An Appeal to Disciples Everywhere?
D. L. Moody and his committee of six looked forward to completing world evangelization by the year 1900, not unrealistically, if . . . .
After many startling and unusual accomplishments in America, Scotland and England, D.L. Moody consented to hosting the annual Northfield Conferences, held right in the little town of his birth in Western Massachusetts.The third year this conference was held the theme of missions came up and A.T.Pierson was asked to speak on that subject at the evening meeting.
As he poured out his soul, citing reasonable statistics to base his challenge that believers everywhere get busy and try to complete the Great Commission by the Year 1900, his words were apparently so impelling that Moody jumped up at the precise moment when Pierson said it ought to be done by the year 1900, and waved to the crowd. The response was so great he appointed a committee of six which worked for three days to produce this remarkable document.
A year later in 1886 this document was published as part of a widely read book by Pierson. The next year, 1887, it turned up in a ponderous volume published in England by the China Inland Mission (today the Overseas Missionary Fellowship). The very next year what this document calls for actually transpiredthe largest mission conference ever held up to that time, in London, where the whole world was in the picture.
But, believers everywhere did not respond. The reasonable challenge (note his calculations) was only partially met. Lavish parties characterized the U.S. in the following gay nineties and while some made great effort, others satisfied themselves with a new slogan, which THEN had no date attached - the evangelization of the world in this generation.
Even so, the largest single surge forward to the ends of the earth did in fact take place in the years following this remarkable heavenly vision.
Yes, it was paralleled by American expansionist political sentiments. Sure, Americans had already consolidated their hold on gold-rich California, and would in a few months thrust their way to the North Pacific to keep Canada out of what is now Washington and Oregon, moving clear out into the Pacific to grap Guam, Western Samoa and the Philippines.
But a careful reading of the record shows that the key leaders, like John R. Mott, never confused the two types of aspirations. On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Cuba he said that "the war WE fight" cuts through every nation and family and individual heart ....
Missionaries to China wrought such a great revolution÷in the very same four areas of China's present "Four Modernizations" - that the entire history of China was monumentally changed in the direction of self-government not servitude. "Other Americans" may have had other ideas, but the pervasive goals of the missionaries were to educate, build, develop national leaders, turn over responsibility. And in the long run they were more influential than the "other Americans." Missionaries established a university in every province of China. The science texts they developed and employed were often more advanced than the books utilized by the slower moving school beaurocracies back home.
That generation did not live to see the flourishing of an autonomous church in China as we see it today. They would have been very happy to see the many social reforms which the Chinese eventually adopted as their own. But they could not possibly have believed, even as late as 1949, that in parts of China where they left behind a high of 2 or 3 percent of the population as Christians, that in a few short years, after diabolic repression for a third of a century, the church would reappear encompassing as high as 80% of the people in the same area, and, in general as the hardiest of all the movements in the country. All of a sudden it appears that the impact of the Bible is so great that China has joined that dubious list of nations which has had to protect itself from the power of the Word of God by trying to put down this one "dangerous" book above all others.
But most Americans looked the other way. Note one thing: what could have happened cannot be judged by what actually did happen. This is a key point today....
Actually things already seem to be accelerating at breakneck speed. The Singapore younger leaders meeting is only a two weeks away. We'll report on that shortly. Then there is the New Orleans meeting Thomas mentions. If 50,000 people gather to see how "to preach the gospel to all nations by the year 2000" that will have to be considered the largest gathering in history focused that precisely on the twin concerns for "closure" and "countdown"÷the what and the when of the final days.
Meanwhile most people, most Christians, and perhaps most evangelicals will not be aroused. It is wonderful that if only 10% of evangelicals do get moving it can be done! But what will these others go into instead? They are rapidly spending more and more time with their drug abusing and broken marriage children. They are lusting after all kinds of other pleasures.
In the earlier period the evangelical movement may have gone much too far into Bible prophecy, and you see that again today. I can recall hearing the Principal of the Prairie Bible Institute decrying the prophecy conferences of yesteryear which were "counting the ten toes of Daniel's image instead of the ten tribal groups still beyond the reach of their missionaries.
Today I wonder about the effect of 20 million copies of Hal Lindsay's books which encourage believers to think that they will not have to be the ones to carry out the final efforts of the Great Commission. Not just Hal Lindsay. I hear people talking about the coming invasion of Israel, and all the signs of the end of this age, but I do not see in their literature any reference to the completion of the Great Commission! How convenient!
What McQuilkin calls the Great Omission, is no accident. There are mighty forces opposing any alerting, awakening function. The coming global revival is not going to be a push over, but an uphill climb, through prayer and fasting. But it's coming!
An Appeal To Disciples Everywhere
(August 14, 1885)
To Fellow believers of every name, scattered throughout the world, Greeting:
Assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, with one accord, in one place, we have continued for ten days in prayer and supplication, communing with one another about the common salvation, the blessed hope, and the duty of witnessing to a lost world.
It was near to our place of meeting that, in 1747, at Northampton, Jonathan Edwards sent forth his trumpet-peal, calling upon disciples everywhere to unite the whole habitable globe. That summons to prayer marks a new era and epoch in the history of the church of God. Praying bands began to gather in this and other lands; mighty revivals of religion followed; immorality and infidelity were wonderfully checked; and, after more than fifteen hundred years of apathy and lethargy, the spirit of missions was reawakened. In 1784, the monthly concert was begun, and in 1792, the first missionary society formed in England; in 1793, William Carey, the pioneer missionary, sailed for India. Since then, one hundred missionary boards have been organized, and probably not less than one hundred thousand missionaries, including women, have gone forth into the harvest-field. The Pillar has moved before these humble laborers, and the two-leaved gates have opened before them, until the whole world is now accessible. The ports and portals of Pagan, Moslem, and even Papal lands are now unsealed, and the last of the hermit nations welcomes the missionary. Results of missionary labor in the Hawaiian and Fiji Islands, in Madagascar, in Japan, probably have no parallel even in apostolic days; while even Pentecost is surpassed by the ingathering of ten thousand converts in one mission station in India within sixty days, in the year 1878. The missionary bands had scarce compassed the walls and sounded the gospel trumpet, when those walls fell and we have but to march straight on and take possession of Satans strongholds.
(God has thus, in answer to prayer, opened the door of access to the nations.) Out of the Pillar there comes once more a voice, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. And yet the church of God is slow to move in response to the providence of God. Nearly a thousand millions of the human race are yet without the Gospel; vast districts are wholly unoccupied. So few are the laborers, that, if equally dividing responsibility, each must care for at least one hundred thousand souls. And yet there is abundance of both men and means in the church to give the Gospel to every living soul before this century closes. If but ten millions, out of four hundred millions of nominal Christians, would undertake such systematic labor as that each one of that number should, in the course of the next fifteen years, reach one hundred other souls with the Gospel message, the whole present population of the globe would have heard the good tidings by the year 1900!
Our Lords own words are, Go ye, therefore, and disciple all nations; and, This Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come. Peter exhorts us both to look for and hasten the coming of the day of God; and what if our inactivity delays His coming? Christ is waiting to see of the travail of His soul; and we are impressed that two things are just now of great importance: first, the immediate occupation and evangelization of every destitute district of the earths population; and, secondly, a new effusion of the Spirit in answer to united prayer.
If at some great centre like London or New York, a great council of evangelical believers could meet, to consider the wonder-working of Gods providence and grace in mission fields, and how fields now unoccupied may be insured from further neglect, and to arrange and adjust the work so as to prevent needless waste and friction among workmen, it might greatly further the glorious object of a worlds evangelization; and we earnestly commend the suggestion to the prayerful consideration of the various bodies of organizations. What a spectacle it would present both to angels and men, could believers of every name, forgetting all things in which they differ, meet, by chosen representatives, to enter systematically and harmoniously upon the work of sending forth laborers into every part of the world-field!
But, above all else, our immediate and imperative need is a new spirit of earnest and prevailing prayer. The first Pentecost crowned ten days of united, continued supplication. Every subsequent advance may be directly traced to believing prayer, and upon this must depend a new Pentecost. We therefore earnestly appeal to all fellow-disciples to join us and each other in importunate daily supplication for a new and mighty effusion of the Holy Spirit upon all ministers, missionaries, evangelists, pastors, teachers, and Christian workers, and upon the whole earth; that God would impart to all Christs witnesses the tongues of fire, and melt hard hearts before the burning message. It is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord, that all true success must be secured. Let us call upon God till He answereth by fire! What we are to do for the salvation of the lost must be done quickly; for the generation is passing away, and we with it. Obedient to our marching orders, let us go into the world, and preach the gospel to every creature, while from our very hearts we pray, Thy kingdom come.
Grace, mercy, and peace be with you all.
Done in convention at Northfield, Mass., August 14, 1885, D. L. Moody presiding.
Those Seven Men back then
And, just a few weeks later, this older brother would be speaking on several campuses, including that of Cornell University, where the impact of his words turned around the life of a young student named John R. Mott. As the preeminent spokesman for the major movement looking toward the year 1900 (the mood represented by the "Appeal to Disciples Everywhere,") Mott went on to become a world citizen who, it is said, could readily have become the U.S. president had he been willing to give up his leadership in the Christian world movement.
So why did the year 1900 goal fail? This question has been asked across the years. Of course, once the year 1900 drew close, all talk of finishing the job by then dropped by the wayside. The question is not why they changed the slogan but why they did not reach the goal.
Movement, which had quadrupled mission giving in seven years. The "roaring 20's" were no improvement on the 1890's, and then the depression, the come back, the 60's and Korean War, the war in Viet Nam, the perennial cold war, and the mounting drug abuse, the gradual realization that our society is in some ways coming apart at the seams - so why worry, or HOW worry about the rest of the world? On pages 12 and 13 you see how few pennies of our disposable income actually goes into outreach that will lower the number of untouched groups. And, there was the diversion of prophecy and the endless speculations about which the Bible speaks.