been lost? A case study from early Methodist history….
by Chris Ritter
A generation after the death of John Wesley, Methodism experienced its first significant decline. Meticulous in recording their numbers, British Methodists at the Liverpool Conference in 1820 were alarmed to note a net loss of 4,688 adherents in a single year. From their vantage point it was not at all clear that Methodism was successfully navigating the inevitable institutionalization of the movement and the passing of the generation of leaders that had participated in Methodism’s first flowering. The next three years, however, would witness a remarkable turnaround that would eventually lead to the tripling of the movement in numbers over the following eighty years (interrupted only by a denominational split in 1850). Mathematician John Hayward has chronicled the 19th Century growth of British Methodism and notes admiringly that the vast majority of the expansion was due to new conversions as opposed to population growth. The preachers in…
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