The United States of America is in the midst of a moral crisis. The outrages against God are so many that I will not begin to list them here. Society has tried educating these problems away (sex education, drug education), throwing new technology and money at these problems (schools need more funding or more computers), and analysing ourselves to death (i.e. pop psychology). God is calling us to repent for our sins and pray for the healing of our nation.
A Case of Repentance
After the American Revolution, there was a moral and spiritual crisis in America. Drunkeness was epidemic. 6% of the population were confirmed drunkards. 15,000 deaths annually were a result of alcohol. Shocking profanity was become a fashionable movement. Assault against America women was increasing so that women fear leaving their homes. Churches were at an all time low in attendance. US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall wrote "The church is too far gone ever to be redeemed." Voltaire said that Christianity would be forgotten in 30 years time. Kentucky had all but become a criminal state.
In 1794, Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor, made a plea for repentant prayer. The first Monday evening of each month a small number (about 30) ministers prayed for revival.
Within 5 years the following effects were seen: 1800, the Great Kentucky revival (with over 11,000 saved in one service); 600 colleges were founded by revivalist; the US missionary movement started; the impetus for the abolition of slavery; Yale, in a little over a year, went from an institution of infidelity to a student body represented by approximately 50% strongly professed Christians; the foundation of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; and the foundation of the American Bible Society.
A Plan for Repentance
Starting April 7, 1997 and every first Monday evening from 7PM - 9PM EST I will be devoting myself to prayer for a revival in the United States. I will, of course, be recruiting people locally to pray with me.
I would like to hear from Christians who will commit to pray with me, where ever you are. I will be journaling testimonies and reporting anything exciting to all involved.
God Bless You! David Rettig firstname.lastname@example.org 5355 Great Oak Drive Apt H, Columbus, OH 43213
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1 Tim 2:1-8 “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”
Most of us, at least occasionally, pray for the leaders and authorities in various countries of the world. I fear that we do this without expecting any results.
Bill Bright gives the following story in Changing the World Through Prayer, leaders guide p 22. “An Old Testament illustration of how God uses His Word to encourage us to pray is found in Daniel 9:1-23... Daniel lived at a time when the nation of Israel was in captivity. But God had promised that he would deliver His people. Daniel was reading the Scriptures, specifically the words of the prophet Jeremiah. As Daniel read, he noticed that Jeremiah predicted that the Israelites would be in captivity for seventy years. That time was almost up. When he understood what Jeremiah was saying about the release of God’s people from their captivity, Daniel turned to pray. God answered that prayer by fulfilling His promise to release His people after seventy years.
“Do you see the link between prayer and God’s Word in this example? Daniel prayed based on what was written in God’s Word. God honored Daniel’s faithfulness to the Word. In a similar way, God will use His Word to speak to us, and that will open up avenues for our prayers.
“Let me give you a dramatic example. In 1986, the director of Campus Crusade for Christ in Russia was praying for that land, which was then dominated by a Communist government. The people were oppressed, especially believers. Christians were not allowed to worship God freely, and many lost their lives as a result of their faith. The director, who was reading this same passage in Daniel, was amazed when he read the story of Daniel’s prayer about the faithfulness of God in releasing the captive Israelites. The Israelites’ situation and that of the Russian people were parallel in one way. Communism began in Russia in 1917. Since it was now 1986, the Russians had endured almost seventy years of Communist captivity. The director was impressed by God to pray that the years of Russian Communist repression would end. Would God repeat history?
“The director shared his vision for the end of Communist rule with other believers and Russian pastors. They began praying together. Then in 1987, perestroika began and Russia’s Communist government crumbled. Believers were now able to worship and witness freely.
“Of course, we must be careful about what we assume God is saying to us. We should always look toward God’s Word to make sure what we pray is according to His will. But when we feel God impressing us to pray in a certain way, we can forge ahead with what He is telling us. At the same time, we must never forget that God is in control and that what we think may happen is not necessarily what God will do. God still speaks to men and women today through His Word--and often with miraculous and thrilling results.”
Dick Eastman in his book Love on its Knees, p 13 gives us a similiar story. “Several years ago, in May 1986, I was preparing to take School of Prayer training to Poland at the invitation of a dynamic young pastor from Pittsburgh, Mark Geppert. Six weeks prior to my departure for Eastern Europe, I met with Mark to finalize our schedule. There’s been a change in my itinerary,’ Mark said. ‘I’ll meet you in Warsaw as planned, but first I’ll be going to the Soviet Union for a month.’
“ ‘The Soviet Union?’ I asked, puzzled. ‘What will you be doing there?’ ‘I’m going to pray,’ Mark responded. ‘God spoke to me a few days ago and told me I was to go to Russia just to pray. He told me exactly where to go and what to pray about. I’m to pray that God will shake all of Russia. I’ll ask Hiim to use current events--whatever they are--to shake what can be shaken, so doors will open to the Gospel and believers will have a new freedom to worship.’
“Thrilled that someone would go anywhere ‘just to pray,’ I asked Mark to be sure to send me a copy of his itinerary so our ministry could be praying with him before I joined him in Warsaw. The itinerary arrived and I thought little of the specifics until a few days before my departure. Suddenly, Mark’s presence in the Soviet Union praying for God to shake that nation held unusual significance. Just before my departure at the end of April 1986, headlines shouted the story of a shocking incident that occurred there at a nuclear power plant in a small city named Chernobyl. Chernobyl, the papers said, was just a short distance from the sprawling Soviet city of Kiev. Wasn’t Kiev on Mark’s itinerary? In fact, if memory served me, wasn’t Kiev the final place God told him to visit?
“I immediately got out the letter Mark sent me listing the places God told him to visit. My recollection had been accurate. Mark’s mission was to end that very weekend in Kiev with a train trip to Poland that would take him right through the area of disaster. I had been on a train trip with Mark before, in China. To Mark a train is just a long prayer meeting on tracks, moving from one place of prayer to another.
“Checking the itinerary more carefully, I noted that Mark had planned to leave Keiv late on the evening of April 25, 1986, and would be passing close to Chernobyl early the next morning. That happened to be the exact time of the explosion of Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant.
“Only later would analysts see that Chernobyl played a major role in the events of glasnost, the Russian word for openness. Under normal circumstances the Soviets would have kept secret the news of such a disaster. But this was not possible with Chernobyl. In a matter of hours after the nuclear accident, scientists spotted a sudden elevation of radiation in Sweden. The source could be traced with absolute accuracy to the Soviet Ukraine.
“So in the case of Chernobyl, glasnost was forced onto the Soviets. Being secretive was not an option. Suddenly, whether they wanted to or not, they were forced to be open. I couldn’t wait to see Mark in Warsaw. Had he kept his itinerary? If so, how had God asked him to pray?
“We had hardly checked into our hotel in Warsaw before I was asking my questions. Mark indeed had kept his schedule, exactly as the Lord directed. It included four days of prayer in Kiev, ending on Friday, April 25. That day was to be the culmination of his mission of intercession. And now I was more anxious than ever to hear how directed Mark to pray.
“‘Well,’ said Mark, settling back in his chair in our hotel room, ‘I went to the square in the center of Kiev and sat down under a huge statue of Lenin. Every fifteen minutes I changed the focus of my intercession for believers in Russia. I could tell when a fifteen-minute period passed because there was a gigantic clock in the square that let out a bong each quarter hour.’
“I asked Mark if he felt anything unusual during this prayer. ‘Only at the end,’ Mark responded. ‘lt was on the last day, the day I made my final prayer visit to the city square. Just before noon I was suddenly convinced God had heard and that even then something was happening. Something that would shake the Soviet Union. Something God would use to bring more freedom.’
“With excitement Mark continued, ‘I began to lift my voice in praise, sitting there underneath the statue of the founder of Communism in Russia. But at the same time I needed a confirmation that God had heard me, so I cried out to Him: ‘O God, give me a sign, even a little sign.’ I waited, wondering what might happen next. And just then in the distance the hands of the huge clock moved into the twelve o’clock position.’
“Mark laughed as he continued, ‘And you know what, Brother Dick? It didn’t gong. Every hour, for each of the four days I had been praying, the clock had chimed on the hour. So I waited for twelve chimes, but they never came. It was as if God was saying an old pattern was over. The very next day I began hearing about Chernobyl.’
“Weeks later, after reading volumes on the significance of Chernobyl, I came across fascinating information detailing events surrounding the disaster. Scientists pinpointed the first major mistake as happening twelve hours before the actual meltdown. This would have been within minutes of Mark’s declaration of praise, when he knew in his spirit that events were occurring that the Lord would turn into a blessing.
“Later still I heard a television commentator discussing the long-term impact of the Chernobyl disaster. ‘Chernobyl,’ he said, ‘means Wormwood in the Russian language. Wouldn’t it be interesting if a decade from today we were to discover that the despotic Soviet system had disappeared from the scene, replaced by a more open society, and that this change came about as the result of a simple mistake at a nuclear facility in a small Ukrainian community called . . . Chernobyl?’
“It would seem that glasnost may be taking hold more rapidly than anyone was prepared for, opening doors where the Gospel had previously been hindered. Just two years after Chernobyl, new laws were beings readied that amounted to an extraordinary retreat from power on the of Soviet authorities. None other than Soviet Deputy Justice Minister Mikhail P. Vyshinsky said, ‘A revolution is taking place here. Not everyone realizes this, but that is what it is--a revolution.’
“And then came the big news. At the historic General Conference of all party leaders, first in 47 years, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev made a series of statements concerning coming changes. Among them was a call for new tolerance toward the religious faiths in the Soviet Union--although, to be sure, Communism is still atheistic at its roots, and when dealing with the purported changes this should always be kept in mind .
“Intercessors like Mark are rarely surprised when answers come. In fact, I’m convinced that when we stand before God with the record of spiritual successes and failures, we will learn that intercessory prayer had more to do with bringing about positive changes in our world than any other single spiritual activity.
“Intercessors, in short, hold the key to releasing God’s best for the world.”
No doubt that we will be using the first few hundred years in Heaven sharing just such stories as these two.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are filled with mercies, and shall break
In blessings ’round thy head.
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E. M. Bounds in his classic little book "Power Through Prayer", wrote, "What the Church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use - men of prayer, men mighty in prayer."
Edward Payson was just such a man; a man mighty in prayer. "He prayed without ceasing and felt safe nowhere but at the throne of grace. He may be said to have studied theology on his knees. Much of his time he spent literally prostrated with his Bible open before him pleading the promise; "I will send the comforter and when He, The Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth." Payson's advice to his fellow ministers was, "prayer is the first thing, the second thing and the third thing necessary to a minister. Pray then my dear brother, pray, pray." It has been well said that the secret of Edward Payson's ministry was that he prayed much in secret. The scars on his bedroom floor testify to this fact. Next to Payson's bed where deep grooves in the hardwood floor were his knees had pressed repeatedly in times of travail.
To read "Praying Payson's" diary is to be touched by his heart longings and tender love for Jesus and the lost. On January 4, 1807, he wrote, "I was favored with a spirit of prayer beyond all my former experience. I was in great agony and wrestled both for myself and others with great power. God seemed to bow the heavens and come down and open all His treasures, bidding me, take what I would."
January 29th, "I never felt such longings after God or such a desire to depart to be with Christ. My soul thirsted for more full communion with my God and Savior. I do not now feel satisfied as I used to with the manifestations of the divine presence, but still feel hungry and craving." February 18, "I was enabled to lie at Jesus' feet and to wash them with the tears of contrition. No pleasure I have ever found in the Christian life is superior to this." February 28, "I was favored with great enlargement in prayer. I seemed to be carried out of myself into the presence of God."
Like all true men of prayer, Payson understood the need for true humility. "It was the burden of his secret prayers that he might be delivered from pride, from self-seeking, from preaching himself instead of Christ Jesus the Lord." Through humility and fervent prayer he was always in hopes of seeing a fresh wave of revival. "The revivals which took place under his labors where numerous and where characterized by a depth and power seldom seen." Often Payson congregation was overwhelmed with a sense of Christ's presence and power and irresistibly brought to tears. Mr. Payson's diary testifies of the power and necessity of prayer for revival. September 27th, "In the evening I was favored with great faith and fervency in prayer. It seemed as if God would deny me nothing, and I wrestled for multitudes of souls, and could not help hoping there would be revival here." September 28, "I was favored with the greatest degree of freedom and fervency in interceeding for others. I seemed to travail in birth with poor sinners and could not help hoping the God is about to do somethings for His glory and the good of souls." Within days, "Praying Payson" saw his prayers answered through a fresh work of revival power.
On April 23, 1808, Edward Payson wrote, "My heart seemed ready to break with its longings after holiness." Such longings for heart purity, revival power and the person of Jesus are the marks of a healthy and normal Christian life. The lack of these precious things in the modern Church reveal a nominal* Christian life. Too much of what is called the Church today is not fit to live or die. The nominal* Christian is unfit to deal with our demon possessed age or the coming judgment seat of Christ. Truly the Church's greatest need is for men and women, mighty in prayer. We need men and women who will pray and crave for revival. The choice is ours, either to pray or to perish.
From the Heart of Edward Payson "It is natural to man, from his earliest infancy, to cry for relief when in danger or distress, if he supposes that any one able to relieve him is within hearing of his cries. Every man then who feels his own dependence upon God, and his need of blessings which God only can bestow, will pray to Him. He will feel that prayer is not only his duty, but his highest privilege. The man then who refuses or neglects to pray, who regards prayer not as a privilege, but as a wearisome and needless task practically says in the most unequivocal manner, I am not dependent on God; I want nothing that He can give; and therefore I will not come to Him, nor ask anything from His hand. I will not ask Him to crown my work with success, for I am able, and determined, to be the architect of my own future. I will not ask Him to instruct or guide me, for I am competent to be my own instructor and guide. I will not ask Him to strengthen and support me, for I am strong in the vigor and resources of my own mind. I will not request His protection, for I am able to protect myself. I will not implore His pardoning mercy nor His sanctifying grace for I have need of neither the one nor the other. I will not ask His presence and aid in the hour of death. For I can meet and grapple, unsupported, with the king of terrors, and enter, undaunted and alone, any unknown world into which He may usher me. Such is the language of all who neglect prayer. "
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The Homeless Piled In; Missionary Pioneers Poured Out.
Imagine that you have a big house and ample land. Imagine further that a refugee shows up at your door asking if he might camp out in your backyard for awhile. You are moved to compassion and say OK. A little later he asks if some of his relatives, who are also homeless, might also come and live on your property. You are a Christian. These people are also believers. How can you turn them away? So again you say yes. But then many more hear and they too come. And more. And more! Soon there are hundreds. What have you gotten yourself into, you begin to wonder?
Something like that is what happened to a 22-year-old German nobleman in 1722. His name was Niklaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf. His estate was in East Germany. He was heir to one of Europe's leading royal families. As you might expect, the neighbors were not too pleased with his offering the "riff-raff" asylum near them. But there was no stopping the influx. The first group of ten arrived in December, 1722. By May of 1725 there were ninety. And by late 1726 over 300. The place was known as "Herrnhut" meaning "The Lord's Watch." It soon developed into a small city of grateful and motivated Christian craftsmen and laypeople.
As Zinzendorf looked at what he had gotten himself into, he began to realize that instead of being burdened, he was being blessed with one of the historic opportunities of all time. His refugee crowded estate within a little more than a decade would be transformed into one of the most dynamic and strategic missionary launching pads since the early church.
Zinzendorf Was a Rich Young Ruler Who Said Yes
Zinzendorf was born on May 26, 1700, in Dresden, Germany and brought up under strong Christian influence. Even as a child he showed a deep spiritual awareness. Invading Swedish soldiers broke into the castle where he lived when he was six years old and were astounded to observe the child's prayers. Zinzendorf later trained at Halle under the Pietist movement leader August Francke. At age twenty the young nobleman was overcome while observing a painting of Christ crowned with thorns. An inscription below the painting said: "I have done this for you; what have you done for me?" Zinzendorf responded that day: "I have loved him for a long time, but I have never actually done anything for him. From now on I will do whatever he leads me to do." No doubt at that moment he had no idea that within two years he would have his estate swarming with homeless people from Moravia. Nor could he have imagined the role that would be his in bringing the message of Christ to the whole world. There followed a rapid succession of events. Some of the highlights:
<> The community rapidly organized into an efficient and productive little society.
<> But then jealousy, divisions and discord set in and threatened to undermine them.
<> Zinzendorf organized everyone into "bands." These were small groups who met together regularly to discuss their spiritual growth, study Scripture, pray together, reprove and encourage each other.
<> The Moravian community was moved to repentance for its divisions, and on August 13, 1727 they experienced a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
<>They began to pray fervently and seek the purposes for which God had brought them together under Zinzendorf. What did he want them to do?
<> A twenty-four-hour-a-day prayer chain was organized. At least two people were at prayer every hour of the day. This prayer meeting would last over 100 years.
<> They became known by the nickname "God's Happy People."
<> Anthony, a former slave, came to speak at Herrnhut of the deplorable conditions of the slaves in the West Indies. The night he spoke, two of their young Moravians could not sleep as they struggled with a sense that God was moving their hearts to offer themselves to go and minister to those slaves. When they were told that perhaps the only way they could do this was to become slaves themselves, they said they were willing if that is what it would take.
<> Their first two missionaries, Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann, left Herrnhut on August 25, 1732 to sail for St. Thomas.
<> Thereafter, other lands were studied and more missionaries were sent. They went to the toughest places under the most severe conditions. Many of them quickly died. For example, of 18 who went to St. Thomas as reinforcements for the work begun by Dober and Nitschmann, half died within the first nine months. But, the more that died, the more that volunteered to go to replace them. Within 25 years more than 200 had gone out as missionaries from this small community to every continent of the world.
<> Their influence spread far beyond their own efforts. Consider two notable examples. Moravians played the key role in the profound religious experience of John Wesley. Wesley went on to lead the Methodist movement. William Carey is popularly hailed as the "Father of Modern Protestant Missions." But William Carey sailed 60 years after the first Moravian missionaries went to the West Indies. Carey would probably insist that the real father of modern missions was Zinzendorf and the Moravians. In Carey's classic "Enquiry Regarding the Obligation of Christians" he used the Moravian experience as a model. In his letters and journal he often referred to them and drew inspiration from their example, and in his "Serampore Compact" -- a covenant for Christian missionary community living -- he again appealed to Moravian precedents.
<> Their influence extended to North America. The Moravians founded two communities in Eastern Pennsylvania -- Bethlehem and Nazareth. Zinzendorf personally came to the colonies. Not far from the offices of Christian History Institute, and long before the word "Ecumenism" was in vogue, Zinzendorf pled unsuccessfully with the various religious communities in Eastern Pennsylvania to transcend their European denominational backgrounds and witness and work together as one Body of Christ.
<> While in America, Zinzendorf legally renounced his titles because he found them an impediment among the colonists. Benjamin Franklin was present at the ceremony, which was conducted in Latin in front of the Governor of Pennsylvania. Zinzendorf was said to be the only European nobleman who went among the Indians, visiting their leaders as equals.
<> Though Zinzendorf did not promote the abolition of slavery, inside the Moravian Church slaves were truly equal. In Bethlehem, PA, at the Single Sisters' House you could find a German noblewoman, a Delaware Indian, and an African slave sleeping side by side in the same dormitory room. Where else in the world at that time might that occur?
<> Zinzendorf endured much criticism for allowing women to preach and to hold roles of leadership in the church.
A New Phenomenon
Think of what it would mean if everyone in your church thought of themselves as missionaries. They did at Herrnhut, and this represented a significant development in the history of Christian missions. Eminent Yale University historian, Dr. Kenneth Scott Latourette, in his classic History of the Expansion of Christianity commented, "Here was a new phenomenon in the expansion of Christianity, an entire community, of families as well as of the unmarried, devoted to the propagation of the faith. In its singleness of aim it resembled some of the monastic orders of the earlier centuries, but these were made up of celibates. Here was a fellowship of Christians, of laity and clergy, of men and women, marrying and rearing families, with much of the quietism of the monastery and of Pietism but with the spread of the Christian message as a major objective, not of a minority of the membership, but of the group as a whole."
Christian History Institute's Debt to Count Zinzendorf
Twenty years ago our sister company Gateway Films/Vision Video was approached to make a dramatic film on the 250th anniversary of the launch of the Moravian missionary movement under Count Zinzendorf to be celebrated in 1982. We had already put out a film on the life of the 15th century pre-Reformation martyr John Hus, and we had also been requested by Wycliffe Bible Translators to make a film on John Wycliffe for the 600th anniversary of his death. Although these three films treated subjects that occurred over close to four hundred years, we were struck by the amazing connection among them. Wycliffe's movement and his memory were condemned in England, but his plea for reform was carried to Bohemia and advanced there by John Hus. The followers of Hus formed the Unitas Fratrum, The Unity of the Brethren. They somehow managed to survive three centuries of persecution and became the major core of the Moravian refugees who settled on the estate of Count Zinzendorf beginning in 1722. Christian History Institute was founded to provide educational print support materials for such films. Our first project was Christian History magazine with the first issue devoted to Zinzendorf. Incidentally, the magazine soon demonstrated that it deserved a life of its own and we are pleased to have it now published by Christianity Today Inc. The film we made on Zinzendorf was a drama titled First Fruits. That was the catalyst that led us to recognize that our primary calling in both film and publishing was the telling of the stories from our Christian history for lay audiences.
On May 12, 1727, Zinzendorf addressed the community for three hours on the blessedness of Christian unity. The people sorrowfully confessed their past quarreling and promised to live in love and simplicity. Herrnhut became a living congregation of Christ. The entire summer of 1727 was a golden one at Herrnhut as the community worked together in peace and love. There was eager anticipation that more was to come.
A turning point On August 5, Zinzendorf and fourteen of the Brethren spent the entire night in conversation and prayer. On August 10th, Pastor Rothe was so overcome by God's nearness during an afternoon service at Herrnhut, that he threw himself on the ground during prayer and called to God with words of repentance as he had never done before. The congregation was moved to tears and continued until midnight, praising God and singing.
The next morning, Pastor Rothe invited the Herrnhut community to a joint communion with his nearby congregation at Bethelsdorf on Wednesday evening, August 13. Count Zinzendorf visited every house in Herrnhut in preparation for this Lord's Supper. The exiles, gathered at Herrnhut, had come to a conviction of their own sinfulness, need, and helplessness. During the service, they made many painful prayers for themselves, for fellow Christians still under persecution, and for their continued unity. Count Zinzendorf made a penitential confession in the name of the congregation. The community united in fellowship. Count Zinzendorf looked upon that August 13th as "a day of the outpourings of the Holy Spirit upon the congregation; it was its Pentecost."
Yes, for 100 years! Like the first Pentecost, men and women would move forth with the gospel from Herrnhut to the uttermost parts of the earth. Two weeks after the revival, twenty-four men and twenty-four women of the community covenanted together to spend one hour each day, day and night, in prayer to God for His blessing on the congregation and its witness.
For over 100 years, members of the Moravian church continued nonstop in this "Hourly Intercession." All Moravian adventures were begun, surrounded, and consummated in prayer. They became known as "God's Happy People." They launched a missionary society in a time when Protestant missions were unknown. The first missionaries, two young men, declared their willingness to become slaves if necessary to reach the slaves in the West Indies with the Gospel. Within fifteen years of the revival, the Moravians at Herrnhut had established missions in the Virgin Islands, Greenland, Turkey, the Gold Coast of Africa, South Africa, and North America. They endured unspeakable hardships. Many died in difficult circumstances. But as fast as they died, others came forth to take their places.
An unquenchable flame The eighteenth-century revivals in America and England were influenced by the Moravian mission and prayer movements. Peter Boehler, a Moravian missionary in England, counseled John Wesley, later leader of the Revival in England, leading to his conversion. Wesley wrote of Boehler, "Oh what a work hath God begun since his coming to England! Such a one as shall never come to an end, till heaven and earth pass away!" --but that's the subject of our next issue.
A new phenomenon The noted historian, Kenneth Scott Latourette, said of the Moravians: Here was a new phenomenon in the expansion of Christianity, an entire community, of families as well as of the unmarried, devoted to the propagation of the faith. In its singleness of aim it resembled some of the monastic orders of earlier centuries, but these were made up of celibates. Here was a fellowship of Christians, of laity and clergy, of men and women, marrying and rearing families, with much of the quietism of the monastery and of Pietism but the spread of the Christian message as a major objective, not of a minority of the membership, but of the group as a whole.
GLIMPSES is published by Christian History Institute
Worcester, PA 19490
Tel. 610-584-1893, Fax 610-584-4610
Prepared by Ken Curtis PH.D., Beth Jacobson, Diana Severance Ph.D., Ann T. Snyder and Dan Graves. by Christian History Institute.
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Charles Haddon Spurgeon has been acclaimed to be the greatest preacher since the Apostle Paul. He would not agree with that, he would say George Whitefield or someone else. The fact remains that what God did with him at and through the Metropolitan Tabernacle in, London, England is recognized by many in all different evangelical groups as to be greatest work ever in a local church. He began preaching at that church in 1854 and died in 1892 and his ministry has continued until this moment, and obviously will continue until the Lord comes. The New Park Street Pulpit and The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit—the collected sermons of Spurgeon during his ministry with that congregation—fill 63 volumes. The sermons' 20-25 million words are equivalent to the 27 volumes of the ninth edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. The series stands as the largest set of books by a single author in the history of Christianity.
When Spurgeon arrived at The New Park Street Church, in 1854, the congregation had 232 members. By the end of his pastorate, 38 years later, that number had increased to 5,311. Altogether, 14,460 people were added to the church during Spurgeon's tenure.) The church was the largest independent congregation in the world. Spurgeon began a pastors' college that trained nearly 900 students during his lifetime-and it continues today. In 1865, Spurgeon's sermons sold 25,000 copies every week. They were translated into more than 20 languages. At least 3 of Spurgeon's works (including the multi-volume Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit series) have sold more than 1,000,000 copies.
Occasionally Spurgeon asked members of his congregation not to attend the next Sunday's service, so that newcomers might find a seat. During one 1879 service, the regular congregation left so that newcomers waiting outside might get in; the building immediately filled again.
Mr. Spurgeon once wrote in “The Sword and the Trowel”:--“A Wesleyan minister lately said that he was never more surprised in his life than when he dropped into the Tabernacle, and found the ground-floor and part of the gallery filled at a Prayer-meeting. He believed that such a thing was almost without a parallel in London, and that it accounted for the success of the ministry. We concur in his impartial judgment. Will not all the churches try the power of prayer?” (Only a Prayer Meeting, C. H. Spurgeon, introduction, page v.)
“How are the prayer-meetings almost universally neglected?” says Spurgeon. “ Our own church stands out like an almost solitary green islet in the midst of a dark, dark, sea; one bright pearl in the depths of an ocean of discord and confusion. Look at the neighboring churches. Step into the vestry, and see a smaller band of people than you would like to think of, assembled around the pastor, whose heart is dull and heavy. Hear one brother after another pour out the dull, monotonous prayer that he has said by heart these fifty years; and then go away and say: ‘Where is the spirit of prayer, where the life of devotion?’ Is it not almost extinct? Are not our churches ‘fallen, fallen, fallen from their high estate?’ God wake them up, and send them more earnest and praying men!” (The Prayer-Meeting, Lewis O. Thompson, 1874, page 190)
Note that Spurgeon agrees with the Wesleyan brother that the “Prayer-meeting” was that which “accounted for the success of the ministry.” Maybe Spurgeon could give us some advice about conducting the prayer-meeting.
“Our brethren will excuse our offering them advice, and must take it only for what it is worth; but having to superintend a large church and to conduct a prayer-meeting which scarcely numbers less than from a thousand to twelve hundred attendants, we will simply give our own notions as to the most efficient method of promoting and sustaining these holy gatherings.
1. Let the minister himself set a very high value upon this means of grace. A warm-hearted address of ten minutes, with a few lively words interposed between the prayers, will do much, with God’s blessing, to foster a love for the prayer-meeting....
2. Let the brethren labour after brevity. If each person will offer the petition most laid upon his heart by the Holy Spirit, and then make room for another, the evening will be far more profitable, and the prayers incomparably more fervent than if each brother ran round the whole circle of petition without dwelling upon any one point. As a general rule, meetings in which no prayer exceeds ten minutes, and the most are under five, will exhibit the most fervour and life.... When we have had ten prayers in the hour, varied with the singing of single verses, we have far oftener been in the Spirit, than when only four persons have engaged in supplication....
3. Persuade all the brethren to pray aloud. If the younger and less-instructed members shrink from the privilege, tell them they are not to speak to man, but to God. If a child may not talk at all till it can speak fluent English, will it ever learn to speak well?...
4. Encourage the attendants to send in special request for prayer as often as they feel constrained to do so. These little scraps of paper, in themselves most truly prayers, may be used as kindling to the fire in the whole assemble....
5. Suffer neither hymn, nor chapter, nor address, to supplant prayer. Remember that we meet for prayer, and let it be prayer; and, oh, that it may be that genuine, familiar converse with God which shall drive out the formality and pomposity which so much mar our public supplications!...
6. It is not at all amiss to let two or even three competent brethren succeed each other without a pause, but this must be done judiciously; and if one of the three should become prolix (gabby or long-winded), let the pause come in as soon as he has finished. Sing only one verse, or at the most two, between the prayers, and let those be such as shall not distract the mind from the subject....
Of course, we ought to have said all manner of good things about the necessity of the Holy Spirit; but upon that matter we are all agreed, knowing right well that all must be in vain without His presence. Our object has rather been to gather out the stones from the way than to speak of the Divine life which alone can enable us to run therein.” (Only a Prayer Meeting, p 26-30)
“How could we look for a Pentecost if we never met with one accord, in one place, to wait upon the Lord? Brethren, we shall never see much change for the better in our churches in general til the prayer-meeting occupies a higher place in the esteem of Christians.” (Only a Prayer-Meeting, p 11)
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