Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ

 

Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ. New on Kindle!
Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ. New on Kindle!

Take a Closer Look is an easy to use resource to help explain who Jesus is, why He came and how someone can begin following Him.

Included are many faith-inspiring verses from the Gospel of John, helpful questions, and a chapter which seeks to help the person envision what life may look like for them were they to become a follower of Christ.

It’s designed to be used one-on-one but is ideal for individual use.
Many have come to a lasting faith in Jesus through this study.

‘Take a Closer Look’ http://amzn.to/1ufMzys (US store)
‘Take a Closer Look’ http://amzn.to/1yzbjlk (UK store)

Dirk Jongkind
Dirk Jongkind

‘When John wrote his book about Jesus more than 1900 years ago, he wanted people to understand who this Jesus really was and why he deserves our trust and commitment. Lex Loizides takes the modern reader by the hand with exactly the same purpose as John had and explains who Jesus is using the words that John wrote down so long ago. If you want to know about Jesus then ‘Take a Closer Look’ is an excellent guide – it is faithful to the original sources.’
Dr. Dirk Jongkind, Research Fellow in New Testament Text and Language, St. Edmund’s College, University of Cambridge

Terry Virgo
Terry Virgo

‘When your curiosity is aroused and the light seems to be beckoning you out of darkness, how superb to have an outstanding aid like this which can, as it were, take you by the hand and lead you to the truth you’re beginning to long for.’
Terry Virgo, Founder of Newfrontiers

‘Take a Closer Look’ introduces you to Jesus. Reading the book is like meeting him for the first time. We hear him speak and our pre-conceived ideas are quickly adjusted to the real Jesus.
Gert Hijkoop, Pastor, Wijnstokgemeente, Berkel en Rodenrijs, Netherlands

Ian Galloway
Ian Galloway

Speaking as a busy pastor I totally recommend ‘Take a Closer Look’. I really enjoying doing them. I just love sitting down with people and seeing them start to engage personally with Jesus. The simplicity of the study, the focus on Jesus, and the ease with which it can be arranged make it a brilliant resource. Everyone should use this!
Ian Galloway, Pastor, City Church, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Samir Deokuliar
Samir Deokuliar

‘Take a Closer Look’ is a clear and crisp description of why one should consider Jesus. I have used this book (in Hindi) over the years to facilitate discussions in small groups. The claims and questions posed in the book are thought provoking and have helped healthy discussions. Highly recommended.
Samir Deokuliar, TV Presenter and Pastor, Dwaar, Delhi, India

Stephen van Rhyn
Stephen van Rhyn

I have found ‘Take a Closer Look’ to be a fantastic tool for introducing seekers to Christ and helping them cross the line of faith and follow Him. If you are looking for a relevant, Biblical and accessible study on Christ for seekers look no further.
Steve van Rhyn, Advance Network of Churches, Pastor, Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town, South Africa

Take a closer look is a great resource, that we have used in our church for a number of years, with success. It is particularly useful when you have an individual who is unclear on their faith, and you feel that what they need is a one-to-one short course over coffee. It is non-threatening, focusing on the gospel of John, and very accessible for young and old.
Matthew Clifton-Brown, Pastor, Kings Church Edinburgh, Scotland

One of the most important months of my life was going through ‘Take a Closer Look’ in the early 1990s. I knew nothing about Christianity, so understanding the basics was vital to making an informed decision. 20 years later I still have very fond memories of that life-defining time! I’d recommend ‘Take A Closer Look’ to anyone that wants to make their own choice about whether to accept Jesus’ claims.
Martin Cooper, Worship Leader, Songwriter, Teacher, British & Irish Modern Music Institute, UK

As a non-believing teenager unsure of what to make of Christianity, ‘Take a Closer Look’ (which I couldn’t put down and read in one sitting) gave me what I needed to make an informed decision. It is a clear explanation of what Jesus said about himself and his work, and what this means for our individual lives. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand what Jesus taught.
Vincent van Bever Donker, Oxford English Centre, Oxford 

I have used these lessons for people from different religious, educational and social backgrounds for over 15 years and found it very effective to lead them to Jesus Christ. I have found it a great one-on-one tool for a person interested in knowing Jesus. We have used it as a wonderful tool to help people open up as they seek to become Christians.
Joy-Anne Philip, Cochi, Kerala, India

Scriptural, practical, fruitful and flexible way of sharing Jesus with 1-10+ people at a time. Many lives have been transformed by this helpful tool.
Mike Sprenger, Evangelist, UK

‘Take a Closer Look’ is an excellent tool from the heart of an evangelist which will be a help and a blessing to all those who have a heart for the unsaved. Simple but profound.
Don Smith, veteran church planter, UK

‘Take a Closer Look’ is a helpful resource that helps me walk someone from objections to the faith to coming to faith in Christ.  It is short, accessible and yet proclaims the truth about Jesus powerfully. I trust that this new digital version will help equip believers to reach out to many more of their friends.
Gareth Bowley, Pastor, Oasis Church, Amazimtoti, South Africa

©2015 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

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The thing about Gandhi…a review

Gandhi, the controversial biography
Gandhi, the controversial biography

A Review, with quotes, of Jad Adams’ biography of the much-loved Mohandas Gandhi.

This biography of one of the most iconic figures of the twentieth century is impossible to put down. It’s a fresh look at the man through his own writings and the testimony of those closest to him.

One aspect of the book, unsurprisingly, dominated the reviews: Gandhi’s risqué experiments in testing his own commitment to Brahmacharya (celibacy).  The claim is that the presence of the two young women who regularly slept in his bed was necessary in order to test that commitment and thus help preserve his spiritual power for the benefit of others.

Astonishing as that may sound, there’s much more to the book than that…

To read the review click here

© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

In the Beginning God. A powerful message by John Lennox

‘The Biblical view is, to me, more credible than atheism, since it makes far more sense of reality, since it is supported by powerful evidence, both objective and subjective.’

Professor John Lennox

An input of intelligence and energy from outside the system
‘And God said: Each step [of creation] begins with a word of God, an input of intelligence from outside the system. This is the exact opposite, obviously, of an unguided, mindless process, proceeding from the simple to the complex. The complexity of life is not self-generated: there is an input of energy from the outside.’

If you have never heard Oxford Professor John Lennox speak before, this is a superb introduction.

John is Professor of Mathematics in the University of Oxford, Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, and Pastoral Advisor at Green Templeton College, Oxford.

He has debated Richard Dawkins twice. You can see the first debate here.

There’s such a pressure to keep quiet!
This message is essentially a sermon to a Christian audience in order to strengthen their resolve to stand up for God in their various walks of life.

‘Once a person’s faith in God is undermined their fundamental stabilities begins to erode. There’s such a pressure to keep quiet and keep your faith for the private sphere. You want to believe in Christ? Fine but do it privately. Don’t bring it into the public square!

Do we bring it into the public square? Science is the public thing.

And some scientists, more generous than others, like the late Stephen J Gould, say that religion is alright so long as we keep it separate from science. That sounds great until we look at the small print. And the small print says this: Science deals with reality and religion deals with everything else: fantasy like God, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

That won’t do will it?

The pressure to be silent is increasing but Daniel and his friends withstood it then and we are called upon to withstand it now…Daniel understood the basic doctrines of the nature of God and creation as taught in Genesis.’

Enjoy the message!
Click on the photo to watch the video

Click on the photo to watch the video

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Demonstrations of the Spirit’s Power – Charles Finney

Antwerp, Jefferson County, NY in the 1800s

The result of Charles Finney’s encounters with the Holy Spirit are well documented: when he preached multitudes came to Christ.

The Apostle Paul talked about preaching with the ‘demonstration of the Spirit’s power’ (1 Cor 2:4). While we may be convinced that such demonstrations may differ from culture to culture, the following can certainly be understood as an example of a 19th Century American revivalism.

These events took place three years after Finney received his ‘baptism of the Spirit’ in 1824 in a packed school hall in Antwerp, Jefferson County, New York, and are recounted by him.

An ‘ungodly people’
‘While I was [preaching] I observed the people looked as if they were angry.  Many of the men were in their shirt sleeves and they looked at each other and at me, as if they were ready to pitch into me and chastise me for something on the spot…their anger arose higher and higher.

As soon as I had finished the narrative I turned upon them and said, that I understood that they had never had a religious meeting in that place; and that therefore I had a right to take it for granted, and was compelled to take it for granted, that they were an ungodly people.  I pressed that home upon them with more and more energy, with my heart full to bursting.’

‘The congregation began to fall from their seats’
‘I had not spoken to them in this strain of direct application, I should think more than a quarter of an hour, when all at once and awful solemnity seemed to settle down upon them; and a some thing flashed over the congregation – a kind of shimmering – as if there was some agitation in the atmosphere itself.

The congregation began to fall from their seats; and they fell in every direction, and cried for mercy.  If I had had a sword in each hand I could not have cut them off their seats as fast as they fell.  Indeed nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate, I should think, in less than two minutes from this first shock that fell upon them.  Every one prayed for himself who was able to speak at all.  I, of course was obliged to stop preaching, for they no longer paid any attention.

I saw the old man who had invited me there to preach sitting about in the middle of the house, and looking around with utter amazement. I raised my voice almost to a scream to make him hear, and pointing to him said, ‘Can’t you pray?’…

‘You are not in Hell yet!’
I then spake as loud as I could, and tried to make them attend to me.  I said to them, “You are not in hell yet; and now let me direct you to Christ.”  For a few moments I tried to hold forth the Gospel to them; but scarcely any of them paid any attention.

My heart was so overflowing with joy at such a scene that I could hardly contain myself.  A little way from where I stood was an open fire-place. I recollect very well that my joy was so great, that I could not help laughing in a most spasmodic manner.

I knelt down and stuck my head into that fire-place and hung my pocket handkerchief over my head, lest they should see me laugh; for I was aware that they would not understand that it was irrepressible, holy joy that made me laugh. It was with much difficulty that I refrained from shouting, and giving glory to God.’

One by one Finney spoke to individuals, leading them to Christ. Years later he had the joy of receiving funding for his ministry from some of those converted in that very meeting.

More next time…

For the first part of the Finney story click here

From The Memoirs of Charles Finney—The Complete Restored Text Edited by G.M. Rosell and R.A.G. Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989) p.101-102

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Baptism in the Spirit part 2

The young Charles Finney


19th Century Evangelist Charles Finney was one of the more controversial figures on the religious landscape in America.

Converted after fairly rigourous intellectual inquiry, he had an astonishing experience of God’s love and power.

He certainly wasn’t the first to speak of a ‘baptism in the Spirit’ (see Matt 3:11, Mark 1:8) nor would he be the last, but his description of the experience is helpful for those seeking God for a similar dynamic in their spiritual lives.

You can read his introduction to the experience here.

‘A mighty baptism in the Holy Ghost’
His journal records the occasion:

‘But as I returned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without expecting it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, at a moment entirely unexpected by me, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul.

I could feel the impression, like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love for I could not express it in any other way.

And yet it did not seem like water, but rather as the breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings; and it seemed to me, as these waves passed over me, that they literally moved my hair like a passing breeze.

No words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. It seemed to me that I should burst.

‘So happy that I cannot live!’
I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recollect I cried out, “I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.” I said, “Lord, I cannot bear any more;” yet I had no fear of death.

How long I continued in this state I do not know. But it was late in the evening when a member of my choir – for I was the leader of the choir – came into the office to see me. He was a member of the church.

He found me in this state of loud weeping, and said, “Mr. Finney, what ails you?” I could make him no answer for some time. He then said, “Are you in pain?” I gathered myself up as best I could, and replied, “No, but so happy that I cannot live.

He turned and left the office, and in a few minutes returned with one of the elders of the church, whose shop was nearly across the way from our office.

The Laughing Elder
This elder was a very serious man; and in my presence had been very watchful, and I had scarcely ever seen him laugh. When he came in I was very much in the state in which I was when the young man went out to call him. He asked me how I felt, and I began to tell him.

Instead of saying anything, he fell into a most spasmodic laugh. It seemed as if it was impossible for him to keep from laughing from the very bottom of his heart. It seemed to be a spasm that was irresistible.’[i]

Further prayers were said and the fact one of the elders of the church couldn’t resist laughing when he saw Finney in a relatively helpless state made Finney doubt whether or not he had been presumptuous. Nevertheless he slept.

More power
‘…When I awoke in the morning the sun had risen, and was pouring a clear light into my room. Words cannot express the impression that this sunlight made upon me. Instantly the baptism that I had received the night before, returned upon me in the same manner.

I arose upon my knees in the bed and wept aloud with joy, and remained for some time too much overwhelmed with the baptism of the Spirit to do anything but pour out my soul to God.

It seemed as if this morning’s baptism was accompanied with a gentle reproof, as if the Spirit seemed to say to me, ‘Will you doubt? Will you doubt?’ I cried, ‘No! I will not doubt; I cannot doubt!’’ [ii]

That such experiences of God’s power are recorded throughout church history should challenge us to seek God for authentic encounters with His majesty that we might have an impact on our generation as Finney and others did on theirs.

Next time we’ll look at how Finney began to seek to minister to others…click here

For the first instalment of the Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] The Memoirs of Charles Finney, Ed. Rosell and Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989), p.22-24

[ii] ibid p.25

Baptism in the Spirit part 1

Agostino Cerasi’s ‘Gamba Player’ (The Gamba was an earlier version of the Bass Viol Charles Finney would have played)

Spiritual Tranquillity
When the precocious legal apprentice Charles Finney was converted to Christianity in 1821 it was the fulfilment of a fairly rigourous intellectual inquiry. He was, therefore, surprised by the depth of emotion he experienced in its aftermath.

The initial feeling was one of a deep and steady peace. ‘The repose of my mind was unspeakably great…The thought of God was sweet to my mind, and the most profound spiritual tranquillity had taken full possession of me.’[i]

After returning from the woods, where he had finally surrendered his life to Christ, he went to the law office which was empty and began playing his Bass Viol. ‘But as soon as I began to play and sing those sacred words, I began to weep. It seemed as if my heart was all liquid…I wondered at this and tried to suppress my tears, but could not.

I wondered what ailed me that I felt such a disposition to weep. After trying in vain to suppress my tears, I put up my instrument and stopped singing.’[ii]

Soon Finney’s boss arrived and they spent the afternoon moving books into another office.

‘After dinner we were engaged in removing our books and furniture to another office. We were very busy in this, and had but little conversation all the afternoon. There was a great sweetness and tenderness in my thoughts and feelings. Everything appeared to be going right, and nothing seemed to ruffle or disturb me in the least.

A desire to pray
Just before evening the thought took possession of my mind, that as soon as I was left alone in the new office, I would try to pray again…

Just at evening we got the books and furniture adjusted; and I made up, in an open fireplace, a good large fire, hoping to spend the evening alone. Just as it was dark Esq. Wright, seeing that everything was adjusted, bade me goodnight and went home.

I had accompanied him to the door; and as I closed the door and turned around, my heart seemed to be liquid within me. All my inward feelings seemed to rise and pour themselves out; and the impression on my mind was, “I want to pour my whole soul out to God.”

The rising of my soul was so great that I rushed into the room behind the front office, to pray. There was no fire, and no light, in the room; nevertheless it appeared to me as if it were perfectly light.

Meeting Jesus, face to face
As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for sometime afterward, that it was wholly a mental state.

On the contrary it seemed to me that I met Him face to face, and saw him as I would see any other man. He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet.

I have always since regarded this as a most remarkable state of mind; for it seemed that he stood before me, and I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance…

I must have continued in this state for a good while; but my mind was too much absorbed with the interview to recollect scarcely anything that I said.

But I know, as soon as my mind became calm enough to break off from the interview, I returned to the front office, and found that the fire that I had just made of large wood was nearly burned out.

The Holy Spirit descended upon me
But as I returned and was about to take a seat by the fire, I received a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost. Without expecting it, without ever having the thought in my mind that there was any such thing for me, without any recollection that I had ever heard the thing mentioned by any person in the world, at a moment entirely unexpected by me, the Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me, body and soul.’[iii]

Next time we’ll examine Finney’s detailed description of God’s power ‘pouring’ into him. You can read it here

For the first instalment of the Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] The Memoirs of Charles Finney, Ed. Rosell and Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989), p.22

[ii] ibid, p.22

[iii] ibid p.23

Charles Finney’s False Starts

Lake Ontario, NY

Charles Finney grew up south of Lake Ontario in New York State. ‘My parents were neither of them professors of religion. I seldom heard a sermon unless it was an occasional one from some travelling minister.’[i]

He was a quick learner and was entrusted with some teaching responsibilities in the local school in Henderson from the age of 16 until he was 20.[ii]

Preaching that would make you laugh
Finney writes, ‘Almost the only preaching that I heard was that of an Elder Osgood, who was a man of considerable religion but of very little education. His ignorance of language was so great as to divert the attention of the people from his thoughts to the very comical form of expressing them.

For example, instead of saying, ‘I am’, he would say, ‘I are’ and in the use of the pronouns thee and thou etc, he would mix them up in such a strange and incongruous manner, as to render it very difficult indeed to keep from laughing while he was either preaching or praying. Of course, I received no religious instruction from such teaching.’[iii]

Preaching that would make you cry
In 1812, aged 20, Finney moved to Connecticut and lodged with an uncle and attend an Academy there. He began attending his uncle’s Congregationalist Church, led by the much-loved but aging, Peter Starr. This was the first time he began regularly attending church services.

Finney decided that he would hear Christianity consistently presented. Biographer Keith Hardman writes,

‘Having developed some abilities in speaking and leading himself, he naturally expected to find theology preached with a certain amount of vigour and dynamic. It was not to be.

To observe Starr’s methods, Finney sat in the balcony where he could look down on the pastor’s performance and note his techniques.

To his chagrin, he found that the pastor ‘read his sermons in a manner that left no impression on my mind. He had a monotonous, humdrum way of reading what he had probably written many years before…It seemed to be always a matter of curiosity to know what he was aiming at.’[iv]

Finney’s later criticism of local pastors and preachers was, in large measure, based on these experiences.

No further formal education
Already in his twenties, Finney asked his teacher about the possibility of attending Yale University. The teacher dissuaded him however, both in light of his evident intellectual ability as well as his age.

Finney later regretted that his formal education progressed no further than high school. But in his twenties he was extremely self-confident.

If, however, Finney’s spiritual advancement was also faltering there was at least one ray of light: his brother was suddenly converted. He wrote to Charles. He was the first of the Finney family to be converted and something about his letter to the twenty-six year old hit home: ‘I actually wept for joy!’ he said.

The seeds of grace were being sown.

For the next post in this series click here

For the first part of the Charles Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i] Keith J Hardman, Charles Grandison Finney, Revivalist and Reformer, (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1987), p.30

[ii] ibid p.31

[iii] The Memoirs of Charles Finney, Ed. Rosell and Dupuis (Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989), p.22-24

[iv] Hardman p.33

The Most Cooperative Servant Organisation in History

 Ralph Winter on Hudson Taylor

The hugely respected Missiologist Ralph Winter (with friends)

Ralph Winter, the renowned missiologist wrote of J Hudson Taylor:

‘God honoured him because his gaze was fixed upon the world’s least-reached peoples…

The China Inland Mission – the most co-operative servant organisation yet to appear – eventually served in one way or another over 6000 missionaries, predominantly in the interior of China.’ [i]

Other great missionaries also sought to encourage the Chinese to accept the ancient faith of the Christians like the radical (if rather impulsive) C.T. Studd and the appropriately named Canadian Jonathan Goforth. Goforth saw awakenings and revivals in the villages, and helped train and release many local Chinese leaders.

Roger Steer adds a personal note, ‘Just after Taylor died, a young Chinese evangelist looked upon his body and summed up Taylor’s most important legacy: “Dear and venerable pastor, we too are your little children. You opened for us the road to heaven. We do not want to bring you back, but we will follow you.” ‘[ii]

Today, China is arguably experiencing the greatest revival of church history. Reports from several sources describe hundreds of thousands coming to Christ with amazing miracles, signs and wonders along with persecution (Here are recent news item from the BBC, Fox News).

The so called ‘house churches’ in China seem unstoppable, even in the face of terrible cruelties and reports of human rights abuses on the part of the authorities.

News of very young leaders planting huge churches and very old women evangelising thousands reach us constantly and many of those from our churches who have visited the underground church leadership have been lastingly changed.

The estimates of those converted to the Christian faith in the last few decades range from between 75 and 100 million converts. The Guardian Newspaper in the UK ran an article that predicted that within 30 years China’s Christians will number no less than 400 million.

Pic: Ralph D Winter

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


[i]  Ralph Winter, Perspectives of the World Christian Movement, p.172

[ii] Roger Steer, Christian History magazine Issue 52, Vol. XV, No. 4, Page 10

Suffering, Sickness and Healing

PJ Smyth

Message of the Month – PJ Smyth

How should Christians respond when they are suddenly struck down with an illness? In the midst of suffering, are we to run away from medicine and trust only in prayer, or should we view prayer merely as a means of psychological comfort whilst trusting only in the prognosis of the medical professionals? Or, is there a faith-filled position which embraces both prayer and scientific medicine? And what about the Devil’s role in all this, and the role of vigourous resistance?

This message is by PJ Smyth who leads GodFirst Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was preached at the Newfrontiers ‘Together on a Mission’ conference in England in 2011.

It’s not a message on healing as such, but rather covers the broader range of pastoral issues that arise when we face serious sickness – including the source of sickness, and how we handle our approach towards recovery.

But it’s not merely academic. PJ was diagnosed with cancer in 2010, which was successfully treated. He tells the story in the message.

In terms of an overview of the Christian approach to the challenge of sickness and healing I think it is probably the best message I have heard on the subject, and which, in my opinion, reaches the correct conclusions.

But what do you think?

For the Video click here

For the Audio click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

The Boxer Uprising and China Inland Mission

A French Cartoon of 1898 criticising other powers for their Colonial interest in China (the French character to the right is looking on with concern)

In northern China, as the 19th Century drew to a close, a more determined resistance to foreign rule finally emerged.

The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists
Local militia, later known as ‘Boxers’ (who apparently believed certain boxing type techniques gave them special powers), were deployed specifically to attack foreigners and those assisting them.

Authorised by the Empress Dowager, who sent orders into the provinces in June 1900, the Boxers, or literally ‘The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists’, began to kill missionaries and converts.

Thousands of Chinese Christians, nick-named ‘secondary devils’, were martyred and many foreign missionaries and Christians died. Some put the estimate at near 20,000.[i]

‘I can trust’
Hudson Taylor, nearing the end of his life, was initially protected by staff from hearing the worst of the news, but it became impossible to hide.

In Shanxi, 34 Protestant missionaries and 12 Catholics were beheaded before the Governor. In the Beijing area, 15 of Taylor’s missionaries were killed, two others both single female missionaries were killed while kneeling in prayer.[ii]

During the uprising the China Inland Mission alone lost 58 missionaries and 21 of their children.

When Taylor, frail and ill, and resting in Switzerland, heard, he said ‘I cannot read. I cannot think. I cannot even pray. But I can trust.’

‘They do not regret it now’
Part of the correspondence he received was a letter from the two female missionaries written the very day before they were murdered. After reflecting on the desperate situation they found themselves in, Taylor said, ‘Oh think what it must have been to exchange that murderous mob for the rapture of His presence…They do not regret it now.’[iii]

Indeed there is no reported evidence of a single missionary attempting to recant in the face of execution. None of the CIM correspondence revealed a spirit of revenge. Reports also showed that local converts also stayed true to the faith and didn’t back down in order to save their lives. Some local non-Christian officials also paid with their lives to protect the freedom of religion in their areas.[iv]

Taylor’s last trip to China
In July, Jennie, Taylor’s second wife, finally succumbed to cancer and Taylor decided to make one last trip to China. There, in April 1905, three veteran missionaries from different missionary organisations met and thanked God for lives spent serving Him in China. They prayed and sang hymns together. They had served as missionaries in China a combined total of 156 years.

It was in China at last that he passed away – in the land where he had spent his life sharing the gospel.

China’s Millions
Hudson Taylor’s two-volume biography, written by his son and daughter-in-law, ends with the chapter ‘Prayers Yet to be Answered’. I think even they would be thrilled to know that today millions of Chinese are followers of Jesus Christ.

The success of the gospel is not finally dependent on any individual human leader, yet the role an individual plays can be decisive in its advance.

Ultimately the gospel is dependent on the still-living, resurrected Jesus Christ, who was sent by the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit. The triune God is a God who saves – the dramatic success of Christianity in China, even under the challenges of legislated persecution or atheism, is testimony to that.

For the first post on Hudson Taylor click here

© Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] Roger Steer, J Hudson Taylor, A Man in Christ (OM: Singapore), p.354

[ii] ibid p.355

[iii] ibid p.357

[iv] ibid p.358-9

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

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

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

Message of the Month John Piper

Working for your Joy!

John Piper

The search for genuine joy in the battle of life is a search that concerns every person.

The soul’s thirst for satisfaction drives men and women, Christian and non-Christian, to try a myriad of promises – and often leaves them feeling empty, short-changed, duped.

In this compelling message, John Piper argues that the chief aim of the Christian leader is to make joy the ultimate aim of each person – by pointing them to the only ultimately satisfying source of joy: Jesus Christ.

Joy in Christ is the goal of the Christian life – Joy, Piper asserts, is not just the icing on the cake, it is the cake!!

John Piper - working for the joy of all peoples

The link below is to a video, but if you don’t have access to fast internet (as most people don’t yet), then there is a link on the page to an mp3 version of the message.

The context of this message was a 300 leaders conference in London, hosted by Newfrontiers Pastor Tope Koleoso. I hope you enjoy it.

The Message (click the link): Working for your Joy

© Church History / Lex Loizides

Investing in a Bank that cannot fail – Hudson Taylor

A Half Crown from 1845

Hudson Taylor on bringing our needs to God Alone
When we read biographies of some of the Christian leaders of the 19th Century there is a common feature which immediately strikes us: a commitment to pray to God until the answer comes, rather than appeal to men.

The name George Muller immediately comes to mind, but we could also mention Spurgeon and Hudson Taylor.

Getting it from the horse’s mouth
Taylor was seeking to grow in faith, to exercise ‘spiritual muscles’, in preparation for the demands of faith in China. The incident he describes in the following passage is perhaps one of the most famous in his life. I have edited it down somewhat but it is a sheer delight to read it in his own words.

‘I thought to myself, “When I get out to China, I shall have no claim on any one for anything; my only claim will be on God. How important, therefore, to learn before leaving England to move man, through God, by prayer alone.”

At Hull my kind employer, always busily occupied, wished me to remind him whenever my salary became due. This I determined not to do directly, but to ask that God would bring the fact to his recollection, and thus encourage me by answering prayer. At one time, as the day drew near for the payment of a quarter’s salary, I was as usual much in prayer about it. The time arrived, but my kind friend made no allusion to the matter. I continued praying, and days passed on, but he did not remember, until at length, on settling up my weekly accounts one Saturday night, I found myself possessed of only a single coin, one half-crown piece…’

Serving the Poor
‘That Sunday was a very happy one…After attending Divine service in the morning, my afternoons and evenings were filled with Gospel work, in the various lodging-houses I was accustomed to visit in the lowest part of the town…

After concluding my last service about ten o’clock that night, a poor man asked me to go and pray with his wife, saying that she was dying. I readily agreed, and on the way to his house asked him why he had not sent for the priest, as his accent told me he was an Irishman. He had done so, he said, but the priest refused to come without a payment of eighteen pence, which the man did not possess, as the family was starving.’

The dilemma of a single coin
‘Immediately it occurred to my mind that all the money I had in the world was the solitary half-crown [about 2 days’ labourer’s wage in 1860 – worth roughly £120 in 2011], and that it was in one coin; moreover, that while the basin of water gruel I usually took for supper was awaiting me, and there was sufficient in the house for breakfast in the morning, I certainly had nothing for dinner on the coming day.

Somehow or other there was at once a stoppage in the flow of joy in my heart; but instead of reproving myself I began to reprove the poor man, telling him that it was very wrong to have allowed matters to get into such a state as he described, and that he ought to have applied to the relieving officer.

His answer was that he had done so, and was told to come at eleven o’clock the next morning, but that he feared that his wife might not live through the night.

“Ah,” thought I, “if only I had two shillings and a sixpence instead of this half-crown, how gladly would I give these poor people one shilling of it!” But to part with the half-crown was far from my thoughts.

I little dreamed that the real truth of the matter simply was that I could trust in God plus one-and-sixpence, but was not yet prepared to trust Him only, without any money at all in my pocket.’

Into the home of the starving
‘Up a miserable flight of stairs, into a wretched room, he led me; and oh what a sight there presented itself to our eyes!

Four or five poor children stood about, their sunken cheeks and temples all telling unmistakably the story of slow starvation; and lying on a wretched pallet was a poor exhausted mother, with a tiny infant thirty-six hours old, moaning rather than crying at her side, for it too seemed spent and failing.

“Ah!” thought I, “if I had two shillings and a sixpence instead of half-a-crown, how gladly should they have one-and-sixpence of it!” But still a wretched unbelief prevented me from obeying the impulse to relieve their distress at the cost of all I possessed.’

‘You hypocrite!’
‘It will scarcely seem strange that I was unable to say much to comfort these poor people. I needed comfort myself. I began to tell them, however, that they must not be cast down, that though their circumstances were very distressing, there was a kind and loving Father in heaven; but something within me said, “You hypocrite! telling these unconverted people about a kind and loving Father in heaven, and not prepared yourself to trust Him without half-a-crown!”

I was nearly choked. How gladly would I have compromised with conscience if I had had a florin and a sixpence! I would have given the florin thankfully and kept the rest; but I was not yet prepared to trust in God alone, without the sixpence.’

Prayer for the Poor
‘To talk was impossible under these circumstances; yet, strange to say, I thought I should have no difficulty in praying. Prayer was a delightful occupation to me in those days; time thus spent never seemed wearisome, and I knew nothing of lack of words.

I seemed to think that all I should have to do would be to kneel down and engage in prayer, and that relief would come to them and to myself together.

“You asked me to come and pray with your wife,” I said to the man, “let us pray.” And I knelt down.

But scarcely had I opened my lips with “Our Father who art in heaven” than conscience said within, “Dare you mock God? Dare you kneel down and call Him Father with that half-crown in your pocket?”

Such a time of conflict came upon me then as I have never experienced before or since. How I got through that form of prayer I know not, and whether the words uttered were connected or disconnected I cannot tell; but I arose from my knees in great distress of mind.’

Relief – and joy!
‘The poor father turned to me and said, “You see what a terrible state we are in, sir; if you can help us, for God’s sake do!”

Just then the word flashed into my mind, “Give to him that asketh of thee,” and in the word of a King there is power.

I put my hand into my pocket, and slowly drawing forth the half-crown, gave it to the man, telling him that it might seem a small matter for me to relieve them, seeing that I was comparatively well off, but that in parting with that coin I was giving him my all; what I had been trying to tell him was indeed true: God really was a Father, and might be trusted.

The joy all came back in full flood-tide to my heart; I could say anything and feel it then, and the hindrance to blessing was gone; gone, I trust, for ever.’

My life was saved!
‘Not only was the poor woman’s life saved, but I realised that my life was saved too! It might have been a wreck, would have been a wreck probably, as a Christian life, had not grace at that time conquered, and the striving of God’s Spirit been obeyed.

I well remember how that night, as I went home to my lodgings, my heart was as light as my pocket. The lonely, deserted streets resounded with a hymn of praise which I could not restrain.

When I took my basin of gruel before retiring, I would not have exchanged it for a prince’s feast.’

Trusting God to supply – back to prayer
‘I reminded the Lord as I knelt at my bedside of His own Word, that he who giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord: I asked Him not to let my loan be a long one, or I should have no dinner next day; and with peace within and peace without, I spent a happy, restful night.

Next morning for breakfast my plate of porridge remained, and before it was consumed the postman’s knock was heard at the door.

I was not in the habit of receiving letters on Monday, as my parents and most of my friends refrained from posting on Saturday; so that I was somewhat surprised when the landlady came in holding a letter or packet in her wet hand covered by her apron.’

A letter from Heaven
‘I looked at the letter, but could not make out the handwriting. It was either a strange hand or a feigned one, and the postmark was blurred. Where it came from I could not tell.

On opening the envelope I found nothing written within; but inside a sheet of blank paper was folded a pair of kid gloves, from which, as I opened them in astonishment, half-a-sovereign [ = 120d. A half crown = 30d] fell to the ground.

“Praise the Lord!” I exclaimed; “400 per cent for twelve hours investment; that is good interest. How glad the merchants of Hull would be if they could lend their money at such a rate!”

Investing in the Bank which cannot fail
‘I then and there determined that a bank which could not break should have my savings or earnings as the case might be, a determination I have not yet learned to regret.

I cannot tell you how often my mind has recurred to this incident, or all the help it has been to me in circumstances of difficulty in after-life.

If we are faithful to God in little things, we shall gain experience and strength that will be helpful to us in the more serious trials of life.’[i]

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor story click here

For the next part in the Hudson Taylor story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] A Retrospect, Hudson Taylor, from Chapter 3, Bethany House, p.22-27

Photo of Half Crown from here

Hudson Taylor on Tithing, the Millenium and Possessions

In his later teenage years Hudson Taylor became a medical assistant in Hull. He was certain that God had called him to take the Christian message to China and was preparing himself for his life’s work.

He had already forsaken various comforts in order to develop a more robust and flexible lifestyle, which he felt would equip him for future unknown hardships.

Tithing
Whilst in Hull he began to consider the issue of tithing. Tithing is the practice of giving the first 10% of one’s income to the local church. Christians don’t do this in order to earn their salvation from God but as a response to His grace, as an expression of trust and as an acknowledgement of their dependence upon Him as the ultimate provider.

But Taylor had a dilemma. He received two amounts of income. The first was essentially his salary as a medical assistant. The second was an amount for board and lodging – the exact amount. Taylor personally felt that this, too, was income and should be tithed. He therefore left the more comfortable arrangement that had been made for him and took a cheaper place specifically that he might tithe the amount.

This may seem like nit-picking to us but for Taylor it was a significant test of whether he was able to trust God fully and be responsible with the funds he received – right down to the penny. In his ‘Retrospect’ he obviously wants to communicate to potential donors that he is trustworthy, and that this had been part of his training.

By watching his spending carefully he found that he was able to give more away that he had at first thought possible.

The Reign of Christ breaks the power of greed
At a fairly early point in his theological study Taylor came to believe in the premillenial reign of Christ – the idea that when Christ returns He will reign for a period of time, on this earth, in history (ie, before the eradication of sin) and prior to the Day of Judgement (the primary passage referred to by those who hold this view is in Revelation 20).

Taylor said that this teaching, rather than cause him to speculate on when Christ might return, breathed into his spirit a readiness and an eagerness for Christ’s return that infused him with energy for service.

It also drew his affections heavenward and freed him from materialism. ‘The effect of this hope was a thoroughly practical one.’ He went through his possessions selecting books and clothes which he could give away, to benefit others. This was a practice he kept up throughout his life.

He began to purchase fewer ‘luxurious’ goods. ‘My experience was that the less I spent on myself and the more I gave away, the fuller of happiness and blessing did my soul become.’[i]

This drive towards self-denial and generosity did not lead to a harshness or meanness of spirit in him, but rather to joy – because one day Christ would come and rule.

And all this was preparation for the mission – to take the gospel to China.

For the next part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here
For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Retrospect (To China With Love), Bethany, p.21

The Private Preparation of a World Changer

Hull, in the 1800's, where Hudson Taylor studied

CH Spurgeon, the great evangelistic pastor of the 19th Century once said, ‘Fervent lovers of souls do not wait till they are trained, they serve their Lord at once.’[i]

Hudson Taylor was no exception to this rule of Christian leadership and immediately began sharing the gospel with those around him.

He had already become convinced that China was the place where he would, at some future point, serve God. He therefore began a process of self-discipline that, frankly, ought to challenge every potential Christian leader today.

Taylor’s own testimony of his late teenage years, is rich with instruction – honouring parents, trusting God, being open to correction, personal integrity, diligent study and a willingness to serve.

The Crucial Role of Parenting in the Global Mission
His parents, also, were parenting in faith. They could have discouraged his desire to leave England. After all, it is possible to serve God in England! They could have discouraged him from a ministerial career. After all, you can serve God and take up a regular profession!

Did the mother that prayed so earnestly for her precious son trust the wisdom of God in taking him so far away? This would require faith, pure and undefiled.

Taylor writes, ‘My beloved parents neither discouraged nor encouraged my desire to engage in missionary work. They advised me to use all the means in my power to develop the resources of body, mind, heart, and soul, and to wait prayerfully upon God, quite willing, should He show me that I was mistaken, to follow His guidance, or to go forward if in due time He should open the way to missionary service.’

‘Take my feather bed away!’
He continues, ‘The importance of this advice I have often since had occasion to prove. I began to take more exercise in the open air to strengthen my physique.

My feather bed I had taken away, and sought to dispense with as many other home comforts as I could, in order to prepare myself for rougher lines of life.’

Giving out tracts, visiting the poor
‘I began also to do what Christian work was in my power, in the way of tract distribution, Sunday-school teaching, and visiting the poor and sick, as opportunity afforded.’

Practical Training
‘After a time of preparatory study at home, I went to Hull for medical and surgical training. There I became assistant to a doctor who was connected with the Hull school of medicine, and was surgeon also to a number of factories, which brought many accident cases to our dispensary, and gave me the opportunity of seeing and practising the minor operations of surgery.’[ii]

But Taylor’s self-imposed preparation for service was not limited to the physical and intellectual arena. He knew he must grow in faith. And he, therefore, began to exercise his faith in the area of giving and trusting God for money.

For the next post in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

Picture from A Personal History of Hull

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Lectures to My Students on the Art of Preaching, Marshall and Pickering, p.36

[ii] From A Retrospect, later published as ‘To China with Love’, Bethany House, p.16-17

The Power of Prayer in the Conversion of Souls

James Hudson Taylor in 1865

A Heritage of Faith
James Hudson Taylor was born in 1832 and died when the Welsh Revival of 1904 was one year old.

His story is one of prayer, or perseverance, of faith and of suffering. His story is one of radical obedience to Christ’s Commission to take the gospel to the world.

Hudson Taylor was a Yorkshireman, born in Barnsley. He was the son of evangelical Methodists and his family enjoyed the privilege of having hosted John Wesley, the great Methodist Evangelist, in 1786.

The story of his great grandparents looking after Wesley and then hearing him preach to a great congregation had been told and retold many times.

HT’s father was fascinated with China. He was a highly respected Chemist who also treated patients in a consulting room behind the store. But the passion he instilled into his children was centred on China. He had actually prayed, ‘Lord, if you give us a son, grant that he may work for You in China!’

His prayer was answered spectacularly.

A teenager’s apathy and a mother’s love
As a ‘teenager’ HT began to question the faith of his family. He wasn’t so sure that the daily Bible readings which his father led, were so necessary. He began to be sceptical.

But his mother began to pray, fervently and passionately.

One day in June 1849, the bored 17yr old began looking around for something to read. He casually looked through his father’s bookshelves when a tract caught his eye.

He knew what it was, and decided that he’d read the story part (which he assumed would be at the beginning of the tract) and skim read over the ‘moral of the story’ and probably a mini sermon at the end.

What he didn’t know was that his mother had also found herself at a loose end while she was in another town, and began praying fervently for his conversion. She began to get a conviction in prayer that she should pray on until she knew she had the answer from God.

In Praise of Tracts!
‘Let me tell you how God answered the prayers of my dear mother for my conversion!’ Hudson wrote in his book ‘Retrospect’

‘In the afternoon I looked through my father’s library to find some book with which to while away the unoccupied hours. Nothing attracting me, I turned over a little basket of pamphlets and selected from among them a Gospel tract which looked interesting, saying to myself, ‘There will be a story at the beginning , and a sermon or moral at the close: I will take the former and leave the latter for those who like it.’

I sat down to read the little book in an utterly unconcerned state of mind, believing indeed that I there were any salvation it was not for me…’

Little did I know at the same time what was going on in the heart of my dear mother, seventy or eighty miles away.

The Power of Prayer
She [had] an intense yearning for the conversion of her boy…She went to her room and turned the key in the door, resolved not to leave that spot until her prayers were answered.

Hour after hour did that dear mother plead for me, until at length she could pray no longer, but was constrained to praise God for that which His Spirit taught her had already been accomplished – the conversion of her only son.

I, in the meantime, while reading the tract, was struck with the sentence ‘the finished work of Christ.’

Why does the author use this expression? Why not say ‘the atoning work of Christ’?

Immediately the words, ‘It is finished!’ suggested themselves to my mind [these were words spoken by Jesus when he was on the cross – John 19:30]. What was finished?

And I at once replied: ‘A full and perfect atonement and satisfaction for sin: the debt was paid…Christ died for our sins!’

Then came the thought, ‘If the whole work was finished and the whole debt paid, what is there left for me to do?’

The finished work of Christ applied by the Holy Spirit
And with this dawned the joyful conviction, as light was flashed into my soul by the Holy Spirit, that there was nothing in the world to be done but to fall down on one’s knees, and accepting this Saviour and His salvation, to praise Him forever more!

Thus while my dear mother was praising God on her knees in her chamber, I was praising Him in the old warehouse to which I had gone alone to read this little book at my leisure.

When our dear mother came home a fortnight later, I was the first to meet her at the door, and to tell her I had such glad news to give.

I can almost feel that dear mother’s arms around my neck, as she pressed me to her bosom and said, ‘I know, my boy; I have been rejoicing for a fortnight in the glad tidings you have to tell me!’

My mother assured me that it was not from any human source that she had learned the tidings…

You will agree with me that it would be strange indeed if I were not a believer in the power of prayer.’[i]

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

To read the next part of the Hudson Taylor Story, the first steps towards the mission in China, click here

Personal Tracts

Tracts can still be incredibly powerful – and you don’t have to purchase an old fashioned one with dull graphics. You can easily write your own. Click here for more details.

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] From To China with Love, Hudson Taylor, Bethany House, p.10-13

Introducing Hudson Taylor…

The young Hudson Taylor

It was said of him:

‘No other missionary in the nineteen centuries since the Apostle Paul has had a wider vision and has carried out a more systematised plan of evangelising a broad geographical area than Hudson Taylor.’[i]

Hudson Taylor’s story is one of the most exciting and challenging in church history.

Oh not another rule breaker!
At first he was frowned upon by his fellow Europeans because when he arrived in China he was neither an ordained minister nor even a qualified doctor. He was looked down upon by the qualified missionaries as an upstart, almost an imposter – relying merely upon a supposed call from God.

He made it worse! When he adopted Chinese clothing and insisted on his fellow workers doing the same he became the laughing stock of the Shanghai missionary community.

But he persevered and soon, by faithful prayer and faithful preaching, he won converts and ‘mission stations’ (prototype church plant communities) were gradually established across China.

Wisdom (+faith+perseverance) vindicated
Before too long, Hudson Taylor’s organization, ‘The China inland Mission’, was the single most productive movement for evangelisation in Chinese history.

We are going to spend a little time examining certain aspects of Taylor’s life and ministry. Much has been written about him and his work and I trust we will be inspired to ‘imitate his faith’ in our own contexts.

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

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Ruth Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Zondervan p.173

Dying to Serve

Dying to Serve Others

Alexander Mackay

Scottish missionary Alexander Mackay came to Africa in 1876.

He had been trained as an engineer at the University of Edinburgh, and later in Berlin, but felt the call of God to preach the gospel and to share the message of Christ in Africa.

Ruth Tucker, in her biographical history of missions, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, states that Mackay (and seven others) came here in response to a request from King Mtesa of Uganda, who had asked for missionaries.

Mackay successfully influenced King Mtesa to stop providing his people as slaves to the Arab slave trade, which made him a direct target for both threats and numerous actual attempts on his life.

But Mackay worked hard on a translation of the Bible and on preaching the gospel. He was finally able to baptise new converts in 1882 and the church grew to 86 members. These numbers sound almost silly by comparison to the huge numbers who now make up the Christian Church in Africa. But Mackay and those like him were the pioneers – and not without cost.

Sacrifice
When Mackay and the other missionaries prepared to leave England in 1875 he had declared:

‘I want to remind the committee that within six months they will probably hear that some one of us is dead.  Yes, is it at all likely that eight Englishmen should start for central Africa and all be alive six months after?  One of us at least – it may be I – will surely fall before that.  When the news comes, do not be cast down, but send someone else immediately to take the vacant place.’ [i]

He was right. Five of them died within the first year. By the end of the second year in Uganda Mackay was left alone. All of them gave their lives for Africa.

Mackay himself was deported from Uganda by King Mwanga, who was far more resistant to Christian influence than Mtesa. He moved to Tanganyika.

He had pioneered, laid the foundations for future church growth, and served the purpose of God in his generation. In 1890 he, like his companions before him, caught Malaria and, tragically, died. He was 40.

‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ Jesus (John 12:24)

Africa Today

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Quoted by Tucker, From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Zondervan, p.157

Mary Slessor the ‘Mother of all Peoples’

Mary Slessor of Calabar

Mary Slessor is an unlikely hero.  She was a tough working class, single woman from Dundee, Scotland, who was able to penetrate the interior of Nigeria and reach tribes who were so hostile to the white invaders that the men who had attempted the task before her had been murdered.

Although considered unconventional by Europeans, and certainly determined in character, she became a genuine peace-maker in numerous ways.

A statue honouring Mary Slessor, in Akpap Okoyong, Nigeria

She established schools and became well known in her struggle to reverse the practice of condemning twin babies to death. She fought for the acceptance of the small-pox vaccinations amongst the local people. She certainly served as an able fore-runner to the many church planters that followed her to Nigeria.

She gained such respect that at times she was called upon to act as a judge to help settle disputes between tribes.

A peace-maker and reformer

Mary Slessor wasn’t a church planter and didn’t gain great numbers of converts but as a Christians peacemaker and human rights reformer she was an unparalleled success.

Like her fellow Scot, David Livingstone, she was considered unconventional by European standards. Slessor lived amongst the people in a mud hut, certainly unusual for western missionaries at the time.

The British authorities respected her, and called upon her for help, actually funding some of her projects – but they were also exaperated by her: she had somehow freed herself from the European obsession with time keeping and therefore kept very irregular and unpredictable hours; infuriating to the British.

Mary Slessor in later years. Photo © Dundee City Council, McManus Galleries and Museum, 2008

But she much loved by the local Efik peoples, was fluent in their language and genuinely adapted her life to serve them.  She was named ‘The Mother of all Peoples’ by the locals. She remains a challenging example of Christlikeness to all believers.

Mary Slessor, honoured in Scotland

The Scottish Clydesdale Bank honoured her memory by having her image on the £10 note.

For more on Mary Slessor go to The Dundee City Website

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides

A Colonial-Era European still Honoured in Africa

Biography of David Livingstone, Missionary to Africa

Honouring Africa

Livingstone’s fascination and admiration was not only for the land but the people of Africa. And he seems to have received genuine respect from those he was seeking to serve.

Alvyn Austen writes, ‘Livingstone treated his hosts with decorum. Tribes usually reciprocated by treating him like a visiting dignitary. ‘Africans are not by any means unreasonable,’ he wrote. ‘I think unreasonableness is more a heredity disease in Europe.’[i]

He lived among, learnt from and suffered alongside Africans. When white farmers attacked the Bakwain tribe they also completely plundered Livingstone’s house, taking all his belongings. Their loss was also his loss.

This kind of identification with the African people has won a lasting place of affection for Livingstone in many African hearts.

An American Journalist’s Dream

When rumours spread that Livingstone had died trying to find the source of the Nile, Henry Stanley, an American journalist successfully hunted him down. When they met at Lake Tanganyika and Stanley uttered the now famous words, ‘Livingstone, I presume?’ he was an old, 60 years of age, weakened by disease.  Stanley tried to convince Livingstone to return to Europe but he refused.  In May 1873, while kneeling by his bed in prayer, he died.

Alvyn Austen continues, ‘His African friends, former slaves he had freed, buried his heart under an Mpundu tree 70 miles from the shore of Lake Bangweulu. Then they carried his body back to his own people, an 11-month journey through equatorial jungle and open seas.

All Britain wept. The … world wept. They gave him a 21-gun salute and a hero’s funeral among the saints in Westminster Abbey.’

Honoured by Africa

‘Today, at a time when countries are being renamed and statues are being toppled, Livingstone has not fallen. Despite modern Africans’ animosity toward other Europeans, such as Cecil Rhodes, Livingstone endures as a heroic legend.

Rhodesia has long since purged its name, but the cities of Livingstone (Zambia) and Livingstonia (Malawi) keep the explorer’s appellation with pride.

Furthermore, the [commercial] capital of Malawi, Blantyre, was named for Livingstone’s birthplace.  And Livingstone’s massive bronze statue still points to the world’s largest waterfall, Victoria Falls.’ [ii]

Livingstone, more a discoverer than a missionary, probably did more to introduce the continent of Africa to European readers than anyone of his generation.

For the first part of the Livingstone story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] Christian History magazine, 1997, See here for more

[ii] ibid

Half Eaten by a Lion!

 

 

The Scotsman David Livingstone doesn’t neatly fit into the category of ‘missionary’.

Instead he tends to live in the memories of the British as an heroic Explorer. When speaking in Cambridge he confidently asserted, ‘I go back to Africa to try to make an open path for commerce and Christianity.’[i]

Whether he was just naive or cynically working for colonial domination remains a subject of debate. But Livingstone passionately believed that an increase in commerce, instead of slavery, and an increase of Christianity instead of other religions would be beneficial to Africa, and he became more vitally involved with the mapping the land itself and learning about its people than any other missionary of his time.

Once bitten!
There is one famous incident in Livingstone’s life which is famous and fascinating: the lion attack.

Tim Jeal, describing the incident writes,

‘As early as 1842 [Livingstone] had seen ‘a woman actually devoured in her garden’ by a lion, and had noticed that there was a plague of these animals at Mabotsa.

Nevertheless he had always remained unworried by the thought of personal danger from them, and had assured friends in England that ‘the sense of danger vanishes when you are in a country of lions.’

On 16 February 1844 Livingstone was working on the ditches of the watercourse when some natives were screaming to him to help them kill a lion that had just dragged off some sheep.

As Livingstone put it later: ‘I very imprudently ventured across the valley in order to encourage them to destroy him.’

It was not Livingstone’s only mistake; he went with only one gun and with no [support] at his side. He fired both barrels at the lion but only wounded him.

As he vainly tried to reload, the lion leapt on him and, catching him by the arm, shook him ‘as a terrier dog does a rat’. Livingstone’s upper arm was splintered at once; the lion’s teeth made a series of gashes like ‘gun-shot wounds’.

Livingstone and the Lion – Gareth Knowles’ wonderful sculpture

Livingstone was only saved by the sudden appearance of Mebalwe, an elderly convert whom Livingstone had brought from Kuruman as a teacher.

Mebalwe, seeing that his master would be dead within minutes unless he acted, snatched a gun … loaded and fired both barrels.

The gun misfired but the lion was diverted at this crucial moment and bounded off to attack his new assailant.

The luckless Mebalwe was badly bitten on the thigh and another who tried to help him was in turn bitten on the shoulder.

At this stage, however, the lion suddenly dropped dead, killed at last by the wounds initially inflicted by Livingstone.

An earlier depiction of the Lion Attack

Livingstone was extremely ill for weeks…It is hard to imagine the agony he must have suffered without anaesthetic and without the help of another doctor. He had to supervise the setting of the badly splintered arm himself.

Nevertheless he made an astoundingly fast recovery and within months was working cautiously on the lighter tasks involved in building his house.’ [ii]  Thankfully, Mebalwe, the man who heroically saved Livingstone’s life and nearly lost his own, made a full recovery and continued to work alongside Livingstone.

The incredible sculpture featured above is by Gareth Knowles

For the first part of the Livingstone Story click here

For the next part of the Livingstone Story, and to hear how Africa still honours his legacy, click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] The Planting of Christianity in Africa, CP Groves, Vol 1, p.185 Lutterworth Press

[ii] Livingstone, Tim Jeal, p.58-59, Yale University Press

Livingstone, I Presume?

 

 

Africa during the 19th century has often been referred to as ‘The missionary’s graveyard’. Cartoons, TV adverts or comedy sketches featuring missionaries in couldrons accepting their fate with good humour abound. Resistance to colonial invaders and their strange religious co-conspirators is understandable. Yet there is little doubt that Africa, notwithstanding huge difficulties, has embraced the Christian faith eagerly.

But it wasn’t always so…

‘A costly undertaking’

In 1983 historian Ruth Tucker wrote:

‘[Africa] has claimed the lives of more Protestant missionaries than any other area of the world.  Evangelism has been a costly undertaking, but the investment has paid rich dividends…it has been one of the most fruitful ‘mission fields’ in the world.

‘It is estimated that by the end of the 20th century fifty percent of the population (Africa south of the Sahara) will be professing Christian.  Most of this growth has come in the twentieth century.  Church growth in the 19th century was often painfully slow, but it was the nineteenth-century missionary pioneers who risked all to open the way for Christianity in Africa.’[i]

Tucker also points out that Protestant missions to Africa began in the Cape Colony by the Moravians in the 18th century.  Hosts of missionaries followed including the great Scottish missionary/explorer David Livingstone who evangelised as he went about his travels in Southern Africa (up as far as Angola on the west coast and Malawi on the east).

‘Livingstone, I presume?’

Well, he is a slightly odd one! Tim Jeal in his biography from the 1970’s put down on paper what many have pondered. Are we right to presume that the Livingstone, sometimes lauded as the greatest missionary ever, was, in fact, even a good one?

Writing of his own contribution to biographical research about Livingstone, Jeal asserts: ‘the picture I presented of the great explorer’s character and life’s work differed significantly from depictions of him in all previous biographies…The picture of Livingstone presented in biographies published after mine has in all factual essentials resembled my own.

‘My contention that Livingstone failed in conventional missionary terms, making but a single convert, a chief, who subsequently lapsed, has never been challenged.’[ii]

‘Yet,’ continues Jeal, ‘despite his character defects and his failures, Livingstone remained a very great man whose overall achievement was unique – not simply because he was the first European to have made an authenticated crossing of the continent from coast to coast; not even for the many geographical discoveries he made during thousands of miles of tramping with inadequate supplies and assistance.

‘For in addition, his contributions to ethnology, natural history, tropical medicine and linguistics were hugely influential, as were his roles as a crusader against the slave trade…’[iii]

Jeal has hit on a key Livingstone dilemma. Here we have an essentially non-evangelistic missionary who fell in love with Africa and Africans and who became essentially an explorer, impatient with Europeans, yet who would ‘open up the way’ for colonialists seeking to exploit the land and its people. Hardly a clear-cut Christian mission.

For the next post on Livinsgtone’s adventures and how he was attacked by a lion click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] Ruth Tucker , From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, Zondervan, p.139

[ii] Tim Jeal, Livingstone, Yale University Press, 1985, p.xiiv

[iii] ibid, p.xiiv