Bring Back The King!
This vision of Dr. A.B. Simpson launched a missionary movement that changed the world. It can change our world too.
The Master’s coming draweth near. The Son of Man will soon appear, His Kingdom is at hand. But ere that glorious day can be, The Gospel of the Kingdom, we Must preach in every land.
(Excerpt from a Hymn by A.B. Simpson)
The vision of A.B. Simpson’s that changed the world.
He began his ministry sickly and weak with bouts of severe depression, but with the healing power of God and a powerful missionary vision to "Bring back the King." Dr. Albert Benjamin Simpson rose up to launch an entire denomination and missionary movement centered on reaching all peoples with the gospel. One of the driving passions of his life was to see the Great Commission completed so that Jesus could return.
This belief was based on his strong conviction that the passage in Matt. 24:14 should be taken at face value.
"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
In 1887 he launched the Evangelical Missionary Alliance which was one of two alliances that would later merge to form the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. But Simpson did not set out to found a new denomination but to establish an intra-church fellowship of like- minded believers with a burden to evangelize the world. In founding this movement Dr. Simpson gave one of the prime reasons for its establishment. He said, Missions is "the Lord's own appointed way of hastening His speedy coming."
Dr. Walter Turnbull would later say at Dr. Simpson's funeral that: "He is the only great teacher we know who linked the evangelization of the world as a necessary preparation of Christ's return with the study of Bible prophesy.
His passionate belief that the evengelization of the world tied in directly with the appointed time of Christ's return is captured rather succinctly in the following anecdote:
On one occasion a New York Journal reporter approached Dr. Simpson with the question, "Do you know when the Lord is coming?"
"Yes," he replied, "and I will tell you if you promise to print just what I say, references and all."
The reporter's poised notebook gave the ready promise.
"Then put this down: 'This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto the nations and then shall the end come.' Matthew 24:14. Have you written the reference?"
"Yes, what more?"
The reporter lowered his pencil and said, "Do you mean to say that you believe that when the Gospel is preached to all nations Jesus will return?"
"I think I begin to see daylight," answered the reporter. "I see the motivation and the motive power in this movement."
"Then," said the Alliance leader, "You see more than some of the doctors of divinity."
But Simpson did not merely exhort New York City journalists concerning this apocalyptic conviction. Indeed, Simpson made sure that his congregation knew that reaching those who have yet to hear the Gospel was the only thing holding back Christ's Second Coming:
"The work of missions will hasten as nothing else the personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ. It appears to be the one yet unfulfilled condition of preparation. It marks on the dial of the ages the hour when the clock of destiny will strike and sound the knell of the old dispensation and the advent of the new. "The Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations and then shall the end come." If then we would be in the line of the providence and purposes of God, the line of opportunity and emergency, the line that leads up to the marriage supper of the Lamb and the kingdom of our God and His Christ, let us be and do our best for the immediate evangelization of the world."
Dr. Simpson's followers were not slack to act upon the conviction of these words: "By 1893 the Alliance began to emerge as a missionary force. In six years of operation, 180 missionaries worked on forty stations in twelve fields. Twenty-three colleagues had paid for these advances with their lives. The fields occupied were Congo (now Zaire), Sudan, India, China (Central, South and North), Japan, Bulgaria, Palestine, Alaska, Haiti and the Dominican Republic."
Today, the Alliance has 1,200 missionaries working in 35 different nations." According to the latest figures in Operation World, CMA churches boast an affiliation of over one million worldwide. In fact, the estimated 2,100 congregations found in the United States and Canada make up only 33% of this affiliation, the vast majority of this denomination being found overseas. In particular, Indonesia and the Phillipines combined make up over 40% of the CMA affiliation with an estimated 3,300 congregations.
The Man Behind the Vision
It could be argued that the life and ministry of A.B. Simpson was the result of answered prayer. According to Dr. J. Christy Wilson, "his mother had dedicated him to the Lord in prayer to become a minister and a missionary." Janet Simpson's prayer for her son, who was born December 15, 1843, was more than answered with regards to Albert becoming a minister. At age 21, after finishing his studies at Knox College in Toronto, he became pastor of Knox Presbyterian Church in Hamilton, Ontario. A local newspaper commented on his service there, saying, "He was second to none in point of eloquence and ability and success in his ministry."
Simpsons's gift for oratory proved to be no fluke. By 1889, during the time he became pastor of the church for which he will be most remembered, the Gospel Tabernacle in New York City, his preaching penetrated the hearts of a diverse number of people. D.L. Moody, the most noted evangelist of his century--and a contemporary of Simpson's-- said of him, "No one gets to my heart like that man." Yet even the blue-collar worker could be quoted as saying, "I could sit on the point of a picket fence twenty-four hours and listen to that man."
Another distinction of Simpson's preaching was his development of what has come to be known as the "four-fold gospel." Briefly, he taught that Christ portrays four different roles in the life of a believer: "The first was Christ as our Savior, the second was Christ as our Sanctifier, the third was Chirst as our Healer and the fourth was Christ as our Coming King."
It was in his teachings on Christ as our Coming King that Dr. Simpson expounded his views concerning the need to complete the Great Commission before Christ's Second Coming: "But he did not believe that the whole world needed to be converted to bring about Christ's return. He said it was a matter of taking the Gospel to all groups so that a people could be taken out of the nations for God. Then Jesus Christ would come back. This was the reason for his great passion for missions. Dr. [A.W.] Tozer states that Dr. Simpson was 'urged forward by his own impelling vision for a lost world.'"
Simpson also expressed this vision through the magazines that he authored. He was a passionate writer who, sometimes to his own detriment, worked himself to the point of exhaustion. Beginning in February 1880, Dr. Simpson began publishing the monthly magazine, The Gospel in All Lands. He was the first person to produce a beautifully illustrated missionary publication that showed the beauty of the mission field. No similar publication of that time had such attractive graphics. It was truly a labor of love. Mission work was to him "the sweetest and sublimest service given to the church of God-- the work of the world's evangelization." Later, in 1882 he started The Word, Work and World which was the forerunner of the C&MA's current magazine Alliance Life.
He was also an avid hymn writer who insisted that the Second Coming of Christ be in as many hymns as possible. He often lamented on the failure of many a gospel song to carry its message to the highest point--the coming of Christ.
December 15, 1993 marked the 150th anniversary of the birthday of A.B. Simpson. To commorate this occasion, John Geddie Memorial Church (in Springbrook, Prince Edward Island, Canada) held a special service paying homage to the Alliance founder. In his sermon at this sesquicentenniel service, veteran missionary Dr. J. Christy Wilson noted that "Simpson...did more for missions than any other Canadian in history. Under his leadership, thousands of missionaries went around the world with the Christian and Missionary Alliance as well as other agencies."
"Within our Reach"
The legacy of Simpson's vision in the 1990's
The Christian and Missionary Alliance, however, has not been satisfied to rest on past laurels but is moving forward with new plans to help finishing the task of "Bringing Back The King" which A. B. Simpson was so dedicated to. One person who has been making a significant heart-felt difference is Harvey Boese, a coordinator for the Alliance's own "Adopt-A-People" program, which is called, Within Our Reach.
Currently, the Within Our Reach program has "up for adoption" a total of 142 unreached people groups "within reach" of the mission fields already established by Alliance churches. According to Dr. Fred Smith, the National Coordinator for this program, 76 of these groups have already been adopted by various CMA churches throughout the United States. Of these 76 adopted people groups, 42 of them have been adopted by congregations located in the southwestern region of the United States. The coordinator of this region is none other than Harvey Boese, a retired missionary and pastor of a CMA church. Specifically, Harvey carries two titles, that of Coordinator for the South Pacific District of the CMA (Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico) and Facilitator for the Southwest District of the CMA (Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Western Louisiana).
Harvey is a former missionary to Thailand, now "retired," who is spending his twilight years living in Upland, California. Boese expressed disappointment with pastors who lack the vision, because this lack inevitably transfers to the congregation as well. Nevertheless, he has been encouraged by the CMA churches who have been willing to "stand in the gap" with him and pray that their respective adopted people groups be reached for the gospel. May the Lord raise up many more mobilizers, such as Harvey Boese, because, according to Dr. Fred Smith, the church could surely use individuals with his dedication and vision.
All of us who look at the life of Dr. A.B. Simpson are challenged by his unswerving dedication to the vision of completing the Great Commission and "Bringing Back the King." It is my hope that the world- wide body of Christ along with the Christian and Missionary Alliance will learn from Dr. Simpson example and dedicate themselves anew to the task of reaching all peoples with the gospel. May there be a fresh move of God's Spirit to burn this vision into the hearts of millions of believers all over this world so as to produce the mighty harvest of souls from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation that Jesus has asked us for. Let us commit ourselves today to this great cause as Dr. Simpson did 100 years ago with such wonderful results.