Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
It is said that Paris Hilton is famous … for being famous. She is a celebrity because she is a celebrity. Her main claim to fame is that she is, well, ... famous.
More generally it seems that today in our culture we honour those who are prominent in the media, such as actors, or musicians. We honour and revere our celebrities.
It seems to me that what we need today are not more celebrities … we need heroes. We need men and women whose example inspires us and motivates us to do what they did.
In Hebrews chapter 11, the famous chapter on faith, we read not about celebrities, but about heroes of faith. We read of people like Abraham, who obeyed God even though he did not know where he was going.“I’ll know it when I see it” was his motto as God led him to the promised land.
One of my heroes is William Clowes, a pioneer and founder of the Primitive Methodist movement. In his young adult years he led a life of violence, often fuelled by alcohol. He led a decadent lifestyle and was known for his drunkenness, swearing and fighting. After a prank gone wrong he was forced to leave Hull in the northeast of England in 1805.
Shortly afterwards he had a radical conversion to Jesus Christ, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and became a leading Primitive Methodist preacher. The man of violence became an apostle of Jesus Christ. In January 1819, he returned to Hull, in radically different circumstances.This time he came as a preacher of the gospel.
William Clowes preached in the open air, in the market place, in farmers’ fields, barns, sheds, factories or any other convenient location. Within seven years from his return to Hull, he was instrumental in making 12,000 converts and members of the Primitive Methodist movement.
He died in 1851 and a chapel in Hull was named the Clowes Memorial chapel in his honour. His memorial states "that he was a burning and shining light".
He is a hero of the faith. We need men and women like him today.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I have just begun reading the works of Thomas Russell, 1806-1889, a Primitive Methodist preacher. He was a man of faith, prayer and vision, who faced persecution and hardship with courage and perseverance.
He was falsely accused, arrested, and sentenced to three months hard labour, because of outdoor preaching. His imprisonment became part of the battle for religious freedom in England. He was instrumental in the mission to Berkshire and Hampshire.
We need men like him today.
Monday, September 20, 2010
It looks as though we are beginning to see the Greens in their true colours. The Age reports that Greens leader Bob Brown pledged his first priority would be a bill to restore the Northern Territory and ACT's power to pass euthanasia laws.
Euthanasia has profound implications for those in the medical profession, and violates the hypocratic oath.
"I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan"
Euthanasia opens a dangerous Pandora's Box. The public debate over this issue is being re-ignited, and Christians need to be at the forefront of the debate.
See also Why the Greens make me see red
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
As Paul and his mission team journeyed across the regions around the Mediterranean they proclaimed the message of Jesus as Messiah, that he had to suffer and rise from the dead. (Acts 17:3). They proclaimed the gospel in towns and cities like the Roman colony of Philippi, and the Greek cities of Athens and Corinth, to Jew and Gentile alike.
Many became believers, although they stirred up opposition from Jewish groups, violent mobs or tradesmen whose livelihoods were threatened (as in Ephesus, Acts 19:24). They formed churches in many of these places.
The missionary pioneers of the Primitive Methodist movement journeyed from town to town, and village to village. In a ten year span from 1810 to 1820 they “missioned” towns and villages following the course of the River Trent, in the English Midlands from Stoke-on-Trent and going east via Notttingham towards the port city of Hull. In each place they formed chapels.
Their greatest apostle and evangelist, William Clowes, entered the city of Hull in January 1819. The proclamation of the gospel transformed that city. By 1881 there were fourteen chapels with a total capacity of over 12,000.
In a little over 30 years they established chapels across the length and breadth of England. In short they had made an impact on a nation. By the beginning of the 20th century they had formed schools, orphanages, helped found the Trade Union movement and had ten elected MPs.
Can the proclamation of the gospel change our nation, the nation of Australia? I believe it can.
See also Five Characteristics of a Church Planting movement
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
The fourth parallel between the church in Acts and the Primitive Methodist movement is persecution.
After the stoning of Stephen, a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the surrounding regions. (Acts 8:1). Paul and his companions met with persecution in Antioch (Acts 13:50), Iconium (Acts 14:5), Lystra (Acts 14:19), strong opposition from Jewish groups and violent mobs in Philippi (Acts 16:22), and in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5), and there was a great riot in Ephesus on account of their message (Acts 19:23).
The early Primitive Methodist pioneer preachers faced two particular forms of persecution – the mob and the magistrate. Violent mobs of angry men and women pelted their preachers with stones, rotten eggs and vegetables, mud, excrement, as well as verbally and physically assaulting them. Some preachers were lucky to escape with their lives. Verbal assault apart from the usual cursing and swearing also included calling them “Ranters”, a term of derision and offence.
Many a preacher found himself in court or in prison as the result of trumped up charges, such as obstructing the highway, or intention to cause a riot. It was not infrequently that they picked up “the Go to Jail” card.
It is the experience of many preachers of powerful Christian movements to go to jail. Examples include Dietrich Bonhoeffer in Nazi Germany and Martin Luther King in Birmingham jail. It often seems to be part of God’s plan. As our western society moves from being post-Christian to being increasingly anti-Christian, it may be the lot of modern-day preachers to be sent to prison for preaching the Gospel, as well.
See also Five Characteristics of a Church Planting movement
Friday, September 3, 2010
The New Testament believers praised God in song, as well as in prayer, and other forms of worship. When Paul and Silas were thrown into prison at Philippi, they prayed and sang hymns at midnight. Paul wrote to the Corinthians advising “When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation” (1 Cor 14:26).
The Primitive Methodist movement likewise was characterised by song. They used music and song effectively, especially in the open-air. It was standard practice for an open-air preacher and his supporters to approach a market-place, singing as they went. Their singing soon attracted a crowd. Their hymn books were some of their most popular publications.
Like William Booth of the Salvation Army, fifty years later, the Primitive Methodists did not see why the devil should have all the best tunes. They put new words to lewd or ribald popular songs of the day, thus making a connection between the surrounding culture and their movement.
How can our modern day church use music and song more effectively?
Thursday, September 2, 2010
On the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came in great power. There is some evidence that the Primitive Methodists were Pentecostals, a hundred years before the Azusa Street revival in 1905. They were a movement of the Holy Spirit where the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit were taught and experienced. Both of the founders of the movement, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes, experienced personally powerful experiences of being filled with the Spirit.
There were times when there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the believers. Hugh Bourne recalls one particular service held at Tunstall on Sunday September 24th, 1820. There was such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole congregation that it resulted in a “revival of the work of the Lord.” The next evening he preached and many were converted to Christ.
Towards the end of his life, Hugh Bourne regularly preached on ‘the Pentecost’.
The books of Acts has been called “the Acts of the Holy Spirit”. It seems obvious that a movement of God is inspired, directed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. As it was for the New Testament church, and for the Primitive Methodist movement, so it is for a contemporary movement of God – it must be a movement empowered by the Spirit of God.
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
In Acts, 120 believers were “constantly in prayer” in the upper room, after Jesus had ascended to heaven. (Acts 1:14-15). When Peter was imprisoned by Herod, and on trial for his life, many people gathered in the house of Mary to pray for his release. (Acts 12:12). Barnabas and Saul were commissioned for the first missionary journey in Antioch after fasting and prayer. (Acts 13:3). Being gathered for prayer was at the heart of New Testament ministry.
Prayer was at the centre of ministry for the Primitive Methodists. Their meetings were legendary in North Staffordshire, England, where they began. They were known for being demonstrative, passionate, zealous and powerful gatherings. They were dynamic meetings, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Hugh Bourne called those who were zealously committed to prayer, by the quaint title of “pious praying labourers”. To them, prayer was core business. Today we would call them prayer warriors. They were earnest in their passion for God and for the conversion of their friends. There was an expectation that every convert would become part of the prayer meeting.
I want to suggest that our modern-day church needs to encourage and expect new converts to be part of a regular dynamic prayer meeting. In such a prayer gathering, new believers catch the DNA of the movement, and learn to become bold and passionate about making disciples.
When was the last time you went to a dynamic prayer meeting? Do you need to start one?
See also Practicing a Shout, Dynamic Prayer Meetings Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.