Job 8:7; “Your beginnings will seem humble, so prosperous will your future be.”
‘We must have the best’, ‘The production must be engaging’, ‘If people aren’t attracted to it, they won’t come’. These are all lines that many of us have heard before, either in our work place or in our churches. But what is ‘the best’? What makes something ‘engaging’? What ‘attraction’ will ultimately draw people?
Recently, we have been spending some time looking at what God was doing in the first decade of the 20th century. In 1904 in a small town called Loughor in South Wales, God was using a man called Evan Roberts. A 26 year old form collier was given incredible visions and a zeal to see the lost become found in Christ Jesus. This revival swept the nation and over 100,000 people were converted. A revival that saw unlearned men leave the coal mine after a long shift and then preaching with great eloquence at night. A revival that saw the Pit Ponies flummoxed and disorientated when they could no longer understand their masters directions due to the lack of curse words used. A revival that saw sight restored to girl that only had eye sockets. A revival that at its core started with the simple and humble prayer; ‘More Lord’. The church simply just asked the Lord for ‘more’. More of His Presence, more of His Power and more of His Spirit. People came because of what God was doing, not because the building or production looked like.
By the time 1906 arrived the Welsh revival, through various connections had spread to Los Angeles. More precisely, 312 Azusa Street. Originally constructed as an African Methodist Episcopal Church in what was then a black ghetto part of town. The rent was $8.00 per month. A newspaper referred to the downtown Los Angeles building as a “tumble down shack”. Since the church had moved out, the building had served as a wholesale house, a warehouse, a lumberyard, stockyards, a tombstone shop, and had most recently been used as a stable with rooms for rent upstairs. It was a small, rectangular, flat-roofed building, approximately 60 feet long and 40 feet wide, sided with weathered whitewashed clapboards. Discarded lumber and plaster littered the large, barn-like room on the ground floor. Nonetheless, it was secured and cleaned in preparation for services. They held their first meeting on April 14, 1906. Church services were held on the first floor where the benches were placed in a rectangular pattern. Some of the benches were simply planks put on top of empty nail kegs. There was no elevated platform, as the ceiling was only eight feet high. Initially there was no pulpit. Frank Bartleman, an early participant in the revival, recalled that “Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside the top one during the meeting, in prayer. There was no pride there…. In that old building, with its low rafters and bare floors…” Furthermore, the Altar was a single piece of wood resting on two chairs. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT IN A WESTERN CHURCH TODAY???
I suggest for your thoughts today that we consider what it means to ‘Have the best’. I am not opposed to churches with large campuses and well-kept buildings with their nice furnishings. Many have diligent spiritual man and women exercising their great gift of stewardship in them. But seldom do we find great moves of God having their genesis in a palace. It is much more like God to use a stable. Great things in God often start with humble beginnings…..