American Church History: The 1900s and Beyond
What happened in this century?
Contact Mark Nickens, Ph.D. in Church History, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions, comments, and observations are welcome.
©2011 Mark Nickens
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|1901, January 1
A group of students from the Bethel Bible College in Topeka, KS,
gathered on December 31 to pray in the new year and to try to understand
Acts 2 and speaking in tongues. After midnight, Agnes Ozmen
began speaking in tongues. Others in the group began to speak
in tongues afterwards. This is the beginning of the Pentecostal
1906-9 William Seymour held a Pentecostal Revival at the Azusa Street Mission, Los Angeles. This revival popularized the Pentecostal movement. To learn more, go here.
early 1900s In response to the perceived attacks on Christianity (see the list at the end of the 1800s), many denominations began drawing up lists of beliefs which were they believed were unassailable. For example, in 1910 the General Assembly of the Northern Presbyterian Church published a "Doctrinal Deliverance" which listed five required beliefs: the inerrancy (no mistakes) of the Bible, the virgin birth of Christ, his sacrifice for sins on the cross, his bodily resurrection, and his miracles.
1910 Mother Teresa born.
1910 also The 1910 World/Edinburgh Missionary Conference held. Some consider this the beginning of the ecumenical movement. Representatives from many different denominations gathered to discuss commonalities and purposes.
1910-1915 Publication of The Fundamentals. This twelve-volume series included articles which defended many of the basic Christian ideas and doctrines which had come under attack. Three million free copies were sent out. To learn more, go here.
1914-18 World War II.
1916 Charles Taze Russell died. He founded the Jehovah's Witnesses.
1918 Billy Graham born.
1920 The word "fundamentalist" is coined. To learn more, go here.
1922 The Soviet Union formed. It will be the first state whose goals include the elimination of religion.
1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial. John Scopes was arrested for teaching evolution in Tennessee, which had a law against teaching evolution in public schools. At the trial he was found guilty but the verdict was overturned because of a technicality. The main result from the trial was that those who were fundamentalists were painted as ignorant and against education in the press. Therefore the fundamentalists, who knew they were rejected and even mocked in the public opinion, turned to building Bible colleges, focused on the churches, and producing their own literature. They would again gain the nation's attention with the Moral Majority of the 1980s.
1939 Several smaller Methodist denominations (including this one) merged and formed the Methodist Church.
1939-45 World War II.
1942 Wycliffe Bible Translators is founded.
1945 The Christian Airmen's Aviation Fellowship was formed. This would eventually be renamed as Mission Aviation Fellowship. To learn more, go here.
1945 Dietrich Bonhoeffer murdered on order of Hitler. He died 23 days before the Nazis surrendered to the Allied powers. Bonhoeffer wrote The Cost of Discipleship.
1948 The World Council of Churches was founded. The various denominations represent over 500 million people.
1948 Israel became a nation.
1949 Thomas Merton published The Seven Storey Mountain. It is a Catholic spiritual classic.
1949 also Billy Graham's breakthrough revival in Los Angeles; this propelled him to national attention. For more on this revival, how it propelled Graham to national attention, and to see a poster advertising it, go here.
1950 The Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa's Order, approved.
1951 Bill Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ. This is one of the largest Evangelical organizations in the USA.
1956 also Billy Graham began Christianity Today.
1959 John Osteen founded Lakewood Church in Houston, TX.
c. 1960 The Charismatic Movement began.
1962-5 Europe: Vatican II. This Council of the Catholic Church focused on modernizing many of the Catholic Church's practices. For example, the Mass (worship service) prior to Vatican II was in Latin, after Vatican II it was held in the local language.
1963 Pope John XXIII died. Pope Paul VI became pope.
1964 Pope Paul VI met with Ecumenical (Greek Orthodox) Patriarch Athenagoras in Jerusalem. The two agreed to set aside the excommunication of 1054 between the Eastern and Western Churches. The schism did not end, but this meeting did signify an increased fellowship between the two Churches.
1966 Ralph Carmichael is known as the Father of Contemporary Christian Music; he founded Light Records, a music publishing company, in this year to promote a new style of music. This music would become known as Contemporary Christian Music. To learn more, go here.
1967 Bill Gaither quit his job teaching English to focus on producing Christian music full-time.
1968 The United Methodist Church is formed when the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church merge. To learn more, click here. To learn more about the process, click here.
1969 The first year for the Dove Awards.
1971 Liberty University founded as Lynchburg Baptist College by Jerry Falwell.
1973 The New International Version of the New Testament is published.
1975 Bill Hybels founded Willow Creek Community Church. This is considered one of the first churches to use the megachurch model (using a business model to run the church, using cell groups or in-home Bible studies, have 2000+ members, etc.)
More info: To see a listing of the 10 largest megachurches, go here.
1976 Jimmy Carter, the first president who claimed to have been born again, elected president.
1978 The New International Version of the Old Testament is published.
1978 also Pope Paul VI died (6 Aug). Pope John Paul became pope (26 Aug). Pope John Paul I died (28 Sep). Pope John Paul II became pope (16 Oct).
1980 Rick Warren founded Saddleback Church.
1982 The New King James Version Bible is published.
1990 The Soviet Union fell.
1997 Mother Teresa died. To read quotes from Mother Teresa, go here.
1999 Joel Osteen became the senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, TX. Today it is the largest church in America with over 47,000 members and millions who watch on television.
2004 Rockbridge Seminary, one of the first totally online seminaries, founded.
2005 Pope John Paul II died. Pope Benedict XVI became pope.