Summary: This is a little tour through Maine State history, but is applicable to any location, especially as a template to be modified for where you live. It also includes a challenge.
The State of the Church
Pastor Eric J. Hanson
Here in the United States, much has been written on the topic of the Church’s condition. The books, seminars, angry articles, despairing articles, and sermons on this topic by radio and TV preachers are seemingly endless.
Depending on who you listen to, you will hear widely varying reports about the spiritual condition and the intentions of any given famous preacher. These men and women truly live under a never blinking spotlight. Some of them are indeed questionable in their theology or their tactics. Others are perfectly sound in their beliefs and their practices, but get blasted by critics anyway.
We, who keep track of such things, also hear the sad stories of struggling small churches which have remained true to the Bible’s core message, and which were having some real impact in their community 50 years ago, but which today are on the brink of closing their doors, or have already done so.
In addition to this; there are many churches still meeting, where the Gospel of Jesus Christ in no longer proclaimed, churches which were once vibrant in championing the genuine Gospel message of salvation from eternal separation from God, indeed, salvation from Hell itself, by means of saving, life changing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by no other means. Unfortunately, today in these pulpits, what is being proclaimed is gay marriage, sexual liberation, hyper environmentalism which worships the creation much more than the creator, and many other causes which either are totally opposite of what God intends, or else have nothing to do with God at all. Such places also proclaim that everyone gets into Heaven, because there never was such a thing as sin against a Holy God. These so-called churches are spiritual train wrecks.
In truth, such organizations are no longer part of the Church that Jesus Christ is building, having separated themselves from Him through unbelief. They are no longer “called out ones”, which is what the true Church is, but they are peddlers of a counterfeit gospel, having abandoned the Faith.
Maine is a place where the instances of all of these things are many. About ten years ago, an effort was taken up by the Gallop organization to measure the spiritual health of each state. After huge surveys were done nationwide, sampling many thousands of people in each state and several million nationally, the results were not good for Maine. We came in 48th out of the 50 states in % of people reporting themselves as believers in Jesus Christ, having been born again. Additionally, two of our counties were the least churched in America, having the lowest % of faithful churchgoers of any counties in the nation.
Then, last year, the results of another such huge assessment of the spiritual health of the people of our nation, was released. Again, the results were poor for Maine. This time our state came in dead last in the % of our people who are born again believers. This is even worse than the situations in Vermont and Massachusetts.
It was not always this way. In the second half of the 1800s, following the nationwide Second Great awakening revivals, Maine was aflame with zeal for God. Our state Motto, “I Lead”, or “Derigo” was a reality, not an empty shell.
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Brunswick was home to Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote the amazing book Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This book grew out of her deep faith and deep convictions that God was leading her to do something to end slavery in the United States. This deeply Christian book went on to become the fastest selling, widest selling book ever published in the 1800s. It was second only to the Bible by the time of the Civil War.
Bowdoin College and Bates College were hotbeds of the Faith. Harriet Stowe’s husband was a professor at Bowdoin, and he greatly influenced the young Joshua Chamberlain in the late 1840s.
Chamberlain later went on to champion the Faith in all arenas of life. In those days, in order to graduate Bowdoin, a student had to demonstrate a working knowledge of ancient New Testament Greek. Chamberlain went way beyond this, demonstrating mastery of the subject, and mastery of the New Testament. He then went on to seminary for 3 years; learn Hebrew in depth, and came back to be a professor of Bowdoin, with fluency in a total of 10 languages.
When the Civil War called, he resigned his professorship, joined the Army, and quickly rose through the ranks. He was a hero at Gettysburg, leading his men to victory at Little Round Top, when it seemed that defeat was the only possible outcome.
After the war, Chamberlain went back to Bowdoin and rose to its presidency, proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ every step of the way.