Small Town Jesus in the Big City

Kloof St

I’m about to move my office out of a suburb of Cape Town into the city centre. It’s an exciting time. We’re launching a congregation of Jubilee Community Church in the heart of Cape Town and we’re ready to go!

There has been, in recent years, a much-needed focus on cities. Christians have been moving steadily away from the city centres and into the suburbs, often leaving the city without a strong witness.

Yet, we’re told, that the creative culture-making heartbeat (the heart that sends its influence to the rest of our culture) is right back in the place the believers left. If we reach the cities (so the argument goes) there will be a ‘trickle down’ effect that will effect the rest of society.

Donnie Griggs, Lead Pastor at One Harbor Church, Morehead City, NC
Donnie Griggs, Lead Pastor at One Harbor Church, Morehead City, NC

Small Town Jesus by Donnie Griggs is a robust response. Griggs, who pastors a large church in Morehead City, North Carolina (a town of about nine thousand) raises a banner for the myriad of small towns that may, therefore, seem less significant.

While not denying the importance of cities, he makes a plea for the importance of mission to smaller towns. He speaks from his own experience of being known and getting to know the folk in Morehead, while seeking to build a church that cares for its community and is engaged in a wider mission.

Now, why would I spend time reading a book devoted to mission in small towns when I am about to relocate my work space into the heart of the world’s most beautiful city (I could easily support that assertion with sources, but it’s just a fact).

And – I’ll go further – why am I recommending this book to you, whatever size town you’re in, but especially if you live in a city?

Cape Town City Hall
Cape Town City Hall

Being a Good Local
Simply for this reason: that I have realised, both as I’ve been traveling into the city regularly over the last year, and as I’ve read Donnie’s book, that, in my section of the city centre, I need to become a local.

That’s not something we tend to think of in our cities. We have the dubious luxury of being anonymous much of the time. We expect speed. We expect quality. If something’s not good we complain. And we complain properly. We’ll put a bad review online. We’re helping raise standards by complaining. Griggs has a technical term for this that’s worth remembering. It is called ‘being a jerk’. Hmm. Maybe it’s time to change.

Here are a few pointers Griggs gives for being a good local in a small town. I want to encourage you to take these on board in your locality especially if you’re in the city centre. And feel free to add your own thoughts and comments below. Let’s learn from each other.

Your reputation matters in a small town
Things are really close in a village or town. Yet, in the city, you can also develop a different kind of reputation by deliberately seeking to serve those around your work space. Be different from those who rush by. Do good in the city. Be honest. Build a good reputation by being consistently compassionate.

Learn to Enjoy Small Talk
In the city, people are often in a rush. But people are also incredibly lonely. Slow down and look around. You’ll see lots of people who are alone and who would benefit from your friendship. Cape Town is not a European city. It is an African city with a lot of Europe in it. People are very open to making connections. There’s a warmth that you sometimes don’t feel in a European city. Griggs writes, that ‘always acting like you have somewhere better to be will eventually lead to unnecessarily offending’ people. That’s good for your city too, even if the rush is tolerated.

Shop Local as much as possible
He writes, ‘I would encourage you to see shopping local as an opportunity to become a good local.’ Whether it’s caterers, lunchtime appointments in the city, printing, or just where you regularly purchase coffee or church refreshments, I want the businesses in my section of Cape Town to know we’re part of the neighbourhood. We’re buying local and eating local because we are local. Griggs talks a lot about loving local food and then there’s a whole section about soft-shell crabs. Normally you’d expect an editor’s intervention but these guys in Morehead City love their soft-shell crabs.

Donnie Griggs out on the boat
Donnie Griggs out on the boat

Don’t be a Jerk
(It’s worth mentioning again) He prefaces this section helpfully by noting, ‘I’m not saying that everyone who lives in a big city is a jerk.’ Followed by the word, ‘But…’ and then so helpfully corrects how, even we as Christians, can act in an unnecessarily discourteous way when dealing with folks in a city.

But, ‘in a small town, you should take every opportunity to be kind and courteous.’

There’s a danger in city life because we probably won’t see a person again, and can therefore treat them with less respect than they deserve, especially if they’re serving us poorly. In a small town our bad responses will get known very quickly. But that behaviour is no less acceptable in the city. And will also be known. You reap what you sow. As in the town and suburb, so in the city, a Christian’s rudeness can have a deadening effect on mission.

Be a Blessing
I am taking this on board for our city site: ‘When considering how you can engage the culture of your small town with the gospel, please don’t just settle for contextualized church programs and church facilities. Love where you live and serve where you live. Let everyone know that you really care about them, whether they come to your church or not.’

Donnie has written a highly readable book with a great and simple message: be a blessing to your town. Be deliberate and consistent.

I want to add that, if you’re in the city, see your section of the city, whether you work there each day, or whether you live there, as your own locality, your own small town within the city, and act accordingly.

Small Town Jesus is available on Amazon here

Jubilee Community Church’s City Congregation will begin meeting on Sundays from 25th September, 10.30am, 33 Kloof Street, Cape Town

For a 30-Day Prayer Guide to pray for the launch of the site click here

©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review


William Booth’s Four Keys to Church Growth

William Booth in 1884
William Booth in 1884

In 1880 William Booth, Founder of the Salvation Army, was invited to speak at the Wesleyan Methodist Conference in the UK.

This was a generous invitation since it was well known that he had left Methodism to begin a more rigorous evangelistic ministry. Although he had been operating independently for several years, his organisation had only formally adopted the name The Salvation Army three years earlier.

During his message to the conference he explained the impulse that created his evangelism and church-planting movement and gave four keys to their continued success.

A Gospel emphasis that drew non-believers and leaders to the work
‘I was told that ninety-five in every hundred of the population of our larger towns and cities never crossed the threshold of any place of worship, and I thought, ‘Cannot something be done to reach these people with the Gospel?’

Fifteen years ago I thus fell in love with the great crowds of people who seemed to be out of the pale of all Christian Churches. It seemed to me that if we could get them to think about Hell they would be certain to want to turn from it. If we could get them to think about Heaven they would want to go there. If we could get them to think about Christ they would want to rush to His open arms.

I resolved to try, and ‘The Salvation Army’ is the outcome of that resolution. In August, 1877, we had 26 Stations. We have now, in 1880, 162. In 1877, we had 35 Evangelists. We have now 285 Evangelists, or, as we now call them, Officers, and in many instances they have the largest audiences in the towns where they are at work.

We have got all those Officers without any promise or guarantee of salary, and without any assurance that when they reach the railway station to which they book they will find anybody in the town to sympathise with them. The bulk would cheerfully and gladly go anywhere.’

Key #1 The Gospel to the needy
‘If asked to explain our methods, I would say: Firstly, we do not fish in other people’s waters, or try to set up a rival sect. Out of the gutters we pick up our converts, and if there be one man worse than another our Officers rejoice the most over the case of that man.

When a man gets saved, no matter how low he is, he rises immediately. His wife gets his coat from the pawn-shop, and if she cannot get him a shirt she buys him a paper front, and he gets his head up, and is soon unable to see the hole of the pit from which he has been digged, and would like to convert our rough [meeting place] into a chapel, and make things respectable. That is not our plan. We are moral scavengers, netting the very sewers. We want all we can get, but we want the lowest of the low.’

Key #2 Contextualisation and flexibility
‘Secondly. We get at these people by adapting our measures.
There is a most bitter prejudice, amongst the lower classes, against churches and chapels. I am sorry for this; I did not create it, but it is the fact. They will not go into a church or chapel; but they will go into a theatre or warehouse, and therefore we use these places.

In one of our villages we use the pawnshop, and they gave it the name of ‘The Salvation Pawnshop,’ and many souls were saved there.

Let me say that I am not the inventor of all the strange terms that are used in The Army. I did not invent the term ‘Hallelujah Lassies.’ When I first heard of it I was somewhat shocked; but telegram after telegram brought me word that no buildings would contain the people who came to hear the Hallelujah Lassies. Rough, uncouth fellows liked the term. One had a lassie at home, another went to hear them because he used to call his wife ‘Lassie’ before he was married. My end was gained, and I was satisfied.’

Key #3 Getting new believers involved immediately in evangelism
‘Thirdly. We set the converts to work.
As soon as a man gets saved we put him up to say so, and in this testimony lies much of the power of our work.

One of our lassies was holding a meeting in a large town the other day when a conceited fellow came up to her saying, ‘What does an ignorant girl like you know about religion? I know more than you do. I can say the Lord’s Prayer in Latin.’ ‘Oh, but,’ she replied, ‘I can say more than that. I can say the Lord has saved my soul in English.”
[This comment caused loud laughter and cheering in the meeting]

Key #4 Hard work
‘Lastly, we succeed by dint of hard work. I tell my people that hard work and holiness will succeed anywhere.’[i]

Booth as a multi-site church leader
If Booth’s Salvation Army ‘stations’ in London alone were considered congregations of a multi-site church we would be celebrating him as the pastor of the largest protestant church in the 19th century.

That, of course, wasn’t his goal. He was determined to see more stations planted and more of those outside the orbit of the church’s influence coming into a relationship with God and a transformed life.

Getting the gospel to those who need it; being flexible in our strategies; including new converts in evangelism; working hard to keep moving forward into the mission.

Of course, more than these four principles were necessary to form a church-planting movement. And more than these are necessary for growing a healthy church. But how are you applying these four in your setting?

More next time…
For the first part of the story of the Salvation Army click here
©2016 Lex Loizides / Church History Review

[i] George Railton, General Booth (London: Hodder and Stoughton 1912) p.76-78

The Call to Witness and the Call to Preach

The young William Booth
The young William Booth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More next time…

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


© 2014 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog



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

Persevering in Evangelism

Hudson Taylor in 1893

By all means, save some!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here 

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

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

[ii] ibid, p.325

[iii] ibid p.328

[iv] ibid p.329

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

Hudson Taylor

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

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

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

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

In a speech laden with tweetable quotes, Taylor said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

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

The Quality of Men Needed for World Mission

Map of China, c.1850

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© 2011 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

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

The Gardener came and plucked a rose…

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

Hudson Taylor and Maria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No papa,” came the reply.

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

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

Four days later, Grace showed signs of pneumonia.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here

© 2011 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Celebrities or Servants – How Christian Leadership should be

William Chalmers Burns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

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

[ii] ibid

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

Convenience v Compassion in Christian Missions

Saving a Drowning Man – Hudson Taylor and Us

Rivers around Shanghai in the 1800s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much money will you give us?”

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

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

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

“How much may that be?”

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

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

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

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

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.

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 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)

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.

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 whites that the men who had attempted the task before her had become the victims of cannibalism.

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 travels, which he recorded in meticulous detail, gave vital information and opened up routes for the many missionaries that followed him.  His fascination and admiration was not only for the land but the people.  And he received genuine respect from Africans.

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. His struggle was to abolish slavery and replace it with honest commerce.

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 whole civilised 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

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]

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,

[v] Mangalwadi, p.38

[vi] George, p.158

[vii] Mangalwadi, p.39

[viii] ibid. p.26

Influencing Culture – The Environment and Access to Information

A finger in every pie?
The breadth of William Carey’s interests and influence is stunning. He saw the Christian faith as a power for good in every sphere of human engagement.

His primary focus was to communicate the message of Christ to Indians that they might believe and be reconciled to the God of the Bible, but as many have found since his example, the gospel should impact all of life

William Carey founded the Agri-Horticultural Society in the 1820s, thirty years before the Royal Agricultural Society was established in England.

‘Carey did a systematic survey of agriculture in India…and exposed the evils of the indigo cultivation system two generations before it collapsed.

‘Carey did all this not because he was hired to do it, but because he was horrified to see that three fifths of one of the finest countries in the world, full of industrious inhabitants, had been allowed to become an uncultivated jungle abandoned to wild beasts and serpents.’

He ‘became the first man in India to write essays on forestry, almost fifty years before the Government made its very first attempt at forest conservation in Malabar.

He ‘both practiced and vigourously advocated the cultivation of timber, giving practical advice on how to plant trees for environmental, agricultural and commercial purposes.’

‘His motivation came from his belief that God has made man responsible for the earth.’

It was in response to Carey’s journal, Friend of India, that the Government made the first appointments for the supervision of forests in South India.

Lending Libraries
Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi asserts that Carey pioneered the idea of lending libraries in India. ‘While the East India Company was importing ship loads of ammunition and soldiers to subdue India, Carey asked his friends in the Baptist Missionary Society to load educational books and seeds into those same ships.’

He was working hard to encourage indigenous literature and text books in the vernacular (the local languages), but until those works were available, he sought to fast-track the education of Indians by making information accessible to them as easily as possible, using the technology available at the time – through libraries.

We’ll continue our study of this ‘Father of Modern Missions’ next time…

(All quotes from Vishal Mangalwadi, William Carey and the Regeneration of India, Good Books, Mussourie, India)
To see the first part of the William Carey story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Influencing Culture – Publishing, Freedom of the Press, Indigenous Literature

Indian Stamp honouring missionary William Carey

What would Carey do?
In our imaginary Quiz, where Indian students are asked the question ‘Who was William Carey?’ several answers have been given which prove Carey’s missionary interest was to benefit the peoples of India.

But there are still numerous students with their hands in the air waiting to give their answers:

Printing and Publishing
‘Dr. William Carey is the father of print technology in India.’ says one. He brought to India the modern science of printing and publishing and then taught and developed it. He built what was then the largest printing press in India. Most printers had to buy their fonts from his Mission Press at Serampore.’

A Free Press
‘William Carey,’ says another, was a Christian missionary who established the first newspaper ever printed in any oriental language because Carey believed that ‘Above all forms of truth and faith, Christianity seeks free discussion.’

‘His English language journal, Friend of India, was the force that gave birth to the Social Reform Movement in India in the first half of the nineteenth century.’

Translation and Promotion of Indigenous Literature
‘Carey was the first man to translate and publish great Indian religious classics such as the Ramayana, and philosophical treaties such as Samkhya into English,’ says a student of Literature.

‘Carey transformed Bengali…into the foremost literary language of India. He wrote gospel ballads in Bengali to bring the Hindu love of musical recitations to the service of his Lord. He also wrote the first Sanskrit dictionary for scholars.’

(All quotes from Vishal Mangalwadi, William Carey and the Regeneration of India, Good Books, Mussourie, India, p 2-4)

The picture we are compiling of the 19th Century missionary William Carey is not one of a blundering, insensitive cad who could care less about local culture but wants to stupefy the ‘natives’ into compliance with the colonial agenda.

Sent to Serve

Rather, we are seeing a deeply inspiring portrait of a man sent to serve; a man eager to understand the philosophical presuppositions of those he seeks to benefit.

This is no culture destroyer but someone seeking to strengthen a people, and bring them knowledge already gained elsewhere, enabling them to both believe the gospel and build a fairer and stronger society. And if you’re tempted to think, ‘Ah! It’s obvious that you, a Westerner, would say that!’ then please keep in mind that I am drawing heavily upon the expertise and research of Indologist, and Indian expert Vishal Mangalwadi.

For the next post in this series click here

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

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Influencing Culture – Engineering, Economics and Health Care

We’ve already seen how 19th century missionary William Carey, rather than being a culture-destroyer, actually sought to strengthen and build the nation of India.

We saw how he sought to instill a ‘basic scientific presupposition’ into Indian thinking and how he even helped develop Botanical research in India.

In this post we are continuing Vishal Mangalwadi’s imaginary quiz amongst modern Indian university students about Carey’s identity.

So, in answer to the question ‘Who was William Carey?’ a student of Mechanical Engineering suggests:

Locally produced steam engines and locally made paper
‘William Carey was the first Englishman to introduce the steam engine to India!

‘Carey encouraged Indian blacksmiths to make copies of his engine using local materials and skills.’

He was also the first person to make indigenous paper for the publishing industry. (Mangalwadi, William Carey and the Regeneration of India, Good Books, Mussourie, p.1)

Fair and Honest Banking
‘William Carey was a missionary,’ announces an Economics Major, ‘who introduced the idea of Savings Banks to India, to fight the all pervasive social evil of usury.

‘Carey believed that God, being righteous, hated usury, and thought that lending at the interest of 36-72% made investment, industry, commerce and the economic development of India impossible.’ (ibid. p.2)

Compassionate Medical Care
Next a Medical student raises his hand: ‘William Carey was the first man who led the campaign for a humane treatment of leprosy patients.

Until his time they were sometimes buried of burned alive in India because of the belief that a violent end purified the body and ensured transmigration into a healthy new existence.

‘Natural death by disease was believed to result in four successive births, and a fifth as a leper.

‘Carey believed that Jesus’ love touches leprosy patients, so they should be cared for.’ (ibid. p.2-3)

The more we read about Carey the less he sounds like the caricature of a blundering insensitive colonial missionary, and the more he sounds like a man bringing the authentic love of God into peoples’ lives.

In the next post we’ll examine Carey’s commitment to developing printing technologies and a free press in India.

We’ll continue to examine Carey’s breathtaking efforts here

To see 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

JC Ryle on the Truths that Changed a Nation

JC Ryle - Christian Leaders of the 18th Century

We’ve been enjoying JC Ryle’s insights into the preaching that shook England in the 18th century, and which led to many thousands coming to Christ.

In this post we’ll look at the content of the messages that were given. In outlining these for us, Ryle is obviously suggesting that there was a need, in his own day, for a revival of such preaching.

It may be that in quaint 19th century England the ministers and evangelists had softened their message, taken the edges off, in order not to offend those outside the churches.

If we really believe that the message should stay the same, even though we should package it appropriate to the context, then it is surely helpful to hear good old Bishop Ryle’s warnings and exhortations.

Ryle gives seven essential truths that the Methodist preachers all agreed on and asserted to their hearers. We’ll look at the first three in this post.

1. The Authority of the Bible
Ryle says that they ‘taught constantly the sufficiency and supremacy of Holy Scripture.’

‘They knew nothing of any part of Scripture being uninspired.

‘They never flinched from asserting that there can be no error in the Word of God.

‘To that one book they were content to pin their faith, and by it to stand or fall. This was one grand characteristic of their preaching.’ (p.26)

2. The Sinfulness of Man

‘They taught constantly the total corruption of human nature.

‘They never flattered men and women…They told them plainly that they were dead, and must be made alive again…

‘Strange and paradoxical as it may seem to some, their first step towards making men good was to show them that they were utterly bad; and their primary argument in persuading men to do something for their souls was to convince them that they could do nothing at all.’ (p.26-27)

3. The Necessity of Christ’s Death
Ryle says that the Methodist preachers of the 18th century ‘taught constantly that Christ’s death upon the cross was the only satisfaction for man’s sin; and that, when Christ died, he died as our substitute – ‘the just for the unjust’.

‘This, in fact, was the cardinal point in almost all their sermons.

‘They never taught the modern doctrine that Christ’s death was only a great example of self-sacrifice.

‘They saw in it the payment of man’s mighty debt to God.

‘They loved Christ’s person they rejoiced in Christ’s promises; they urged men to walk after Christ’s example. But the one subject above all others, concerning Christ, which they delighted to dwell on, was the atoning blood which Christ shed for us on the cross.’ (p.27)

It would probably be a good exercise for every preacher who is attempting to present the Christian message to their culture to review these points (and the three to follow) and see if any adjustment ought to be made in the content, if not the style, of their messages.

For Ryle’s next four points click here

All quotes are from JC Ryle, Christian Leaders of the 18th Century, Banner of Truth edition.

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides