Alexander Campbell Unites the Restoration Movement

This is the day that … Alexander Campbell was born in 1788, in Ireland.

His father, Thomas Campbell, was a Presbyterian minister connected to the Secession Church in Ireland and Scotland, concerned about a faith that was Biblical and personally real. Due to health reasons, Thomas sailed for America on 8 April, 1807.

Eleven months later the family followed … shipwrecked on the coast of Scotland … and then re-united in New York on 29 September, 1809.

Leaving the Presbyterian church, father and son launched “the Christian Association of Washington” with its basis – “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”

A study of the subject of baptism led them to accept immersion as the proper mode.

For a time they united with the Baptists … but such issues as “election” and “the law” led to a parting of the ways. For about seven years he published The Christian Baptist, seeking to correct errors he saw in the church of the day.

Alexander united others who were keen to re-establish New Testament Christianity, free of the religious trappings of denominations. A major contribution came out the Great Western Revival, and especially Cane Ridge, Kentucky, where amazing Pentecostal style experiences came upon the crowds. Barton Warren Stone led this revival and led its followers to declare that they were “Christians” free of sectarian trappings.

Alexander Campbell harnessed this group and others to create and lead a movement known by 1827 as

the “Disciples of Christ” (known in Australia as “Churches of Christ.”)

Alexander married twice, first to Margaret Brown and then, following Margaret’s death, to Selina, who comforted him at his death.

Alexander Campbell was a top student as a child, and an able preacher. He initially shunned debate as contrary to the spirit of Christ. When he did finally engage in debates he proved himself an able debater with any who dared to enter the fray. Among them were Robert Owen, a sceptic, and Bishop Purcell, a Roman Catholic. In this latter debate Alexander Campbell had no hesitation in identifying Romanism with “the Babylon” of John and “the Man of Sin” of Paul (Debates that Made History, by Haley, page 161). Other debates revolved around the issue of baptism – Campbell holding its utter necessity if the soul were to be saved.

One writer tells us that Alexander would preach “from two to two and a half hours without a break”. Even before the Houses of Congress he held forth on John 3:17 for one and a half hours – in May, 1850 (Apostle of Christian Union, page 10).

His desire to restore the unity of the church, however, resulted in yet another denomination.

Alexander Campbell died on 4 March, 1866.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Fredrick Franson from Sweden to the World

This is the day that … Fredrick Franson died in Idaho, Colorado in 1908.

Born in Sweden on 17 June, 1852, Fredrick grew up in a Christian environment. His family emigrated to Nebraska in 1869. At the age of 20 he was converted after reading Romans 10:6,7 and was later baptised in the Swedish Baptist Church.

It was, however, the reading of Romans 10:6,7 that led to his conversion. By this time he was 20 and had emigrated to America.

He worked as a counsellor to enquirers at some of D.L. Moody’s meetings, and became a member at the Moody Church, Chicago.

By the age of 23 he was involved in missionary work among entire communities of Swedish speaking folk in Minnesota. He was seen as a missioner to the Scandinavians in the same way Moody was gifted for reaching Americans.

Ministry in Salt Lake City led to his writing a 212-page book – Mormonism Unveiled, discussing 70 texts the Mormons miss-handle in the Scripture – and then, in 1880, he went back to Colorado.

The Westmark Evangelical Free Church records, “Westmark Church was organized November 19, 1880 by Swedish missionary-evangelist Fredrick Franson. The homesteaders and immigrant farmers of this rural community met in sod homes for Sunday School and Worship Services until the first building was erected on this location in 1883. The Swedish language was used in worship services and business meetings until it was officially changed to ‘the American language’ in 1929.”

Franson then spent nine years in Scandinavia preaching the gospel. His ministry at the Bethlehem Church in Oslo resulted in the formation of the Mission Covenant Church of Norway.

During his time in Scandinavia Franson gained the honour of being the first missionary appointed by the Moody Church, led by Dwight L. Moody, on February 5, 1878.

He returned to America on 7 September, 1890 and on 14 October, 1890, a meeting took place under his guidance in the Swedish Pilgrim Church, Brooklyn, New York, where “The Evangelical Alliance Mission” was born. That mission is now known by its acronym, TEAM and by the end of the 20th Century this mighty missionary organisation had about 1000 missionaries serving on 29 fields.

Franson continued in missionary activity, visiting several fields and is cited as part of the Korean revival in Wonsan, where a hunger for the Holy Spirit led to Korea’s first Pentecostal outpouring in 1903. “In the subsequent Bible Study meetings led by Frederick Franson, many Korean believers also confessed their sins. Confession of sins was an outstanding feature of the meeting.” (Korean Pentecostalism, Yeol Soo Eim, Gospel Theological Seminary)

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

World Youth Day 2008

My Filipino Catholic friend Bobby shared an interesting insight last week – prompted to him by the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. That occasion proved to be a significant meeting of Catholic and Protestant youth. He watched the broadcast of the Pope’s mass at Randwick Racecourse, where huge crowds gathered on Sunday July 20.

What he came out with surprised me and tied in with a revelation I had back in 1978.

He noted that Protestants place the emphasis for salvation on faith alone. Catholics, he pointed out, believe that faith must be accompanied by works, as is indicated in several places in the Bible.

But, he added, the Bible suggests that neither the Protestants nor the Catholics are right.

Hmmmm ?

He took me to the teaching of Jesus at the end of His Sermon on the Mount.

“Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23

The faith profession of calling Jesus “Lord” is what many Protestants consider to be all that is needed to be saved. They are sure that no works are needed, only faith.

The Catholic position involves both faith, expressed by these people who say “Lord, Lord”, and works. Jesus points out that these people who come to Him have both! They have faith (Lord, Lord) and works (done many wonderful works).

Yet what would suit both the Protestant and the Catholic positions proves to be less than Jesus is looking for. “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”

Wow!

Bobby saw in this text the fact that God looks on the heart. What God is looking for is not a faith confession, nor appropriate works to affirm the faith. But God is looking at our hearts and looking to see that we have a right heart toward Him.

Way back in 1978 I was standing in the foyer of a small church, during the opening songs, desperate for God to give me a message to preach. I was on a travelling ministry tour, as a Bible College student in New Zealand. The Apostolic church which I was about to preach to included many learned and experienced people. I wanted to bring them a message which would be more than just a rehash of my college lectures.

As I prayed, desperately, for a message, three quick images flicked in my mind. One was of the huge brass laver used in the Tabernacle. That spoke to me of my evangelical roots and the emphasis of being washed clean of our sins. The second image was of the golden lampstand from the Tabernacle. This spoke to me of the filling of the Holy Spirit and all that goes with the Pentecostal experience. To my way of thinking at that time, Pentecost built on all that evangelicalism gave us, thus giving greater power to the gospel and Biblical faith I already had.

The third image, however, completely challenged my respect for both the Evangelical gospel and the blessing of the Holy Spirit. I saw a beautiful young bride, dressed in white, ready for her beloved’s embrace.

The impact of that quick sequence of images, which became the basis of my message that night, was that Christianity is all about ‘Relationship’. The end of our life is not a celebration of our faithfulness to the old time gospel, or our exploits in the power of the Holy Spirit. The culmination is a wedding, not a show and tell session. It’s all about Relationship.

When Bobby shared his insights I saw in Jesus’ words the subtext of relationship again. “I never knew you”.

Christianity is not about fulfilling the religious expectations of our brand of Christendom, but it is all about being in wonderful intimate relationship with God and Jesus Christ, through our faith in the finished work of the Cross and through God’s salvation in our lives.

Sister Etter and the Miracles

This is the day that … Maria Woodworth-Etter was born in Ohio, in 1844.

Roberts Liardon refers to her as “the grandmother of the Pentecostal movement” (God’s Generals, page 47).

In her autobiography she tells how she was converted whilst “going under the water” at her baptism. She was 13 years of age (page 7). Almost immediately she says she heard God’s call to preach – and this in a day when women preachers were frowned upon.

Marriage to P.H. Woodworth resulted in six children being born, five of whom died in childhood. Nor did her husband share her desire for ministry. She divorced her first husband (1891) and married Samuel Etter in 1902.

Sister Etter, as she was known, preached to thousands, sharing the gospel and praying for the sick. Significant for hundreds and even thousands in her meetings was the experience of falling in a trance, akin to the frontier meetings of an earlier time.

In her preaching ‘holiness’ was her initial emphasis. By 1885 she claimed 500 were converted every week at her meetings. Then she began to emphasise ‘tongues’ and ‘healing’. Thousands flocking to her 8000-seat tent meetings.

She wrote many books – including one that foretold the destruction of San Francisco by a tidal wave in 1890! “Thousands fled to the hills because of her prophecy” (Dictionary of Pentecostalism and Charismatic Movements, page 901). Her book, Acts of the Holy Ghost, impacted many who held it as one of their most treasured texts. One of the Cambridge Seven missionaries, Stanley Smith, gave such testimony.

And most odd were her trances. Sometimes during a service she would “stand like a statue for an hour or more with her hands raised…” (ibid, page 901). To her, “lack of physical manifestation was a sign of apostasy!” (God’s Generals, page 55).

Healing people by “punching them in the stomach” or “whacking them in the neck” was one of her methods (page 73). It is believed Smith Wigglesworth adopted this method from her. He preached in her Tabernacle in Indianapolis after her death.

Whatever one’s theological leaning, Maria Woodworth-Etter must be regarded as one of the most interesting and influential figures in the history of Christendom. She proclaimed the Pentecostal message before Azusa Street and the emergence of the organised Pentecostal groups. Her miracles, preaching and impact did much to open people’s eyes to the restoration of New Testament manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

For a more detailed account of her life and ministry visit: http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/199901/086_woodsworth_etter.cfm

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.