More than a hundred years ago Wilbur Chapman, then a young pastor, was called to the stately Wanamaker’s Church in Philadelphia. After he preached his first sermon an older member accosted him at the front of the church and said, “I’m afraid you are not going to succeed here, but if you will preach the gospel I will help you all I can.”
Chapman thought to himself, “Oh, oh, here’s a guy that’s going to be a problem.” The old man looked the pastor straight in the eye and continued, “I am going to pray that you will have the power of the Holy Spirit on you, and two others have agreed to join me.” Chapman felt better.
In the weeks that followed the group of three grew to ten; the ten grew to twenty. Over time the twenty grew to fifty, and finally to two hundred. Before every service when Chapman spoke two hundred men met in an adjacent room to plead that the Holy Spirit might cover their pastor and that God’s voice might be heard through him as he preached.
At the same time, in another room the 18 elected elders of the church knelt around him, close enough to touch him, and prayed for a Holy Spirit anointing. Chapman told how he would come away from that intense intercession with a profound anticipation that God was going to answer their prayers.
The trajectory of that large church in the center of Philadelphia was dramatically changed. In the first three years of Chapman’s stay; 1,100 new members were added by conversion; more than half of them were men.
Wilbur Chapman would be the first to concede that it was not the result of any clever oratory on his part, but it was God’s response to the earnest entreaty of a group of serious believers. Their stated goal was not to see their church grow, but to see the population of heaven grow. Not to exalt their pastor, but to exalt the Lordship of Jesus Christ in their city.
Question: What is your take-away from this story? Are there any reproducible principles that might apply where you worship? Remember the proverb, “If we keep doing what we’ve been doing we’ll keep getting what we’ve got.”
I love the story in Exodus 17. Israel and the Amalekites were at it again, and the good guys weren’t winning. That is, they weren’t winning unless Moses was up on the mountain raising his hands to touch God with his intercession. But you can only keep your hands raised so long. So Aaron and Hur came alongside Moses and kept his hands raised till dark. Joshua led Israel to victory because of an intercessory prayer team. Now that’s a reproducible principle.