Urban Harvest, respectability and the cooling of enthusiasm

More quotes from Roy Joslin’s Urban Harvest to mark the thirtieth anniversary of its publication …

In the early industrial period evangelical Nonconformity was characterized by three particular features: the priority of aggressive evangelism, the importance of itinerant and open-air preaching and the heavy reliance on laymen in the overall evangelistic strategy. In time, however, the early enthusiasm noticeably cooled as the process of social mitigation continued. (26)

A term which has come into the vocabulary of the ‘science of missions’ is the word ‘lift’. It is associated with the phenomenon of upward social mobility, but the term itself describes the social and cultural estrangement of the members of a religious group from the social environment in which they were recruited. ‘Lift’ appeared to trigger a number of unwelcome trends in the realm of evangelism. Aggressive outreach steadily waned. This was replaced by ‘a concentration of evangelistic activity among people already on the peripheries of organized religion’. Lay involvement in gospel witness declined. What had been the general responsibility of all believers gradually became the particular speciality of the minister. The chief area of evangelistic effort changed progressively from adults to children. (25-26)

Urban Harvest is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. In October IVP are publishing my latest book, Unreached: Growing Churches in Working-Class and Deprived Areas, was written with the Reaching the Unreached network.


One thought on “Urban Harvest, respectability and the cooling of enthusiasm

  1. Fascinating – it certainly describes my church experience over the last 8 or so years that congregations leave most evangelism to the pastor, that way too much effort is focussed on evangelising other people’s children, and that most efforts are aimed at those already on the fringe of the church.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we got there and how to get out of it… or do I need to read Urban Harvest and your forthcoming book?

    I’ve just moved with my family to help lead a church in inner-city Liverpool and have been reading Ray Bakke and Jim Hart’s ‘The Urban Christian’ which also has lots of eye-opening and challenging stuff.

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