I'm going to be at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast tomorrow at the annual "Mandate" men's event. (I have a friend who is very alarmed by that name!). I haven't been to this in nearly 20 years - back when it was an evening-only thing in the Ulster Hall. I'm going tomorrow to hear Mark Driscoll preach - many of you will know that I've been very impressed by him, and by the quality of material that affilates like the Acts29 network of churches and The Resurgence have been issuing, since discovering him online at MarsHillChurch.org.
Ulster has attracted what might be termed "celebrity preachers" for nearly 400 years. Imagine the buzz there must have been when word got out that Professor Robert Blair was leaving the metropolis of Glasgow to come to... Bangor in 1623?! Or in 1622 when the news that John Knox's grandson Josias Welsh was on his way to... Templepatrick?! The flood of them is too great to outline in detail - but what about John Wesley who spent 43 years in Ireland? I'm pretty sure that Moody and Sankey were here in 1874.
Exactly 99 years ago, in November 1911 J Wilbur Chapman and Charles M Alexander held a mission in Bangor. They were both reared in rural America - Chapman in Indiana and Alexander in East Tennessee. They were major global news, having preached in Canada, Australia and the Far East. As a form of pre-publicity thousands of wall texts (shown here, click to enlarge) were given out to people to hang up in their homes. This one was given to me by a Bangor man a few months ago, from his parents' collection. Below is a recording of two tracks of Alexander's singing, recorded in 1905. The first one - "Tell Mother I'll Be There" is dire, so click on the fast forward button to get to the second one, "The Glory Song" which is brilliant. (click here to go to the source page on Archive.org). I very much doubt that this is the kind of music that'll be played in the Waterfront tomorrow!
We have of course cultivated our very own celebrity preachers over the years. So what? Thousands of people flocked to hear Jesus preach. As long as preachers focus their attention and their sermons upon Jesus Christ, then the more people go to hear them the better.
And here is Mark Driscoll in action - with a down-to-earth directness that would make Cottown-born evangelist WP Nicholson (1876-1962) proud.
Finally, some great Resurgence graphics below: