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fundamentalists and evangelism

One of the paradoxes of the fundamentalism I grew up with is that it is simultaneously separatist and evangelistic. This isn’t the case with all fundamentalist Christian groups: some are explicitly racist (Christian Identity), some are so separatist as to be cult-like (Exclusive Brethren), etc. In our group, of course, our evangelism was exclusively at the service of the local church, so we tended to do things focused on getting people to attend our church. We had a day a week where people (men, mostly) went out in pairs, knocking on doors, sometimes talking to them about Jesus but mostly inviting them to visit our church.

This is one of the jumping-off points between fundamentalist churches and evangelical churches that makes the two groups kind of difficult to unwind: because our brand of fundamentalists focus so much on the local church we tend to see numerical growth of our local church as being indicative of its spiritual health. Or, put bluntly, our church is big because our preacher is right, exclusive of other preachers. So when we encountered the kind of Church Growth methodology that was (and to a degree still is) so important to Elmer Towns and Jerry Falwell we didn’t realize how much of a mixed multitude of fundamentalists and evangelicals we saw at church. Whatever Jerry is, Elmer Towns is primarily a church growth expert; he’s written a bunch of books, some of them primarily pastoral, but the greatest plurality of them are on church grown methodology. Which is why if you go looking for Elmer Towns clips you’ll find interesting items like this:

which to my layman’s ears sounds like a discussion of technical detail of church growth rather than anything doctrinal. It’s also why Towns shows up in the history of both large evangelical churches and large fundamentalist churches, including places as solidly IFB as First Baptist, Hammond.

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