image

Outreach – Into New Territory

Illustration for Christian speaker.

I thought this story is an excellent example of what can happen when we follow God’s lead into new territory as we reach out to others. I especially like the fact that the start of a spiritual revolution can be crystallized in one image—white tracks down the black faces of a crowd of miners.

Out of the Mines
And into the Gospel
Steven Mosley
George Whitefield sat in a Christian friend’s home eating supper, staring out the window, and wonderring whether he should make the final break with tradition. It was a Saturday, February 17, 1739. The house lay on the edge of Kingswood, an English village of coal miners. Whitefield could see the edge of the thick forest where the mine shafts sank deep. And he could see the trails through a wide meadow where the miners would soon be trudging home after a long day in the dark.
He wanted so badly to reach these people. Kingswood folk, everyone said, were gin-devils, wife beaters, sodomites. Once they’d dug up the corpse of a murderer and held a festival around it–because his suicide had cheated them of a lynching. Even the hard-bitten sailors of Bristol looked down on these illiterate shack-dwellers.
But Whitefield (and others like him who were being called “Methodists”) had just re-discovered the incredible power of the simple gospel. He wanted to see what it could do among the worst that England had to offer. And the only way to do that would be to preach to them outdoors–in the open air.
However something very big stood in Whitefield’s way: religious tradition. He was already in trouble with the established Church of England. Most clergymen thought all his talk about the New Birth highly dangerous. The idea that the Holy Spirit could manifest Himself inside individuals seemed preposterous. The established clergy also didn’t like these house meetings the Methodists conducted and their habit of praying spontaneously in public, instead of reading an approved prayer. These things were actually illegal at the time.
Whitefield was already bucking tradition. He’d been shut out of pulpits all over England. And now as he looked out over that Kingswood meadow, he was considering the ultimate scandal: preaching outdoors. This man had been brought up to believe that the gospel could only be proclaimed by the approved clergymen, inside the approved churches. The alternative seemed anarchy to people of that time. Even his friend John Wesley still thought open-air preaching “a mad notion.”
Whitefield had no desire to break away from his beloved church. He didn’t want to cut the final chord. But as the sun dipped over the horizon, the call of the gospel drowned out the chorus of tradition. A verse kept running through his head: “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in..” (Luke 15:23 nkjv)
Whitefield rose from the supper table and walked out to a rise in the middle of the meadow. The miners were starting to leave their pits. And he called out, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see the kingdom of heaven!” (Matthew 5:3 kjv) The miners stopped and stared at this parson in his cassock and gown. His voice came to them from a hundred yards away with astonishing clarity. They had no idea what he was talking about, but they gathered to listen.
Whitefield told a funny story that put the men at ease. He spoke of hell, black as a pit, of judgment, and of Jesus, the friend of publicans and sinners. He spoke passionately about the cross–and the miners grew silent and still.
Then suddenly he noticed pale streaks on the grimy faces. A young man to his right. An old bent miner on the other side. Two scarred faces up front. Whitefield saw, as he said, “white gutters made by their tears down their black cheeks.”
The next day, when Whitefield returned, the group of 200 miners had grown to nearly two thousand men, women and children. And the following Sunday, 10,000 folk from the surrounding neighborhoods joined them.
And so began England’s greatest spiritual revolution, the Great Awakening. In the years that followed, Whitefield and Wesley would sweep up and down the island, bringing countless common folk face to face with the transforming gospel of Jesus Christ. All because one man stepped out of tradition, and into the open air, with God’s Word.

“George Whitefield and the Great Awakening,” John Pollock (Tring, England: Lion Publishing, 1972) pages 75-83.

___________________________________________________

These stories for Christian speakers, again, focus on real-life events that directly show how God works, how the principles of Scripture Work, how the spiritual life works. They are examples. They help give to Christian speaking the power of testimony.

Worship – Expanding our Picture of God

Illustration for Christian speaker.

I’m sure that your ministry involves talking about the value of worship in various ways. Here are some stories I’ve found that really flesh out the sense of coming before a God who is so much bigger than anything we can imagine.
I hope this picture is useful—-a shepherd, poet and scientist looking up at the stars.

Story in the Stars Steven Mosley
The hills surrounding Bethlehem. c. 1000 B.C.
The sheep had settled down in their favorite hollows or were grazing in tight bunches. A clear wind from the Great Sea blew over the winter green hills. The sun threw its light over a string of clouds hovering over the western horizon. Gold. Magenta. Vermilion. Sunset splashed across the dark blue sky and David the shepherd stared in awe. Then the cool blue of dusk submerged the colors.
Finally night settled over the hills in earnest. Later he would remember it this way:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

New England. July 22, l878.
Walt Whitman, the poet, had gone out in the country for a visit and encountered what he believed comes only once or twice in a lifetime: a perfect night. Storm clouds had swirled across the sky, then suddenly vanished and left an atmosphere shining with exceptional clarity and glory.
“A large part of the sky,” Whitman wrote, “seemed just laid in great splashes of phosphorus. You could look deeper in, farther through, than usual; the orbs thick as heads of wheat in a field.” For a few moments this sky spoke eloquently to Whitman. He felt himself under the sky of the Bible, of Arabia, of the prophets, and of the oldest poems.
This “superhuman symphony” gave Whitman a “flashing glance of Deity,” and moved him to write: “As if for the first time, indeed, creation noiselessly sank into and through me its placid and untellable lesson, beyond–O, so infinitely beyond–anything from art, books, sermons, or from science, old or new. The spirit’s hour–religion’s
hour–the visible suggestion of God in space and time.”

“From Immigrant to Inventor.” 1890s.
Michael Pupin, world-class scientist, pioneer in X-ray photography, wrote at the close of his autobiography: “Fifty years ago, when as a member of a herdsman’s squad of boys I watched the stars on the black background of a summer midnight sky, I felt that their light was a language proclaiming the glory of God.” After years of deciphering starlight scientifically, their basic message for Pupin hadn’t changed: “The light of the stars is a part of the life-giving breath of God. I never look now upon the
starlit vault of the heaven without feeling this divine breath and its quickening action upon my soul.”

Shepherd, poet and scientist see the same picture in the stars, the suggestion of a glorious God who transcends all human limitations, all man-made symbols. God transcends. He is far above it all. Independent. Uncontainable. No wonder Isaiah exclaimed:
“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one,
and calls them each by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.”

(Adapted from “Glimpses of God,” by Steven Mosley)

___________________________________________________


The Word – Binds Us Together

These stories key on topics that are covered frequently by Christian speakers.

Illustration for Christian speaker.

Here’s a great story you might be able to use if you’re planning any
new teaching series focused on the Word. To me, it beautifully expresses how
the Word binds us all together in one body. It’s the language our fellowship
is based on and that language transcends all kinds of boundaries.

GOOD NEWS FROM A DISTANT LAND
Steven Mosley
A man from Holland called simply, Brother Andrew, had just
smuggled a load of Bibles in his VW across the Rumanian border. He
checked into a motel and began praying that God would lead him to
the right Christian groups–the ones who could best use his load of
Bibles.
On Sunday morning Andrew walked up to the hotel clerk and asked
where he might find a church.
The clerk looked at him a little strangely and answered, “We
don’t have many of those you know. Besides you couldn’t understand
the language.”
“Didn’t you know?” Andrew replied, “Christians speak a kind of
universal language.”
“Oh what’s that?”
“It’s called Agape.”
“Agape?” the clerk wondered. “I never heard of it.”
“Too bad,” Andrew replied, “It’s the most beautiful language in
the world.”
Well Andrew was able to locate several church groups in the
area and he managed to arrange a meeting with the president and
secretary of a certain denomination, we’ll call them James and
Leon. They sat down together in a small office. Andrew was eager
to tell them about the Bibles he had smuggled into the country. He
also wanted to find out something about the men and their churches.
But soon the three discovered that they couldn’t speak each others
languages.
The men knew several European languages, but none in common.
So there they sat staring at each other across the room. Andrew had
come thousands of dangerous miles in his little VW. He longed to
bring greetings and encouragement from Christians in the western
world to these brothers isolated behind the Iron Curtain. But how?
They couldn’t understand a word he said.
Then Andrew got an idea. He noticed James had a Bible on his
desk. Andrew reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a Dutch
Bible. He turned to I Corinthians 16:20 and held the Bible out,
pointing to the name of the book, which they could recognize.
Instantly their faces lit up. They quickly found the same chapter
and verse in their Rumanian Bibles and read this verse:

“All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another
with a holy kiss.” (I Cor. 16:20)

James and Leon beamed back at Andrew. Then James looked
through his Bible and found Proverbs 25:25. Andrew found the verse
and read:

“Like cold water to a weary soul
is good news from a distant land.”

By then all three were laughing together. Andrew responded by
turning to the book of Philemon. He pointed his brothers to verses
4 and 5. They read:

“I always thank God as I remember you in my prayers, because I
hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the
saints.”

The two Rumanians nodded, smiling. Then Leon’s eyes wondered
down to verse seven. He pushed the Bible over to Andrew, pointing
to these beautiful words:

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because
you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”

These three men had a wonderful time together. They spent half
an hour conversing and sharing—just through the words of
Scripture. They were so happy in their fellowship they laughed
until tears came to their eyes.
Finally Andrew showed his brothers the Bibles he had brought
for them. James and Leon were overwhelmed and overjoyed. They
embraced him again and again.
That evening when Andrew returned to his hotel, the clerk
approached him and remarked, “Say, I looked up agape in the
dictionary. There’s no language by that name. That’s just a Greek
word for love.”
Andrew replied, “That’s it. I was speaking in it all
afternoon.”
Adapted from “God’s Smuggler” by Brother Andrew in Steven Mosley’s book: “Great Stories and How to Tell Them.”

___________________________________________________