Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Church & Young People 2: Sandfields

Bethlehem Forward Movement Mission was founded in 1897 by John Pugh's Forward Movement, an organisation for the evangelisation of the unreached English-speaking masses of South Wales. Built in the rapidly expanding town of Aberavon, it was designed to minister to the souls of ordinary men and women. By 1927, the Mission had gone through seven pastors and one 'evangelist', with varied results. The work among young people had come to be conformed to the pattern of the world, with an amateur dramatic group, football team and all of what had become the normal features of young people's work in inter-war nonconformity.

It was to this situation that Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones came in February of 1927, an object of some curiosity due his decision to leave his medical career for the ministry. Among his first actions was to discontinue the meeting for young people wishing to join the church. Lloyd-Jones felt that this was spiritually unprofitable, leading to the confusion of conversion with Church membership, and both with coming into teenage years. This, Lloyd-Jones believed, led to a wrong concentration upon 'the young people' to the exclusion of those 'old in sin.' "Concentration upon the young", he declared, "is a large part of the genius and success of Roman Catholicism, but surely it is the very antithesis of the genius of Protestantism. It is one thing to produce a religious man - men can do that - but it takes the power of God in Jesus Christ to produce a Christian man, and there is no limit to that power."

The stage in the church hall was sold to the YMCA, as the amateur dramatics were discontinued, along with the Band of Hope, a young people's organisation devoted to teetotalism. Lloyd-Jones wanted no distractions from Christ, whether in entertainment or morality. The result was at first the awakening of the Church, then a revival which touched the district, men and women being saved out of deep sin. Although all means for attracting those who had no interest in 'Church' had been dropped, the Church grew by the preaching of the Word alone.

On Monday, we shall be looking at another Forward Movement Mission, Heath Hall in Cardiff, and the reforms to the young people's meeting undertaken by the Rev. J. W. Owen. Tonight and tomorrow I shall be worshipping where he and they worshipped, enjoying the benefits of the faithfulness of the people of Heath Evangelical Church.



Blogger Jenson's Blog said...

I see MLJ's reasoning, but was he right in dissolving the youth work there?

9:34 pm  
Blogger Hiraeth said...

That's a very good question, jen_est, and one that I hope to address on Monday. I suspect there was a little over-reaction to the 'entertainment' emphasis which had gone before, and the assumption of conversion in teenage years which had led to an over-emphasis on young people.

J.W Owen of Heath probably got closer to a balanced view than Lloyd-Jones. He's next.

9:59 pm  
Blogger Jonathan Moorhead said...

Very interesting. Monday it is.

12:15 am  

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