The Call to Witness and the Call to Preach

The young William Booth

The young William Booth

This passionate exhortation by William Booth has often been misquoted. At least certain punchy phrases have been lifted out of context.

In one sense he hasn’t helped himself by referring to all gospel-sharing as ‘preaching’. But it’s clear that he is differentiating between the general call on every Christian to witness to those who don’t know Christ and the specific call which some experience and which tends to lead them into and confirm them as public preachers and teachers of the Bible.

He is exasperated by the silence of ordinary, good Christians when it comes to evangelism.

While some phrases are certainly clumsy, let’s not miss the passion:

- We need to become aware of those who don’t yet realise that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

- We need to have an appropriate understanding of eternal realities and the eternal consequences of someone’s rejection of Christ.

- We need to become ‘unselfish’ and start serving people evangelistically.

- If the gospel is true, love should compel us to initiate contact, communication, relationships.

- While there is a special call to vocational ‘ministry’ for some, we are all called to ‘preach’ the gospel. For some, even if they haven’t been specially ‘called to ministry’ they can still seek God for it (Booth was always looking for more leaders).

You may not be a Salvationist. You may not like aspects of Booth’s theology. But every Christian should feel stirred and sharpened by Booth’s words:

How can anybody with spiritual eyesight talk of having no call?
‘How can anybody with spiritual eyesight talk of having no call, when there are such multitudes around them who never hear a word about God, and never intend to; who can never hear, indeed, without the sort of preacher who will force himself upon them?

Are you spiritually healthy if you have no compassion?
‘Can a man keep right in his own soul, who can see all that, and yet stand waiting for a ‘call’ to preach? Would they wait so for a ‘call’ to help anyone escape from a burning building, or to snatch a sinking child from a watery grave?

Does not growth in grace, or even ordinary growth of intelligence, necessarily bring with it that deepened sense of eternal truths which must intensify the conviction of duty to the perishing world?

Does not an unselfish love, the love that goes out towards the unloving, demand of a truly loving soul immediate action for the salvation of the unloved?

And are there not persons who know that they possess special gifts, such as robust health, natural eloquence or power of voice, which specially make them responsible for doing something for souls?

If you’ve been called by God obey Him!
‘And yet I do not at all forget, that above and beyond all these things, there does come to some a special and direct call which it is particularly fatal to disregard, and peculiarly strengthening to enjoy and act upon.

I believe that there have been many eminently holy and useful men who never had such a call; but that does not at all prevent anyone from asking God for it, or blessing Him for His special kindness when He gives it.’[i]

More next time…

For the first post in this series on the Salvation Army click here

 

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

 

 

[i] Harold Begbie, Life of William Booth: The Founder of the Salvation Army (2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1920) 1:84

Persevering in Evangelism


Hudson Taylor in 1893


By all means, save some!

From time to time, as church leaders, our hopes for a sudden gain in church growth are raised by news of a fresh and creative initiative. Whether this is a specific evangelistic strategy or whether it’s in connection with church management our response is often similar: We do the research, hear the testimonies, read the materials, pray and prepare to launch into new territory which we hope will yield better results.

None of this is wrong, of course. In fact, we ought to be on our toes for spotting effective means of communicating the gospel message. We must keep imagining and learning and trying all that we can, that ‘by all means we might save some.’ (1 Cor 9:22)

But in all of this we need to remember that this is a life’s work. We are not just jumping from project to project – we are living all of life in the context of God’s mission to reconcile the world to Himself through Christ; all of life and for the duration of our life.

And this is where Hudson Taylor’s example of perseverance can encourage us. By the time of these events he had been serving in China nearly 40 years.

Christians worship a pig!
In the early 1890s leaflets were distributed throughout Hunan Province that misrepresented the CIM and other missionary organisations working in China:

‘Missionaries are the frontline troops of western nations in their designs on China; they use magic powers to corrupt the Chinese; they extract unborn children from their mothers’ wombs and scoop out the eyes of the dead to make silver;

Jesus debauched the women of Judea and was put to death for violating the king’s harem;

Christians worship a pig and refuse to honour heaven, earth, the sun, moon, stars, ancestors and the sages.’[i]

As a result of the publication of these leaflets, and the growing resentment of colonial rule, several missionaries lost their lives, and most were living in real danger.

Taylor wrote, ‘We are continually encouraging our converts to brave persecution and to suffer loss for Christ’s sake, and they are apt to think that it is easy for us to speak in this way, seeing that, as far as they can tell, we are well-off and exposed to no danger or loss.

When, therefore, we are in danger they will mark our conduct very closely, and judge for themselves how far we really believe…Years of teaching would not impress them as our conduct at such times may do.’[ii]

Slow Progress and our response to it
Like Taylor’s men and women, we also battle misunderstanding as to our purpose or motive. And, just like Taylor’s troops, we also wrestle with slow progress.

We are heartened by bursts of growth and by news of growth in other situations but we must hold steady and persevere in order to build the church in a spiritually bewildered culture.

Writing back in March 1892, Hudson Taylor, after 38 years of hard work, said, ‘The supreme want of all missions in the present day is the manifested presence of the Holy Ghost.

Hundreds of thousands of tracts and portions of Scripture have been put into circulation; thousands of gospel addresses have been given; tens of thousands of miles have been traversed in missionary journeys but how small has been the issue in the way of definite conversions!

We…have much need to humble ourselves before God…’

Seeking the power of the Holy Spirit
‘Few of us, perhaps, are satisfied with the results of our work, and some may think that if we had more, or more costly machinery we should do better. But oh, I feel it is divine power we want…!

Should we not do well, rather, to suspend our present operations and give ourselves to humiliation and prayer for nothing less that to be filled with the Spirit, and made channels through which He shall work with resistless power?

Souls are perishing now for lack of this power!’[iii]

Sure enough, the following month, instead of the normal business meeting of the directors of the Chinese operation, the minutes recorded: ‘Instead of meeting for conference, the China Council united with the members of the mission in Shanghai in seeking for themselves, the whole mission in China and the Home Councils, the filling of the Holy Spirit.’[iv]

Soon after, news was spread of the power of God working in a new way amongst them.

Let’s learn from history – in order to persevere in the mission we are on, we need encounters with God, to be both humbled and empowered by the Spirit of God.

We never graduate from this…this is our life’s work.

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here 

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] A Man In Christ, p.324, Roger Steer, Singapore, OMF Books, 1990

[ii] ibid, p.325

[iii] ibid p.328

[iv] ibid p.329

God’s Work, Done in God’s Way, Will Never Lack God’s Supplies

Hudson Taylor

Not defeated by suffering
By the time Hudson Taylor was in his fifties, he had suffered through and emerged from some of life’s harshest tests.

He had established one of the world’s greatest missionary agencies, without denominational backing. He had pressed into the interior of China, something the other evangelism agencies were reluctant to do at the time. He had suffered the loss of several of his children and the wife of his youth, Maria.

He had escaped a violent mob assault against their home – with thousands gathering and several looting their belongings and physically assaulting him and his family, because of the false rumour that these ‘foreign devils’ were boiling and eating children. He had survived serious illness several times. Yet his was a buoyant faith.


You don’t need great faith – but faith in a great God!
On the 26th May 1887 the 21st anniversary meeting of the CIM was held in the UK, with Hudson Taylor present with a fresh challenge to see 100 new missionaries sent to China that year.

In a speech laden with tweetable quotes, Taylor said:

‘People say, ‘Lord increase our faith!’ Did not our Lord rebuke His disciples for that prayer? It is not great faith you need, He said in effect, but faith in a great God.

We need a faith that rests on a great God, and expects Him to keep His own word and to do just as He has promised.

Now we have been led to pray for a hundred new workers this year. We have the sure word, ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’

We began the matter aright, with God, and we are quite sure that we shall end it aright. It is a great joy to know that 31 of the Hundred are already in China…Whether He will give His ‘exceeding abundantly’ by sending us more than a literal hundred, or whether by stirring up other branches of the Church to send many hundreds…or by awakening missionary enthusiasm all over the Church and blessing the whole world through it, I don’t know…


Keep God before you!
[but] I do want you, dear friends, to realize this principle of working with God and asking Him for everything. If the work is at the command of God, then we can go to Him in full confidence for workers; and when God gives the workers, we can go to Him for means to supply their needs.

We always accept a suitable worker, whether we have funds or not. Then we often say, ‘Now, dear friend, your first work will be to join us in praying for money to send you to China.’

As soon as there is money enough, the time of the year and other circumstances being suitable, the friend goes out.

We don’t wait until there is a remittance in hand to give him when he gets there.

The Lord will provide in the meanwhile, and the money will be wired to China in time to supply his wants.

Let us see to it that we keep God before our eyes; that we walk in His ways, and seek to please and glorify Him in everything, great and small.

Depend upon it, God’s work, done in God’s way, will never lack God’s supplies.


God’s Church: A fully supplied, strong, healthy, happy people
The Lord’s will is that His people should be an unburdened people, fully supplied, strong, healthy and happy.

Shall we not determine to be ‘[anxious] for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving’ bring those things that would become burdens and anxieties to God in prayer, and live in perfect peace?

I have not known what anxiety is since the Lord taught me that the work is His.

My great business in life is to please God.’[i]

For the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story, about persevering in evangelism click here

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Excerpts taken from Roger Steer, J Hudson Taylor – A Man in Christ, Singapore, 1990

The Quality of Men Needed for World Mission


Map of China, c.1850

As the work of The China Inland Mission increased, Hudson Taylor needed more men and women to go inland, to towns and villages as yet totally unreached by the gospel.

Back in England, William Berger, Taylor’s friend and the Mission’s first Director, was engaged in the process of interviewing new candidates. He asked Taylor for clarification.

Taylor’s challenging and forceful response reads more like a call for revolutionaries than a job description:

A Different Kind of Christian Mission
‘We, as a mission, differ from all the other missions. As soon as some persons arrive here they find a sufficient answer to carry every question in, “the American missionaries so this, or the [Anglican] Church missionaries do that; why can’t we?”

The missionaries of almost all the societies have better houses, finer furniture, more European fare than we have or are likely to have.

But [critically important to Taylor], there is not one ofthem settled in the interior among the people.

Unless persons are prepared to stand alone – separate from these societies and those who imitate them – they should never join our mission at all…Let them know, too, beforehand, that if they are hearty, loyal members of this mission, they may expect the sneers and even opposition of good, godly men.

Into the interior – into indigenous culture
‘I only desire the help of such persons as are fully prepared to work in the interior, in the native costume, and living, as far as possible in the native style.

I do not contemplate assisting, in future, any who may cease to labour in this way. China is open to all but my time and strength are too short, and the work too great to allow of my attempting to work with any who do not agree with me in the main on my plans of action…

Not for quiet, ease-loving types…
China is not to be won for Christ by quiet, ease-loving men and women…The stamp of men and women we need is such as will put Jesus, China, souls, first and foremost in everything and at every time – even life itself must be secondary…Of such men and women, do not fear to send us too many. They are more precious than rubies.’[i]

For the next part of Hudson Taylor’s Story, and his dramatic statement of faith click here

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© 2011 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] From a letter to William Berger, quoted in A Man In Christ, p.211-212, Roger Steer, Singapore, OMF Books, 1990

The Gardener came and plucked a rose…

The Gardener came and plucked a rose…
How one family handled the cost of missions

Hudson Taylor and Maria

In 1858 Hudson Taylor, after some difficulty, secured the hand of Maria Jane Dyer in marriage.

In 1859, their first child, Grace, was born, to the delight of both parents. Hers was a happy childhood and she enjoyed the affection of her doting father.

Born and raised in China, she was the firstborn of their missionary lives, followed by other siblings.

Meningitis
When she was eight years old, while her father was away ministering, she seemed unwell. She deteriorated quickly and became incoherent.

Taylor was called and was shocked to discover how unwell she really was. It looked very serious indeed and he feared the worst. She had meningitis.

Roger Steer, in his brilliantly written, ‘J Hudson Taylor, A Man in Christ’ writes,

‘Mary Bell [one of the female missionaries accompanying the Taylors] helped with the nursing and reported that Taylor “was so broken hearted he cried most of the day.”

‘I think Jesus is going to take you’
“There’s no hope of Gracie recovering,” he told Maria. They commended her to God and pleaded with Him to do the best for her and for them.

Back at her bedside, he said to Grace, “I think Jesus is going to take you to Himself. You are not afraid to trust yourself with Him, are you?”

“No papa,” came the reply.

A Father’s Agony
Next day, Hudson wrote to William Berger, “Beloved Brother – I know not how to write to you, not how to refrain…I am striving to write a few lines from the side of a couch on which my darling little Gracie lies dying…

Dear Brother, our heart and our flesh fail but God is the strength of our heart…It was no vain nor unintelligent act, when knowing the land, its people and climate, I laid my dear wife and the darling children with myself on the altar for this service.’

Four days later, Grace showed signs of pneumonia.

On Friday evening, August 23, the Taylor family and those closest to them gathered around Grace’s bed. Hudson began one hymn after another, though at times his voice failed…At twenty to nine Maria’s breathing stopped.

‘How I miss her sweet voice in the morning!’
“Our dear little Gracie!” wrote Hudson later. “How I miss her sweet voice in the morning, one of the first sounds to greet us when we woke – and through the day and at eventide!

As I take the walks I used to take with her tripping at my side, the thought comes anew like a throb of agony, ‘Is it possible that I shall nevermore feel the pressure of that little hand, nevermore hear the sweet prattle of those dear lips, nevermore see the sparkle  of those bright eyes?’

And yet she is not lost…The Gardener came and plucked a rose…’

Excerpt taken from Roger Steer: J Hudson Taylor – A Man in Christ (OMF, Singapore 1990)

To read about the quality of men and women Taylor sought for the mission click here

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here

© 2011 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Celebrities or Servants – How Christian Leadership should be

William Chalmers Burns


After a short while in China, Hudson Taylor met someone who had a huge impact on him and helped further shape his own ministry.

A Bright New Star Arrives on the Christian Scene
By today’s standards, the Scotsman William Burns could have been as great a celebrity as any successful leader. He could have published extensively, taken speaking engagements across Britain and America. He had, after all, just witnessed a mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Sensing his own call to take the gospel to the nations, Burns had considered India as well as China but had suddenly been offered the opportunity – as his first ministerial assignment – to preach in Dundee for Robert Murray M’Cheyne.

M’Cheyne was already well known in Scotland and had gathered a large congregation. Humanly speaking it would be fairly tough to match his standard of leadership. For Burns, this was his first regular preaching assignment – but something unusual happened!

Holy Spirit Revival!
Undeterred by a possible nonresponsive Scottish reserve, Burns had prayed for and now preached for conversion, trusting God for the power of the Holy Spirit![i]

The meetings went well, and returning for a meeting in his home town of Kilsyth, he preached there and the power of God fell. He describes the scene:

[I began] ‘to plead with the unconverted before me instantly to close with God’s offers of mercy, and continued to do so until the power of the Lord’s Spirit became so mighty upon their souls as to carry all before it, like the rushing mighty wind of Pentecost !

During the whole of the time that I was speaking, the people listened with the most riveted and solemn attention, and with many silent tears and inward groanings of the spirit;

but at the last their feelings became too strong for all ordinary restraints, and broke forth simultaneously in weeping and wailing, tears and groans, intermingled with shouts of joy and praise from some of the people of God.’[ii]

Returning to Dundee, at the regular Thursday evening prayer meeting, he told the congregation news of the outpouring he had just witnessed.

The Holy Spirit was poured out once again and every night for four months meetings were held and thousands felt the impact. One biographer says ‘the whole city was moved as family after family were converted![iii]

The Relative Obscurity of Faithfulness
Following such a hugely successful season of evangelistic preaching we might have expected Burns to redirect his steps and stay in the UK. However, he followed through with his conviction, left Scotland, and became an obscure missionary to China where he spent the rest of his life.

What a great encouragement he was to Hudson Taylor, as was Taylor to him. Burns followed Taylor’s example of adopting Chinese rather than European dress.

But what a lesson for us – in a day when publishers and people so love the celebrity status of our leaders, to observe one of the most highly gifted Christian leaders move out of the publishing spotlight into years of humble ‘unseen’ service for those who don’t know Christ.

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Memoir of the Rev William C Burns, Islay Burns (London, James Nisbet, 1873) (Current edition: Lightning Source, UK)

[ii] ibid

[iii] Old Time Revivals, John Shearer (Revival Library)

Convenience v Compassion in Christian Missions

Saving a Drowning Man – Hudson Taylor and Us

Rivers around Shanghai in the 1800s


Sometimes people are heartless, cruel, self-centred. We are rightly shocked by blatant selfishness and disregard for others.

During his first stay in China Hudson Taylor had numerous evangelistic interactions with locals. He learnt the language, gave out New Testaments and many tracts and sought to communicate the amazing love of God in Jesus Christ.

But one moment of high drama in his travels caught my attention many years ago and I trust this account of it will have a significant impact on your own life:

The Boat Journey
Writing in his ‘Retrospect’ Taylor describes a journey towards the city of Sungkiang, about 30 miles from Shanghai.

‘Among the passengers on board the boat was one intelligent man, who in the course of his travels had been a good deal abroad, and had even visited England, where he went by the name of Peter.

As might be expected he had heard something of the gospel, but had never experienced its saving power.  On the previous evening I had drawn him into an earnest conversation about his soul’s salvation.  The man listened with attention, and was even moved to tears, but still no definite result was apparent.

I was pleased, therefore, when he asked to be allowed to accompany me, and to hear me preach.’

A Sudden Splash
‘I went into the cabin of the boat to prepare tracts and books for distribution on landing with my Chinese friend, when suddenly I was startled by a splash and a cry from outside.

I sprang on deck and took in the situation at a glance.  Peter was gone! The other men were all there, on board, looking helplessly at the spot where he had disappeared, but making no effort to save him.

A strong wind was carrying us rapidly forward in spite of a steady current in the opposite direction, and the low-lying, shrubless shore afforded no landmark to indicate how far we had left the drowning man behind.

A drag net
I instantly let down the sail and leaped overboard in the hope of finding him.  Unsuccessful, I looked around in agonising suspense, and saw close to me a fishing boat with a peculiar drag net furnished with hooks, which I knew would bring him up.

“Come!”, I cried, as hope revived in my heart.  “Come and drag over this spot directly; a man is drowning just here!”

“Veh bin” (it is not convenient), was the answer.

“Don’t talk of convenience!” I cried in agony, “a man is drowning I tell you!!”

“We are busy fishing,” they responded, “and cannot come.”

“Never mind your fishing,” I said, “I will give you more money than many day’s fishing will bring; only come!  Come at once!”

“How much money will you give us?”

“We cannot stay to discuss that now! Come, or it will be too late.  I will give you five dollars.” (A lot of money).

“We won’t do it for that!” replied the men.  “Give us twenty dollars, and we will drag the net.”

“I do not possess so much; do come quickly, and I will give you all that I have!”

“How much may that be?”

“I don’t know exactly, about fourteen dollars.”

At last, but even then slowly enough, the boat was paddled over, and the net let down.  Less than a minute sufficed to bring up the body of the missing man.

The fishermen were clamorous and indignant because their exorbitant demand was delayed while efforts at resuscitation were being made.  But all was in vain – his life was gone!

Guilty?
Were not those fishermen actually guilty of this poor Chinaman’s death, in that they had the means of saving him at hand, if they would have used them?

Assuredly, they were guilty. And yet, let us pause before we pronounce judgement against them, lest a greater than Nathan answer, “Thou art the man!”

Is it so hard-hearted, so wicked a thing to neglect to save the body? Of how much sorer punishment, then, is he worthy who leaves the soul to perish, and Cain-like says, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Our Challenge
‘The Lord Jesus commands, commands me, commands you, into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature.

Shall we say to Him, “No!  It is not convenient!”? Shall we tell Him that we are busy fishing and cannot go?  That we have purchased five oxen, or have married, or are engaged in other and more interesting pursuits, and cannot go?

Before long we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body.

Let us consider who it is that said,

‘Deliver those who are being taken away to death,
And those who are staggering to slaughter,
O hold them back!
If you say, “But we did not know this!”
Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?
And does He not know it who keeps your soul?
And will He not render to man according to his works?’

(Prov 24:11-12)[i]

Taylor’s challenge to us should shake us to the core. While so many are bemoaning this or that evangelistic method, and often leaving the churches even less confident than before, we ought to examine everything with a clear eye on the goal to go and speak to our communities.

Really though, how many times have we hesitated to share the gospel because ‘it is not convenient’? Let’s make a decision to change…

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor story click here

To read the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here

© 2011 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] JH Taylor, Retrospect, ‘With love to China’ (Bethany) p. 116-119