Empowered for Missions & Mercy
by Wesley Campbell
As an illustration of the second greatest command in action, Jesus told the famous parable of the Good Samaritan. At the end He asked a religious inquirer a very pointed question: “Which one was neighbor to the man who fell among thieves?” The only response possible was that the real neighbor to the Samaritan was “the one who showed mercy on him.” The story was obviously designed to demonstrate to the listeners what loving ones’ neighbor actually looked like-true goodness as opposed to imagined goodness. Then, with penetrating application, Jesus said, “Go and do likewise.”
If we are to truly love our neighbors as ourselves, we will find ourselves being pulled towards mercy and mission. Mercy, because we are moved for the temporal needs of others here on earth, and mission, because we are moved for the spiritual needs of those both here and after they have left this earth. It is natural that Christians who have been renewed or revived flow towards these directions of missions and mercy.
Even a casual look into church history reveals how intricately tied to revival is the aspect of showing mercy. In some cases revival fell, and then with new eyes the revived Christians began to demonstrate extraordinary acts of mercy as they transformed society from the bottom up. At other times the seasons of refreshing revived only segments of the church, who, with renewed zeal, began to show mercy. The result was the same-revival. Where do the rivers of refreshing have to flow? They have to flow where it has flowed so many times before in classic revival-to the streets.
Looking at the examples of the awakenings over the last 250 years, we find the pattern is the same. In England it was the Quakers and then Wesley and the Methodists who were first to oppose black slavery. Although Wesley and his converts ministered in prisons, hospitals and works houses, they also tried to abolish slavery. This finally came to pass 40 years after his death in the form of the Emancipation Act of 1833 which freed 781,000 slaves throughout the British colonies.
The list of charitable works, organizations and accomplishments done by those revived Christians who literally obeyed Jesus’ command to show mercy are so numerous as to boggle the mind. John Howard was encouraged by John Wesley to reform England’s prisons. Elizabeth Fry, mother of eleven children, became a Quaker preacher as well as a prison reformer. Even the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was founded to provide religious services and culture in a “home away from home”. Florence Nightingale said that God had called her in an audible voice to help the sick. She impacted an evangelical named Henri Dunant who went on to found the Red Cross. Even the Royal Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was founded by an Anglican cleric, Arthur Bloome.
Mercy to children has always been a focus of the church. Lord Shaftesbury became a member of Parliament in 1826 and spent most of his time fighting the evils of child exploitation in the factories, mines, brickyards and chimney sweeps. It was rightly called “the white slave trade.” Children as young as four were spending up to fourteen hours a day in pitch-black mines. Little orphans picked up off the street were forced up chimneys to clean in the choking, claustrophobic dark. Shaftesbury enacted the Ten-Hour Act which prohibited factories from working children thirteen to sixteen hours a day. He passed legislation prohibiting the use of children as chimney sweeps and children under ten from working in the mines.
George Muller got revived and turned his attention to caring for orphans. He eventually was caring for up to 2,050 children at one time. Thomas J. Barnardo was the product of the revival in 1859. Lord Shaftesbury influenced Barnardo to become a missionary to the slums of London. Barnardo opened homes for children who were homeless because of drinking parents. Before Barnardo died he had cared for sixty thousand children.
In America, the Second Great Awakening commenced under the ministry of Francis Asbury and the circuit riders, as well as the camp meetings. It continued right into the ministry of Charles Finney and created a virtual tidal wave of mercy ministries. This Awakening had greater impact on secular society than any other in American history through its vast social concern. Christian laypeople organized thousands of societies that touched every phase of American life. Slavery, temperance, vice, world peace, women’s rights, Sabbath observance, prison reform, profanity, education-all these and more had specific societies devoted to their betterment.
The instrument formed for doing this was a vast network of volunteer societies, all united under one great banner called the Benevolent Empire. In 1834 the total annual income of the Benevolent Empire was about today’s equivalent of 130 million dollars, which rivaled the entire budget of the federal government in those days!
Few people realize that out of the first 119 colleges founded in America, 104 were started by Christians to acquaint students with the knowledge of God. These colleges and universities include Princeton, Dartmouth, Columbia, Harvard and Yale. Furthermore, out of a graduating class of forty thousand in 1855, ten thousand went on to become ministers-more than 25 percent! So whether it was schools, hospitals, politics or the evils of society, revived Christians always let their religion flow out to the streets in mercy.
When God moved powerfully on our church in the mid-1990s, we became incapacitated by our newfound love for Him. All we wanted to do was to gather together, worship and pray. During the first six months of the Toronto outpouring, we did little else but meet and pray-sometimes up to thirty and forty-five hours a week. I remember thinking, “Nothing else matters but this.” Then later, after we had spent much time in the Lord’s presence yearning to just know and love God, a subtle shift began to take place. We began to love the things He loved. Directly traceable to our renewal, we became involved with social concern and mercy ministries. God’s choice of vehicles was most surprising. One night a no-nonsense businessman named John had set up an appointment to see me. He and his wife, Sandra, had been attending our church for only a short time. They had come from a Dutch Reformed and conservative Baptist background. Through a series of encounters, the Lord had begun to deal with John, first by speaking to his heart, and then by baptizing him with His love. Then God began to speak to John’s conscience. For the next two to three months John began to hear audible bells whenever he would lie or bend the truth. This could happen at board meetings or at home. Finally the Lord said, “Now I want all of you! I love you and have called you to serve. You will be a servant to others. I want 30 percent of your time, your belongings and your finances! After that I want you to move it to 50 percent.”
This all translated into a Good Samaritan-type lifestyle. It began slowly at first as John got creative and hired single mothers to pray for his business and spiritual life. Soon his whole family became very active in the abortion fight. As young mothers began to deliver the babies they had been counseled against killing, more needs were presented to John to be dealt with. Some of those mothers and their children moved into John and Sandra’s home. His family had as many as five to eight extra people living with them at all times for the next six years. In time a scheme to help with housing opportunities and progressive employment was born. It would be called the Society of H.O.P.E.
With a team of dedicated laypeople, John and others spearheaded their own mercy-oriented society. Before long they had accumulated entire apartment buildings and large houses worth millions of dollars. The society now owns and manages subsidized housing for single parents in need. If that wasn’t enough, H.O.P.E. for the Nations was developed. Under that organization the leadership team began by partnering three orphanages in underdeveloped areas, changing the lives of scores of children. This is only a snapshot of one family affected by renewal. For our church, renewal became the fuel that directed hundreds of committed Christians towards a new focus of mercy-the ministry of Jesus. Missions and mercy-that’s where the River has to flow.
(Materials from Welcoming A Visitation of the Holy Spirit by Wesley Campbell, ©1996. Used by permission of Creation House Publishers, a ministry of Strang Communications)
Wesley Campbell, with his wife Stacey, has ministered in over 40 countries of the world while spreading the message of Be A Hero ministries, which they founded. Be a Hero’s goal is to educate, inspire, equip and facilitate people of all ages through conferences, books, magazines, and living examples in order to challenge them to “Be a Hero” in the lives of those around them-especially the poor, the exploited, the oppressed and ‘children at risk’.