What is happening in Boston?
The chart below shows the rise and decline of Boston's population as compared to the number of churches in the city from its founding in 1638 until 2005. In recent decades, while the population has declined, the number of churches has skyrocketed. We call this growth the "Quiet Revival" because it happened under the radar of most observers. People generally thought that Christianity in Boston has been in decline, but actually, Boston has enjoyed the longest sustained period of church development in its history, with no sign of it stopping.
We continue to ask why this is happening. Doug Hall ask himself that question in The Cat and the Toaster (p. 53). It was obvious that all this church planting had not happened because any charismatic person, or any denomination, or any parachurch ministry caused it to happen. So what did?
Beyond the obvious answer of "God did it," which is correct, I wanted to know how he did it. In trying to answer that question, the only answer I could come up with—looking at it from dozens of angles over and over again—was that the Bible does have a method of ministry that fits the twenty-first century as well as the first. This biblical method is based on something so basic that it hasn’t changed in more than two thousand years. And the only thing that made sense to me was that the Quiet Revival happened because the church is a living system. And if the body of Christ and the city itself really are living, we know they would only have life if they receive their life from God.
Doug's conclusion, then, it that the Quiet Revival is an important indicator that cities are large, living systems. If this is so, how can we learn to work with God as he does his work through living systems?