Dead Brits and Living Americans

This is something that I’ve wondered about for a while in a “I should be thinking about something else” kind of way. It seems to me that American Christians and pastors are fascinated by dead British Christians while British Christians/pastors are fascinated by American pastors. What’s with that?

I read this morning that Josh Harris is a fan of JC Ryle, which in itself is hardly something to get upset about but it did spark this mini-rant. Good for Josh, Ryle is a worthy hero of the faith. But it seems to me that the Yanks get all excited by CS Lewis, CH Spurgeon, JC Ryle, CT Studd and other guys with initials instead of first names. Lewis and Spurgeon in particular are highly exalted, oh and Dr MLJ of course.

On the other hand, if you pay close attention to the names that are bandied around amongst us Limey’s are John Piper, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller, Rob Bell and whoever else is leading some very large church.

What you don’t seem to find are Brits talking about dead American Christians of any note and any Americans talking about living Brits of any note (our churches are too small).

What shall we conclude from this completely unsubstantiated observation (although I challenge you to prove me wrong)? Well, the British want to find what works and by works we mean pull in the punters. The Americans speak English and pull in the punters so we should listen to them.

The Americans on the other hand already have the punters and want to give them something solid and reliable, and what could be more reliable than dead British people with that intoxicating air of intelligence, sophistication and links to a long history.

As Brits we forget the massive cultural differences and the fact that the majority of US churches are just as small as ours, we need to stop messing around with management techniques and busy ourselves with the task of proclaiming the Gospel to our nation, to our increasingly dry and thirsty land and with the task of forming lives which stand out a mile from the world around us in the following ways:

  • We care for our elderly up until the day they die
  • We care for our young from the moment they are conceived
  • We care for our poor by sharing our homes and abundance with them
  • We care for our marriages by fighting for them and sticking to our promises
  • We care for our environment because it isn’t ours but is merely in our care
  • We care for our families by calling them to generosity, service, and community
  • We care for our souls by humbling ourself before Christ

There endeth the rant.


great post Phil. Loved the bullet points at the end. Would probably want to quote you if you were American or dead 😉

Dont some management techniques help us do all of you bullet points?

Baby. bath water. etc etc

Great rant, Phil. Got better towards the end, like a good sermon. You could make it even better and quote dead church fathers (neither American nor Brit, I am glad to say) who seem to just have the one name – Tertullian, Ignatius, Athanasius…

Like Mark, I enjoyed the bullet points!

Hey Tim, Holiness is a great book. No argument there. I'm sure management techniques could help but that would spoil the rant. The point is we're often listening to these guys because they have big churches and we want big churches too. We mostly don't read them because of any of things I listed.

Great rant Phil!

Would probably want to quote you if you were American or dead 😉

That made me laugh out loud

Dont some management techniques help us do all of you bullet points?

Is not using bullet points a management technique in itself?

Phil wanted to put his point across, but rather than parapagraphs he chose clear short sentences in powerpoint style! All he needed was a youtube clip and a reference to starbucks and it'd be complete!

Now I bet Phil wants me to:
1) get lost
2) stay lost
3) reach the lost

Mark – hope you can quote me while I'm still alive

huw – that's a good list of fathers there

Dave – Do all 3!! I'd never thought of bullet points as a management technique, not sure it is.

Some thoughts from a dual-national Anglo-American Christian, if I may!

I agree with you that behind this trans-Atlantic trend is the desire to (a) grow bigger (on the part of the Brits) and (b) grow deeper (on the part of the Americans).

The worrying issue in both cases is often a business mindset that treats numerical growth as "the bottom line".

It's worth, by the way, putting Jonathan Edwards' name into the mix. He lived in the American colonies, so was nominally a British subject, and is read and loved on both sides of the Atlantic.

He, of course, would have something important to say about the "bottom line" of local church life, as readers will discover when they start his complete works.

Hi Al, Dave Bish makes the same point about Edwards in his comment – see the link at the bottom of the page.

Dave – you've never apologised for being pedantic before so I'll savour that moment, and I enjoyed the Dilbert link.

An interesting example of the Americans search for historical integrity is the recent discussion about buildings over on the internet monks site

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