John Stumbo Video Blog No. 4
November 12, 2013
Watch as C&MA President John Stumbo invites pastors and workers to the same passion that stirred Simpson's heart “the remedy for our spiritual situation in New York is the repentance of professing Christians, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the revival of evangelistic work in the Christian Church.”
Hey team. I’m here in New York City for my first Board meeting. I’m excited to talk to you today, because I’m just less than a mile from where this whole journey called The Christian and Missionary Alliance began. I’m going back to the years 1881–82. ’81, the U.S. headlines announced the stunning news that our president, James Garfield, had been shot at a Washington D.C. train station. He would die 11 weeks later. The headlines reported other violence, like outlaw Billy the Kid being shot in New Mexico and a gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, with American legends like Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp.
The years following 1882 would bring us the Statue of Liberty, the Washington Monument, the Eiffel Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, Kodak camera, Wall Street Journal, Coca Cola with its mix of cocaine and caffeine served at the Jacobs Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. In the years that followed would come North and South Dakota, Montana, Washington. But right now, 1881–82, there’s 38 states and fascinating developments, like electricity; Thomas Edison starting the first power station here in lower Manhattan, 59 customers to begin.
’82—the electric fan, electric clothes iron, and false teeth were patented. The first Labor Day observance; the first string of Christmas tree lights; and the first seventh-inning stretch as a new American tradition is launched. Alexander Graham Bell makes that first historic phone call to the mayor of Chicago. The American John Sullivan becomes the last bare-knuckled, world heavyweight champ. Mary Todd Lincoln, spouse of Abraham, dies of a stroke. Nietzsche pronounces the death of God. Van Gogh paints, Brahms composes, and the Heinz Company bottles ketchup for the first time.
Meanwhile, there is a new pastor that has arrived in town. He has come to the 13th Street Presbyterian Church. His wife was a bit reluctant, to say the least, bringing their four children from Louisville, Kentucky, to the nation’s largest city. But immediately, there was significant growth—new members being added every time the church session met during Pastor Simpson’s ministry.
But soon conflicts started to arise. For example, the young pastor was ministering to the Italian quadrant. A hundred new believers that he asked his Presbyterian leaders could they become members of the church? They refused. This was in direct conflict with an agreement that he thought he had with their leadership that they would unite together in reaching the unchurched masses of this city.
Something else was stirring in the Presbyterian pastor’s heart. He began to believe that he needed to be immersed, baptized by immersion. So he approached an Italian Baptist pastor and asked if he could be immersed. The pastor, his wife, and A.B. Simpson gathered on an autumn day in 1881. The water was cold as ice, but the Presbyterian pastor was immersed.
He had committed in his instillation service that he would uphold the policies and practices of the Presbyterian Church, and now he was in violation of that, so he had to submit his resignation. October 31, 1881, he resigned. November 6 would be his last Sunday. November 7, he met with the New York Presbytery, and he left that meeting without employment, without income, without church or denomination. From one of the nation’s most influential pulpits, he seems to step into oblivion. But it wasn’t without vision for what was next. He writes, “I left my church to form a church for the people of all classes.”
Two weeks later, he would conduct meetings where he spoke of the spiritual needs of New York City. He invited any who would be in sympathy with an aggressive spiritual movement to come to a follow-up meeting. And on November 23, 1881, Simpson and seven others gather around a little stove in a cold and cheerless dance hall, and there they opened their Bibles to Zachariah, chapter 4. ‘“Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit,” saith the Lord.’” And they knelt together, and they thanked God that they were few, poor, and weak. And then they thrust themselves upon the might of the Holy Spirit.
Meanwhile, Simpson had another vision that he was working on. He launched his second attempt at a magazine. The first issue would come out on New Year’s Day 1882. He declares, “New York’s churches are responsible for the religious and moral welfare of 2 million souls.” He observes that there are armies, there are armies, of young men brought up by godly parents who never go to church. And he’s disturbed that in this city, while there has been significant growth, there has been not growth in the work of the church.
“In the last five years,” he explains, “there has been an increase of a 165,000 inhabitants and not a single new church or organization added to the total number. A city as large as Cleveland, Buffalo, or Washington has been added to us—and not one, additional organized Christian force has arisen to meet its spiritual need. Where have the Christians of New York been these five years? They have fallen asleep. They have been discussing nice theories and preaching beautiful sermons and letting the people perish. They have been doing far worse. They have been riding to heaven in palace sleeping cars while trains upon trains of perishing souls have been plunging into the unbridged abyss and crying, ‘No man cared for my soul.’ They have been building up colossal, ecclesiastical piles whose very grandeur walled out the lowly and lost ones.”
Simpson’s demographic work is fantastic, his strategy is fascinating, and his passion is obvious. He gives a remedy in this long article that “the remedy for our spiritual situation in New York is the repentance of professing Christians, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the revival of evangelistic work in the Christian church.” And then he closes with this statement of “Let Us Awake”:
Let Christians then awake from their respectability. Let religion cease to be an amusement, and let it become a holy trust. Let the churches open their doors freely to all classes, and let members go to their neighborhoods and invite them in. Let the public halls and theaters be open for evangelistic services; and let plain earnest men go wherever they can gather the masses together in little communities or great and preach the gospel in the power of the Spirit and the simplicity of love. Let the interest of our church be forgotten in the honor of Christ and the peril of souls. Let us be sure we are saved, and let us be sure men are lost. And then let us speak as men that believe. Let us give up our plans of pleasure, selfishness, and ease and prepare for a winter of earnest work. Let us put away our idols and turn from our abominations. And above all, let us cry mightily to Him for the Word of Power and the breath of life that alone can change this valley of dry bones into an exceeding great army of living souls and soldiers of the cross. And we shall find that there are resources enough among us, if touched by the consecrating power, to save the city—to save the world.
Simpson’s passion burns through every paragraph, not because of who he was but because of who the Spirit of God within him is. The Spirit of God that calls us to look at our cities with as much seriousness and passion and concern and confidence that the dry bones, the dry bones can once again become living souls and soldiers of the cross.
Leaders of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, I’m calling us to this same kind of passion that stirred in this city in the heart of our founder. May we contextualize our ministry in such a way that we see our cities, that we embrace our cities, that we see the unchurched masses among us. May we go to our knees and discover what it is that God would say to us in this day, at this time, for this adventure that continues, called The Christian and Missionary Alliance.
God bless you.