One Hundred and Forty Years in Cape Town

An adventure in the world’s most beautiful city.[i]
In November 1875 three individuals met for prayer in Long Street, Cape Town. They wanted to start a church.

CH Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher
CH Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher

After getting some advice they wrote to CH Spurgeon in London, who had begun a Pastor’s training college, and asked if he could send someone to lead the church-planting initiative. Spurgeon responded warmly and selected William Hamilton.

Hamilton was clearly a leader amongst his peers and committed to evangelism. It was said of him, a ‘harmony between Calvinistic theology, evangelical activism, and Christian piety was a characteristic feature of Mr Hamilton’s ministry.’

On the basis of this faith-filled request from just three Christians, Hamilton got organised and set sail from London.

The first Baptist Union leaders in South Africa
The first Baptist Union leaders in South Africa

The first Baptists had arrived in 1820 and had begun congregations in Grahamstown and other places. William Hamilton’s arrival represented a possible breakthrough in Cape Town itself.

The man for Cape Town, William Hamilton
The man for Cape Town, William Hamilton

Three months at sea
After a three-month voyage, he arrived in Cape Town in November 1876 (a full year after Spurgeon received the letter of request). It’s difficult to imagine what a three-month journey by ship must have been like. But, considering missionary travels in the 19th century, we ought probably to be a little more gracious at the occasional forty-minute delay before our 12 hour flights to Europe.

Hamilton held a meeting on the 12th November in the Temperance Hall, Long Street which gathered 60 curious people.

Long Street, Cape town, c.1860
Long Street, Cape town, c.1860

The church was constituted on the 19th November 1876 when just nine people agreed to become members by signing this covenant statement:

‘We do hold that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be our only rule of faith and guidance. The Scriptures teach the doctrines of the Trinity, man’s fall, redemption by the substitution of the Son of God, and regeneration by the Holy Spirit; the final judgement of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; the eternal reward of the righteous and eternal punishment of the wicked. While God, in His sovereign mercy, can call whom he will, the world is invited to embrace the Gospel.
The Church of Christ, as set forth in the New Testament, is composed of those who trust alone to Christ for salvation, profess His name before the world, and obey the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
We shall endeavour to the utmost of our ability to further the cause of God among us by fervent prayer, diligent attendance on the means of grace, pecuniary assistance in support of the Ministry, and by trying to get others to attend the house of God.’

Sunday Services
Soon the church grew and Hamilton was formally appointed as Pastor.
Regular prayer meetings were held in a ‘portrait saloon’ in Caledon St, and Sunday services were started in the Oddfellows’ Hall in Plein Street.

Plein Street, Cape Town, c.1870
Plein Street, Cape Town, c.1870

Fruitfulness in evangelism
Hamilton’s evangelistic zeal bore much fruit in Cape Town. Twenty-six conversions were reported as having taken place at one evening meeting.

After a few years the church had grown to such an extent that they were able to build their first church facility. The site they chose was in Wale Street. The construction of the building took a while but was finally completed in 1882. I had discovered this building before relocating to Cape Town in my copy of Spurgeon’s The Sword and the Trowel.

Like Spurgeon's sermons, the Sword and the Trowel was bound into annual volumes
Like Spurgeon’s sermons, the Sword and the Trowel was bound into annual volumes

Here is Spurgeon’s announcement of the completion of the Wale Street building:

Wale Street Baptist Church, an engraving printed in Spurgeon's the Sword and the Trowel
Wale Street Baptist Church, an engraving printed in Spurgeon’s the Sword and the Trowel

The text, written by Spurgeon, reads: ‘Most of our readers must be familiar with the story of Mr. Hamilton’s work in Cape Town; for our pages have often contained notices of his self-denying and arduous labours. Leaving the Pastors’ College in 1876, he accepted an invitation from a small company of baptized believers, who desired to form a church upon what they considered the principles of the New Testament. For some years, in various halls and with varying success, the work was prosecuted with great vigour; and at last on March 9th, 1882, the pastor had the inexpressible delight of preaching in the new chapel, of which an engraving is given above.’

Wale Street, Cape Town, c.1880. Hamilton's building is clearly visible on the left.
Wale Street, Cape Town, c.1880. Hamilton’s building is clearly visible on the left.
The Wale Street church building by local artist Desmond Martin

Spurgeon later said of Hamilton, ‘He has accomplished marvels, and has often made our heart to sing for joy.’ [ii]
It was also said of him, ‘He was quite something new in the religious world of the Cape. He was unconventional both in dress and manner, and of boundless zeal and energy. He got quickly to work, and found quite a number of people interested in his mission.’ [iii]

Wale Street before and after...
Wale Street before and after…

Hamilton not only preached in the city centre but also in the suburbs.

As I searched in the National Archives, at the National Library and online, not only did I discover Hamilton’s amazing story, but also that it was his preaching that led to formation of Wynberg Baptist Church. That was of particular interest because in 1983 a number of idealistic young people from Wynberg Baptist Church launched out and began what was to become Jubilee Community Church.

So, in a very real sense – in a manner where you can trace a direct connection – the roots of both Jubilee Community Church and Cape Town Baptist Church go back to the pioneer evangelist William Hamilton.

More growth
The congregation outgrew the Wale Street building and, in the middle of the last century, moved to a site that stretches between Kloof and Orange Street where they enjoyed decades of fruitful ministry until falling somewhat into decline. The pastor and congregation reached out to the leadership of Jubilee to see if we could join hands and enter a new season of revitalisation and growth. Amazingly, the collaboration has worked and has become a story of unity, peace and strength which we trust will benefit the city.

Re-united
The continuity of our history, the strength of two churches coming, as it were, back together; of 140 years of faithful prayer and evangelism, should give us an awareness of the faithfulness of God, and a momentum that is from God. The strong encouragements we have received from former members of the two Baptist congregations that met on this site have been overwhelming. The present congregation feels as though we are being carried by generations of prayers, of faith, of giving, of longing.
We are not merely having a go at something in the city-centre. God is at work!

Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town
Jubilee Community Church, Kloof Street/Orange Street, Cape Town

This is a new beginning. We are trusting God to enable us to renovate the larger auditorium space and grow beyond our current 180-200 or so up to a significant size that will be a blessing to the city and a testimony to God’s grace.

Spurgeon wrote to Hamilton several times. As far as we know, no letter of has been preserved. But I found a line from one of Spurgeon’s letters which simply said, ‘My heart is thoroughly with your work.’

Buhle reads during the Good Friday service, 2017
Part of the congregation that gathered for our Good Friday service, 2017

But this is not a story about dead heroes. Paul reminds us that one plants, another waters, but it is God who gives the growth. And it’s God who has preserved this city-centre space for the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, on the 19th November 2016 – the 140th anniversary – we gave thanks, because we’re not only part of a current expression of the church in Cape Town, we’re also joining with one hundred and forty years of history in our city, and we’re joyfully aligning ourselves with the faithfulness of a gracious God.

©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] https://www.goodthingsguy.com/environment/cape-town/
http://www.southafrica.net/blog/en/posts/entry/Cape-Town-voted-the-Worlds-best-city-here-are-22-reasons-why
[
ii] Sword and Trowel vol. 1885
[iii] http://zalookup.com/library/books/TheHistoryOfTheBaptistChurchIinSouthAfrica.pdf

Message of the Month Don Smith

Don and Stephanie Smith
Don and Stephanie Smith

Yes I know…the word ‘legend’ is over-used. Nevertheless, some people are legendary, notorious (in the best sense), outstanding, memorable. So I will use the word legend to describe this friend, mentor and Pastor, Don Smith.

Don was not only a highly determined, servant-hearted leader, but he was also a God-sent irritant to holiness in the life of the churches he led. He didn’t just want numbers, he wanted to see Christ-centred lives. And he is still soldiering on – in so-called retirement! He is passionate, sold-out for God, refreshingly working class, blunt, often challenging, always on the ball, seeking God’s glory and the good of the church. He was a skilled shepherd and was loved by those he served both in Hastings and Eastbourne in the UK.

Don Smith was one of the early leaders in the Newfrontiers group of churches
Don Smith was one of the early leaders in the Newfrontiers group of churches

Don was born in the London borough of Lewisham in 1940 (on the Downham council estate). He worked in a mental institution for several years until in the mid-1970s he and his wife Stephanie started a church group in a basement flat in Hastings, East Sussex. After three years the church were able to support him full-time and Kings Church Hastings grew to be one of the largest in the town. In 1989 he and a very small team launched Kings Church in Eastbourne a few miles away. Both those churches are affiliated to the Newfrontiers family of churches led by Terry Virgo and both grew to over 500 in a relatively short space of time. Though he has now technically retired from local church leadership, Don is still preaching and serving churches in the UK and Canada.

A young Don Smith in the early days of the Kings Church Eastbourne plant
A young Don Smith in the early days of the Kings Church Eastbourne plant

Don’s one-liners have also become legendary, with a facebook page devoted to them, and recently a friend compiled a highly edifying 7 and a half minutes of glorious Bible-saturated exhortation. This is classic Don Smith.

I hope you enjoy it! Click on the image below.

Don Smith on Youtube
Don Smith on Youtube

© 2013 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

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

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

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

Itinerant Ministry Challenges

Shanghai in the 1850s

On March 1 1854, after six months at sea, Hudson Taylor arrived in China.

Six months!

I had the benefit of remembering this fact as I was shooting lightning speed BlackBerry messages to a colleague who was appalled that the SAA plane I was sitting on didn’t have any personal inflight entertainment.

We had been hoping for the oft-promised replacement plane from SAA and he had begun to call this particular plane (which I’ve flown on innumerable times) ‘The Dog’!

I do, of course, understand the difference – I was taking a long-haul flight for a three day ministry trip; missionaries of the 18th and 19th centuries were going for years, and possibly for life. I also know that a modern plane, even one that is about to be replaced, isn’t really worthy of the name ‘The Dog’.

But if the six months of sea travel was expected, what wasn’t was the fact that there was no provision waiting for him by the missionary society with which he was associated.

No welcome, no provision, no money
The Chinese Evangelisation Society, destined to be surpassed by Taylor’s own China Inland Mission, were good on vision but not so good on provision!

Roger Steer writes that there was ‘Nothing from the CES: no money, no credit notes, no guidance, no instructions.’[i]

Nevertheless the missionaries that Hudson met were friendly and helpful, offering both advice (to learn Mandarin rather than the dialect only spoken around Shangai) and accommodation until the CES got organised.

Out on a limb
‘The other missionaries,’ writes Steer, in Shanghai were all highly educated and connected with either the Anglican church or large and well established missionary societies.

Taylor was connected with no particular denomination and had been sent out hurriedly by the CES before his medical course was finished…

The CES had adopted a strategy which the practical men already working in China regarded as absurd. Some of them openly ridiculed the CES and its journal, The Gleaner.’[ii]

This is not the kind of information you want to learn once you’ve arrived…miles and miles away from home.

To read the next post in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

To read the first post in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] Roger Steer, J Hudson Taylor, A Man in Christ (1990, OMF, Singapore), p.61

[ii] ibid, p.63-64

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 First Steps Towards Mission

Getting alone with God

The young Hudson Taylor, newly converted, began to feel, as all new believers do, the desire to serve God in some practical way.

Finding that he had a spare afternoon, young Hudson decided to spend it in prayer. That is an immediate challenge to any young man today, who might, instead, spend the afternoon on the PlayStation or with friends at the mall. Who spends a whole afternoon in prayer?

Even those who are committed to the idea of mission may find that their initial impulse is not necessarily Godward. Research is good, valuable, helpful. Planning is critical. Advice from key leaders, seasoned professionals, may prove foundational. But, if you are seeking to impact a town or region with the gospel then let Hudson Taylor’s first lesson speak to you.

If you’re going to be a leader you need to turn aside and spend time with God. Did this simple spiritual truth get quietly relegated to the second division while the Premiership players published their runaway bestsellers?  Hudson Taylor’s testimony could strike us as simplistic. Well, let’s risk it…

HT: ‘Well do I remember that occasion. How in the gladness of my heart I poured out my soul before God; and again and again confessing my grateful love to Him who had done everything for me – who had saved me when I had given up all hope and even desire for salvation…’

‘Some self-denying Service
He continues, ‘I besought Him to give me some work to do for Him, as an outlet for love and gratitude; some self-denying service, no matter what it might be, however trying or however trivial; something with which He would be pleased, and that I might do for Him who had done so much for me.

Well do I remember, as an unreserved consecration I put myself, my life, my friends, my all, upon the altar, the deep solemnity that came over my soul with the assurance that my offering was accepted.

The presence of God became unutterably real and blessed…I remember stretching myself on the ground, and lying there silent before Him with unspeakable awe and unspeakable joy.’

‘I was no longer my own
HT: ‘For what service I was accepted I knew not; but a deep consciousness that I was no longer my own took possession of me, which has never been effaced [has never been erased, has never faded].’

Speaking of an exciting opportunity to become an apprentice to a medical doctor a couple of years later he wrote of how he felt it would take him off course in terms of his calling to serve God: ‘I felt I dared not accept any binding engagement such as was suggested.

‘I was not my own to give myself away; for I knew not when or how He whose alone I was, and for whose disposal I felt I must ever keep myself free, might call for service.

‘Within a few months of this time of consecration the impression was wrought into my soul that it was in China the Lord wanted me…’[i]

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

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


[i] All quotes from James Hudson Taylor, A Retrospect. Also published as ‘To China with Love’ (Bethany House, Minneapolis)

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

Dorothy Carey and the Cost of Mission

When William Carey announced to his wife Dorothy that he felt called to take the gospel to India she didn’t share his zeal.

In fact, as the plans developed she became increasingly nervous to the point that she concluded it would be unwise for her to go.

William appealed to his wife but without success. She was absolutely certain that this was not for her. She was heavily pregnant and not about to move her young children into the absolutely unknown.

So Carey adjusted his plans. He and his eldest son, Felix, would go to India and in a year or so they would return to bring the rest of the family.[i] Good plan. That would give him time to settle in and write to her of the conditions and also give her time to hear from God for herself.

But as things progressed the pressure mounted. John Thomas, Carey’s co-missionary, was travelling with his wife. Why not Dorothy? While the ship was delayed, Thomas and Carey met with Dorothy. Thomas so convinced Dorothy that she may never see her husband again that Dorothy was ‘afraid to stay at home’. [ii]

And so, in what can only be described as a frantic rush, ill-prepared, in just one day, she quickly packed what she could, gathered the children, including the (now) newly born son, and boarded the ship along with her husband.

A Tribute by an Indian Woman

Ruth Mangalwadi, in a beautifully written chapter entitled, ‘William Carey – a tribute by an Indian Woman’ writes, ‘Devastating circumstances overwhelmed Dorothy from the outset.

‘She didn’t share her husband’s vision. And his many accomplishments in mission, linguistics, printing, journalism and social reform overshadowed her own struggles with poverty, child-rearing, the heat, mosquitoes, her bouts of chronic dysentery and the frequent upheavals as they moved house.

‘All that William Carey was able to accomplish was possible only if he could leave the domestic responsibilities to his wife. But she paid a high price.’[iii]

Death and Distrust

In their first seven months in India they moved five times. In the eleventh month, after a struggle with fever in the heat, their five-year-old son Peter died. In the bewildering months that followed Dorothy became increasingly deranged. She had lost two daughters in infancy in England but this was different.

Any difficulty is hard to bear when you are far from home, in a different land – but difficulties are harder to bear when you’re convinced you should not be there in the first place.

One psychologist has suggested that Dorothy’s reluctant trust in William, and his friend John Thomas, which led to her changing her mind and coming to India was now shattered and ‘in its place surged a flood of distrust’.[iv]

‘She began to have delusions of Carey’s infidelity and would follow him around to catch him red-handed. She would…publicly accuse him in foul language, shouting obscenities and causing great embarrassment. She saw Carey as her enemy.’[v]

Carey considered that her problem may have been of a spiritual nature but concluded it was psychiatric in origin.

Several friends and colleagues urged William to commit Dorothy to an insane asylum. But he recoiled at the thought of the treatment she might receive in such a place and took the responsibility to keep her within the family home, even though the children were exposed to her rages.[vi]

She suffered for a further 12 years, latterly in full confinement for her own safety, until her death of a fever in 1807. She was 51.

The price of the Careys’ love for India

Ruth Mangalwadi argues that Dorothy’s sacrifice enabled Carey to have the influence on India that he did.

If she had refused to come to India, he would have been forced to return home. She did not absolutely reject the possibility of living in poor conditions during the early years in India. She committed herself to raising the children so Carey could focus on translation work. As a result of her struggles, and her mental illness, ‘mission societies began to consider the wives as equally important as their husbands: their needs and concerns were provided for.’[vii]

For me, by far the most moving reflection on this chapter in missionary history has been expressed by Ruth Mangalwadi. This statement captures the pain and mystery, as well as the outcome of the Careys’ experience in India:

‘For Dorothy’s sake, I would have been glad had Carey returned to England. For India’s sake, I am grateful that he did not.’[viii]

POST SCRIPT
I was at a Leaders’ Retreat recently and was asked for my own opinion on Dorothy Carey. It may be helpful for some if I put my own thoughts in brief here.

1. I think William and Dorothy should have stuck to their first option, which was that William would take Felix and go for a year, arrange for suitable accomodation and then return to collect Dorothy and the rest of the family.

2. In terms of relocating for the sake of church-planting or extension, a general principle of mutual agreement should be upheld. In other words, if the wife is having a serious struggle with the thought of leaving and is essentially against the idea, or not yet at peace, then the husband should wait. It’s not that the wife would make the final decision but if the wife is saying no, then you’re not ready to go. Extenuating circumstances in the Carey case: what precedent was there? Also, how could Carey have known it would turn out as it did?

3. I would reiterate Ruth Mangalwadi’s compassionate but realistic insight: that in terms of Dorothy’s well-being they should have stayed in England, but in terms of India’s well-being, it was right that they went.

© 2011/2012 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


[i] Timothy George, The Life and Mission of William Carey, IVP, p.157

[ii] ibid. p.85

[iii] Ruth Mangalwadi, William Carey and the Regeneration of India, Good Books, Mussourie, p.26

[iv] James R Beck, Dorothy’s Devastating Delusions, http://www.ctlibrary.com/ch/1992/issue36/3630.html

[v] Mangalwadi, p.38

[vi] George, p.158

[vii] Mangalwadi, p.39

[viii] ibid. p.26

The Father of Modern Missions was a Calvinist

It may come as a surprise to those unaware of the influence of Reformed thinkers and pioneers but it’s true.

William Carey was a Calvinist.

To those who are familiar with church history, of course, this is not particularly surprising. There have been passionate, missional, church-planting pioneers and Evangelists on both sides of the theological debate: Reformed or Arminian.

The causes of the church’s lack of evangelistic zeal are usually found elsewhere – weak leadership, worldliness, lack of Holy Spirit power, unbelief, fear – and it is shameful that great and glorious doctrines are used as a kind of fig leaf.

Like most other Protestant missionaries of his day
Dr Thomas Schirrmacher writes, ‘Carey was a Protestant by conviction…The turning point, he believed, was reached by the Reformers.

‘He names especially Luther, Calvin, Melanchthon, Bucer and Peter Martyr. He [said, in ‘The Enquiry’, that]… missionaries must, among other things, be “of undoubted orthodoxy in their sentiments” [ie, Reformed].

‘Carey’s theology is not only unusual for modern tastes in its Postmillennialism, but also in its Calvinist soteriology, for many now believe that the doctrine of predestination extinguishes missionary effort rather than intensifying it.

‘Carey, like most other Protestant missionaries and missionary leaders of his day, agreed with the Calvinist view.’ (from an essay, ‘William Carey, Postmillennialism and the Theology of World Missions’)

Let Reformed Bloggers Rejoice!
So Carey was a Calvinist. Let all Reformed bloggers rejoice! Well, not so fast!

Carey’s passion wasn’t exhausted by writing intense, Scripture-filled blogs, letters to the editor, or even in crafting water-tight sermons that harmonise good doctrine and the need for missional churches.

No, he didn’t just preach well that others should go, he and his family left for India in 1793. Radical. Normal.

As a result of his ‘Expect Great Things’ sermon some friends gathered in 1792 in Kettering, England, formed the Baptist Missionary Society and raised just over thirteen pounds for worldwide evangelisation!

For the next part of the William Carey story click here

To read the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God

 

William Carey's Enquiry - an exhortation to world mission

 

In 1790 William Carey, agitated by the church’s lack of concern for global evangelisation, proposed the formation of a society for world mission.

Merely praying for the success of the gospel wasn’t enough – something further must be done: ‘means’ as they called them, must be used to bring the gospel to the world.

In 1792 Carey published his ‘Enquiry’ in pamphlet form, the full title being, ‘An Enquiry into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathens.’

‘If the prophecies concerning the increase of Christ’s kingdom be true, and if what has been advanced, concerning the commission given by him to his disciples being obligatory on us, be just, it must be inferred that all Christians ought heartily to concur with God in promoting his glorious designs, for he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.’ (Carey in his ‘Enquiry’)

One biographer suggests it is ‘the first and still greatest missionary treatise in the English language.’ (George Smith, ‘The Life of William Carey, Shoemaker and Missionary’ writing in 1887)

You can read Carey’s Enquiry in full here

Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God

The publication was followed by an historic sermon at a gathering of Baptist ministers in Nottingham in 1792.

Carey preached from Isaiah 54, ‘Enlarge the place of thy tent…Spare not, lenthen thy cords…for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left; and they seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited. Fear not.’

The sermon was not written or published, but we are told that Carey predicted the restoration of the church and the dawn of a new era of missions. The church is, therefore, urged to go to the work of mission full of faith.

‘Expect great things! Attempt great things!’ cried Carey

The impact of a good sermon!

Earlier attempts by Carey to influence his Baptist colleagues had been unsuccessful ‘Sit down young man!’ he was told,  ‘You are an enthusiast!’

But this message, and the publication of the Enquiry, which outlined the need for missions and the responsibility of the churches, marked a new beginning.

It was agreed that a meeting would take place in Kettering to discuss the formation of a Missionary Society for the evangelisation of the world.

For the next part of the William Carey story click here

To read the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Church Planting Lessons from the First Fleet Part 5

HMS Supply, the oldest and smallest of the First Fleet ships

Commitment to the new community
It seems to me that there’s a connection between growing a large church and longevity in the leadership. The leading elder, along with other elders, is there for good, for the long haul. This obviously provides stability.

So I’ve been surprised over the years, to meet church-planters who are eager to leave after a very short time. And not surprised by the negative impact on the plant if that happens.

Of course, the Apostle Paul was often compelled, by persecution, to move on, but I’m not sure that’s always an applicable model for planters who may need to persevere until the work is established.

It finally dawned on the Australian ‘First Fleeters’ of 1788 that they were truly leaving the known world behind them. This truly hit home for the crew when they left Cape Town, about half way on their journey to Botany Bay.

David Hill writes, ‘Many felt as they headed away from the Cape that they were leaving behind all connections with the civilised world.’

David Collins, who was to act as the new colony’s Magistrate, writes, ‘When, if ever, we might again enjoy the commerce of the world, was doubtful and uncertain…All communication with families and friends now cut off, [we were] leaving the world behind us, to enter a state unknown.’ (1788, David Hill, William Heinemann Australia, p.130-131)

And so it is with us! At some point the daunting, but exciting, challenge hits home. We have left home and are building a new community for God in a new place. If we are alone, then we are in trouble. But, here’s the good news, Jesus tells us ‘I am with you always, to the very end of the age!’ (Matt 28:20)

Autonomy is the goal
The First Fleet of 11 ships were given enough provisions to hopefully last until they could begin farming for themselves in Australia. The list itself makes interesting reading!

1400 shovels and spades, 175 hammers and 747,000 nails!! They took many animals on board including sheep, goats, chickens and pigs – even 4 mares and 2 stallions. But they only took 12 ploughs. Clearly, they expected to do line fishing as they only took 14 fishing nets but 8000 fish hooks! Somehow or other a printing press was taken on this first journey. Click here for the full list

The relationship between the local Aboriginal people and the settlers is described by Hill as one of ‘mutual incomprehension’! And so the settlers undoubtedly lost key opportunities to learn.

Initially they were dependent on their own provisions and the whole colony came close to starvation a couple of times until they were relieved by more supplies from England. Finally, however, their farming skills grew.

Dependence on external resources may be initially necessary as a new church is planted, but obviously, the evidence that the work has taken root is that it is not only self-sustainable but also can become a centre of generous giving into other pioneering situations.

For the next installment in this story click here

For the first post in this series click here

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Leading From the Front

Every season of spiritual reform encounters resistance.

Every culture-changing spiritual breakthrough is accompanied by resistance. It is naïve of us to imagine, or hope, it might not be so.

As the Christian message had ever increasing impact outside the acceptable confines of the local churches and into the culture of 18th Century England, the leaders and new converts had to deal with opposition.

We’ll come to the inspirational bravery of the converts who continued to live and trade in hostile contexts after the preachers had moved on to new towns in a later post.

For now we will continue with John Wesley’s description of his experience in Staffordshire in October 1743.

To catch up with the story begin here and follow the links

Wesley continues to reason with an angry and violent mob
‘I began asking, “What evil have I done?”…and continued speaking for above a quarter of an hour, till my voice suddenly failed.

Then the floods began to lift up their voice again; many crying out, “Bring him away! Bring his away!”

‘In the mean time my strength returned and I broke out aloud into prayer.

A sudden change of heart after hearing Wesley pray
‘And now the man who just before headed the mob turned, and said, “Sir, I will spend my life for you! Follow me and not one soul here shall touch a hair of your head.”

‘Two or three of his fellows confirmed his words and got close to me immediately.

‘At the same time, the gentleman in the shop cried out, “For shame, for shame! Let him go!”

‘An honest butcher, who was a little further off…pulled back four or five, one after another, who were running on the most fiercely.

The Final escape
‘The people then, as if it had been by common consent, fell back to the right and the left, while those three or four men took me between them…

‘But on the bridge the mob rallied again. We therefore went on one side, over the mill-dam, and thence through the meadows; till…God brought me safe to Wednesbury; having lost only one flap of my waistcoat and a little skin from one of my hands.

A woman punches Wesley’s opponents
‘The poor woman of Darlaston, who had headed that mob, and sworn, that none should touch me, when she saw her followers give way, ran into the thickest of the throng and knocked down three or four men, one after another.

‘But she was soon overpowered and had probably been killed in a few minutes had not a man called to one of them, “Hold, Tom, hold!” So they held their hand and let her get up…’

Wesley recounts the injuries he had received whilst preaching
Wesley genuinely believed he was spared pain and danger, trusting, as he did, in the sovereignty of God.

He recalled his various injuries during his efforts to preach the gospel: ‘By how gentle degrees does God prepare us for his will! Two years ago a piece of brick grazed my shoulders.

‘It was a year after that the stone struck me between the eyes.

‘Last month I received one blow, and this evening two; one before we came into the town, and one after we were gone out; but both were as nothing:

‘For though one man struck me on the breast with all his might, and the other on the mouth with such a force that the blood gushed out immediately, I felt no more pain from either of the blows, than if they touched me with a straw.’

Back to the believers
Wesley found his way back to the four other leaders who had accompanied him through the ordeal, and back to the newly formed ‘society’ who had been praying.

William Sitch had been at Wesley’s side but was dragged away and beaten but afterwards he got up and found his way back to Wesley.

When asked what he thought would happen to them, Sitch replied, ‘To die for Him who had died for us!’

What became of the Two Justices of the Peace?
Following this outrageous violence, the two Justices, who had refused to face the crowd or see Wesley to protect him, wrote a letter to all the Police Constables and Peace Officers within Staffordshire.

It was a letter of warning, informing them of several ‘disorderly persons styling themselves Methodist Preachers’ who ‘go about raising routs and riots to the great damage’ of the people.

The police were instructed to search for these preachers, arrest them and bring them before Justices of the Peace throughout the county!
(All quotes from John Wesley Journal, Vol 1, p.439-441, Baker Edition)

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

A Massive Fist Fight With John Wesley in the Middle!

John Wesley - his long hair would prove to be a disadvantage

This is getting silly!
Having failed to secure a hearing with a Judge in Wednesbury, the crowd decide to march Wesley to a Justice of the Peace in nearby Walsal.

It’s not clear exactly what they thought they would accomplish; possibly to have Wesley censured for disturbing the peace.

(Read the first part of the story here and follow the links)

As news was being delivered to them that the second judge was already in bed and not willing to see them, it happened!

Two Mobs attack each other!
Wesley writes, ‘About fifty of them undertook to convoy me. But we had not gone a hundred yards when the mob of Walsal came, pouring in like a flood, and bore down all before them.

‘The Darleston mob made what defence they could; but they were weary, as well as out-numbered, so that in a short time, many being knocked down, the rest ran away, and left me in their hands.

‘To attempt speaking was in vain, for the noise on every side was like the roaring of the sea.

Yanked by the hair
‘So they dragged me along till we came to the town where, seeing the door of a large house open, I attempted to go in; but a man catching me by the hair, pulled me back into the middle of the mob.

‘They made no more stop till they had carried me through the main street, from one end of the town to the other.

‘I continued speaking all the time to those within hearing, feeling no pain or weariness.

‘At the west end of the town, seeing a door half open, I made towards it and would have gone in, but a gentleman in the shop would not suffer me, saying they would pull the house down to the ground.

‘However, I stood at the door and asked, “Are you willing to hear me speak?” Many cried out, “No! No! Knock his brains out! Down with him! Kill him at once!”‘
(From John Wesley Journal, Vol 1, p.437-438, Baker Edition)

We’ll pick up the final installment in the story next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley hustled to a Judge by 200 Ruffians

Late one evening, in Wednesbury, England, the famous Evangelist John Wesley found the house he was staying in surrounded by an angry mob. He called the ringleaders inside and spoke wisely to them.

(Read the first part of the story here, the second part here)

Sensing the crowd would be pacified, Wesley decided to go out to them but several still demanded he be taken to a local magistrate to be censured for disturbing the peace.

Wesley, being perhaps a little over-confident, agreed to go with them despite the relative lateness of the hour.

‘Let it Rain!’
A ridiculous, lumbering crowd of between two and three hundred pushed and shoved along for about a mile. Then, typical of June in England, the rain began to pour down. ‘Heavy rain’, says Wesley in his journal.

Finally, after a two mile rain-soaked walk, those running ahead arrived at the Wednesbury Magistrate’s house.

Not very surprisingly, he wasn’t keen to meet the unruly crowd and had a servant tell them he was in bed and they should take Wesley back into Wednesbury.

The charge against the Evangelicals
However, when the main bulk of the crowd got to the house they began banging on the door. This time, the bold Justice sent his son to the door. He asked for information on what Wesley and his colleagues had actually done wrong.

The answer was this: ‘Why, an’t please you, they sing psalms all day. Nay, and make folks rise at five in the morning.’

After a brief pause the Magistrate’s doorstep verdict was delivered: “Go home and be quiet!”

Unfortunately, one bright spark suggested that they try another Magistrate in the nearby town of Walsal. And that’s when the real trouble began…

More next time…
(Quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 1, p.437, Baker edition)
© 2010 Lex Loizides

John Wesley Speaks to a Violent Mob

See the first part of this story here

John Wesley, making an entry in his journal for 20th June 1743, wrote,

‘Before five the mob surrounded the house again, in greater numbers than ever. The cry of one and all was, “Bring out the Minister! We will have the Minister!”

‘I desired one to take their captain by the hand and bring him into the house.

The ring leaders calm down once they meet John Wesley personally
‘After a few sentences interchanged between us the lion was become a lamb.

‘I desired him to go and bring one or two more of the most angry of his companions.

‘He brought in two, who were ready to swallow the ground with rage; but in two minutes they were as calm as he.

Wesley decides to go out and address the angry crowd
‘I then bade them make way that I might go out among the people.

‘As soon as I was in the midst of them I called for a chair; and, standing up, asked, “What do any of you want with me?” Some said, “We want you to go with us to the Justice.”

‘I replied, “That I will, with all my heart.”

Wesley senses an evangelistic opportunity!
‘I then spoke a few words, which God applied; so that they cried out with might and main, “This gentleman is an honest gentleman, and we will spill our blood in his defence.”

‘I asked, “Shall we go to the Justice tonight or in the morning?”

‘Most of them cried, “Tonight, tonight!”

A crowd of more than 200 people decide to walk Wesley to the Magistrate’s house!
‘[Hearing this] I went before [them] and two or three hundred followed, the rest returning whence they came.’

Wesley’s most frightening night was only just beginning. Although he thought he had steered the situation to a peaceful outcome, the decision to search for a Magistrate would prove to be a decision that Wesley and most of the crowd were later to regret.

What happened next is probably not what you think…

(All quotes from John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 1, p.436-7, Baker Edition)

For more on Wesley and Whitefield click here
For the next installment of this story click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Surrounded by the Mob – Wesley in Wednesbury

John Wesley in Wednesbury, England

Persistence in the midst of Persecution
In their mission to bring the Christian message to every town and village in Great Britain, the 18th century Methodist preachers travelled extensively.

They would arrive at a place, attempt to preach in one of the churches or, failing that, in a market place or at a fair.

Their style was engaging and they spoke with authority and grace. Wesley described their work as ‘offering pardon to sinners’.

But they didn’t always receive a warm welcome. While many thousands gathered to hear the message, some reacted negatively. Sometimes fuelled by jealous clergy, or fearful ‘Gentlemen’, and sometimes by a basic reaction of anger, the preachers faced violence fairly regularly. This was a different type of spiritual warfare.

John Wesley in Wednesbury, West Midlands
One famous incident in the life of John Wesley took place in October, 1743.

He writes, ‘Thursday 20th Oct, 1743 – ‘I rode to Wednesbury.

At twelve I preached in a ground near the middle of the town, to a far larger congregation than was expected, on, ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.’

‘I believe everyone present felt the power of God…and we held our peace.

An afternoon’s writing interrupted
‘I was writing at Francis Ward’s in the afternoon, when the cry arose, that the mob had beset the house.

‘We prayed that God would disperse them; and it was so. One went this way, and another that; so that in half an hour not a man was left.’

Wesley felt it would be sensible to leave, before there was any more trouble. But his hosts, understandably thrilled to have the great John Wesley staying in their house, urged him to stay on.

Not wanting to offend them, he conceded. But the few troublemakers who had drifted off before weren’t finished, and a larger number soon returned.

‘Before five the mob surrounded the house again, in greater numbers than ever. The cry of one and all was, ‘Bring out the Minister! We will have the Minister!’

(All quotes from John Wesley’s Journals, Vol 1, Baker Edition, p.436)

For the next installment click here

To see more on how the early Methodists coped with mob violence click here

© 2010 Lex Loizides

More than a Hymn-Writer: Charles Wesley the Evangelist

Charles Wesley, Hymn-writer and Evangelist

Charles Wesley is mainly remembered for his excellent poetic gift. This gift, thoroughly saturated in Scripture, produced some of the church’s best-loved hymns.

If you are in an English speaking church context it is quite likely that you recognize these well known opening lines from Charles Wesley hymns:

  • Hark! The herald angels sing,
    “Glory to the newborn King;
    Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
    God and sinners reconciled!”
  • Love divine, all loves excelling,
    Joy of heaven to earth come down;
    Fix in us thy humble dwelling;
    All thy faithful mercies crown!
    Jesus, Thou art all compassion,
    Pure unbounded love Thou art;
    Visit us with Thy salvation;
    Enter every trembling heart.
  • And can it be that I should gain
    An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
  • O for a thousand tongues to sing
    My great Redeemer’s praise,
    The glories of my God and King,
    The triumphs of His grace!

Actually, it’s difficult not to just go ahead and include whole hymns for the pure pleasure of enjoying them.

A Passionate Evangelistic Preacher

But my point is that Charles Wesley was not only a hymn-writer but also a passionate evangelistic preacher.

Like George Whitefield, his preaching mentor, Wesley also enjoyed great infillings of the Holy Spirit as he preached (see also, Acts 4:7-10).

Some excerpts from his journal of 1741 will give us a flavour of the kind of passion he employed in his efforts to bring men and women to Christ.

‘April 13th. While I was in great love…the Spirit of power came down, the fountain was set open, my mouth and heart enlarged, and I spoke such words as I cannot repeat. Many sunk under the love of Christ crucified…’

‘April 22nd. I sharply reproved three or four inflexible Pharisees; then prayed the Lord to give me words of consolation, and immediately I was filled with power, which broke out as a mighty torrent.

‘All our hearts caught fire in a moment, and such tears and strong cryings followed, as quite drowned my voice…’

‘Sun May 3rd. At Kingswood [Bristol] as soon as I had named my text, ‘It is finished!’ the love of Christ crucified so constrained me that I burst into tears, and felt strong sympathy with him in his sufferings. In like manner, the whole congregation looked upon him whom they had pierced, and mourned.’

His preaching was effective and many were converted. One particular Kingswood resident wasn’t happy though. Charles wrote:

‘May 5th. A wild collier [coal miner] brought me four of his children…crying, ‘You have got the mother, take the bairns [the kids] too!’

(All quotes from Arnold Dallimore, Charles Wesley, A Heart Set Free, Crossway Books, p.107)

An Inspiring combination of the Poet and the Evangelist

Charles Wesley was an Evangelist, and an effective one at that. We’ll return to his heroic story later, but for now, let’s not forget that many of his hymns were written in the very context of urging his generation to come to Christ.

His hymn ‘Lovers of Pleasure’ provides us with an excellent example of the combination of his poetic and evangelistic gift. Enjoy!

‘Lovers of pleasure more than God,
For you He suffered pain;
Swearers, for you He spilt his blood;
And shall He bleed in vain?

Misers, for you his life He paid,
Your basest crime He bore:
Drunkards, your sins on Him were laid,
That you might sin no more.

The God of love, to earth He came,
That you might come to heaven;
Believe, believe in Jesus’ Name,
And all your sin’s forgiven.

Believe in Him that died for thee,
And, sure as He hath died,
Thy debt is paid, Thy soul is free,
And thou art justified.’

Charles Wesley

For more on the hymns of Charles Wesley and other Methodists see, ‘A Collection of hymns for use by the people called Methodists’)

More next time…

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Violence Seems to Triumph – The First Methodist Martyr

(Methodism and the Mob Part 6)

The Mob Reacts – The Death of William Seward

How do you respond when you hear that a Christian missionary is in trouble for distributing Christian literature, or for some other attempt to communicate the Christian faith?

Maybe your first response is to assume that the believer lacked wisdom. You may be right, of course. Christians can get carried away as they try and verbalise how wonderful they think Jesus Christ is. Each incident needs to be assessed separately.

But on the other hand, we’ve got to a slightly strange place when our assumption is that a follower of Christ trying to share their faith is automatically over-zealous or unwise.

Don’t misunderstand me: the Christian needs to communicate his faith with respect, wisdom and grace, with an ability to listen to others’ objections and beliefs. (see Col 4:4-6)

But the idea that a negative response to an honest attempt at presenting the gospel is always a correction, or, worse, a sign of God’s disapproval, merely reveals our evangelistic immaturity. Jesus made it clear that there would be times when the message would be rejected. Even He was rejected (see John 15:20-21).

And it’s difficult to think of how the Christian Faith advanced from its earliest days apart from believers courageously communicating the gospel to those who didn’t respect the Christian ideals of tolerance and debate.

Another thought before we re-join the 18th century battlefield: put yourself in the position of the hapless ‘missionary’ who is in jail for trying to share the Christian faith. It’s quite likely that you would be your own harshest critic as you retrace the decisions or statements that got you into trouble. My guess is that you’d want folk to pray for you.

The First Methodist Martyr
In October 1740,William Seward and Howell Harris were out again preaching the gospel in Wales. This time, they visited Hay-on-Wye.

Suddenly, someone from the crowd took aim and Seward was hit with a large stone and lay unconscious on the ground.

Dallimore writes, ‘he was carried from the scene unconscious. For a few days he hovered between life and death, but sank steadily lower till on October 22, 1740, his spirit passed away.’ (Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Vol 1, Banner of Truth, p.584)

Seward’s death, at age 38, was a blow to the young movement. But it did not stop their passionate preaching. Undeterred, they continued to present the gospel to the masses in Britain.

It was a personal blow to Whitefield, both in terms of friendship and financial support. Seward was helping fund Whitefield’s Orphan House in Georgia and Whitefield now carried that financial burden alone. Tragically, Seward had not made a will (ibid, p.585)

Trusting in God’s Sovereignty

John Wesley wrote in his journal for Mon Oct 27th, ‘The surprising news of poor Mr Seward’s death was confirmed. Surely God will maintain his own cause! Righteous art thou O Lord!’

Wesley’s trust in God’s sovereignty is totally appropriate. Is there any individual, or people too hard for God to reach by His grace? No! ‘The earth is the Lord’s and its fullness.’

We might question Seward’s enthusiasm, especially when he had been a target for violence before; the sin, however, was not his, but the one who threw the stone.

And the message of forgiveness of all sins through Jesus Christ continued to be preached throughout Britain during the 1740’s.

See Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

To see more on how John Wesley handled a mob situation click here
© 2009 Lex Loizides

Preachers Pelted with Dirt, a Cat and a Dead Dog

(Methodism and the Mob Part 5)

William Seward
William Seward was a wealthy supporter of the work that George Whitefield and Howell Harris were doing.

He also helped John Wesley with generous funding for the meeting place in Bristol, even though Wesley was assuming a leadership role there that Seward felt excluded Whitefield (See here for how Whitefield began the work in Bristol).

Seward had accompanied these preachers and witnessed both the joys and dangers of massive crowds.

In 1740 he travelled with Howell Harris in Wales and records several occasions when the crowds became violent.

Seward with Howell Harris
On Sept 9 he wrote, ‘We had been singing and praying and discoursing for half an hour when the mob began to be outrageous, and to pelt us…till at length I was struck with a stone upon my eye, which caused me so much anguish that I was forced to go away to the Inn.

‘Bro. Harris continued to discourse for some time afterward…I got my eye dressed and went to bed as soon as possible.

The next morning they went out again, preaching in the same place to the same crowds.

Stones, dirt, a cat and a dead dog
Seward writes, ‘We had continual showers of stones, walnuts, dirt, a cat and also a dead dog thrown at us…

‘I was struck on my forehead and under my right eye again, and also on my side with a stone.

‘A drum was ordered to be beat, which drowned [our] voices…the Book [the Bible] was all covered with dirt.

‘After Bro. Harris had done, I spoke a few words, but I found my call was more to suffer than to preach.’ (from William Seward, ‘Journal of a Voyage from Savannah to Philadelphia and from Philadelphia to England’ p.27)

Perhaps he should have backed down. Perhaps he should have let others do the preaching. Perhaps…

Seward would accompany Harris again in October, 1740 as Harris preached powerfully to hostile crowds. It would be the last time Seward would share in the struggle to bring Britain to Christ.

For the next installment click here

Also see: Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Threatened at Gunpoint – The Methodist Revival Advances

(Methodism and the Mob Part 4)

John Cennick

Howell Harris did not only preach in Wales, of course, but ventured into England as well.

On one occasion he was preaching with fellow Methodist John Cennick in Swindon in Wiltshire, South West England.

Before long there was a strong reaction and considerable gang of trouble makers were out to stop these Evangelists from preaching.

Threatened with Guns
Cennick wrote, ‘The mob fired guns over our heads, holding the muzzles so near to our faces that Howell Harris and myself were both made as black as tinkers with the powder. We were not affrighted, but opened our breasts, telling them we were ready to lay down our lives.…

Splattered with Sewerage
‘Then they got dust out of the highway and covered us all over; and then they played an engine upon us, which they filled out of the stinking ditches.

‘While they played on brother Harris, I preached; and when they turned the engine upon me, he preached. This they continued till they spoiled the engine; and they threw whole buckets of water and mud over us.

‘After we left the town, they dressed up two images, called one Cennick and the other Harris, and then burnt them.

The home and family of the hospitable attacked
The next day they gathered about the home of Mr. Lawrence, who had received us, and broke all of his windows with stones, cut and wounded four of his family, and knocked down one of his daughters.’ (John Cennick, Memorable Passages relating to the Awakening in Wiltshire (unpublished, but referred to in Dallimore, George Whitefield, Wakeman Press, p.142, and Christian History)

Pressing on until grace wins
Yet these heroes continued to proclaim the gospel message, overcoming the resistance and transforming the culture. If ever we needed an encouragement to persevere then here it is, in the heroism of the 18th Century Evangelists.

For the next installment click here

Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
© 2009 Lex Loizides

Changing Cultures – Methodism and the Mob

Road Map of England from 1736

(Methodism and the Mob Part Two)

Early Irritations and Scares
As the popularity of the movement grew, the Methodist preachers found that they were involved in a battle that, although spiritual, often found a physical expression.

Not only did they face resistance from the clergy, but actual violence from gangs who were often paid to disrupt the meetings.

Here are two accounts from John Wesley’s experience. By the way, this is about as far as you could possibly get from the ‘private jet, 5 Star only’ attitude of a few modern travelling religious celebrities.

The only frequent traveler reward that Wesley enjoyed was an extremely sore bottom! (He travelled hundreds of miles each year on horseback) But more of his personal sacrifice later.

Disturbances in the meeting rooms
This from Wesley’s Journal: ‘Tues 26th Jan, 1742

‘I explained at Chelsea, the faith which worketh by love. I was very weak when I went into the room;

‘but the more ‘the beasts of the people’ increased in madness and rage, the more was I strengthened, both in body and soul; so that I believe few in the house, which was exceedingly full, lost one sentence of what I spoke.

‘Indeed they could not see me, nor one another at a few yards’ distance, by reason of the exceeding thick smoke, which was occasioned by the wild fire, and things of that kind, continually thrown in to the room.

‘But they who could praise God in the midst of the fires, were not to be affrighted by a little smoke.’
(JW Journal, Vol 1, Baker edition, p.354)

A tortured bull is driven into the people and disturbs Wesley’s preaching
March 19, 1742: ‘I rode once more to Pensford at the earnest request of serious people. The place where they desired me to preach was a little green spot near the town.

‘But I had no sooner begun than a great company of rabble, hired (as we afterwards found) for that purpose, came furiously upon us, bringing a bull, which they had been baiting, and now strove to drive in among the people.

‘But the beast was wiser than his drivers and continually ran either on one side of us or the other, while we quietly sang praise to God and prayed for about an hour.

‘The poor wretches, finding themselves disappointed, at length seized upon the bull, now weak and tired after having been so long torn and beaten both by dogs and men; and, by main strength, partly dragged, and partly thrust, him in among the people.

‘When they had forced their way to the little table on which I stood, they strove several times to throw it down by thrusting the helpless beast against it, who, of himself, stirred no more than a log of wood.

‘I once or twice put aside his head with my hand that the blood might not drop upon my clothes; intending to go on as soon as the hurry should be over. But the table falling down, some of our friends caught me in their arms, and carried me right away on their shoulders; while the rabble wreaked their vengeance on the table, which they tore bit from bit.

‘We went a little way off, where I finished my discourse without any noise or interruption.’
(JW Journals, Baker edition, p.363)

This was actually just the beginning of the opposition to the gospel taking hold in England. Persecution has not been uncommon in the history of the Church.

There is, perhaps, comfort in the stories of yesterday to encourage us as we seek to graciously bring the good news of Jesus Christ into the places where God has sent us.

For the next installment click here

See Methodism and the Mob Part 1

© 2009 Lex Loizides