Evangelist Charles Finney came to Rochester, New York in September 1830 to fill the pulpit of Third Presbyterian Church. The congregation was without a pastor and in danger of disbanding. Originally Finney and his team had declined the invitation believing that infighting between the three churches in town, the lack of a pastor and the low moral condition of the city made it a very unpromising field of labor. Especially considering the other invitations they had.
However the Holy Spirit Challenged him.
“What are the reasons that deter you from going to Rochester?”
Finney listed them quickly, yet the Spirit of God challenged him
“Are these good reasons? Certainly you are needed at Rochester all the more because of these.”
Finney surprised his team that following morning when he informed them they would take the canal boat west to Rochester. This trip he was joined by his family and friends Daniel Nash, and Mr. Clary,
Finney’s strategy for winning a city was simply. Prevailing prayer, and powerful preaching. In the years prior to Rochester, Finney had perfected this style and become an effective soul winner.
Upon Arriving, Nash and Clary sought a room for rent to begin a prayer meeting. They shut themselves in that room and began to intercede for the city. Nash and Clary would rarely be seen outside, they remained in that self imposed cell where they were overcome with the spirit of prayer. They would fast for days, prostrate themselves upon the floor, and through much weeping and wailing, make intercession for the city. Finney relied on the power of prayer. Prayer was the foundation for his ministry and the key to success.
Finney began meeting with some influential people in town and setting meeting times. He would preach every evening and three times every Sunday in the wood building that had been constructed by third church.
During the day he would meet would those who were concerned about the state of their own souls. One of the first salvations in the city was won this way. A woman of great influence and social class came to visit him. She was anxious about her own soul yet unwilling to give up her worldly ways. After meeting with Finney, she become greatly convicted and surrendered her life to Jesus. She was gloriously saved. This high society woman began to invite her friends and families to come join the meetings and visit with Finney, Her influence caused the meetings to quickly grow.
Finney was always striving to perfect his method of soul winninng. Here in Rochester he began to employ the “Anxious Seat” for the first time. He would preach against sin, holding nothing back. He would then clear the front seats of the sanctuary and ask all who where anxious for their souls to come sit in those seats. There he and other ministers would pray with each and every individual until they felt the victory of salvation.
In fact, Finney’s “New Measures” as they were called, had been greatly criticized to this point, but here… in Rochester, they results spoke for themselves. The criticism and persecution he once faced, faded and this became a pattern that would repeated long into the 20th century.
Finney’s revivals sparked a Great Awakening and unified the country around the Bible and the power of prayer. His teachings on Christian perfectionism inspired the Holiness Movement of the latter half of the nineteenth century and the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements in the twentieth century.
Study revival history, look to the trail of fire and you will see that the pattern has always been the same. Revival does not come by accident or happenstance. It may come suddenly, but never accidentally.
It’s time that we once again begin to prevail in prayer, and get back to preaching the gospel. These are two most effective tools that the church employs. They have taken a back seat in recent decades and our cities have paid the price. A hurting city is outcome of a weakened church. However, they need not hurt any longer.
Finney almost missed out on Rochester because he first focused on the problems facing the city. However what he thought was many reasons not to come… were all the reasons to come. I imagine there are just as many reasons in your city as well.This entry was posted in Trail Of Fire