T.V. Thomas with Ken Draper
The life and work of Albert Benjamin Simpson cannot be considered without reference to his understanding of world evangelization. The following study will examine Simpson's life, theology and strategy of mission in the hope of enhancing our understanding of his contribution to the work of world evangelization and the vitality of the Christian & Missionary Alliance.
Before he was born, A.B. Simpson's mother consecrated him for the Christian ministry and to missions.1 He was baptized by the Canadian missionary, John Geddie, and many of his childhood heroes were among the greatest figures of missionary endeavour. Yet it was not until a decade into his ministry that he became interested in the evangelization of the world.
Simpson was a frail, sensitive boy who had been brought up in the full rigor of a strict Calvinism devoid of joy or humour. These early influences produced a young man who feared God and wanted to appease Him. At fourteen, Simpson made his first conscious step towards God, but, as he admits, it came more out of duty than conviction.2 His intense devotion to his high school studies led to a nervous breakdown at seventeen. Personal despair broke only after a chance encounter with a book entitled Marshall's Gospel Mystery of Sanctification. Here he read:
The first good work you will ever perform is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ...." The moment you do this, you will pass into eternal life, you will be justified from all your sins, and receive a new heart and all the gracious preparations of the Holy Spirit.3
He responded immediately to this invitation and experienced the conviction to reinforce the sense of commitment he had always had to the gospel ministry. In giving his life to Christ and claiming Christ's forgiveness and salvation, he did not find immediate release, but became nonetheless convinced that his salvation was sure. He regained his physical health soon after. In January, 1861, to confirm and solemnize his conversion, Simpson wrote a formal agreement covenanting his life to God.
Simpson's commitment to the ministry continued, and after teaching high school for a year, he entered Knox College in Toronto. Four years later, in 1865, he graduated, was ordained, married Margaret Henry, and took his first assignment as a Presbyterian pastor in the prestigious Knox Church, Hamilton, Ontario.
He soon gained a reputation as an able preacher and Knox Church grew steadily under his leadership, a sure confirmation to him of his call to the pastoral ministry. He was firmly committed to his church and his congregation, and to an understanding of the "regular work of the ministry"4 which, in turn, motivated him to expend all his energies for the welfare of his own people. This localized view of the ministry led him to reject out of hand an opportunity to participate in an evangelistic campaign during his pastorate in Hamilton.
After eight years at Knox Church, Simpson had become an accomplished and respected pastor with a genuine love for the church, but as yet had none of the passion for evangelism that would soon overtake him. At this point, he answered a call to the Chestnut Street Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Chestnut Street Church was even more prestigious than Knox and offered a generous salary. Besides, Kentucky's milder climate promised Simpson's always delicate health a reprieve from the harsh Canadian winters.
A series of crises precipitated the growth of Simpson's concern for the evangelization of the world.5 The first of these occurred in 1874, in conjunction with an evangelistic campaign similar to the one Simpson had rejected while in Hamilton. He was one of the chief organizers of the campaign, and, impressed by its success, sought the spiritual power and infilling of the Holy Spirit to sustain him in his expanding ministry. Simpson called this experience a major turning point in his life.6
The renewed zeal for evangelism that resulted from this experience led Simpson to invite other Louisville churches to join together each winter for evangelism and revival. Although some declined his offer, he and his congregation took on the task of sponsoring public Sunday evening meetings. Simpson became so preoccupied with evangelization that it came to replace "the proper work of the ministry" in his mind. No longer content to be secure in a comfortable church of social equals, he sought to mobilize the whole church for evangelization. Thousands right in Louisville needed to hear the message of salvation and of life in Christ.
Perhaps the most dramatic move into which Simpson led his people was the building of a new and larger church building. He envisioned a plain, functional building to serve as a centre of evangelism, but his trustees had a more elaborate building in mind. The result was an impressive structure with a $50,000 debt. By this time, Simpson was so dedicated to evangelization that he refused to spend the money on buildings that should have been used to advance the gospel7 and he would not dedicate the new Tabernacle until it was completely paid for. He left Louisville for New York in early 1880 in order to gain greater freedom to pursue his goal of evangelizing the masses. The Tabernacle remained debt-ridden and undedicated on his departure.
It was at this time that Simpson received his missionary vision. His first response was to go to China, but this proved impractical. More practical was his decision to advance the cause of missions by informing the Christian public of the need for and progress of world evangelization. He chose the illustrated periodical as his medium because of its growing popularity.
Simpson received his call to Thirteenth Street Church in New York City in 1879. Where else but New York, the North American centre of missionary activity would one go to launch a missionary magazine?8 What better place to engage in the work of evangelization than the continent's greatest metropolis? Simpson agreed to take on the new pastorate on condition that the church officers would unite with him in a popular religious movement to reach the unchurched masses.9 They agreed to it in principle, but found the practice rather less appealing, preferring their pastor to spend his time with the more socially advanced classes.10
After a little more than a year of very active ministry in New York, Simpson became ill and had to interrupt his pastoral duties. In 1881, he visited the famous convention grounds of Old Orchard, Maine, and heard Dr. Charles Cullis speak regarding divine healing. More impressive to Simpson than Cullis' sermons were the testimonies of the many who had been healed. Having heard the message, Simpson went directly to his Bible to confirm the teaching.11 Convinced that the message of divine healing for the body "was part of Christ's glorious Gospel for a sinful and suffering world,"12 he solemnly claimed this grace as he had previously claimed salvation and the power of the Holy Spirit.13 He also dedicated himself to promoting this doctrine in his teaching. After this experience, Simpson remained free of the recurring health problems that had previously plagued his ministry.
From this time on, the message of the Lord for the body became one of the four pillars of Simpson's Gospel, yet he always kept it in perspective. For example, when the prominent teacher on healing, John Alexander Dowie, invited him to join in a cross-country campaign, he replied, "Dear Brother Dowie, I have four wheels on my chariot. I cannot agree to neglect the other three while I devote my time to one."14
Simpson's healing did not produce spiritual tunnel vision; if anything, it broadened his perspective, gave him the confidence to trust his Lord more completely, and provided him with the spiritual courage and physical confidence to set out on his own. In November of 1881, Simpson resigned his pastorate against the best advice of his church officers, his colleagues and his wife. His experience in Louisville and in New York had convinced him that established churches did not provide the kind of structure needed to launch an evangelistic work of the sort he had in mind.15 Having given up his pastor's salary, house, and social position, Simpson set to work evangelizing the masses. He had previously published a missionary magazine, naming it The Gospel In All Lands. His ill health had forced him to relinquish control of this periodical, but he later founded a new one entitled The Word, Work and World, the purpose of which was to bring information about missions to a wide audience.
As Simpson's concern for world evangelization grew, this work expanded into a variety of ministries. Simpson's Tabernacle in New York City, soon after its inception, was organized as an independent church.16 It served as a base of evangelistic meetings, including summer tent ministries.17 It ran several rescue missions, an orphanage, a home for unwed mothers, and housed the Missionary Training School which provided trained workers for Simpson's evangelistic efforts.18 Simpson was blessed in living to see much of his vision accomplished. He maintained an active role in the leadership of the Alliance until just a year before his death in October, 1919.
Simpson was not a professional theologian nor did he claim to be one. He was a pastor, and the vast majority of his published material began as sermons presented in his own Gospel Tabernacle or at one of the many conventions he spoke at each year. His concern for world evangelization led him to develop an evangelistically-oriented theology. Having no need to be rigorously systematic, Simpson thought, wrote, and spoke about the matters that concerned him most. In the process, he developed a unique theology of missions that provided direction for his effort and for a century of Alliance work around the world.
Simpson's theology of evangelization begins at the point of need: the world is cut off from God and thousands are in danger of eternal destruction. Man's sin has caused God's wrath to fall upon him and the lost must hear the message of salvation if they are to have hope. The preached word must therefore concentrate on hope, not wrath, and all the more so because Christ's saving love is the supreme principle of His life:19 the love of God sent Christ into the world20 and also sends Christ's followers out among their fellows21 to proclaim what has been accomplished in Christ. Simpson made the principle of Christ's saving love the center of his theology.
Simpson's theology of mission stems from a trinitarian understanding of God. The Father sends the Son, Christ commissions His followers, and the Holy Spirit continues and completes Christ's work. Evangelization is a work of God in which the entire Trinity is actively involved. Yet God is pleased to accomplish that work through human agency. It is here, in partnership with God, that Simpson found his own field of endeavour.22
Simpson never intended that the Alliance he had formed in 1887 would become a separate denomination; thus, he did not provide a catechism or confession for his followers. Instead, he affirmed all of the accepted creeds and doctrines of the Protestant tradition.23 Yet he had a keen sense of what was unique about the movement he led. He summarized the uniqueness of the Alliance as follows:
First, it stands for an absolute faith in supernatural things and a supernatural God. It represents a Christianity which is out-and-out for God, and it gathers to it those and only those who believe something, and believe it with all their heart and soul and strength. In a work, it represents intense spiritual earnestness. And secondly, along with this as the outgo and overflow of this deeper life of faith and consecration, it represents intense aggressiveness in its work for God, and overflow and outgo that is ever-reaching on to the regions beyond, and seeking to pass on to others the blessings we have ourselves received.24
In 1887, the year the Christian Alliance and the Evangelical Missionary Alliance were formed, Simpson stressed that the Alliance was, above all, committed to evangelism.25 He called for "self-denying efforts to reach the neglected classes at our doors by evangelistic and Christian work adjusted to reach and save them. And abroad...to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."26 The classical statement of Alliance distinctiveness is Simpson's Four-Fold Gospel. Christ as Saviour, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King provided the focus that gave the movement identity from its inception.
Simpson preached hundreds of evangelistic sermons.27 He believed that in so doing, he was only fulfilling his obligation as one of the saved,28 as one who had taken on the character of Christ. Indeed, for Simpson, every true Christian is a reincarnation of Christ,29 and so has no choice but to show Christ's love and take His message to the world. The sheer joy of the gospel and its power to change lives provides the motivation to evangelize.30
In Simpson's view, the Church as a whole also has a responsibility to evangelize, because it is a people called out by God for service.31 The Church provides the individual with the institutional as well as the spiritual support necessary for evangelization. It has received Christ's power through the Spirit and is equipped for his service.32
The church is called to aggressive work for the world's salvation. This is the last great mission. It is to win souls, to rescue sinners, to evangelize the world, to gather in great multitudes from among the lost, and win them for Jesus and Heaven.33
Simpson believed that the North American Church of his day was squandering its resources because it was not actively involved in evangelization. In his view, the experience of salvation carries with it an obligation to work tirelessly to reach the lost so that they may receive the same benefits as the saved.
Simpson stressed the connection between sanctification and evangelization even more than he did the connection between salvation and evangelization. He could not even conceive of evangelism apart from commitment to the consecrated life. In a missionary sermon preached to the Nyack Convention of 1899, Simpson stated, "All missionary enterprise must have its source in deeper spiritual life."34 With this in mind, he considered most North American churchgoers too worldly to be of any use as witnesses. He even went so far as to call their efforts counterproductive.35 Without deeply committed Christians given entirely over to Christ, evangelization was certain to stall out on one of the many obstacles erected by the modern world.
Simpson also taught that true sanctification produces evangelistic zeal. "The result of [sanctification] is unselfish and aggressive work. No soul can receive this deep, divine over-flowing life and remain henceforth unto himself."36 Sanctification is not a pleasure devised for the comfort of the Christian, but a call to, and empowering for, service.37
Acts 1:8, a favorite text of Simpson's, promises this empowering: "Ye shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."38 Evangelism, therefore, is not "the exercise of our natural powers and talents, but the sense of the special gifts of the Great Paraclete."39 It is not human ability that accomplishes the work, "...not power, but God Himself [working] in us and with us and beyond us and undertaking the great task with His own mighty hand."40
Simpson's realization of the need for the indwelling of God is evident in his continual call for believers to experience the filling of the Holy Spirit. However, his understanding of Acts 1:8 also convinced him that the giving of the Holy Spirit is conditional upon the proper use of His power:
We do not get power as an abstract quality, but we receive the Holy Ghost, and He is the power. 'And ye shall be my witnesses unto the uttermost parts of the earth.' It is His last word, and it is connected with and dependent upon receiving the power. And connects the condition with the promise.41
Finally the empowering of the Holy Spirit provides the motivation that makes service to God a joyful opportunity: "The baptism of the Holy Ghost is not worth anything if it does not fire your soul with a love like His, a love that forgets even your own spiritual need in pouring out your life like Him for others."42
Divine healing played a large role in Simpson's personal life and ministry. Although he did not explicitly link healing with evangelization, his emphasis on "the Lord for the body" brought his trust in God out of an exclusively spiritual realm and into the physical. Simpson believed that God cares about all aspects of life and wants the believer to appropriate His full provision. God can be trusted not only for bodily healing, but for a whole range of physical needs.43 Simpson demonstrated his commitment to this teaching in his Berachah Homes. Here the sick could find rest, hear weekly teaching on biblical healing, and receive the laying on of hands for the restoration of health.
Despite the fact that he saw no explicit connection between healing and evangelism, Simpson believed in "power evangelism," namely, that healings and other powerful manifestations of the Spirit would accompany the preaching of the Gospel (Mark 6:17).44 Acts, in particular, demonstrated to him the scriptural warrant for this contention. By 1894, he could report regarding Alliance overseas ministries "the healing of diseases and...manifestations of the supernatural power of God, as in Apostolic days, even in the midst of heathen darkness."45 The combined testimony of Scripture and experience made him willing to claim signs and wonders as a part of preaching the Gospel in supernatural power. He challenged people to pray that such signs would accompany the Gospel wherever and whenever they would aid the work of world evangelization.46
Simpson had an overwhelming sense that the Lord would return to earth during his own generation.47 He believed that global events had reached a watershed and that the resulting opportunity for world evangelization would not be repeated.48 As an ardent premillennialist, he did not share the postmillennial convictions of most Christian leaders of his day, for he could not find any evidence for this optimistic view, either in world events or in Scripture:
History laughs at our vain attempts and turns to confusion our pretentions to save ourselves. Even Christianity is not going to gradually develop into a Millennium of Gospel light and universal righteousness. The prophetic picture of the New Testament tells us of a world growing worse as well as better, of the increase of wickedness on one hand and also of righteousness on the other, so that the true philosophy is Optimism and Pessimism. The bad is getting worse, the good is getting better. But they shall both move in together until that crisis hour when the Son of man shall come in startling suddenness and angel hands shall separate the good from among the bad.49
Simpson maintained that the role of the Church is not primarily to bring about social reform, but "to gather out of the nations of this world a 'people for His name.'" Similarly, he understood the purpose of the Gospel ministry to be: "To reach the people of every race and time who are to form the bride of the Lamb, and the one great millennial host who are to welcome Jesus at His coming and share with Him the dominion of the new age which His advent is to bring."50 Through the work of evangelization, the Church will gather together the building blocks of the millennial kingdom and await the return of the Builder Himself.51
Simpson stressed that world evangelization would not only make ready a people for the King's return, but could in fact speed His coming. From Matthew 24:14 he argued passionately that Christ is ready and waiting to return as soon as the Church has fulfilled its obligation:
We know that our missionary work is not in vain, but in addition to the blessing it is to bring to the souls we lead to Christ; best of all, it is to bring Christ Himself back again. It puts in our hands the key to the bridal chamber and the lever that will hasten His return.52
The teaching of the Coming King lay as near to the heart of Simpson's theology of world evangelization as salvation and sanctification, and, like them, it also provided him with a great motivation to do missionary work: "I cannot understand how any man or woman can believe in the Lord's coming and not be a missionary, or at least committed to the work of missions with every power of his being."53
Simpson's eschatology gave shape and structure to his thinking about world evangelization and provided a basis for action to this end. He was committed to the evangelization of the whole world, and yet he was fully prepared for a limited response to the message. To bring about Christ's return the Church did not need to convert the whole world, but to call out a people whom God Himself had prepared.54
Simpson was also concerned to understand the unique light that each of the Gospels sheds on the Great Commission. Matthew demonstrates concern for nations rather than individuals (Matthew 24:14 and 28:19).55 Simpson interpreted this concern as practical recognition of the problem of a limited response: the Church has a responsibility to ensure that all parts of the world have at least the chance to respond to Christ's saving love.56
This great commission has never yet been fully realized. It contemplates a world-wide evangelization so glorious and complete that no nation, nor tribe, nor tongue shall be overlooked. It calls us, especially, to look at the nations rather than the individuals of the race, and to see that the unevangelized peoples are the first objects of our care....57
Simpson responded to Matthew's concern for the nations by looking for new and neglected areas of the globe to evangelize. However, he was never so caught up with this enterprise that he failed to be concerned for individuals. In Mark's Gospel, he found the commission to individuals: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."58
From Luke's writings Simpson determined the order in which the work of world evangelization was to take place, "'to the Jew first' and the nations" (Luke 24:47; cf. Acts 1:8).59 He discovered a complementary teaching in the parable of the King's supper (Luke 14:16-24). The invited guests are people already attending the church. Those in the streets and the lanes are those unchurched in North America and Europe, and those in the hedges and highways are "the heathen and the lost" overseas.60 Finally, from the emphasis on the believers union with Christ in John's Gospel, Simpson concluded that Christians must recognize Christ Himself as the source of their power and authority in evangelism (John 20:21).61
Simpson's commitment to world evangelization stems from two overarching concerns: to bring salvation to the lost and to speed the arrival of the millennial kingdom. These constantly recur and intertwine in his writing and speaking. Underlying them is the central feature of Simpson's theology, the principle of God's saving love manifested in Christ Jesus. Yet Christ is not only Saviour but also Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King. Each of these components of the Four-Fold Gospel had its special significance for Simpson's program of world evangelization. Salvation and sanctification are necessary to and necessitate evangelization. Healing and other supernatural workings of the Spirit establish and confirm the work and the proclamation of this Gospel to every nation which will hasten the return of the Coming King.
A.B. Simpson's strategy for world evangelization flowed out of his theological understanding of mission and consisted simply of two components: preparation and execution.
Simpson believed that preparation for missions begins at home and that preparation for evangelization begins in the heart of each Christian. If the work was not being accomplished it was because Christian people had not been taking their salvation and sanctification seriously.62 For world evangelization to begin in earnest, Christians in the homeland must experience revival and recommit themselves to holy living63 and consecration.64 Only then would the power of God be unleashed throughout the world.
For Simpson, home missions and foreign missions were part of the same work--calling a people to Christ. However, he believed that the greatest need for aggressive missionary action lay overseas and that the Bride of Christ was to be truly international. As a result, the Alliance has, from the beginning, stressed overseas missions.
Simpson's ecclesiology defined the primary goal of the Church to be evangelization: "Every Christian owes it as a debt of common honesty that he shall give at least to one of the present generation of Christless men and women one chance for eternal life."65 He believed that world evangelization begins with personal evangelism, each Christian active in his own sphere of influence.66
Simpson repeatedly stressed that the responsibility for spreading the Gospel did not belong exclusively to full-time Christian workers, but to every Christian: "[The Christian] is not obedient unless he is doing all in his power to send the gospel to the heathen world."67 However, one can fulfil this obligation regardless of one's vocation68 so long as one's resources and interests are focused on world evangelization.69 Simpson urged that committed people called by God from every walk of life leave their business or trade and take the gospel to the lost. However, he realized that not everyone could go. He himself, despite his clear call and great missionary zeal, had stayed behind,70 for he believed that those who "tarried by the stuff" were equal partners in the spreading of the gospel with those who went overseas.
Those who stayed in the homeland could exercise their role as partners primarily through prayer and financial giving. Only with the support of flourishing local churches, like the one at Antioch in New Testament times, could Alliance missions hope to succeed. For Simpson, this sort of cooperative arrangement was the only biblical model for the missionary enterprise.71
Simpson gave prayer a prominent role in the missionary enterprise of the Alliance, calling it "our greatest spiritual power."72 He believed that evangelism was God's work and that only through constant prayer would the human activity of proclaiming the gospel indeed remain God's work.73 Prayer ensures that the proper workers are raised up, that funds will be available to send them and that they will be empowered by the Spirit to do the work given them.74
As far as financial giving is concerned, Simpson believed that American businessmen had gained wealth and power with a divine purpose.75 He contended that if the United States and the other wealthy nations of Christendom were to stop squandering their great wealth and use it for its true purpose, the evangelization of the world would be accomplished in one generation.76
Simpson also used educational means to mobilize local congregations for the task of world evangelization. Taking his inspiration from Acts 10 and 11, he concluded that as the Spirit had convinced Peter to evangelize the gentiles, so the leadership of the Alliance had to inform congregations of the plight of the lost overseas and lead them to action.77 Simpson worked tirelessly to this end. He initiated the publication of the Gospel In All Lands, began The Word, Work and World, Living Truths, and the other Alliance periodicals, and even wrote a missionary travelogue. His many speaking engagements also constantly brought the need for missions before the Church. In addition, Simpson evidently invented that unique blend of Bible Conference, camp meeting, evangelistic crusade and missionary promotion meeting that came to be know as the missionary convention.78 Simpson held such conventions across North America, calling hundreds to Christ, to deeper spiritual life and to a commitment to world evangelization.
The final stage in Simpson's strategy of preparation for evangelization was to determine which areas of the world to evangelize.79 Simpson used his many contacts with missionary associations80 and relied on the advice of missions specialists as a basis for choosing the fields of greatest need and greatest opportunity. He refused to build on another's foundation, preferring to evangelize the, as yet, unevangelized. This was the essence of what he called "aggressive Christianity," which continued alongside the docile variety that prevailed during his day.81 Moreover, because his eschatology promised the return of Christ when every nation had heard, he was constantly looking for those areas and peoples that had not yet heard the gospel.
Once the Alliance had selected a target area, it studied the condition, customs and needs of the people in the target area to determine a plan of evangelistic attack. Simpson kept detailed statistical records on unevangelized peoples from New York City to the ends of the earth. Thus, whenever he undertook an evangelistic campaign in New York City, he knew exactly where the greatest need lay and planned his activities to meet it.82 Careful preparation, both at home and in the foreign field, were necessary if God's human agents in the work of world evangelization were to do their part.
In implementing his plan for world evangelization, Simpson revealed the practical man behind the visionary. Under his leadership, the Alliance movement spread across North America and became the base of operations for the work overseas. He organized both the home and overseas works according to the same principles.
Simpson's theology of world evangelization began with the saving love of God reaching out to lost man. His practice of world evangelization began at exactly the same place. Although he rejected the Social Gospel, Simpson could see the benefits of work to alleviate poverty. Therefore, he was actively involved among the poor in New York and sponsored agricultural services, orphanages, schools and medical facilities overseas. However, in so doing, he was not intending to change society but to change the lives of men and women:
We are not called to a life of protest, to denounce evil and talk about righteousness. We are called to teach the children of God...the divine way of overcoming sin, the power of grace which God has revealed to us that will break the power of the law of sin and death.83
Simpson continued to rely on the "foolishness of preaching"; preaching alone could give men and women the chance for salvation and preaching alone would hasten Christ's return to earth. "Our work is to tell the simple story of His life, death and resurrection, and to preach the Gospel in its purity."84
Simpson considered love to be the first principle of Christ's life and believed that His ambassadors should have it as the driving force behind their own work. With this in mind, he rented theatres and abandoned buildings in unsavory neighborhoods in an effort to identify with and to reach the people in North America who had been ignored by established churches. He recommended this same principle to his workers overseas: "If [we] can better reach China by wearing Chinese dress and living in Chinese houses, [we] give up the customs and comforts of civilization that [we] may gain some."85
Simpson also managed to meet the need for both intensive and extensive effort in missions.86 Alliance work was extensive in its attempt to proclaim the gospel to every nation and intensive in providing for the long-term nurture of converts. Simpson sought to take a balanced approach to evangelization because, as we have seen, he considered the call to evangelize the nations and the call to evangelize individuals to be the essential components of the Great Commission. Moreover, these two emphases corresponded with his concern that believers take Christ as their Sanctifier as well as Saviour.
Simpson had a strong aversion to institutionalism and advocated simple and inexpensive methods of advancing the Gospel. 87 However, his commitment to planning and field research indicate that he did not believe in sacrificing orderliness for simplicity. At the same time, he had no fear that a well-administered organization would hinder his workers from relying on the spontaneous working of the Holy Spirit.88 He simply sought an institutional framework that could lay the ground work for evangelization without making it top-heavy or unresponsive to the directives of the Spirit.
Simpson was able to devise such a framework because he understood evangelism to be the responsibility of the whole Church, not just one group or denomination. Thus he had the freedom to work in conjunction, rather than in competition with other outreach organizations.89 In any event, he did not intend to create a denomination, but rather an interdenominational movement90 of independent fellowships dedicated to living the deeper truths of Christ and to evangelization. To ensure the development of independent churches in North America and indigenous churches overseas, Simpson insisted on self-supporting local churches, training for new converts, and strong, capable local leadership.91
Simpson extended the principle of sacrificial giving92 to Alliance branches overseas. He hoped, in so doing, to encourage new churches to mature in their responsibilities to God. Once they became self-supporting, such churches would be able to release funds for the further promotion of the Gospel. Simpson also introduced a new concept in funding missions. Although the Alliance was truly a "faith mission," Simpson believed that missionaries would be wasting both time and resources in trying to raise their own support. For this reason, he initiated a system of living allowances by which missionaries were to be paid according to need on the field rather than on the basis of skill, ability or experience.93
To train the "aggressive Christians" needed for the evangelization of the world, Simpson established the Missionary Training School in his Gospel Tabernacle in New York.94 He also established Bible Schools overseas to train local Christians.95 He placed a premium on local leadership, as we have already seen, and insisted that the North American pattern be duplicated overseas "Native assistants, especially, should be afforded all possible help and encouragement; as they become able, they should be allowed to bear responsibility, and the element of foreign teaching, pastoral care, and supervision be gradually withdrawn."96 This measure, more than any other, has ensured the development under the Alliance of indigenous independent churches overseas.
Simpson's descriptions of the peoples with whom Alliance missions worked contain the colonialist and paternalistic vocabulary that characterized the age of imperialism. Although modern Christians attuned to the present North/South debate and the contemporary language of international relations will find him offensive at this point, Simpson's brand of paternalism with its commitment to the building of indigenous churches was healthier than that of most of his contemporaries. While colonial governors and the majority of Protestant missions hesitated to give any real responsibility to nationals, Simpson insisted that Christians overseas take responsibility for an enterprise that lay close to his heart. Thus Simpson's theological understanding of the need for world evangelization and his commitment to evangelism as an activity of the entire Church ensured that his followers spread a Gospel devoid of many of the cultural accretions that Western missions tended to include in their presentations. Alliance missionaries were not to establish permanent mission stations, but to develop indigenous churches. As the church matured, the missionaries were to train local people to take their place. This released missionaries to penetrate as yet unreached communities.97
A.B. Simpson dedicated his life to God at seventeen years of age, and from that time was willing to follow God's direction. That willingness led him to experience in his own life the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit and the healing of his body, which were to form such a vital part of his message. Simpson was led by these experiences, first to vigorous efforts for evangelization in North America, and then to create an independent movement dedicated to this task around the world.
Simpson's thinking developed as he was actively engaged in pastoral and outreach work. A combination of significant experiences, careful study and an exceptional mind created a theology that was ideally suited to the work to which Simpson felt called. His theology demanded that the church fulfill Christ's mandate for world evangelization before His return. Simpson's goal was to help mobilize every member of the Church of Christ to be actively involved to this end.
Simpson's theological insights and organizational ability have bequeathed a healthy legacy to the Christian and Missionary Alliance. The Alliance is, in fact, a worldwide alliance of Christian individuals and congregations working to build Christ's Church. As Simpson required, the result of evangelization is not merely a head count of converts, but believers living holy lives and committed to service. The continuing Alliance commitment to building strong congregations and leaders engaged in the global task stands, more than anything else, as a tribute to Albert Benjamin Simpson.
* From Birth of a Vision, ed. David Hartzfeld and Charles Nienkirchen (His Dominion Supplement No. 1, 1986), pp. 195-218.
1. A.W. Tozer, Wingspread: Albert B. Simpson--A Study in Spiritual Altitude (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1943), p. 12.
2. Simpson, account of his conversion is recorded by A.E. Thompson in The Life of A.B. Simpson (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1920), pp. 13-23.
3. Ibid., pp. 16-17.
4. Ibid., p. 44.
5. A.B. Simpson, "A Story of Providence," Living Truths 6 (March 1907): 150-151. (Hereafter cited as "Providence.")
6. Thompson, Life of A.B. Simpson, p. 65.
7. Simpson expresses this view rather strongly in an editorial in Living Truths 2 (June 1903): 299.
8. Tozer, Wingspread, p. 66.
9. "Providence," p. 150.
10. Tozer, Wingspread, p. 68.
11. Ibid., p. 79.
12. Ibid., p. 81.
13. Simpson wrote a solemn covenant with God on this occasion just as he had at his conversion. Thompson records this in his Life of A.B. Simpson, pp. 75-76.
14. Tozer, Wingspread, p. 135.
15. "The Gospel Tabernacle," The Word, Work and World 3 (March 1883): 45 (hereafter cited as WWW).
16. "Providence," pp. 152-153.
17. For an account of an organizational meeting planning strategy for tent ministries, see: "Tent Work in New York City," Living Truths 6 (June 1907): 345-352.
18. A summary of the current ministries at Alliance Branches was recorded in each issue of WWW. See for example: WWW 9 (special no., 1887): 84, for a view of the range of activities Simpson oversaw.
19. This theme is expanded by Simpson in "Christ, Our Model, Motive and Motive Power," Living Truths 2 (May 1903): 245-257. (Hereafter cited as "Our Model.") See esp. p. 249.
20. This is a favorite usage of Simpson's. For his most systematic treatment of it, see: A.B. Simpson, "Aggressive Christianity," The Christian and Missionary Alliance Weekly 23 (September 23, 1899): 260-262. (Hereafter cited as "Aggressive Christianity.")
21. A.B. Simpson, "Scriptural Principles of Missions," The Alliance Weekly 45 (March 4, 1916): 357. (Hereafter cited as "Scriptural Principles.")
22. See A.B. Simpson, "Partnership with God," in The King's Business (New York: The Word, Work and World Publishing Company, 1886), pp. 80-89.
23. A.B. Simpson, "Distinctive Teaching," The Word, Work and World 9 (July 1998): 1-5. (Hereafter cited as "Teachings.")
24. "Aggressive Christianity," p. 260.
25. "Teachings," pp.2,3.
26. Ibid., p. 3.
27. Two collections of such sermons have been published. Evangelistic Addresses (New York: Christian Alliance Publishing Co., 1926), and Salvation Sermons(New York: Christian Alliance Publishing Co., 1925).
28. A.B. Simpson, "Practical Consecration in Relation to the Evangelization of the World," The Christian Alliance Foreign Missionary Weekly 13 (July 13, 1894): 28. (Hereafter cited as "Practical Consecration.")
29. "Our Model,"p. 255.
30. A.B. Simpson, "The Last Evangel," AW 46 (August 26, 1916):340. (Hereafter cited as "Last Evangel.")
31. A.B. Simpson, "Our Trust," in The Challenge of Missions (New York: Christian Alliance Publishing Co., 1926), p. 58. (Hereafter cited as "Our Trust.")
32. A.B. Simpson, "The Ministering Church," in The King's Business, (New York: The Word, Work and World Publishing Co., 1886) pp. 142-143.
33. Ibid., p. 141.
34. Ibid., p. 141.
35. A.B. Simpson, "The Modern Evangelistic Problem and Its Solution," Living Truths 4 (September 1905): 539-544. (Hereafter cited as "Evangelistic Problems.")
36. "Aggressive Christianity," p. 260.
37. A.B. Simpson, "Motives to Service," in The King's Business (New York: The Word, Work and World Publishing Co., 1886), p. 187. (Hereafter cited as "Motives.")
38. A.B. Simpson, "The New Testament Pattern of Missions," Missionary Messages (New York: The Christian Alliance Publishing Col, 1925), p. 26 (Hereafter cited as "Pattern.")
39. A.B. Simpson, "Power for Service," in The King's Business (New York: The Word, Work and World Publishing Co., 1886), p. 336.
40. A.B. Simpson, "Pentecost and Missions," The Christian Alliance Foreign Missionary Weekly 11 (July 14, 1893): 23. (Hereafter cited as "Pentecost.")
41. "Scriptural Principles," p. 357.
42. "Last Evangel," p. 339.
43. "Pattern," pp. 30-31.
44. Ibid., p. 28.
45. "Practical Consecration," p. 29.
46. "Patterns," p. 29-34.
47. This theme arises in many places throughout his writings. He was convinced that the resources of his generation could fulfil the mandate to preach to every nation and the return of Christ would follow immediately. See: "Our Trust," p. 61; "Pattern," p. 21; and "Teachings," pp. 2, 3.
48. This special nature of his time is treated in a two-part series entitled "The Kingdom and the Times," The Christian and Missionary Alliance Weekly 35 (October 22, 1910: 57-58, 62; and 35 (October 29, 1910): 73-74, 78. (Hereafter cited as "The Kingdom.")
49. A.B. Simpson, "Evolution or Revolution," Living Truths 4 (June 1904): 308-309.
50. "Our Trust," p. 62.
51. A.B. Simpson, "The Lord's Coming and Missions," The Challenge of Missions (New York: Christian Alliance Publishing Co., 1926), p. 48. (Hereafter cited at "Lord's Coming.")
52. Ibid., p. 55.
53. "Pattern," p. 37.
54. "Lord's Coming," p. 53.
55. "Scriptural Principles," p. 356.
56. "Lord's Coming," pp. 52ff.
57. "Pattern," p. 24.
58. "Scriptural Principles," p. 356.
60. "Pattern," pp. 25-26.
61. "Scriptural Principles," p. 357.
62. A.B. Simpson, "Tarrying by the Stuff," The Christian Alliance and Foreign Weekly 11 (October 27, 1893): 259. (Hereafter cited as "Tarrying.")
63. A.B. Simpson, "An Ancient Pattern for Modern Christian Workers," The Christian and Missionary Alliance Weekly 23 (June 10, 1899): 22.
64. A.B. Simpson, "The Coming Revival," Living Truths 4 (February 1905): 70. (Hereafter cited as "Coming Revival.")
65. "Our Trust," pp. 64-65.
66. Simpson's espousal of what today may be called "Friendship Evangelism" can be found in a number of places in his work. See esp. "Coming Revival," pp. 73-74, and Heart Messages for Sabbaths at Home (New York: Christian Alliance Publishing co., n.d.), pp. 94-97.
67. A. B. Simpson, "Mission Work," The World, Work and World 9 (special no., 1887): 104. (Hereafter cited as "Mission Work.")
68. A.B. Simpson, "The King's Business," in The King's Business (New York: The Word, Work and World Publishing Co., 1886), p. 283.
69. Ibid., p. 291.
70. Ibid., p. 107.
71. "Scriptural Principles," pp. 357-358.
72. "The Kingdom," p. 57.
73. "Pattern," p. 21.
74. See "Tarrying," p. 361 and A.B. Simpson, "The Ministry of Prayer," in The King's Business (New York: The Word, Work and World Publishing Co., 1886), pp. 53ff.
75. A.B. Simpson, "The Ministry of Giving," in The King's Business (New York: The Word, Work and World Publishing Co., 1886), p. 129. (Hereafter cited as "The Ministry of Giving.")
76. "Mission Work," p. 107.
77. "Scriptural Principles," p. 357.
78. Tozer, Wingspread, p. 96.
79. "Evangelistic Problem," p. 39.
80. Robert B. Ekvall, "A Missionary Statesman, Part II," The Alliance Weekly 72 (July 10, 1937): 436.
81. "Pattern," p. 30.
82. A.B. Simpson, "The Religious Wants of New York," The Word, Work and World 4 (January 1882): 26-28.
83. "The Kingdom," p. 58.
84. "Pattern," p. 30.
85. "Our Trust," pp. 67-68.
86. Robert B. Ekvall, "A Missionary Statesman, Part I," The Alliance Weekly 72 (May 22, 1937): 326.
87. "Mission Work," p. 108.
88. "Coming Revival," p. 74.
89. "Our Trust," pp. 58-59.
90. Editorial, The Word, Work and World 9 (special no., 1887): 110-111.
91. Robert B. Ekvall, "A Missionary Statesman, Part III," The Alliance Weekly 72 (August 28, 1937): 437. (Hereafter cited as "Missionary Statesman, Part III.")
92. This theme is common in Simpson's work. For a representative address on the subject, see: "The Ministry of Giving."
93. "Missionary Statesman, Part III," p. 436.
94. Simpson describes his motivations in beginning the Missionary Training School in the context of his other activities during the early 1880s in "Providence," esp. p. 157.
95. "Missionary Statesman, Part III," p. 437.
97. Robert Ekvall's explanation of Simpson's policy in this respect is most helpful. [Simpson] summed up the underlying principle in a unique exposition of the essential impermanence of the mission as opposed to the essential permanence of the local church. The natural tendency of any form of activity is to make certain its own continuance, and its first concern is to perpetuate itself. And so with much of mission activity, but the declared ambition of Alliance missions was to be merely a passing phase in the development and growth of the native church. The mission of each field was permanent only in a relative sense. The time limit of missionary occupation was not to be predetermined by the life-span of the missionary, the resources of the society, or even the idea of continuance until the Lord's return, but would be definitely reached when the local church became a properly functioning independent church, having its own fellowship with other such churches in the same field. Thus when the church should become permanent, the impermanence of the mission was to be revealed. "Missionary Statesman, Part III," p. 437.