The Greater London Crusade
Although we gladly recognize that, there is a great deal of earnest gospel work undertaken by many agencies, we have always thought it right to devote the Reports Section of " Precious Seed " to the activities of “assemblies." Although, in consequence, it is not within our province to discuss this great Crusade, its implications are so far-reaching that we cannot ignore them. There is a very definite responsibility upon us all to take the lessons to heart.
We are grateful to those who have supplied first-hand information as to the effects of this gigantic venture, upon which we have tried to take a balanced view. We rejoice at the evidence to hand that a large number have turned to the Lord and manifest a genuine desire to go on with Him, but nothing has happened to change our firm conviction that (given proper conditions) local churches, founded and functioning on the New Testament pattern, are God's appointed means for the carrying out of His purposes in the gospel. It would be ridiculous to deny that He has been pleased to bless many other means, but we believe that this has been because of the failure of His people to embrace, in spiritual power, His direct will for the church. We have never fostered the pathetic delusion that mere adherence to a pattern, devoid of spiritual grace and power, is sufficient—hence our proviso " given proper conditions." We invite our readers to search for any reference in the New Testament to any agency other than the local church, and if they fail to find any we hope they will honestly face-up to the obvious inference. We say this because there is a danger that some, dazzled by the success of this spectacular movement, may be diverted from the essential work of building up solid church-life, and because we believe that such will live to rue the mistake. In fairness to Dr. Graham it must be said that he has himself seen this very danger and warned against it, but we wish we could feel more confident that his advice will be heeded by all.
Nevertheless the fact remains that Harringay has presented us with a challenge—it has been a severe rebuke to complacency, and we must prepare ourselves humbly to learn the lessons which God is, surely, seeking to impress upon us. What are they ? Among others we suggest the following :—
Prayerfulness. We all concede the urgent need of prayer, but how prayerful are we ? The Harringay Team's recognition of their dependence upon prayer-support is well known, and the world-wide response was amazing. Obviously we could not expect anything comparable in local efforts, but we might well examine ourselves as to whether we have been earnest enough in prayer about our own efforts, or eager enough to secure the prayer-support of others. Do we pray as much as we preach ? Arc special prayer-meetings considered absolutely essential before embarking on a gospel campaign, and is prayer sustained during its course ? And if we do hold prayer-meetings, do we really pray ? Do we stir up our hearts to lay hold on God in all seriousness, resolved not to let Him go until He blesses us ? The appalling need around us should drive us to our knees, for only as we have power with God shall we have power with men. May God mercifully pour out a spirit of supplication upon us all—the times demand it.
Faith. Those responsible for the London Crusade believed that God would answer prayer, in bringing the people under the sound of the gospel. But they not only believed this, they acted upon their conviction. To hire that great arena for three months was a courageous venture, which some predicted would prove a mistake, but it was filled night after night. To engage Wembley Stadium for a Gospel Rally was unheard of, and perhaps undreamt of, before. Who could expect a Gospel Rally to attract 100,000 people ? Well-it did I And another 70,000 the same day at the White City. It was a bold and imaginative step of faith, which was amply justified by the outcome. Whatever value we may place upon such a demonstration, it has to be conceded that the proved ability of the gospel to gather a multitude, rivalling a Cup Tie match, and after three months of such meetings, has opened the eyes of a lot of people.
Thoroughness. " Ah—but," say some, " this was made possible by a. feat of organization." Very likely, but it was done ! But after all, people wanted to come--organization only made it possible for them to come. In this as in all else ' thoroughness ' was the key note of the enterprise, long before the first meeting was held, and even now when the meetings are over. They set out to get the people, and although we could not be happy about all the methods employed, the fact remains that they went ' all out' to achieve their object, and succeeded. We get the impression that nothing, not even the minute detail, was neglected. We have always been strong advocates of thoroughness in what we do for the Lord—nothing which might contribute to success is too trivial to do well. It is irreverent to undertake service for the Lord in a slip-shod manner, without due preparation and care for detail. The expense of this Crusade was colossal, but this did not prevent the task being undertaken with zest. Certainly we do not advocate an improvident use of what we ought to regard as the Cord's money, but have we not sometimes been guilty of regarding money as our own instead of the Lord's, so that we have restricted our efforts to what we think we can afford without curtailing our luxuries? Service without sacrifice lacks vitality.
Leadership. We are far from thinking that the great success of Harringay (even speaking from the human standpoint) was all a question of the Team's faith and earnestness. Obviously they depended on the eager co-operation of an army of helpers—but the point is that they got it! How? By inspired and imaginative leadership. They were men with a dominating purpose and. with confidence in God, they went out for their objective*wholeheartedly. People follow such men. And believers will follow leaders in assemblies who show similar vision and resolution. Harringay has shown that there is a vast amount of potential enthusiasm, lying latent only for lack of courageous leadership. When the spirits of loaders arc stirred up and they become eager and bold to carry out God's commission, lie stirs up the spirits of the people to rally around. If vital leadership has been lacking, why is it ? Is it possible that we have been suspicious of men with a purpose, until they have become discouraged. Or dare we ask whether that ugly thing, jealousy, has sometimes led to men with the gift of leadership being obstructed in what they long to attempt for God ? The question will have to be answered one day.
It is no disparagement to say that there was nothing exceptional about the standard of preaching at Harringay—Dr. Graham and his team, with characteristic modesty and frankness, admit it. Why then is it that, although there are among us evangelists called of God, and endowed with equal earnestness and ability, they get nothing like a comparable Opportunity. Put one of them in front of an audience of 10,000 (or even of 500 for that matter) and we would be astonished at the transformation. Is it because we know these men so well, because there is no glamour about them, that we accept their visits with complacency ? It was comparatively easy to get people to hear ' Billy Graham ' because his visit was hailed with enthusiasm, but if we give evangelists a lukewarm welcome, is it any wonder that our attitude begets the same in other people, with the result that evangelists have the dispiriting task of preaching to small companies, most of whom are half-hearted believers ?
It is necessary to ask these questions, but we are far from accepting the criticism that it is true of conditions generally. We think this criticism is sometimes made by people who want an excuse for not co-operating wholeheartedly with assembly efforts, preferring to go in ways more to their liking. Happily there are many assemblies where commendable zeal and enterprise are shown, and where God is abundantly blessing ; some of the reports in this very issue bear abundant testimony to this. These indicate that, given the right spirit in assemblies, we could witness little Harringays in scores of localities, the ultimate effect of which might easily excel the London effort. The total expense would be far less, and the results more abiding. Converts could be introduced directly to assembly-life, and instructed without embarrassment in the whole counsel of God, with none of the compromises which men, even with the best of intentions, seem to find inescapable in efforts which have a wider basis.
We rejoice over every soul won for Christ, but instead of abandoning the ideals set before us in the New Testament, we believe God is showing us what possibilities lie before us if, coupled with these cherished Scriptural convictions, we give ourselves wholeheartedly to the service of Christ and our fellow-men. We intend to encourage earnest endeavour to strive toward this ideal, because we are sure that any other course of action will inevitably lead to further compromise and eventual disillusionment. If the zeal shown by so many in supporting the Crusade were now to be devoted to the work of their own assemblies, we are sure wo would see greater things.