The 1902 visit to Melbourne of R.A. Torrey and Charles Alexander was a stunning success in terms of its impact on the city and beyond. The Torrey-Alexander team followed on, reaching London and then Wales, where the young Evan Roberts was in attendance to then continue the spiritual impact in the 1904-5 Welsh Revival which saw unprecedented community transformation.
The Melbourne campaign, written about previously (and searchable on this site) saw 8,600 new Christians at meetings held in sites including the Exhibition Building (with thousands turned away each night). Midday meetings at the Town Hall similarly saw hundreds locked out. An lead-in series of services in fifty districts around the city had hosted local preachers in town halls and tents as a result of unprecedented unity and prayer, with 214 congregations involved. In addition to Torrey’s conscription of 5,000 people to pray while on his travels, some 11 years of praying had also been undertaken by a dozen or so people desiring to see revival in Melbourne.
This so-called ‘Simultaneous Mission’ spread to the rest of the nation and it impacted India and, in turn, Chile too. The Mukti Mission for women and orphans, was led by Pandita Ramabai who sent her daughter and her assistant, Minnie Abrams, to Melbourne. Abrams’ correspondence with a friend in Chile on the subject of revival resulted in similar manifestations there, influencing the growth of Pentecostal churches in that nation.
If a very similar strategy was later adopted during the similarly successful visit to Melbourne of Billy Graham in 1959, then what does this say for us today? The desire for such unity still engenders good will, albeit against a backdrop of extreme busyness and under-resourcing that often stifles long-term traction. However, some intentional restructuring and submission of our plans to a greater unifying purpose might very well go a long way to ensuring that the one church Christ died for looks a lot less fragmented and individualised to a world who can’t fathom our diversity.
All it takes is for key influencers to collectively decide that what unites us is surely greater than what divides and that this matters more than our individual crowns. For such leaders to cooperate for greater impact than could ever be achieved in isolation could again see the spiritual transformation of cities alerted to the need for Christ, despite the apathy and indifference of the moral relativism we see around us today.