C.H. Spurgeon was a Baptist legend. It's hard to overstate his influence. He preached to millions; he trained pastors and started orphanages; his writings are still read around the world.
Quick: Who succeeded Spurgeon at his church when he died? I didn't know the answer until a week ago. His name was Arthur Tappan Pierson. When Spurgeon was sick, he asked Pierson to fill in for him. When Spurgeon died, Pierson filled the pulpit for two years.
Here's the amazing part: Pierson was Presbyterian. Wikipedia states:
It is notable that Spurgeon asked a Presbyterian minister who had not been baptized as a believer to occupy the pulpit in his place. Pierson held the opinion that Christians could disagree on the mode of baptism and whether it should be administered to infants or believers only.
It's not like all of this happened without problems, and Spurgeon's brother did baptize him later. But I had no idea that Spurgeon invited a Presbyterian to preach for him. Baptists and Presbyterians worked together long before T4G. (We can perhaps forgive Spurgeon for some of the shots that he took against liturgy as well.)
For the past few years a group of pastors in Toronto has been meeting. We have some differences, but we're united in our love for the city of Toronto. We share a desire for a gospel to transform churches, and through our churches to see Christ's name renowned in the city. It's been stretching and fulfilling to be part of this group.
A year ago we brought our churches together for a Good Friday service. For various reasons, Richview couldn't participate last year. Our loss, because I hear that the service was amazing. We were surprised by the number who attended. It encouraged us to see hundreds come together to display our unity and to proclaim what Christ has done.
We decided to move to a bigger venue this year, so we rented the Winter Garden Theatre in the heart of the city. It's a beautiful venue that seats 992. We didn't know whether this would work. Was last year's service a one-time fluke? We hesitated a little before committing - it was a financial risk - but we went for it.
Last Friday night it became apparent as soon as the doors opened that we were at full capacity. It was exciting to see so many gather, although I wish that we hadn't turned people away.
Here's why I'm so encouraged.
- Four of the five churches are church plants. 992 people doesn't sound like a lot, but most of these churches didn't even exist a few years ago. I find that exciting.
- We were in a public space in the heart of the city. Many of our churches have moved out of the downtown core. It was exciting to drive up Yonge Street and to see the sign for the theatre, the location for our service, and very close to two of our churches.
- I'm encouraged because we're working together. More on this tomorrow. We need much more of this. I've seen God doing lots in Toronto, but it feels like brushfires. I dream of the brushfires meeting so that something really starts to burn.
- I'm encouraged because I sense God is up to something in Toronto. It seems early and tentative, but it really seems like something is starting to happen. We need lots of prayers. Toronto is not the easiest place in which to minister. But we are all dreaming and praying for a new move of God in this city.
A service like we held is a sign of life. I'm excited by what God is doing in our little group and in other churches and ministries in Toronto. I'm praying for more.
A quote from Peter Larson:
Despite our efforts to keep him out, God intrudes. The life of Jesus is bracketed by two impossibilities: a virgin's womb and an empty tomb. Jesus entered our world through a door marked “No Entrance” and left through a door marked “No Exit.”