Missions in the late 20th and early 21st centuries appears to have a strong bent towards getting certain methodologies just right. “Make the material Muslim-friendly” ….so the line goes…”and you will overcome all of their cultural hang-ups” ….so it is promised…”and you will be soon delivering glowing reports on mass movements to the Lord.” Methods, not the undiluted message rules.
This short piece proposes a different strategy. It is derived from the thinking of Charles Spurgeon and a few others who were eminently fruitful in winning souls for the Lord. Each had a holy desperation to see souls won for Christ. Collectively, their stories will challenge our dispositions.
In his 1859 book, “The Soul Winner” Charles Spurgeon said, “As Rachel cried, ” Give me children, or I die,” [Gen. 30:1] so may none of you be content to be barren in the household of God. Cry and sigh until you have snatched some brand from the burning, and have brought at least one sinner to Jesus Christ.” Rachel’s cry for spiritual children echoed through Spurgeon’s heart.
Elsewhere he said, “I long to hear my brethren and sisters universally saying, “We are full of anguish; we are in agony till souls be saved.”
God blessed this desperate desire coupled with the prodigious labors of Charles Spurgeon with abundant souls.
Dark days surrounded the fledgling Protestant church in Scotland as evangelicals were routinely burned at the stake for their faith while their Bibles were incinerated. The mid 1500’s did not provide much hope humanly-speaking for change for this minority. Yet there was a man whose prayer life was known widely and whose prayers where feared more by Queen Mary of Scotland than “an army of 40,000 men.” On his lips was heard the agonized prayer, “Give me Scotland or I die.” God responded in grace and a widespread awakening came to Scotland.
Banned from preaching in the early 1700’s in the Church of England for his preaching an undiluted Gospel, Whitefield was an eminently useful tool in God’s hands. He was said to have preached to the majority of the people in the 13 Colonies in the US, as well as to the coal miners in England whose degraded lives prior to the Gospel were notorious for their debauchery, Whitefield had a constant prayer on his lips. “Give me souls or I die.” Whitefield coupled his prayer with no less than 30 transAtlantic voyages, often preached twice a day all week long, traveled on horseback regardless of weather conditions, and received rotten eggs and manure as gifts thrown to him by detractors.
Paul the Apostle:
In Romans 10:1 the same Apostle who said in Romans 9 that he would be willing to trade in his eternal salvation for that of his Jewish countrymen, said—and I will amplify the sense of the text for clarity “My dear brothers, there is nothing that would bring more joy to my heart, and the reason for my continual bombardment of the heavens to God in prayer is that my fellow Israelites might know salvation.”
Again we see a man who is driven by the disposition that says “I want it…” not for me and my prestige, but for them and for God’s glory.
John Hyde (1865-1912) was an American missionary to India desperate to change the face of the country where he lived, along with the state of fruitlessness in his ministry. His biographers tell of calloused knees, nights in prayer, and they dubbed him “Praying Hyde.” The prayer on his lips was “Give me souls—first one a day, then two, then four, etc—-or I die.” Again, desperate prayer coupled with sacrifice marked his life.
It was said of the founder of OMS International that “The winning of a soul was to him what the winning of a battle is to a soldier; a race to an athlete.” He was said to live just for one thing–to win souls for Christ and his burden for Japan caused him to say, “By the help of God they shall hear if it costs every drop of my life’s blood. Here I am, Lord, send me! Send me!” Did God respond?
The Father gave Jesus a people, and just prior to his execution to buy this people Jesus said, “Father, not my will be done, but yours be done” and in effect he said,
“Because you have given me these children, therefore I will die.”
A holy desperation and willingness to sacrifice marked all of the “mini-bios” above. Theirs was not the cool and dispassionate machinations of some technocrats with a new and improved way of doing things, rather they all defaulted to a somewhat “raw” and “in your face” relationship to God on behalf of the souls around them. The costs were far beyond sitting in seminars, and often involved sleepless nights, scorn and even death. Yet all of their lives were eminently fruitful for the long term. John Knox’s 500 year old prayer still can motivate us to say, “Give me… Yemen?… Egypt?… Dearborn?… Mumbai? My Muslim neighbor?___or I die!” The “I want it…”–actually them—namely souls, on the lips of Whitefield, Cowan, Hyde and Spurgeon going back almost 300 years can still inspire us. Paul and Jesus’ willingness to pay even with their lives for souls can still challenge the recesses of our own hearts that can be far too often indifferent to their eternal fate.
Could it be that the modern preoccupation with novel methodologies allows one to have the semblance of being passionate to reach a segment of our global village, but really allows one to maintain a level of distance?
May God examine our hearts and dispositions. What are you desperate for?