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Archive for the ‘Missiology’ Category

“Ministers are the fishers of men; and the effect of an endowment is to lengthen their line, and enable them to reach downward to the lowest gradations of the commonwealth. The voluntaries are a kind of fly-fishers—whose operations do not reach to the muddy bottoms, to those depths and those fastnesses of society, which to them are inaccessible. And a chapel of ease, give it any ecclesiastical organization you like, is just such a voluntary [entity]. Nominally, you may give it the title of an established church; but you will never give it the power or the properties of an established church without an endowment” (Works 18:101-102)

In this quote, Chalmers is contending within his historical situation for the full inclusion of “chapels of ease” (more or less preaching stations) within the established Church of Scotland. But what is crucial, he argues, is that they should be territorial, assigned to focus pastorally and evangelistically on one defined neighborhood, and endowed, so that they do not have to be beholden to the more privileged classes attending from beyond their ‘parish.’ Without these two pillars, the ability to minister to all, both rich and poor, becomes extremely difficult. In fact, it becomes impossible when contemplated as a system for the entire nation, which is what an establishment is built to guarantee. In the end, you are back to the religious marketplace, and those who lack “wealth and will” are left to sink to the bottom.

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“If, in virtue of the missionary doings abroad, we read that hundreds of families in some before untrodden field of heathenism have been Christianized—let us not forget, that many are the cities of our own island, where, without one mile of locomotion, we might have converse with thousands of families, which, but for the same doings at home, would be sunk in the apathy and the grossness of practical heathenism”

-Thomas Chalmers, Works 11:445

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“Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation: but, as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand” (Rom. 15:21-22).

Not that Paul would have withheld the benefit of his instructions from those who were already Christians if they came in his way; but what he strove for and sought after, was to enter on altogether new ground, deeming it more his vocation to extend and spread abroad Christianity, by the planting of new churches, than to build up or perfect the churches which had been already founded. There seems to have been an emulation in these days among the first teachers of the gospel, which betokens that even they were not altogether free from the leaven which Paul had detected in his own converts, when he charged them with being yet carnal. There was something amongst them like a vain-glorious rivalship in the work of proselytizing—insomuch that the credit of their respective shares in the formation of a Christian Church was a matter of competition and jealousy. Our apostle wanted to keep altogether clear of this, and to be wholly aloof from the temptation of it—as indeed he himself intimates in 2 Cor. x, 15, 16, where he tells us that he would not boast of other men’s labours, or in another man’s line of things made ready to his hand. Certain it is, that while he refrained from building on another man’s foundation, he experienced no little disturbance from other men building on the foundation which he himself had laid-and these not only the false teachers, but even men who were true at bottom-yet would, like Peter at Antioch, have laid some of their wood and hay and stubble thereupon.

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Just preparing for another Reformed Parish Mission (RPM) slideshow presentation, this time at my good friend Rob Ventura’s church, Grace Community Baptist in North Providence, R.I. Many thanks to him and the dear brethren there for allowing me the opportunity to share about the work!

As I’ve had to trim things some to make sure it fits in the allotted time, here is a segment that may be of interest to anyone who wants to learn about how Thomas Chalmers proposed for ‘general,’ non-local congregations gradually to transition to the parochial plan. I made this rough-cut video of the segment – maybe someday I’ll update with a cleaner version. For now, ‘What I have recorded I have recorded.’

Also, if you think your church or group would like to host an RPM presentation (30 minutes plus Q&A) drop me a note! I’ve also done it remotely by Zoom, so that is an option too.

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My 2018 journal article, “Desert Rose: Thomas Chalmers’ West Port Experiment (1844-1847),” published in the 2018 edition of The Confessional Presbyterian. Images used by permission. To purchase a copy, click here.

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Figures_Moses_fixes_the_brazen_Serpent_on_a_pole“As to the attendance of the people on the Sabbath ministrations of the missionary, you will doubtless find that they will give you very fair promises. They may all say they will go to church; but by many of them the promises will not be kept. In such circumstances, a very good plan, which I would recommend to you, would be this, — Let either the agent of the district, or some person on whom he can depend, after the hour at which the various churches go in, go to the district where the defaulters, — reside, and entering one of their houses, beg to be allowed to conduct a family exercise, to which the neighbours may be called in. Depend upon it, they will take it very well. They will of course feel themselves caught . . . but still they will tolerate you, and make their escape next Sabbath, by going to the place of worship. That’s one of a variety of doing the thing. It will bring them in contact with the gospel at any rate. The great matter is to get them into the habit of church-going.”

-Thomas Chalmers, 1844 lecture on the eve of the West Port Experiment

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IMG_0229Chalmers made no bones about the fact that the parish method of home missions was best. And with the confident precision of an engineer, he detailed how it should work. But he was no Pelagian mechanist:

“Let us not forget that, however indispensable the things for which we plead, they are, after all, but ‘the outward things of the house of God,’ — most important no doubt, as being the aqueducts for a diffusive and general conveyance of spiritual blessings; yet a vain and useless parade, if the grace only given to those who ask it, shall not light upon our tabernacles. With all our value for the mechanism of a well-ordered church, we must remember that its great master springs are in the hands of Him who casteth down the imaginations of the confident, and delights in lending Himself to the supplications of the humble, — so that, whatever glory may accrue from the wisdom of its rulers, it is in its of men of faith and prayer that the main strength of our Establishment lies.”

– Thomas Chalmers, Works 18:138-139

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Mike Hutchinson with the True Presbyterian Podcast interviewed me on a recent episode, “The Parish Ministry of Thomas Chalmers.” (What else? 😉) He does a pretty good job – check out his other episodes also!

 

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Another addition to the Chalmers Audio Library. A tremendous address! Little wonder that Wilberforce once wrote of him, “All the world is wild about Chalmers.” If this sermon doesn’t drive you to your prayer closet, what will?

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Chalmers, A Single Human Being

Image. Gordon, Sir John Watson. Thomas Chalmers, 1780 – 1847. Preacher and Social Reformer. About 1838. Scottish National Print Gallery, Edinburgh. Accessed December 19, 2019. [URL]

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