Far too many modern Christians only have the Laodicean church as a model, but there is much more to the church than meets the eye. Church history reveals enormous power that changed entire communities by simply applying the instruments that we have been equipped with. That same power is still available today, and only needs to be dusted off, and used. God did not change; He still desires for all to be saved and come to the knowledge of His Son who died for all.
And to the angel (pastor) of the church of the Laodiceans write, “These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: ‘I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.’” Revelation 3:17,18
We are blessed with so much that the church of yesteryear did not even know about: modern equipment, buildings, skills, etc., yet they had a wealth that is unknown today. The church of a few generations ago had different ways to attract the wayward, as documented by George T. B. Davis in his book When The Fire Fell, published in 1945. We take a few pages from this book:
There were four young men in Ireland whose hearts were burdened for the salvation of souls. They believed in the power of prayer, and met together for united earnest intercession for revival. The story of George Muller, and his great orphanage at Bristol, England, supported entirely in answer to believing prayer, quickened the faith of the young men. They began to believe that God could and would do mighty things in answer to their prayers.
Others also, who longed for revival, joined this prayer band, and they began to see definite conversions in answer to their intercession. Then came the news of the great revival in the United States, and the faith of the members of the prayer group was still further strengthened.
They heard that in New York city large numbers of business men met daily for prayer. Like Jacob of old, the young men cried out: “I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.” They believed the Word of God in Matthew 18:19-20, “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Prayer meetings in Ireland began to multiply, and people were being saved daily. Then the fire fell from heaven! John Shearer in his book “Old Time Revivals” tells what happened: “A great revival is like a forest fire. At first there is only a thin line of flame. But soon its progress is so swift and widely diffused that the eye can no longer keep pace with it. The flame bursts forth at once in many places and now we see but one great conflagration. So it was with this marvellous work of grace. You might observe its course in Connor and a little beyond in 1858. But in 1859 the heavenly fire was leaping up and spreading in all directions through Antrim, Downs, Derry, Tyrone and other counties of Ulster, and to this day ‘59′ is remembered as the pre-eminent year of grace.
As it advanced, it burned with a fierce intensity. In Connor the conversions were of a comparatively quiet type. But in Ahoghill, Ballymena and elsewhere there was a great smiting down. Sin was felt as a crushing and intolerable burden, and men and women often fell to the earth and continued for days in a state of prostration. Others were suddenly pierced as by a sharp sword, and their agonized cry for help was heard in the streets and in the fields. Here, for example, is a farmer returning from market in Ballymena. His mind is wholly intent upon the day’s bargain. He pauses, takes out some money, and begins to count it. Suddenly an awful Presence envelops him. In a moment his only thought is that he is a sinner standing on the brink of hell. His silver is scattered, and he falls upon the dust of the highway, crying out for mercy.
There was a wonderful work amongst the children. The blessing had come to Coleraine, and one day the schoolmaster observed a boy so troubled that he was quite unfit for lessons. He kindly sent him home in the company of an older boy who had already found peace. As the two lads went on their way they saw an empty house and went into it for prayer.
While they knelt the painful burden lifted from the boy’s heart. He sprang to his feet in a transport of joy. Returning to school, he ran up to the master and, with a beaming face, cried out, “Oh, I am so happy! I have the Lord Jesus in my heart.” The effect of these artless words was great. Boy after boy rose silently and left the room. In a little while the master followed and discovered his boys ranged alongside the wall of the playground, every one apart and on his knees!
Very soon their silent prayer became a bitter cry. It was heard by those within and pierced their hearts. They cast themselves upon their knees, and their cry for mercy was heard in the girls’ schoolroom above. In a few moments the whole school was upon its knees, and its wail of distress was heard in the street.
Neighbours and passers-by came flocking in, and, as they crossed the threshold, came under the same convicting power. Every room was filled with men, women and children seeking God. The ministers of the town and men of prayer were sent for, and the whole day was spent in directing these mourners to the Lord Jesus. That school proved to be for many the house of God and the very gate of heaven.
A stirring history of the revival was written by Professor William Gibson, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. It is a book of some 500 pages. It is filled with authentic stories of large numbers of people who were converted during the revival. In speaking of how the awakening started in a quiet corner of Ireland, and spread rapidly here and there, Professor Gibson says: “In startling and impressive grandeur it burst forth in a comparatively sequestered region; and scarcely had the new-born flame, drawn down by a few earnest watchers there, begun to burn, when it spread in all directions over an entire province. All classes and all ages caught the heavenly fire.”
The fact that there were “some temporary excesses and extravagances” in connection with the revival did not trouble Professor Gibson. He asked, who at such a time would criticize or “grudge to these new-gathered souls the overflowing fullness of their joy?”
As is so often the case in revivals the converts of one place carried the fire to other communities. Rev. A. J. Canning of Coleraine, Ireland, tells how the awakening came to that town: “Upon the evening of the 7th of June, 1859, an open-air meeting was held in one of the market places of the town, called ‘Fair Hill.’ The announced object of the meeting was to receive and hear one or two of the ‘converts,’ as they began to be called, from a district some eight or ten miles south of Coleraine. The evening was one of the most lovely that ever shone. The richly wooded banks of the river Bann, which bounds one side of the square in which the meeting was held, were fully in prospect, and there was not a cloud in the sky.
Shortly after seven o’clock, dense masses of people, from town and country, began to pour into the square by all its approaches, and in a short time an enormous multitude crowded around the platform from which speakers were to address the meeting. After singing and prayer, the converts, a young man and a man more advanced in years, and both of the humbler class, proceeded to address the meeting. Their addresses were short, and consisted almost entirely of their own awakening, and earnest appeals to the consciences of sinners. After the lapse of nearly an hour, it became manifest that more than one half of the congregated multitude could not hear the voices of the speakers on the platform. Then it was suggested that the people should separate into distinct congregations or groups, and that a minister should preach to each group.
This was immediately done, and some three or four separate audiences were soon listening with most marked attention to as many preachers, for all the ministers of all the evangelical churches in the town were present.
“I was engaged in addressing a large group of people, composed of all ages and of all ranks of the community, from a portion of Scripture, when I became struck with the deep and peculiar attention which every mind and heart was lending to what I said. As to manner, my address was very calm; as to matter it consisted of plain gospel truth, as it concerns man’s lost condition on the one hand, and the free grace of God, as displayed in salvation, on the other. I know that the addresses of my brethren were of a like character. I never saw before, in any audience, the same searching, earnest, riveted look fixed upon my face, as strained up to me from almost every eye in that hushed and apparently awe-struck multitude. I remember, even whilst I was speaking, asking myself, “How is this?” “Why is this?” As yet, however, the people stood motionless, and perfectly silent.
“About the time the last speaker was closing his address, a very peculiar cry arose from out a dense group at one side of the square, and in less than ten minutes a similar cry was repeated in six or eight different groups, until, in a very short time, the whole multitude was divided into awe-struck assemblages around the persons prostrate on the ground, or supported in the arms of relatives or friends.
“I hurried to the centre of one of these groups, and having first exhorted the persons standing around to retire, and leave me to deal with the prostrate one, I stooped over him, and found him to be a young man of some eighteen or twenty years, but personally unknown to me. He lay on the ground, his head supported on the knees of an elder of one of our churches. His eyes were closed; his hands were firmly clasped, and occasionally very forcibly pressed upon the chest. He was uttering incessantly a peculiar deep moan, sometimes terminating in a prolonged wailing cry.
“I felt his pulse, and could discern nothing very peculiar about it. I said, very softly and quietly in his ear, ‘Why do you cry so?’ Then he opened his eyes for an instant, and I could perceive that they had, stronger than I ever saw it before, that inward look, which indicates that the mind is wholly occupied with its own images and impressions. ‘Oh!’ he exclaimed, high and loud, in reply to my question, ‘my sins! My sins! Lord Jesus, have mercy upon my poor soul! O Jesus! Come! O Lord Jesus, come!’
I endeavoured to calm him for a moment, asking him to listen to me whilst I set before him some of the promises of God to perishing sinners. At first I thought that I was carrying his attention with me in what I was saying, but I soon discovered that his whole soul was filled with one idea — his guilt and his danger — for, in the middle of my repetition of some promise, he would burst forth with the bitter cry, ‘O God, my sins! My sins!’ At length I said in his ear, ‘Shall we pray?’ He replied in a loud voice, ‘Oh yes!’ I engaged in prayer, and yet I doubt whether his mind followed me beyond the first sentence or two.
“As I arose from prayer, six or eight persons, all at the same instant, pressed around me crying, ‘Oh, come and see (naming such a one and – and- )’ until I felt for a moment bewildered, and the prayer went out from my own heart, ‘God, guide me!’ I passed from case to case for two or three hours, as did my brethren in the ministry, until, when the night was far spent, and the stricken ones began to be removed to the shelter of roofs, I turned my face homewards through one street, when I soon discovered that the work which had begun in the market square was now advancing with marvellous rapidity in the homes of the people. As I approached door after door, persons were watching for me and other ministers, to bring us to deal with some poor agonized stricken one; and when the morning dawned, and until the sun arose, I was wandering from street to street, and from house to house, on the most marvellous and solemn errand upon which I have ever been sent.”
The apostate church is satisfied with its self sufficiency, its choreographed worship and motivational preaching, but the Lord has a stern warning for them. With eternity only a breath away from every one of us, the only wealth that really matters is a living relationship with the Lord. There is wealth that cannot be seen with the natural eye, yet it will last you through all eternity! Jesus assessed the lukewarm church at Laodicea, and had this to say:
Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’— and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. Revelation 3:17,18