The Parish System

Posted: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 in Church History

Richard Baxter is known for his parish visits from The Reformed Pastor. However, I would also point you to the ministry of Thomas Chalmers in Glasgow, Scotland in the 19th century. He was known for what was dubbed “the parish system.” The system was born out of the following: “What is the most effectual method of making Christianity so to bear upon a population as that it shall reach every door and be brought into contact with all families?” ChristianHistory.net states the following: “He divided the parish of 10,000 into manageable areas and appointed deacons and elders to visit families; he rejected government aid and encouraged self-help and communal sharing as the ways to help the poor. Chalmers was sharply criticized as unrealistic and many argued that he ultimately harmed the poor, but Chalmers claimed his experiment was a success.” Seems biblical, does it not?

Chalmers was also considered a powerful preacher and lecturer. His published Works are a good place to help understand his theology and practice. One of his most famous sermons is on 1 Jn 2:15, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” It is titled, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection.” It is not light reading but one I would encourage you to consider as it portrays the way a moralistic man tends to look at the things of the world, the seductions of the world, and try to overcome those things in his own power rather than relying on the power of God.

A brief biographical sketch with bibliography for further study @ Christianity.com. A fuller biographical treatment on the web can be found here. And if you are so inclined to further consider ministry to the poor, check out The Chalmers Center, the ministry based upon the well-known book When Helping Hurts.

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