Take a Closer Look at the Claims of Christ

 

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

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

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

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

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

Dirk Jongkind
Dirk Jongkind

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

Terry Virgo
Terry Virgo

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

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

Ian Galloway
Ian Galloway

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

Samir Deokuliar
Samir Deokuliar

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

Stephen van Rhyn
Stephen van Rhyn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2015 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Baptism in the Spirit part 2

The young Charles Finney


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

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

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

You can read his introduction to the experience here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first instalment of the Finney Story click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


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

[ii] ibid p.25

JP Moreland – Defender of the Faith!

Introducing JP Moreland

JP Moreland

JP Moreland is one of the most refreshing defenders of the Christian position currently taking part in debates with non-Christian intellectuals.

He is himself an intellectual giant, razor sharp, humourous, passionate. In this debate on the existence of God he covers the standard Christian arguments, namely,

1. The Origins of the Universe

2. Inference from Design – The Fine Tuning of the Universe/Information in DNA

3. The Existence of Objective Moral Law

A charismatic intellectual and an intellectual charismatic!
In addition, he argues passionately for the reliability of the New Testament, and, unlike almost every other Christian apologist I’ve heard, he argues that part of the evidence that verifies the Christian position is the current reality of physical healings taking place.

He refers not only to things happening globally but also in his own home church. The impact of this on his opponent, Clancy Martin (Prof and Chair of Philosophy, University of Missouri KC), is striking.

One could argue that JP is presenting a more rounded, balanced and Biblical defence by bringing in contemporary examples of God’s power in the experience of Christians as evidence for God’s existence.

But you be the judge. Have a listen and feel free to leave a comment.

Click here for audio of JP Moreland and Clancy Martin in debate

JP is distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, California. For a full list of his extensive academic achievements click here

He is the author of many books including:

  • Scaling the Secular City: A Defense of Christianity (1987)
  • Christianity and the Nature of Science: A Philosophical Examination (1989)
  • The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues of Our Time (with Norman Geisler, 1990)
  • Does God Exist?: The Debate Between Atheists and Theists (with Kai Nielsen, 1990)
  • The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for An Intelligent Designer (1994)
  • Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul (1997)
  • Body and Soul: Human Nature and the Crisis of Ethics (with Scott Rae, 2000)
  • Naturalism: A Critical Analysis (co-editor with William Lane Craig, 2000)
  • Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (with William Lane Craig, 2003)
  • Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power (2007)
  • Consciousness and the Existence of God (2009)
  • The Recalcitrant Imago Dei (2009)
  • The God Question: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning (2009)

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

Suffering, Sickness and Healing

PJ Smyth

Message of the Month – PJ Smyth

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

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

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

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

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

But what do you think?

For the Video click here

For the Audio click here

© 2012 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog

The Boxer Uprising and China Inland Mission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first post on Hudson Taylor click here

© Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


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

[ii] ibid p.355

[iii] ibid p.357

[iv] ibid p.358-9

Persevering in Evangelism


Hudson Taylor in 1893


By all means, save some!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor story click here 

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides


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

[ii] ibid, p.325

[iii] ibid p.328

[iv] ibid p.329

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

Celebrities or Servants – How Christian Leadership should be

William Chalmers Burns


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first part of the Hudson Taylor Story click here

© Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


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

[ii] ibid

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

Convenience v Compassion in Christian Missions

Saving a Drowning Man – Hudson Taylor and Us

Rivers around Shanghai in the 1800s


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How much money will you give us?”

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

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

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

“How much may that be?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us consider who it is that said,

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

(Prov 24:11-12)[i]

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

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

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

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

© 2011 Lex Loizides / Church History Blog


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

Message of the Month John Piper

Working for your Joy!

John Piper

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

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

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

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

John Piper - working for the joy of all peoples

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

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

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

© Church History / Lex Loizides

Investing in a Bank that cannot fail – Hudson Taylor

A Half Crown from 1845

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the first part in the Hudson Taylor story click here

For the next part in the Hudson Taylor story click here

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


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

Photo of Half Crown from here

Hudson Taylor on Tithing, the Millenium and Possessions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides


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

The 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 POETS’ QUESTION

The Poets' Question in Oxford - with John Carson and Lex Loizides

The Poets’ Question is an enjoyable presentation of superb poetry and spiritual inquiry and a great event for friends who love literature.

It debuted in Cape Town, South Africa in 2010, was first presented in the UK at Queen’s College, Oxford and then in Norwich. The next performance will be in Birmingham, England on Wednesday 16th November. Enquire here for details.

British actor John Carson reads selections from WB Yeats, TS Eliot, Stevie Smith, Robert Frost, John Crowe Ransom and Dylan Thomas.

Lex Loizides invites us to consider some of the most popular modern poems, and examines the relationship between the poets’ expressions of longing and the possibility of spiritual truth. The presentation is a fine blend of literary insight and Lex’s own personal journey towards authentic and intellectually satisfying spirituality, and represents a contribution to literary apologetics.

For photos, information and to read what people are saying about The Poets’ Question click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Message of the Month Vishal Mangalwadi

Message of the Month – Vishal Mangalwadi

Vishal Mangalwadi

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve had a kind of love affair with India for most of my adult life.

Nevertheless my admiration for Indian scholar Vishal Mangalwadi is anything but sentimental. I am genuinely impacted every time I hear him speak. It’s the same kind of impact I felt when I first read the works of Francis Schaeffer.

Somewhat guided by his notes (!), but also peppered with stunning digressions and off-the-cuff insights, his teaching energises me every single time.

Vishal's book about the role of the Bible in creating the West

He is currently working on a book about the central influence of the Bible in the development of the Western World, which, coming from an Eastern perspective, is intriguing.

This message is part of his material for that book. To be honest, I could have chosen any one of these messages but I thought the title alone might grab your interest.

The Message – Vishal Mangalwadi: ‘Why are some so rich while other are so poor?’

For more on Vishal Mangalwadi click here

Vishal’s stunning book ‘India – the Grand Experiment’

Other books for sale by Vishal

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

William Carey Believes and is Baptised

A child of the Church of England
Carey was a child of the Church of England, having been christened as a baby and assuming, as almost everyone did in 18th Century England, that any other kind of church was bogus, not a real church at all.

But one of the other apprentices, John Warr, was not a member of the Church of England. And, rather than his being strange or artificial, Warr had a definite and clear faith in Christ.

Biographer, Timothy George writes, ‘As parish clerk, Edmund Carey (William’s father) had required his children to attend church where they listened to the Psalms and lessons from the Book of Common Prayer.

‘Although Carey never disparaged this religious training, it left him, as he put it, ‘wholly unacquainted with the scheme of salvation by Christ.’ Indeed, he confessed, ‘Of real experimental [experiential] religion, I scarcely heard anything until I was fourteen years of age.’ (Quoted in Faithful Wtiness, Timothy George, IVP, p.6)

Convinced by Scripture

Eventually, he did indeed put his trust in Christ for the forgiveness of his sins. He was converted and immediately began to zealously tell everyone of Christ’s love.

Being convinced by Scripture, which the so-called ‘Dissenters’ preached, William broke with family and church tradition and was baptised as a believer in 1783.

The Baptist Pastor, John Ryland, who oversaw his baptism, later wrote,

‘On October 5, 1783, I baptised in the Nene, just beyond Doddridge’s meeting- house, a poor journeyman-shoemaker, little thinking that before nine years elapsed he would prove the first instrument of forming a Society for sending missionaries from England to the heathen world, and much less that later would become professor of languages in an Oriental College, and the translator of the Scriptures into eleven different tongues.’ (ibid. p.12)

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

To read the next part of the William Carey Story click here

© 2011 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

JC Ryle’s Thoughts on the 18th Century Awakening, Part 2

JC Ryle...with beard

Last time we took a brief look at Ryle’s analysis of the problem. Today we’re going to enjoy his description of how God turned things around.

What makes Ryle’s commentary so appealing is the fact that we can apply the same lessons to ourselves and trust God for major breakthrough in our various cities and nations.

1. Everyone was aware of a major change
Says Ryle: ‘That a great change for the better has come over England in the last hundred years is a fact which I suppose no well informed person would ever attempt to deny. You might as well attempt to deny that there was a Protestant Reformation in the days of Luther…’ (p.21)

2. Where the change didn’t come from
Not the Government: ‘The government of the country can lay no claim to the credit of the change.’
Not the Church of England: ‘Nor…from the Church of England as a body. The leaders of that venerable communion were utterly unequal to the times. Left to herself, the Church of England would probably have died of dignity…’
Not the ‘Free’ churches: ‘Nor…from the Dissenters. Content with their hard-won triumphs, that worthy body of men seemed to rest upon their oars.’ (p.22)

3. The change came through Evangelists
‘The men who wrought deliverance for us…were a few individuals…whose hearts God touched about the same time in various parts of the country.

‘They were not wealthy or highly connected. They were simply men whom God stirred up and brought out to do His work.

‘They did His work in the old apostolic way, by becoming the evangelists of their day.’(p.22)

4. The demeanour of these Evangelists
Ryle writes, ‘They taught one set of truths. They taught them in the same way, with fire, reality, earnestness, as men fully convinced of what they taught.

‘They taught them in the same spirit, always loving, compassionate…even weeping, but always bold, unflinching and not fearing the face of man.

‘And they taught them on the same plan, always acting on the aggressive; not waiting for sinners to come to them, but going after, and seeking sinners; not sitting idle till sinners offered to repent, but assaulting the high places of ungodliness like men storming a breach…

‘The movement of these gallant evangelists shook England from one end to another.’ (p.23)

We’ll continue with Ryle’s observations next time…

All quotes from Christian Leaders Of The 18th Century by J. C. Ryle, Banner of Truth edition.
You can Purchase Ryle’s excellent book from the Banner of Truth website

To read the first post in this series go here

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Piercing Thoughts on the 18th Century Awakening p.1

JC Ryle on the 18th Century Awakening

JC Ryle

I am reluctant to pull away from the 18th century! Much more can be said and I need to get on to William Carey and the explosion of missionary activity in the 19th century.

So perhaps you will forgive me for rounding up a few thoughts and insights from British Pastor and popular 19th century author, JC Ryle. These insights can speak to us today and stir us to pray and work for the good of those around us.

All quotes are from Ryle’s excellent book, Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century, originally published as ‘The Christian Leaders of the Last Century, or England a Hundred Years Ago’ (references are to the Banner of Truth edition of 1978).

1. The Christian Faith was not influential
‘Christianity seemed to lie as on dead…There was darkness in high places and darkness in low places…a gross, thick, religious and moral darkness – a darkness that might be felt.’ (p.14)

2. The Church was ineffective
Describing both the Anglican Churches and the Free Churches he writes, ‘They existed, but they could hardly be said to have lived. They did nothing; they were sound asleep.’

‘Cold morality, or barren orthodoxy, formed the staple teaching both in church and chapel. Sermons everywhere were little better than miserable moral essays, utterly devoid of anything likely to awaken, convert or save souls.’ (p.14)

3. Church Leaders were distracted
Speaking of the Anglican clergy, Ryle doesn’t hold back: ‘The vast majority of them were sunk in worldliness, and neither knew nor cared anything about their profession…They hunted, they shot, they farmed, they swore, they drank, they gambled. They seemed determined to know everything except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.’

‘And when they did preach, their sermons were so unspeakable and indescribably bad, that it is comforting to reflect they were generally preached to empty benches.’ (p.17)

4. The People were sceptical of true Christian faith

‘The land was deluged with infidelity and scepticism. The prince of this world made good use of his opportunity.’ (p.15)

‘It may suffice it to say that duelling, adultery, fornication, gambling, swearing, Sabbath-breaking and drunkenness were hardly regarded as vices at all. They were the fashionable practices of people in the highest ranks of society, and no one was thought the worse of for indulging them.’ (p.18)

Told you he didn’t hold back! Next time we’ll hear Ryle on how things got turned around.

© 2010 Church History Blog / Lex Loizides

Dancing in Church!

Evan Rogers leading worship at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town when the people refused to end the service.
Evan Rogers leading worship at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town when the people refused to end the service.

The Origins of Dancing in Church!
It may be unrealistic to try and specify a moment when dancing in church meetings became popular.

But the specific reason for such exuberant joy is obvious to all who know the power of the gospel.

This was highlighted with characteristic insight by CH Spurgeon who noted that Isaiah 35:6 states that the mute man doesn’t merely talk but ‘shouts’ and the lame man doesn’t merely walk but ‘leaps’, when the power of the gospel works in his life!

In the most obvious sense, then, the origins of dancing in church are just the normal human responses of those who are freed by the power of the love of God in Jesus Christ. This gospel truth is made real to them by the Holy Spirit. This may well be why so many charismatics quote the verse ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!’ (2 Cor 3:17)

‘This is the Holy Ghost, Glory!’
The early Methodists began to dance. And then they danced a lot. These guys were seriously joyful at the close of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th Century, and they continued to dance!

This, let it be known, was considered dangerous and divisive, but from this distance of time, the descriptions are merely humourous:

‘At the spring sacrament at Turtle Creek in 1804, Brother Thompson had been constrained just at the close of the meeting to go to dancing, and for an hour or more to dance in a regular manner round the stand, all the while repeating in a low tone of voice: “This is the Holy Ghost, Glory!”

‘But it was not till the ensuing fall or beginning of the winter that [they] began to encourage one another to praise God in the dance, and unite in that exercise, justly believing that it was their privilege to rejoice before the Lord, and go forth in the dances of them that make merry.’

The Methodists used popular tunes, from the ‘drinking-saloons and playhouses’ and added new Christian lyrics.

Shaking Hands during Worship
Winthrop S. Hudson, in his article, ‘Shouting Methodists’ relates how it was common to shake hands during the close of a service, whilst still singing:

‘Shaking Hands while singing was a means, though simple in itself, to further the work. The ministers used frequently, at the close of worship, to sing a spiritual song suited to the occasion and go through the congregation and shake hands with the people while singing.

‘And several, when relating their experience at the time of their admission into the church fellowship, declared that this was the first means of their conviction.

‘The act seemed so friendly, the ministers appeared so loving, that the party with whom the minister shook hands would often be melted in tears.’

Other ‘Physical Manifestations’
At the risk of casting doubt over the credibility of the main body of these American Methodists, yet unable to resist an hilarious final paragraph, I quote Hudson once more concerning some physical phenomena that was reported amongst some of them.

An eye witness reported that sometimes, before being impelled to dance, a person’s head would ‘fly backward and forward, and from side to side, with a quick jolt.’ This phenomena was given a name: ‘the jerks’!

‘Sometimes…the whole body would be affected. The more a person labored to suppress the jerks, the more he staggered and the more rapidly the twitches increased.’

Although this was observable, it was not considered proper to merely imitate this behaviour in order to appear more spiritual! So that’s sorted that out!

In the mean time, don’t be afraid to truly rejoice in the magnificent salvation that you  have received in Christ!

(Quotes from ‘Shouting Methodists’ by Winthrop S. Hudson, Encounter Magazine 1968)

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Surrounded by the Mob – Wesley in Wednesbury

John Wesley in Wednesbury, England

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the next installment click here

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

© 2010 Lex Loizides

Angry Wife Leads to Evangelists’ Acquittal (because she’s no longer angry)

Ever met someone who could give such a tongue lashing that you were nervous of even saying hello?

Well, one poor husband who endured such rebukes for many years found himself in a tight spot – in court. His wife had suddenly stopped her verbal attacks and became considerate and mild – but the husband still wasn’t happy. What was the cause and what would the Judge say?

John Wesley, writing in his journal in 1742 tells the story:

Wednesday, 9 June: ‘I rode over to a neighbouring town, to wait upon a Justice of Peace, a man of candour and understanding; before whom (I was informed) their angry neighbours had carried a whole wagon-load of these new heretics.’ [ie, new Christian converts along with some of those who had been sharing the gospel with them]

‘But when asked what they had done, there was a deep silence; for that was a point their conductors had forgot.

‘At length one said, “Why, they pretend to be better than other people…and besides, they prayed from morning to night.”

‘Mr. S asked, “But have they done nothing besides?”

“Yes Sir!”, said an old man, “An’t please your worship, they have convarted my wife. Till she went among them she had such a tongue! And now she is as quiet as a lamb!”

“Carry them back, carry them back,” replied the Justice, “and let them convert all the scolds in the town!”
(From John Wesley’s Journal, Vol 1, Baker edition, p.378)

Gal 5:22-23 says, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’

More next time…

© 2010 Lex Loizides

A Christmas Miracle – Back from the Brink of Death

Christmastime with John Wesley

In December 1742 John Wesley and trainee leader Thomas Meyrick travelled to the North of England to preach the gospel.

It was a bitterly cold journey and they both became ill. Meyrick’s sickness, however, took a turn for the worse and twice he was feared dead.

Wesley tells the story of this particular event in his journal.

‘Wed 15th Dec. [Each of us had caught] a violent cold by riding the day before. Mine gradually wore off; but Mr Meyrick’s increased, so that on Friday, he took his bed…’

The Physician fears the worst

Mon 20th…they told me the Physician said, he did not expect Mr. Meyrick would live till morning. I went to him but his pulse was gone.

‘He had been speechless and senseless for some time. A few of us immediately joined in prayer: (I relate the naked fact) Before we had done, his sense and his speech returned.

‘Now he that will account for this by natural causes has my free leave: But I choose to say, This is the power of God.’

Keep praying and never give up!

Sat 25th Dec. ‘The Physician told me he could do no more; Mr. Metyrick could not live over the night. I went up and found them all crying about him; his legs being cold, and (as it seemed) dead already.

‘We all kneeled down, and called upon God with strong cries and tears.

‘He opened his eyes, and called for me; and from that hour he continued to recover his strength till he was restored to perfect health.

‘I wait to hear who will either disprove this fact, or philosophically account for it.’

(From John Wesley’s Journal, Baker edition, Vol 1, p.405-6)

A life of service to God

You might wonder what happened next – especially as he sank back into sickness after the initial bout of prayer.

Well, he did indeed recover and live a further 28 years, finally dying in 1770 (see here).

Prayer is not automatic. We come to a Person, to God the Father, who knows our need. But we can come with strong encouragements that He hears us according to His purpose and will.

Jesus said, ‘For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.’ (Matt 7:8 – see the verses in their context here)

What are you asking God for?

© 2009 Lex Loizides

More than a Hymn-Writer: Charles Wesley the Evangelist

Charles Wesley, Hymn-writer and Evangelist

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

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

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

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

A Passionate Evangelistic Preacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Inspiring combination of the Poet and the Evangelist

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Wesley

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

More next time…

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Threatened at Gunpoint – The Methodist Revival Advances

(Methodism and the Mob Part 4)

John Cennick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the next installment click here

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

Howell Harris Gets Beaten up While Preaching

(Methodism and the Mob, Part 3)

Bala, in Wales. Not exactly a holiday destination for Howell Harris

The Evangelist preaches, is resisted, rejected and then covered in sewerage and beaten ruthlessly.

Hugh Hughes, in his biography of Harris describes one scene in Bala, Wales, in 1741. Howell Harris, the great pioneer of outdoor preaching during the Great Awakening, received a beating at the hands of violent men and women.

Suffering for Christ
Hughes writes, ‘The women were as fiendish as the men, for they besmeared him with mire, while their companions belaboured him with their fists and clubs, inflicting such wounds that his path could be marked in the street by the crimson stains of his blood.’

‘The enemy continued to persecute him…striking him with sticks and with staves, until overcome with exhaustion, he fell to the ground…They still abused him, though prostrate…’ (Hugh J Hughes Life of Howell Harris, p.142-3, quoted in Arnold Dallimore, George Whitefield, Wakeman Press)

Empowered by the Spirit
Describing his resilience at another similar time of violent reaction, Harris wrote, ‘Had bullets been shot at me, I felt I should not move. Mob raged. Voice lifted up, and though by the power going with the words my head almost went to pieces, such was my zeal that I cried, ‘I’ll preach Christ till to pieces I fall!’ (ibid p.142)

Peter wrote, ‘But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.’ (1 Peter 4:13-14)

Certainly Harris was conscious of the power of the Holy Spirit resting upon him at such times. John Wesley also reports a similar experience of peace in the midst of sometimes violent storms.

While it may be difficult for us to imagine that the pleasure and power of God might rest upon us at a time of persecution, nevertheless those who have suffered prove the promise of Scripture to be true.

For the next installment click here

Methodism and the Mob Part 1, Part 2

© 2009 Lex Loizides