The root-failure of the organized Church to-day is its failure to share in the growing life of the world. A growing life is one that is full of new ideas, new experiences, new emotions, a new outlook over life—that works in new ways, and that is full of seething and tumultuous energy, enthusiasm, and hope. If we look out over the colleges, business enterprises, periodicals, agriculture, manufacturing, and shipping of the world, we find everywhere one story—growth, impetus, courage, resources, vigorous and bounding life. Beside these things the average church services to-day are both stupid and poky. The forces of religion are neither guided nor wielded well. There is in most churches, however we may dislike to own the fact, a decrease of interest and proportionate membership, a waning prestige, a general air of discouragement, and a tale of baffled efforts and of disappointed hopes.
The Church—and by this word I here mean the organized body of both clergymen and laymen—is meant to be the supreme spiritual leader of the world. It is meant to possess vigor, decision, insight, hope, and intellectual power. But before it can accomplish its high and holy work, a great reconstruction must begin. To help in this reconstruction, to aid in vivifying, cooerdinating, and ruling the varied processes of organized religion, is your work and mine.
1. The Church must rouse to a sense of its noble duties and exalted powers. We underrate the Church. We are looking elsewhere for our highest ideals, instead of claiming from the Church that spiritual guidance and inspiration which should be its right to give. One of the things that is a monumental astonishment to me, is that when we need supplication, intercession, prayer for the averting of great personal or national calamity, we flee to the Church, but we seldom think of the Church when we need brains!
The Church should lead, and not follow, the great dreams of the world. In the midst of our new national life we are sending all over the country for the best-trained help and thought in every department of government influence and control. Our problems of the day are preeminently spiritual ones. Colonial control is not a question of material ascendancy—it is a rule over the minds, hearts, and ideals of men. Its moral significance is patent. We are called upon, not only to import provisions, clothing, and household and industrial goods into our new possessions; we are called upon to develop a higher sense of honor, truth, honesty, and every-day morality. Scholars, working-men, business men, farmers, and merchants are being consulted in regard to different phases of our national advance, and every idea which their insight and experience furnish is seized upon. But who is consulting the Church in these concerns, except in reference to mere technical points? Who is looking to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual standards of the Church for guidance? We are to-day ruled spiritually, as well as intellectually, by laymen, and in a way which is quite outside the organized work of the Church.