A circle of friends on pilgrimage for the love of God

Spirit and Mission

Spirit and Mission
Rev. Doug Floyd

Throughout the season of Epiphany, we have been reading from 1 Corinthians. Much of what I’ve said has been drawing from 1 and 2 Corinthians upon the community of love that God is establishing.

Today the New Testament reading changes to Acts. Yet the lesson is very closely aligned with the Corinthians message, because at the heart of what Paul is writing, he is talking to the Corinthians about the nature of what it means to be a spiritual person. He is contrasting what he calls the natural man and the spiritual man: the psychikos versus pneumatikos. The people of God are the pneumatikos, the people who have been inspirited. Paul is trying to show what it looks like to be the people of the Spirit. It doesn’t look like the power of the surrounding culture, it looks like the shape of the cross.

Then in the mystery of that, in the shape of the cross, the chrism, the love and grace, both words are captured in that sense of charity, chrism, the gifts of God are distributed as gifts of love within the community and for the world.

Today, as we meditate upon mission, we meditate on what it means to be the Spirit people. I’m going to simply tell some stories throughout church history about the Spirit people across the ages and how God has been at work.

Robert Woodberry was a student at University Chapel Hill, and his professor Kenneth Bollen, one of the leading experts on measuring and tracking the spread of global democracy, made a remark in class. He said over the years he had seen a significant statistical link between democracy and Protestantism. He said this would be worthy of a doctorate program for someone. Robert Woodberry took him up on the offer and he got his doctorate trying to establish a link between mission and democracy, mission and justice.

He traveled around the world, looked at different communities, looked at mission communities, and what Woodberry found is that in spite of popular, I guess a popular opinion that missions often destroy cultures, actually mission has done just the opposite. Just to give you one example from his studies, he looked at the difference between Ghana and Togo. In Ghana, there were all sorts of colleges and libraries, highly literature culture. Literally right over the border in Togo, it was a primarily illiterate culture and nobody could read except the elites of the culture.

He traced that back to 100 years previously when the British missionaries had come to Ghana. With him came the sense of need to bring the gifts of education, training, and learning to the culture. When the French came to Togo, they actually inhibited missionary movement and they focused only on educating the elite. 100 years later, Togo still stands as a very poor culture, and a very weak culture. Right across the border, Ghana became deeply established and people have become literate, and it’s a highly-educated culture.[1]

He saw this again and again. As we track world mission throughout history, we begin to see a pattern. We see the outpouring of the spirit. We see evangelism, and we see justice. Those three always show up throughout history. The outpouring of the spirit, evangelism, and justice.

When I went to the retreat a week and a half ago, our Archbishop and Bishop Foley Beach bourght a different bishop to speak to us about evangelism and the power of the Holy Spirit: the filling of the spirit, the gifts of the spirit, and evangelism and ministering to the culture.

Last week, I mentioned some of the stories from Bishop Bill Murdoch, which are quite dramatic. The primary reason that Foley brought him was to stir up the Anglican priests. As Bishop Murdoch spoke, many of the priests who had grown up in charismatic churches raised concerns that their fear that there can be chaos, and they had experienced chaos. He calmed their fears. He suggested that that’s actually often the responsibility of the leader of the meeting. When they allow that to happen things can go awry. He said many times the one who is leading the meeting, simply by the look of his eyes, can keep the meeting from going awry and going crazy. I’m not going to focus on all the enthusiasms or the extremes from the revivals throughout history, but I am going to tell a few stories that connect the outpouring of the spirit, evangelism, and justice. I’ll just follow the time and I may just edit the stories as we go. I just wrote down stories and most of these are in my head. Some of these stories you’re familiar with. They go back to the 1700s, but we could go back at any point in history.

Over the last several years, I’ve led a noon service in Knoxville, a healing service where we celebrate a saint each week. Eventually I hope that we can start one here in Maryville, a noon service on Wednesdays, or Thursdays. A mid-week service that focuses on saints. Usually it’s a very small group of people because not many people can come out on a Wednesday. What was fascinating, as I rehearsed the stories of saints all throughout history, I found amazing stories of the Spirit of God working his people and often the great outpouring, not only of Evangelism and conversion, but justice. We could go back to the early church and look at Augustine and Ambrose and their commitment to poverty, but we’re not going to do that today. I did a whole series with a group in Knoxville just on that because of how they re-oriented the Roman culture the way they thought about things of poverty.

Today we are going back to the 1700s to Count Zinzendorf: Ludwig von Zinzendorf of Germany. He grew up in a family that they were noble and he was expected to serve in the governing body. He wanted to be a preacher, but he had expectations to serve, so he served. Yet, he had a passion for Christian community. As a young man, he began to pray earnest that he might somehow cultivate Christian community. At some point in the midst of his prayers, a Moravian man named Christian David showed up at his door seeking refuge. He told Christian David, he said, “Why don’t we set up a community for refugees?” This is actually timely as we think about refugees. He set up a community on his property for Moravian refugees.[2]

Christian David, one year later, 100 refugees were living in that community. Over time the community grew.  There were conflicts as different refugee groups had moved in. Count Zinzendorf actually went back and studied the writing of John Amos Comenius, who is the father of modern education, his writings about how to build community. He applied those within his little burgeoning Moravian community.

In 1727, Count Zinzendorf led these Moravians to begin to lead them in a prayer meeting for world mission. This prayer meeting lasted 100 years. It had profound influence on the world. Over the next 100 years, 300 missionaries came out from this little tiny community. 300 missionaries came through the community, played a key role in starting the London Missionary Society, a key role in starting orphanages throughout Germany and England and other places. Then, it had a key impact on John Wesley.

John Wesley was a young Anglican and he was on a ship with some Moravians coming to America. As they went through a storm, he noticed the Moravian community was calm and were praying and actually singing hymns, and all the English were screaming out in fear. He was fascinated by their calmness, and he built a relationship with the Moravians. That relationship grew over time, and he began to realize he needed this deep touch from God. Even though he was a minister, he didn’t feel like he actually had deep faith in Christ himself. He began to pray this faith would come alive. He eventually even lived among the Moravians for the season. This becomes the beginning of his truly evangelistic ministry.[3]

John Wesley and George Whitfield, both Anglicans, in many ways are the key leaders in the birth of evangelicalism. By evangelicalism, I don’t mean anything to do with politics, this was a spirit-led evangelistic movement that affected both America and England. What we can evangelicalism today is very different from its birthplace.[4]

John Wesley and George Whitfield come to America, and they begin to play a key role in a revival that had begun in New England by Solomon Stoddard, who is the father-in-law of Johnathan Edwards. Over the next 100-150 years, revival fires begin to spread throughout America and Britain. In 1800, Christians were concentrated primarily in Europe and North America, but by 100 years later, Christians had begun to spread throughout China, India, and Africa.

During the course of these revivals, a variety of things happened in America. Six of the nine colonial colleges that were planted in America grew directly as a result of the First Great Awakening: Princeton, Dartmouth, Rutgers, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, and many other colleges were raised up to train preachers. In fact, the University of Tennessee was raised up to train preachers as well as the college.

The first 25 years of the 1800s, Ian Murray, the Puritan writer, suggested the greatest revival that the world’s ever seen happened in those first 25 years that shaped the future of America and, in many ways, the future of the world.[5] A variety of things happened, we don’t have time to cover all of them. Revivals were spreading so quickly throughout America that literally, there was not even time to report from state to state. Every state had its own revivals, and these revivals caused … It actually primarily came out of the Anglicans, but it brought together Anglicans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists. They all worked together to sow the seeds of revival. Particularly as America moved westward, these missionaries went with them. That’s how the west became Christianized.

Some of the things that came out of the First and Second Great Awakening in American history. The anti-slavery movement arose directly as a result of the Second Great Awakening. Prison reform, child labor laws, women’s rights, inner city missions, and many more. All of these grew out directly of the revivals in American history.

Now we come to the end of the 1800s. In 1897, Pope Leo XIII writes an extended encyclical on the Holy Spirit.[6] In 1901, he sings out “Venite Spiritus,” as he’s looking up onto St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and he dedicates the 20th century to the Holy Spirit.[7]

While he’s singing, a group of people are meeting in Topeka, Kansas praying for the outpouring of the spirit. Charles Parham weighs his hands-on Agnes Osman and begins to speak in tongues and there’s a profound outpouring of the spirit. Charles Parham goes to Houston and starts a seminary, and a man named Willy Seymour comes. Some of you may be familiar with Willie Seymour. Willie Seymour was a black man, half blind. He grew up in Alabama, he’d experienced the Jim Crow laws directly, and he’d seen many blacks lynched. He left Alabama partly out of fear for his life and went to St. Louis, then traveled across America, and eventually he ends up in Houston. In Houston, he met Charles Parham and wanted to attend the seminary. Texas law forbid him to sit in the seminary with white people. Parham said, “Why don’t you sit out in the hallway?” Seymour sat out in the hallway and he listened.[8]

He was only there for six weeks, then he felt called to Los Angeles to work with a church there. He ended up preaching at an old, abandoned AME Zion church on Azusa Street. In 1906, he began to preach that the coming of the outpouring of God’s Spirit would usher in the kingdom and would end all social and racial divides. This was greatly offensive in 1906, he had interracial meetings. Made many people upset with him.

Revival broke out in this little teeny church in 1906. It spread throughout the world. It affected Wales, Liberia, Sweden, Norway, many more places. In fact, in 1972, Yale University Religious Historian Sidney Alstrom, and get the date 1972, he suggested Seymour was the most influential black leader in American religious history. He considered his influence greater than Martin Luther King Jr., than all the great black leaders of the 1900s and 20th century. His impact was immeasurable.[9]

Now I’m going to jump to Africa. There’s so much to tell in Africa that I’m only going to tell one story, because the 20th century saw a dramatic growth and outpouring of the spirit in Africa. In 1900, there are 8-10 million Christians in Africa. 100 years later, there are 360 million.[10] That’s 50% of the population. It is the greatest growth of Christianity in one century in any period in church history. Phillip Jenkins writes, the Harvard professor Phillip Jenkins writes in his book The Next Christendom that in the next 50 or 100 years, Christianity will be defined according to its relationship with Africa.[11]

Now Western missionaries did go to Africa, and they played a role, but the primary reason revival spread in Africa was because of indigenous preachers that God raised up. I’m going to tell the story of one of them, which is a bit of an outrageous story. I first heard about through Mark Noel, the reformed historian, who said his own theology did not allow for the gifts of the spirit and yet, he says the influence of this man is incontestable.

William Wade Harris, Episcopalian, a Liberian, was sitting in jail in 1910 because of his political affiliation. He was actually trying to move Liberian to Royalist policies, because if you remember Liberia was started by American slaves. He was put in jail for his political participation. He’s a distinguished man. You gotta imagine, distinguished man, suit, tie. He’s sitting in jail and he starts to hear a gushing water sound in the jail cell. He says the spirit came upon him. This sound outrageous, but I’m just going to tell … I want to tell all his stories, they’re all very outrageous. He said, “The angel Gabriel stands before him and says ‘God’s anointing you, you’re a prophet… You’re like a Daniel.'” Now the spirit tells him, “Put on a white robe, and travel across Africa.”[12]

In 1913, he dawned a white robe, took off his shoes, and walked barefoot to the Ivory Coast preaching. His ministry only lasted 18 months, but during that 18-month period, he baptized over 100,000 people. He set revival fires off in Africa that continue to this day. He is one of many stories of men and women that spontaneously heard the call of the spirit and suddenly got up and began to preach, and travel across Africa. Every time the people and evangelized, social justice came along side it. Social justice was born out of a move of the spirit.

Now, I’m going to tell about a gentleman, back to America, Frank Laubach. I don’t know if anybody’s ever heard of Frank Laubach. I thought he was a Quaker but he was actually a Congregationalist. He reads like a Quaker. He’s a wonderful person to read. He wrote a book called Letters by a Modern Mystic.[13] It’s a very unusual mystic. He wrote a book on prayer that I read in the 90s, and then began to try to apply his prayers. He uses language that we’re very not used to talking about, because he talks about prayer as a form of psychic power. It’s very unusual, and yet he experienced the outpouring of the spirit in his own life in unusual ways.

He was meditating and praying over, particularly, the Philippines. He had a passion for the Islamic communities in the Philippines. The illiteracy rates. He’s praying and asking God how does he help these Islamic communities? God gives him a word about how to bring literacy to these communities, so he started a program called Each One Teach One, which apparently may be a phrase from Africa. As of today, his literacy program has brought literacy to over 60 million people throughout the world.[14]

There’s much to tell in China, but we’ll just say at the eve of the Communist victory in 1949, there were approximately one million Christians in China. Of course, Christianity was outlawed, missionaries were driven out of the country. There was a formal three self-church. As of 2007, and this is by the official conservative reports of the government, there are over 40 million Christians in China.[15] They believe that number may be over 100 million when you include the house churches. This has been a spirit led movement and a completely underground movement that was illegal. Here’s the vision of the Chinese Christians, Back to Jerusalem is what they call it. Their vision is to travel from China to all the countries between China and Jerusalem to evangelize them. They have a vision of raising up 100,000 Chinese missionaries. This is primarily Islamic countries they want to go to and serve, and they’re ready to die for the gospel.

This is, in fact if you’re heard on the news over the last few years, there were some Koreans that were killed in Afghanistan a few years back that’s a direct result of this movement. It affected Korea as well.

I’m moving along pretty good. We have a story from England! We’re getting closer to home. A story from England. Sandy Miller, he was the rector at Holy Trinity Brampton. David Clifton from Apostle’s Anglican served under Sandy Miller. One of his leaders suggested he invite John Wimber to the church in 1982. They literally told him, they said, “I believe you should ask John Wimber and tell him you can bring as many people as you want.” That’s what he did. John Wimber said, “Okay, I’m going to bring 60.” He brings 60 people.[16]

I don’t know if any of you ever heard Wimber speak, but he is a California dude. Would preach in Hawaiian shirts, laid-back, very easy going. He was actually … Before he began ministering in a charismatic way, he was a professor at Fuller University, Ph.D in psychology. He began in the late 70s, he said, “I want to see this stuff happen that’s in this book,” so he began to pray that God would show him. He left Fuller and he began to try out what was happening in the New Testament.

He goes to visit Holy Trinity Brampton, and he prays for a very posh community, these very wealthy Anglicans. One of the gentlemen in the room was Nikki Gumbel, who did not want to be there. He was a barrister, very … I had to ask David to explain to me the difference between a solicitor and a barrister because we don’t have those differences here, but two kinds of lawyers. The barrister are the very high end lawyers, the wealthy, royal sort of lawyers. He’s a barrister, and he did not want to be there. He didn’t want anything to do with this thing.

John Wimber says, “I think somebody in here has athlete’s foot, I want to pray for it.” Nikki’s wife says, “You have athlete’s foot. You should get him to pray for your feet.” Which he did not want to do, he did not want to go upfront. Very distinguished man. Finally, at the prompting of Pippa he went upfront. Then one of Wimber’s people began to pray for him, and the way Bill Murdoch told the story, he was praying for the spirit to come on Nikki Gumbel, and he was prayer, “More Lord,” and Nikki Gumbel was saying, “No more Lord, no more Lord!” He was saying, “More Lord,” “No more Lord! “Finally, Wimber said, “Maybe we should move that little prayer group outside of the service.” As they’re walking out of the room, Wimber says, “Wait a minute, God’s called you to be an evangelist to the nations.”

Nikki Gumbel ended up serving under Sandy Miller. Sandy Miller had him take over the alpha course. The alpha course had begun in the late 70s, and as of 1991 there had only been four alpha course. After Nikki Gumbel took it over, alpha course expanded to over 169 countries, 112 languages, 27 million people have taken the course. It has evangelized the world, and courses have been run by Anglicans, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches, only because the spirit came upon him and he became an evangelist. He took this program and one of the first bishops that had his whole staff go through alpha course was Rowan Williams. Amazing. Holy Trinity Brampton has affected multiple ways. It continues to preach to the world.

Now we’re living in a time in America, and we’ve been talking about throughout epiphany just the tension in our culture, the anger, the issue of the refugee communities, and so many marginalized people in our culture. I believe that as we seek justice for people, it begins in prayer. It begins in an outpouring of the spirit. There has been a movement since the early 90s in America that came out as the result of a prophecy. A gentleman named Paul Cain. He said I see the word IHOP. Everybody thought he meant pancakes. He said, “I see the world IHOP, International House of Prayer.” As a result of his word, House of Prayer has begun to spring up all across the country. They started as charismatic churches, but there are all sorts of churches that have these things called IHOPs. Many of them don’t even call themselves House of Prayer but they are functioning as House of Prayers.

Then something very interesting has happened as a result of these House of Prayers. Some of them have gone back and rediscovered the ancient Celts. Many of the new Celtic monastic orders find their roots in these House of Prayers. In fact, one of them in New England that came out of a House of Prayer movement, they’re following the ancient Celtic patterns of prayer. All across our nation, these little groups have been meeting and prating. There’s one going on in Washington right now attempting to pray 24 hours a day. It’s difficult, I don’t know that it always happens.

Praying for the country and it’s quite exciting. I don’t know what meaning of that is, but it seems like it’s sprung up over the last 20 years. At the time, a new Monasticism has sprung up. Tim and I were talking about it, he even sent me an article that Wall Street Journal had this week. This is even happening in Catholic churches, they’re forming these new communities that … I can’t even remember the name of that community, but new communities of people gathering together and saying, “What does it look like to be a Christian community in the midst of a culture that often feels like there’s so much anger and division in the culture?” Out of this, a prayer for the nations.[17]

As we begin to look towards Lent in just a couple weeks, seems to me that this call toward world mission and this call toward reflecting upon the outpouring of the spirit might be a great time, Lent might be a great time to pray for God to refill us afresh with his spirit. A great time for personal examine, ask him to search our hearts afresh. To pour out His Spirit in our community that we might have grace to know how to serve the poor in our community. The students, I ask Isaac about the student lunch program. There’s all sorts of problems that many of the students have that most people don’t know when it comes to financial needs. How do we serve these student communities and the culture? How do we serve the refugee communities? Rather than just going out and doing it, we say how does the spirit lead us?

I would call us to that as enter this time of Lent. As just a time of reflection, a time of opening our heart to his spirit, a time of asking him to fill us afresh and lead us so that we can be a blessing in this community and see however he wants to serve this community. He is doing great work throughout various ministries in this community, and how we play a role in that.

Father I thank you for just the amazing ways you have worked across the centuries. To spread the gospel. To pour out your spirit on people’s lives. To transform people. I ask you to pour out your spirit afresh upon us that we might have a new love for you. A new love for your word. A new encounter with your spirit, and that we might pour out your life to the world around us. We might be changed by the love of Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


[1] See “The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries” by Andrea Palpant Dilley in Christianity Today, January 8, 2014 (http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/january-february/world-missionaries-made.html)

[2] See “The Rich Young Ruler … Who Said Yes!,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 1: Zinzendorf & the Moravians (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1982).

[3] See “Revival and Revolution,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 2: John Wesley: Leader of the Methodist Movement (Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1983).

[4] See Christian History Magazine-Issue 23: Spiritual Awakenings in North America. Worcester, PA: Christian History Institute, 1989.

[5] Iain H. Murray, Revival and Revivalism, Banner of Truth; First Edition edition (July 1, 1994).

[6] Divinum Illud Munus, Encyclical Of Pope Leo XIII “On The Holy Spirit,” May 20, 1897 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_09051897_divinum-illud-munus.html)

[7] Hayford, Jack W.; Moore, S. David (2009-06-27). The Charismatic Century: The Enduring Impact of the Azusa Street Revival (Kindle Locations 3609-3611). FaithWords. Kindle Edition.

[8] See “The Lasting Legacies of the Azusa Street Revival” by Vinson Synan (http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200602/200602_142_legacies.cfm).

[9]Only in the last few decades have scholars become aware of his importance, beginning perhaps with Yale University historian Sidney Ahlstrom, who said Seymour personified a black piety “which exerted its greatest direct influence on American religious history”—placing Seymour’s impact ahead of figures like W. E. B. Dubois and Martin Luther King, Jr. Christian History Magazine-Issue 65: Ten Influential Christians of the 20th Century (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 2000).

[10] “Did You Know?,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 79: African Apostles: Black Evangelists in Africa (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 2003).

[11] The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (Future of Christianity Trilogy) by Phillip Jenkins, Oxford University Press; 3 edition (September 13, 2011)

[12] Elizabeth Isichei, “A Soul of Fire,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 79: African Apostles: Black Evangelists in Africa (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 2003).

[13] Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach, Purposeful Design Publications; 3rd edition (December 31, 2007).

[14] See Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Laubach)

[15] Tony Lambert and Yading Li, “As for Me and My House,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 98: Christianity in China (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 2008).

[16] See “Remembering John Wimber by Sandy Millar (http://www.vineyardchurches.org.uk/resources/articles/remembering-john-wimber/). Also some parts of the story are based on testimony of people who were present.

[17] See “Wary of Modern Society, Some Christians Choose a Life Apart” (https://apple.news/ANVxcKIbWTcWyjJVYyLrUxg).


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.