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April 1972 · Vol. 1 No. 2 · pp. 58–68 

A Review of Books on Church Renewal

George G. Konrad

“The Christian churches. . .stand today under God’s judgment,” stated Canon John Colins of St. Pauls, London, in a Passion Sunday sermon in 1964. Since then many voices have agreed. Spokesmen from within and from without the church have directed long, scrutinizing gazes at the church. The results have not always been encouraging. Perhaps, however, the critical spirit is a sign of hope. Although much of the criticism directed at the church is shallow, prejudicial, and fatalistic, other voices are raised with a sincere concern for a renewal of the work of God in our midst. Even the willingness to listen, to examine, and to change are indications that the church is far from dead. Indeed, the ability to change may be the crucial factor in the future of the church.

In this article we will provide a brief overview of some of the more significant materials which have appeared directed toward the exposure/renewal of the church. Although many of these books may be threatening, they have the potential to provide an essential service to the life and work of the church.

WHERE IS THE CHURCH GOING?

The criticism of the church was made popular by Pierre Berton, journalist, author and commentator from Canada, in his book The Comfortable Pew. Although invited by the Anglican Church to record his observations, he included all Protestant churches in his sweeping indictments. Berton was particularly critical of the churches’ abdication of leadership in moral issues arising in society. “A great deal of statistical evidence has lately been gathered to demonstrate that most ministers are scarcely distinguishable by their words, opinions, actions, or way of life from the nominal Christians and non-Christians who form the whole community” (p. 30). As a result the church has lost its voice and is dying, not because of passionate opposition from the world, but because it is largely ignored.

In his section on “the Tyranny of the Religious Establishment” Berton points out that the church has become a middle-class club with full endorsement of the society of which it is a part. Ecclesiasticism, professionalism and popularity have led the church down the trail of compromise.

Many of us would not find it difficult to provide illustrations to disprove the thesis of The Comfortable Pew. However, it will tend to make us uncomfortable and help us to take a critical look.

The stage for church analysis was set much earlier than Berton’s book. As early as 1953, The Misunderstanding of the Church by Emil Brunner appeared on the scene. “What is the Church?” he asked. “From the days of the Reformation to our own time, it has never been clear how the Church, in the sense of spiritual life and faith—the fellowship of Jesus Christ—is related to the institutions conventionally called churches” (p. 5). In his lucid study of the New Testament materials he seeks to differentiate between the true Ecclesia and the institutional church.

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Brunner argues that the institutional church and the true Christian community are not identical; they should not even be mentioned in the same breath. In fact, the church has repeatedly shown itself as the major obstacle to the true ecclesia. The greatest enemy or obstacle to the work of Christ is not the hostility of the world, but “clerical parsonic ecclesiasticism.” “We must therefore be prepared for the possibility that it might be the will of God eventually to destroy the ancient churchly framework of the ecclesia or at least—as is now already happening—to complement it by structures of a very different order” (p. 118). This is so because the church as institution has not created a true brotherhood in Christ, which is the essence of the New Testament church.

Doubtlessly Brunner has attacked the problem at one of its most crucial levels. Reading his book will aid the serious churchman in recognizing the inherent dangers of formalism and institutionalism.

Brunner’s emphasis on the “faith and brotherhood” aspect of the church has much in common with the “Kingdom of right relationships” used as a model of church renewal by Bruce Larson and Ralph Osborne in The Emerging Church. These writers contend that the essence of the church can be captured in relationships: to God—in trust, enjoyment, and obedience; to self—in honesty, acceptance, and appreciation; to significant others—in openness, vulnerability and affirmation; and to the world—in identification, involvement, and service. (p.38) The church must move from a problem-centered ministry to one that has adequate goals in terms of the product it is trying to produce. This product can best be described relationally.

Larson and Osborne also suggest a strategy to achieve a “new thing,” namely, “the emergence of a lay apostolate as God’s primary means of accomplishing His will in the world” (p. 92). Every layman in the church must be equipped to be an evangelist, a healer (or reconciler), and a prophet. “The church of the 70s will find its ministry being expressed by a whole people, wherein the distinction between clergy and laity will be that of function, not of status or hierarchical division. In the emerging Church, due emphasis will be placed on both theological rootage and contemporary experience, on celebration in worship and involvement in social concerns, on faith and feeling, reason and prayer, conversion and continuity, the personal and conceptual” (p. 11).

The work of Larson has been well authenticated through the organization Faith at Work, of which he is the president. A growing number of pastors from our churches have participated in workshops conducted under Larson’s leadership and testify to the spiritual change and enrichment which has taken place.

A more specific call for theological renewal is issued by John Warwick Montgomery in Damned Through the Church. Montgomery, professor of Church History at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, does not apologize for the title. “This is to indicate that damnation and the church are not necessarily opposite—that it is not necessarily the case that a person in the church cannot be damned, or the person that is outside the church can’t be saved—that these two terms are not mutually exclusive” (p. 14).

The book is essentially the content of a lecture series delivered by Montgomery to the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Eastern Canada in 1962. In it he makes a strong case for a basic understanding of the nature of the church. In characterizing the New Testament church, he provides {60} several statements: 1) the church is a separated body; 2) the church centers on God, not on man; 3) the church is a God-separated body of saints; and 4) the church has the central purpose of preaching the gospel.

Repeatedly and increasingly the church has lost the reality and understanding of its true nature. In the Dark Ages the church became sacramentalistic. In the Napoleonic era it became rationalistic. In the nineteenth century the church was beset by dead orthodoxy. And in the church of Hitler’s Germany, politicism prevailed. But these “damnable epochs” of history are very much alive in that the same dangers exist in the church of today. In addition we have our own sins peculiar to our age. These are activism, subjectivism, togetherness, and ecumenicalism.

Salvation for the church is to be found in returning to the understanding of the church as depicted in the Holy Scripture: “the church as a divine institution created and sustained by God” (p. 82).

The Reform of the Church by Donald G. Bloesch is of special interest because it is written from within the Lutheran tradition. Two other books by Bloesch in the general area of church renewal are Centers of Christian Renewal and The Crisis of Piety.

Bloesch espouses the return to a full gospel and a new kind of evangelicalism, “one that is ecumenical as well as biblical, social as well as personal” (p. 13). The implications of this statement are carefully developed in numerous areas of church-related activities including preaching, liturgical renewal, the Eucharist, confirmation, charismatic gifts, and evangelism.

Of special significance are the chapters on discipline within the church and spiritual discipline in the Christian life. The signs of a breakdown of church discipline are found in the practice of indiscriminate communion, the scandal of infant baptism, the lack of catechetical training, the decrease in heresy trials, and in the absence of a Christian style of life. In a return to church discipline, areas such as ordination examinations, standards for church membership, indiscriminate baptism and communion, and excommunication will need attention.

Church discipline further becomes the basis for self-discipline since “self-discipline cannot be maintained apart from the discipline of a larger community” (p. 85). On this foundation self-discipline will find direction and motivation. The disciplines of the spirit will provide the necessary basis and perspective in seeking renewal.

The work of Francis August Schaeffer, probably best known for his success with the retreat centre of L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland, is gaining increasing attention. The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century provides an understanding for the basis of his influence. Schaeffer agrees that the church is in real danger. “It is in for a rough day. We are facing pressures and present and future manipulations which will be so overwhelming in the days to come that they will make the battles of the last 30 years look like kindergarten child’s play” (p. 81).

A significant revolution is taking place in our century, Schaeffer claims. In this revolution there are only three alternatives to the Christian solution: hedonism, a dictatorship, a dictatorship by an elite. However, the Christian response must come in the form of a revolution of love, one that includes the reality of the God of holiness. This is a real revolution, “a revolution in which you are pitted against everybody who has turned away from God and his propositional revelation to men, against even the users of the God-words, a revolution in which we may again hope to see {61} good results, not only in individuals going to heaven but in Christ who is Lord becoming Lord in fact in this culture of ours to give us even in this fallen world something of both truth and beauty” (p. 36).

The Christian revolution adequate to meet the challenge of the end of the twentieth century must be prepared in four specific areas. The first is to recognize the difference between being a cobelligerent and an ally. In our concern for social justice we may find ourselves agreeing with the New Left elite or the Establishment elite, but we are not their allies. The church exists by the grace of God alone. Second, the church must take truth seriously. This is a call for a return to an acceptance of the veracity of Scriptures given propositionally. We must speak Christianity with a clear content and practice truth even when it is costly.

The third area is the need for an “orthodoxy of community” within the church, one that cuts across racial and social lines. Schaeffer says of this, “I want to see us treating each other like human beings” (p. 40). And, finally, there is the differentiation between form and freedom as presented in the Bible. The principle is clearly stated: “anything the New Testament does not command in regard to church form is a freedom to be exercised under the leadership of the Holy Spirit for that particular time and place” (p. 67). He then goes on to list eight biblical norms which should govern the life of the church, several of which would themselves not meet the qualification set forth in the stated principle.

A few books will be briefly cited which take seriously the sociological questions of the church. Colin Williams in What in the World and Where in the World issues an emphatic plea for the application of Christianity to the focal structures of society. The Christian life cannot be lived in antiseptic suburbia, but must continue to apply itself to both the “weak” and the “strong” areas of our social structures.

Harvey Cox in The Secular City suggests that the real crisis of ecumenism today is between traditional and experimental forms of church life. He shows that many of our present church forms are an inheritance from a rural, agrarian society, which are no longer valid in the secularization of our time. The Christian witness must now enter into all the arenas of social realities, including the political.

Two books by Gibson Winter are also worthy of consideration: The Suburban Captivity of the Churches and The New Creation as Metropolis. Along with Cox he contends that the action is in the inner city. The average parish church is no longer in contact with the central problems and needs of the people. The church, instead of giving itself to the world in servanthood, has become family-centered and a piety-cultivating society.

RENEWAL THROUGH SMALL GROUPS

One of the critical issues in the twentieth century is that of loneliness. Industrialization, urbanization, specialization, and the nuclear family all contribute to the segregation of the individual from his fellows. Social veneers deprive persons of openness, honesty, free social intercourse, and in-depth relationships. The phenomenon of loneliness and separation is also conspicuous in the church. In an attempt to recover true Christian fellowship, large numbers of theologians and churchmen are turning to small groups as a renewal format.

In A New Face for the Church, Lawrence O. Richards of Wheaton College develops the theological base of the church in community. {62} “The local church is to incarnate the unity and love of the church which is His body because within such a community Christian individuals grow and Christian character is formed” (p. 83). Christian community is essential to the nature of the church, and community can be realized only in significant interpersonal relationships. The small group provides such a structure. “How then are we to rediscover the group life that the church has lost? I suggest that the starting point almost has to be the small group” (p. 153).

A model for the development of small group life is provided in Part III of Richard’s book. In the last part of the book he makes an exciting projection of where small group life in the church might lead us in the future.

Richards was not the first to suggest the small group structure for renewal in the church. For well over a decade the social sciences have developed the scientific base of group dynamics. In an attempt to investigate all possible areas, many aberrations and excesses have become evident. Some of the earlier attempts to utilize small group research in church-related situations have been described by John L. Casteel, a staff member of the United Church of Christ. In the preface to Spiritual Renewal through Personal Groups (1957), he writes: “It has been my privilege in recent years at religious conferences and retreats to have the opportunity to speak with many people who have been interested in the creating of personal groups as a means through which spiritual renewal might be found both for individuals and for the churches of which they are members” (p. vii). Eight persons provide descriptive accounts of their experiences with small group structures. Ten years later Casteel produced The Creative Role of Interpersonal Groups in the Church Today with accounts from thirteen more individuals. By now small group work had grown up in the church. It is recognized that this approach is no panacea for all the ills of the church, “nevertheless, the forces pushing the churches to some kind of renewal of their life and missions continues unabated” (p. 7). Many gains have been made and Casteel establishes his own criteria for another symposium:

1. The book must represent the more important new varieties of interpersonal groups at work today, both inside and outside the churches.

2. It must be knowledgeable as to the basic insights and principles governing group functions that have been made available through research, experimentation, and experience.

3. It must be modest in its goals, recognizing how much, or little, can be done by one book in helping readers to become effective group leaders and members (p. 8).

From this perspective he provides information which will be helpful to every pastor. One other book should be mentioned in this category which reflects group work within more conservative theological orientations. Groups that Work was published in 1967 describing a series of successful group ventures in a variety of churches and situations.

A more individualized description of the impact of small group relationships has been given by Robert A. Raines, minister of the First Methodist Church, Germantown, Pennsylvania. New Life in the Church (1961) is essentially a book on conversion. However, this change in the life of people is largely effected in the context of koinonia groups. “The koinonia groups provide the context in which the institutional {63} church may begin to become the Body of Christ, and in which nominal church members may become disciples of Christ” (p. 103).

The use of small groups confronts us with numerous practical questions. How are they begun? What is the nature of leadership? What is the content of their interaction? Are there dangers? Several books have appeared outlining guidelines in the establishment and operation of small groups. Clyde Reid, then on the staff of the Institute for Advanced Pastoral Studies in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, wrote Groups Alive—Church Alive in 1969. In 1970 Robert C. Leslie, professor of psychology and counseling at the Pacific School of Religion produced Sharing Groups in the Church. Both books provide some of the theoretical framework and practical information for the use of groups in the church.

Another direction in the use of small group principles is presented by Philip A. Anderson in Church Meetings that Matter. Anderson is concerned with the many group meetings already existing in the church. Why not incorporate those vital dimensions of in-depth relationships so characteristic of small groups into the myriad of committee meetings, classes, etc., central to church life? He contends that the needs of individuals and relationships between persons are always of primary concern and should precede the emphasis on the accomplishment of tasks. In a brief 110 pages he sketches practical suggestions on how this can be accomplished.

THE WORSHIP SERVICES

What is happening in the morning worship services of the average congregation? Is there a meeting with God? Is the Gospel being heard? Are there any significant opportunities for genuine Christian fellowship? These and many other questions continue to surface in the renewal literature. Symbolizing this concern is the title of Clyde Reid’s book, The God-Evaders. In this book he explores why our churches are in a “sorry state spiritually” and calls for drastic changes. His primary concern is with the public meetings of the church. He is convinced that we are not dealing only with simple imperfections but rather “with a basic flaw or flaws in the way the churches are structured—flaws which actually prevent the growth of that faith we claim to represent and which deny much for which it stands” (p. 7).

Reid begins by pointing to a credibility gap between deeds and words within the church. While our words continue to be pious and holy our deeds conform to the standards of the world. This results in an unconscious but effective evasion of God. “We structure our churches and maintain them so as to shield us from God and to protect us from genuine religious experience” (p. 41). On the conscious level we meet for religious purposes but on the unconscious level we maintain our structures so that God cannot break through. The reasons for this evasion lies in our fear of God and in our materialism.

This dilemma is especially evident with respect to our worship services. Sunday worship is disconnected from everyday life. Its forms were evolved so long ago that they don’t seem to belong to the present generation. But even more important, we basically prefer it that way for we do not want to have communion with “him who is Spirit, face to face” (p. 62).

Reid is not pessimistic, for he speaks of signs of hope. He proposes that sincere Christians must work for “renewal or re-formation of the existing {64} church organizations, so that the entire fellowship can become the Church on mission” (p. 102).

Preaching, or the sermon, as one aspect of the worship services has come under special attack. Larson stated categorically that “Great preaching, in a historic sense, is no longer a proper goal for either people or pastor” (The Emerging Church, p. 25). Others hotly disagree, insisting on the need for improvement rather than major restructuring. In his book The Trouble with the Church, Helmut Thielicke concurs with the troubles facing the sermon: “Actually, preaching itself has decayed and disintegrated to the point where it is close to the stage of dying” (p. 2).

In the analysis that follows, Thielicke finds the problem of credibility as central to the present ineffectiveness of preaching. Does the preacher really exist in the “house of dogmas he proclaims”? Correctness of dogma is not sufficient. Even passionate proclamation is inadequate. People will respond to the message only when they are assured that the preacher lives by what he proclaims. “But as for the preachers whose message is not infused with what they have gone through, it would in fact appear to be true that the center of gravity in their lives may lie somewhere else than in their message, that possibly their house of doctrine lies somewhere alongside of this life which they experience with such great intensity” (p. 9).

The credibility gap between the preacher and his audience is widened if the preacher does not gain his questions from the laymen. Under such a condition he will tend to speak to “abstract man,” the person in general terms, the man who does not exist. Another danger is that the pastor may flee from good preaching through busywork and liturgical artcraft. He becomes so involved in the management of the church and extra-church responsibilities that no time is left for serious study and sermon preparation.

Thielicke’s book shows some of the dangers a pastor faces and points the way to a recovery of the preaching task. A similar approach is taken by H. C. Brown, Jr., in A Quest for Reformation in Preaching. Brown, a Professor of Preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, does not want “novel change or superficial innovation” but “genuine transforming reformation” (Preface). The reformation of preaching to which he subscribes can come “through the will of God, through the spiritual fitness of ministers, through the spiritual hunger of God’s people, and through the homiletical or preaching fitness of the men in the ministry.” (Preface) His remarks are directed to the last of these.

Homiletical fitness has five essential dimensions, which he treats at some length in the book. The first is a correct understanding of the true scope of preaching. Homiletics is more than a “discipline of rhetoric.” It must also include correct use of Biblical content, hermeneutical principles, theological perspectives, psychological orientation, rhetorical rules and oratorical principles. Another dimension of homiletical fitness is the understanding of the true nature of the text of the sermon as the fabric of the sermon. Chapter Three, “The Management of Scripture” elaborates on this point.

Further, homiletical fitness includes a correct understanding and use of the functional elements of preaching such as explanation, application, and argument. These are described at length in Chapter Five. A fourth element is correct understanding of the authentic nature of a sermon. Sermons cannot be understood only in terms of form, but rather of authority, purpose and form. Finally the reformation of preaching can {65} be achieved by a correct use of practical procedures for the preparation of authentic Biblical sermons. In Chapter Ten he summarizes these in terms of matters to be decided at various stages of sermon preparation.

Obviously, Dr. Brown has not given up on the sermon. Preachers will benefit from his basic orientation and many practical directives. However, to get a taste of the opposite end of the spectrum on how to achieve a “reformation in preaching” one should read The Empty Pulpit by Clyde Reid.

Reid contends that both from the perspective of the layman and from that of the clergy the pulpit is empty “in the sense that there is often no message heard, nor results seen, and no power felt. The emptiness. . .is an absence of meaning, a lack of relevance, a failure in communication” (p. 9). In outlining the preaching crisis, Dr. Reid issues a series of charges against preaching and the preachers: the language of preachers is archaic and hard to understand; preaching is irrelevant, lacks courage, does not communicate, and does not lead to change in persons; preaching has been overemphasized.

The “empty pulpit,” however, cannot merely be attributed to the sinfulness of the congregation nor the ineptness of the preacher. It lies partially in sociological realities, namely, the appearance of a new authority structure. The preacher is no longer a unique authority figure in the community and laymen are increasingly recognizing that what they think and say is also of importance. In addition, there is a new communication structure. From earliest childhood the person in our time is exposed to a mass media bombardment which utilizes a multitude of techniques. Yet the minister continues to rely primarily on the sense of hearing—the hearing of words. Modern man is seeking for a “total experience” which is largely not provided by the pulpit.

The solution for this state of affairs is an understanding of communication models which take seriously the new readiness of the listeners. In the final chapter Reid outlines some significant criteria for evaluating new efforts in the reform of preaching.

There is little doubt that Reid will help to dispel any naive assumptions about the “magical” effects of preaching. We should read him with humility and courage. Closely related to his perspective is that of Reuel L. Howe in the book, Partners in Preaching: Clergy and Laity in Dialogue. As Director of the Advanced Institute for Pastoral Studies, Howe has seriously grappled with the problems facing the minister. In an earlier book, The Miracle of Dialogue, he called for dialogical relationships between persons in the church. Here he extends this concern to preaching.

Howe believes that the weakness of preaching can be ascribed to its wordiness and monological character. Preachers wrestle with the meaning of the gospel and laymen wrestle with the meaning of their lives and “never the twain shall meet.” As a result “there is no meeting of meaning between the preaching of the clergy and the experience of the people” (p. 18).

Preaching can be recovered if it becomes dialogical in nature rather than monological. Essentially this means that there must be a “meeting of meaning” between the speaker and the congregation. This can be accomplished in several ways. A well-asked question may do more than lengthy advice. Another way is to utilize the principle of inclusion, that is, include the “meanings” of our people in our messages. Third, preaching can be {66} entered into as a cooperative activity. Here people are directly involved in the development of the sermon. Finally, the pastor may preach for the people. As a message from the Lord arises in their life, the preacher can share it with the congregation.

Although many other insights are provided in other excellent books which have not been discussed, one more phase needs to be mentioned: the experience of worship. We will not deal with the many outstanding books on the nature of worship. Rather we will take a cursory look at three volumes attempting to infuse the emphasis of celebration into our times of meeting. Celebration is the new word in worship. It reflects an attempt to recapture the joy of salvation and creation in relationship to God. It is reminiscent of some of the Hallelujah Psalms.

In Create and Celebrate, Jay C. Rochelle speaks of the real possibility for worship in our relationship to Jesus Christ. Speaking from the Lutheran tradition, he suggests that many elements of the old forms are still meaningful, such as the declaration of forgiveness, the liturgy of the word, the offertory, and the liturgy of the Eucharist. However, we need new vehicles to make these meaningful in the lives of the participants. In Chapter Three, “Putting Your Thing Together,” he outlines some approaches which may be helpful.

The book Celebrate by Clarence J. Rivers raises the question of what makes a good celebration. Man is in need of worship and meaningful ritual simply because he is less than God. In his recognition of the forgiveness of God through Jesus Christ and God’s daily presence in his life, he can be led to worship with meaning and spontaneity. In the latter part of the book he includes seven celebrations illustrating some new options in the worship services.

Finally there is a sourcebook of materials prepared by James L. Christensen in Contemporary Worship Services. He contends that a number of factors are making contemporary services appealing. They seek to express faith in relevant terms. They attempt to recapture the spirit of celebration in what the Holy Spirit has done and is doing. And they are characterized by a focus upon life and the social. They concentrate on the needs of people rather than on the needs of institutions. And they are characterized by a focus upon life and the social applications of faith (pp. 9-11).

Sources for worship services are provided under four headings: services for today’s Christian; devotion guides; sermons: successful experiments; and music sources. Under successful sermon experiments he lists no less than nine different models.

The reader of these books will note that all have been written from the perspective of the more liturgical churches. We may not find the suggestions for liturgical renewal particularly helpful. On the other hand, they should not be discarded as irrelevant for we too have our “order to worship” which is inexorably presented in the Sunday bulletin. Their basic propositions will aid us in recognizing pitfalls and in providing alternatives for our own stereotyped models.

RENEWAL CHURCHES

The question still remains, “Is anyone doing anything?” “Have successful attempts for change been made or are we merely shooting in the dark?” To answer these and similar concerns two illustrations have been {67} selected. One is from the Church of the Saviour in Washington, D.C., and the other from the Circle Church in Chicago.

Gordon Cosby and his wife, with a membership of nine and a treasury of thirty dollars, began their work with the Church of the Saviour in 1946. Disillusioned with many of his past church experiences, Cosby, an American Baptist minister, wanted to find a more viable form of the Church of Jesus Christ. Today the membership is somewhat over 100 and the budget exceeds $65,000.00 with 25 percent going to foreign missions. The church now sponsors a guest house for foreign students, a halfway house for alcoholics, a coffee house, a missionary house church, and a renewal center. Membership is drawn from a broad spectrum of races and social classes.

One of the unique features of this congregation is its strict membership requirements and the disciplined life of the individual. Training and instruction over a period of one-and-one half years is required for membership. Also the applicant must participate in a rigorous school of Christian living which is comprised largely of biblical studies. An annual recommitment to the service of Christ as a working member of the church is also mandatory.

Upon joining the church a member is obligated to participate in one of the mission or fellowship groups of the church. He is also called upon to live a life in keeping with his holy vocation. This includes a formal pledge to maintain certain disciplines such as daily prayer, tithing, daily study of the Scriptures, weekly worship and the daily expression of Christian love in redeeming service.

The history and development of this attempt to live a consistent Christian life within the context of the church is described in some detail by Elizabeth O’Conner in two books, Call to Commitment and Journey Inward, Journey Outward.

The Circle Church in Chicago was born out of the agony in the heart of a young assistant minister in the Moody Memorial Church, Mr. David R. Mains. Now only slightly more than five years of age, attendance is over 400. The church is located in downtown Chicago, meeting in a Union Hall. Mains describes the history as well as the theological basis for “another Protestant church” in his book Full Circle.

The theological orientation of this group is stated in three propositions: “The initial role of the local church is to fill the need for Christian fellowship.” “The local church speaks to God through corporate worship and prayer”; “God speaks to and through the local church by means of the gifts of the Holy Spirit” (p. 69). However, it is in the seriousness with which these principles are implemented that the uniqueness of the Circle Church is evident.

Generally little attempt is made to retain any specific forms unless they specifically accomplish a designated purpose. Small group interaction, congregational participation in the worship services, extensive involvement in the needs of the inner city, and the attempt to live a certain style of life are predominant features.

Many other words have been written about the need for and the means to renewal in the church. Only a small segment has been selected for this article. Other areas in which much work has been done are in evangelism and in the recovery of the laity.

The message seems to be clear. God is continuing to work in our midst and the church continues to offer the potential to be one of the agencies {68} which God is using. Our responsibility is to continue to seek His will and to keep our hearts open to the work of the Spirit as He “blows where He wills.”

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Anderson, Philip A. Church Meetings that Matter. Philadelphia: United Church Press, 1965.
  • Bloesch, Donald G. The Reformation of the Church. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970.
  • Brunner, Emil. The Misunderstanding of the Church. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953.
  • Brown, H.C., Jr. A Quest for Reformation in Preaching. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1968.
  • Berten, Pierre. The Comfortable Pew. Toronto; Montreal: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1965.
  • Casteel, John L., ed. Spiritual Renewal through Personal Groups. New York: Association Press, 1957.
  • ———. The Creative Role of Interpersonal Groups in the Church Today. New York: Association Press, 1968.
  • Christensen, James L. Contemporary Worship Services. Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1971.
  • Cox, Harvey. The Secular City. New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, 1966.
  • Groups that Work. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1967.
  • Howe, Reuel L. Partners in Preaching. New York: The Seabury Press, 1967.
  • Larson, Bruce, and Ralph Osborne. The Emerging Church. Waco: Word Books, 1970.
  • Leslie, Robert C. Sharing Groups in the Church. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970.
  • Mains, David R. Full Circle. Waco: Word Books, 1971.
  • Montgomery, John Warwick. Damned Through the Church. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1970.
  • O’Connor, Elizabeth. Call to Commitment. New York: Harper & Row, 1963. Journey Inward, Journey Outward. New York: Harper & Row, 1968.
  • Raines, Robert A. New Life in the Church. New York: Harper & Row, 1961.
  • Reid, Clyde. Groups Alive—Church Alive. New York: Harper & Row, 1969.
  • ———. The Empty Pulpit. New York: Harper & Row, 1967.
  • ———. The God-Evaders. New York: Harper & Row, 1966.
  • Richards, Lawrence O. A New Face for the Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.
  • Rivers, Clarence J. Celebration. New York: Herder and Herder, 1969.
  • Rochelle, Jay C. Create and Celebrate! Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971.
  • Schaeffer, Francis August. The Church at the End of the 20th Century. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1971.
  • Thielicke, Helmut. The Trouble with the Church. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.
  • Williams, Colin. What in the World. New York: The National Council of Churches, 1964.
  • ———. Where in the World. New York: The National Council of Churches, 1963.
  • Winter, Gibson. The New Creation as Metropolis. New York: The MacMillan Publishing Company, 1971.
  • ———. The Suburban Captivity of the Churches. Garden City, New York: Doubleday and Company, 1961.
Dr. George G. Konrad is Associate Professor of Christian Education at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California.

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