Evangelicals, United Brethren, and Methodists took the tide of pietism--a tide emphasizing personal Christian experience. This tide welled up within the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church, and the Church of England, three of the principal Protestant denominations. These churches embodied all that centuries of Christian living and thinking had identified as essential to a complete Christian church: an ordering of worship, preaching, hymnody, prayer, and the sacraments in such a way that the fullness of the biblical revelation is expressed; a heritage of thinking and writing about the Christian faith and applying it to daily life; a system of church government that takes sin seriously and therefore does not lodge too much authority in any one person or group; a program of Christian education for the laity and theological training for the clergy; a plan for developing such institutions as mission boards and social reform agencies, colleges and publishing houses, hospitals, homes for the aged, and orphanages; and a readiness to use architecture, music, sculpture, poetry, fiction, and painting in the service of God. What pietists found missing in churches that were doing all these things was a means for moving belief from the head to the heart. They provided such a means by setting up small groups for Bible study, prayer, and self-discipline within the major denominations.
But pietists never intended to found new churches. All they wanted to do was to help people personally experience God's forgiving love and become faithful believers within their own denominations. Nevertheless, the outcome of their efforts, especially in America, was the founding of new churches. So we turn now to the story of the founding of the Methodist, United Brethren, and Evangelical churches, as the little ships we have been studying moved into the era of American nationalism.
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