Our Paradox: The expansion and contraction of a vital denomination
Over time, the Methodist movement, and other movements of its day such as the Evangelical Church and the United Brethren Church created thousands of vital congregations in America and later Africa, the Caribbean, Latin and South America, the Philippines and Europe. It was a vital movement built on practicing the means of grace, teaching and preaching the story of personal salvation and engaging disciples in ministry with the poor (John Welsey called personal salvation and ministry with the poor, scriptural holiness.) In the 1900’s, the movement both expanded and contracted. It expanded outside the United States but within the United States the movement had mixed experiences. There were congregations that continued to build on helping people practice the means of grace and spread scriptural holiness and there were congregations that faced steep challenges related to cultural changes and population transition. Parts of the movement began to settle and focus on institutional maintenance. All of this led to fewer dynamic vital congregations that were inspiring their people to live the means of grace and spread scriptural holiness.