The current economic crisis has got a lot of people running scared. I contend that as unemployment rises and people become more worried, our opportunity as followers of Jesus has never been greater. My friend Os Hillman said it well in a letter
he just sent in which he recounts another crisis in our nation’s history:
In 1857, America’s secular and religious conditions combined to bring about a financial crash. The third great panic in American history swept the speculative wealth away. Thousands of merchants were forced to the wall as banks failed, and railroads went into bankruptcy. Factories were shut down and vast numbers thrown out of employment. New York City alone had 30,000 idle men. These conditions set the stage for God’s “change agent” to fulfill his purpose.
The hearts of people were thoroughly weaned from speculation and uncertain gain, while hunger and despair stared them in the face. On 1st July, 1857, a quiet and zealous business man named Jeremiah Lanphier took up an appointment as a City Missionary in downtown New York.
This Wall Street businessman began to invite others to join him in a noonday prayer-meeting, to be held on Wednesdays once a week. At twelve noon, on September 23rd, 1857 the door was opened and the faithful Lanphier took his seat to await the response to his invitation. Five minutes went by. No one appeared. The businessman paced the room in a conflict of fear and faith. Ten minutes elapsed. Still no one came. Fifteen minutes passed. Lanphier was yet alone. Twenty minutes; twenty-five; thirty; and then at 12.30 p.m., a step was heard on the stairs, and the first person appeared, then another, and another, and another, until six people were present and the prayer meeting began. On the following Wednesday, October 7th, there were forty! In the first week of October 1857, it was decided to hold a meeting daily instead of weekly.
Within six months, 10,000 business people were gathering daily for prayer in New York, and within two years, 1 million converts were added to the American churches.
Could this current economic crisis be the greatest opportunity for the church in the last 150 years? Let me encourage you to be ever more sensitive to those people around you.