Christian & Missionary Alliance history
Pastor Randy Junker
CMA History, Part II When we left off in January, Dr. A. B. Simpson had left a comfortable post in a New York City Presbyterian Church, and struck off on his own, with no supporters, no salary, and no bank credit. When asked how he expected to succeed, his reply: “….in the work of God, if anything was worth doing, God would see that it was supported.” Humble beginnings indeed! Two weeks after leaving the previous church in November 1881, he conducted a meeting in a public hall down the street, and urged those “in sympathy with an aggressive spiritual movement” to meet on November 23 to confer and pray. Seven people showed up. Reading from Zechariah 4: 6 and 10, “This is the word of the Lord…not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the LORD of hosts….for who has despised the day of small things?” They set a demanding schedule: a service each evening and three on Sunday. Music was an important part—this was the era of Frances Havergal and Fanny Crosby, who wrote beloved hymns still sung today. Audiences and workers began to grow in number, and Simpson invited guest speakers to supplement his own preaching. The times were ripe for spiritual awakening, with movements like the Salvation Army and a global Evangelical Alliance taking shape. Simpson published an evangelical magazine, “The Gospel in All Lands” and other titles, which were widely read. The Gospel Tabernacle was formed as an independent “free” church—not a part of the established denominations, but tireless in setting up missionary training schools and sponsoring summer conventions and camp meetings, most of which ran a full week or more. People came by the hundreds and even thousands from all over the East coast and Canada. By March 1883, the Tabernacle congregation formed its own missionary society, The Missionary Union for the Evangelization of the World. Later, Simpson et al., would create the Christian Alliance, and separately, the Evangelical Missionary Alliance. Finally, these two merged and were called simply, The Christian and Missionary Alliance. What can account for this rapid growth? In a word, PRAYER. These people prayed continually and fervently, on their knees for hours, pleading with God for the unsaved masses to somehow hear of the good news of Jesus and His salvation. When speakers asked, they GAVE, lavishly, even taking off cherished items of jewelry to contribute to sending out missions workers. The final decade of the 1890s, the “gilded age,” was characterized by euphoric confidence that all things were possible through science and industry. This era was the setting for a “missionary explosion” where hundreds of people were sent from every denomination around the world, including the non-denominational Gospel Tabernacle. Simpson wrote in his magazine, “God has laid it on our hearts to suggest a Prayer League for the world’s evangelization in the next ten years.” In a major summer camp convention (the Old Orchard in Maine), nearly 5000 attended and pledged over $25,000, enough to support 54 missionaries for a year. By 1893, the Alliance began to emerge as a missionary force. In six years of operation, 180 missionaries worked in 40 stations in 12 fields. SO, what does all this history have to do with us, today, in the Grand Rapids Alliance Church? We can take heart, knowing that God is still at work. We are still invited to PRAY often and fervently for our missionaries, to GIVE liberally in support of missions, and to consider GOING.