Lesson 85

Christianity Moves Westward

"He Himself appointed and gave men to us, some to be apostles (special messengers), some prophets (inspired preachers), . . . some evangelists (preachers of the Gospel, traveling missionaries), some pastors (shepherds of His flock) and teachers."
Ephesians 4:11 (Amplified Bible)

In the early 1800’s there were many influences on the churches in the United States. Some of these were the westward movement, the new immigration, and the Civil War. Many new sects and divisions occurred as people left the various established churches and new churches were started. Missionary societies were formed and were often interdenominational. In 1816 the American Bible Society was founded and spread much literature to even the remotest areas.

In 1786 the Methodists brought to the United States the idea of religious instruction for children. By 1816, only thirty years later, Sunday Schools were to be found in every section of the country.

As the West was being settled, there came a growing need for religious leaders. Many denominations founded schools for religious training (called seminaries) where future priests and ministers were trained.

Evangelists and missionaries became part of this move to the West. Evangelists are those who preach the gospel. They are Protestant ministers or laymen who speak at special services, often moving about to different places. Missionaries are similar in that they also preach the gospel, often in newly settled regions or in foreign countries. As a rule, they are also involved in educational and hospital work.

The early nineteenth century also saw the beginning of the camp meetings. These became a common practice in American evangelism and were held in every section of the West.

The immigrants coming in from Europe and the large number of people moving westward caused the rapid growth of many new sects. Some of these were Mormons (Latter Day Saints), Adventists, Christian Scientists, and later the Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. Evangelist Dwight Moody carried on Christian work among the Civil War soldiers.

Many churches, in the South as well as the North, felt an obligation to the blacks who had been freed from slavery, setting up schools and providing religious instruction. Eventually the blacks organized their own churches.

These all fulfill the theme text of this article and are examples of how God’s Word was spread in the United States.

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