Not all coincidences or accidents can be taken as guidance. In fact, trying to ‘read’ guidance into dramatic physical occurrences can easily fall into the category of superstition (said Jesus in Luke 13).\r\n\r\nBut sometimes the dramas of life can lead in a clear direction.\r\n\r\nSo it was in the story of Arthur Tappan Pierson, a New Yorker, born in 1837 and named after his father’s employer. He was a bright student, language scholar and Phi Beta Kappa. He grew to be a powerful orator and was a pastor of great and large churches around America, and accidentally also in England, where he had been invited by his friend C H Spurgeon to help with preaching duties at the Metropolitan Tabernacle during the latter’s illness. A Presbyterian not a Baptist, Pierson found himself ‘in post’ when Spurgeon died.\r\n\r\nPierson was the one of the first members of the YMCA, and spoke at it’s first conference in Northfield in 1886 where he coined the phrase “the evangelisation* of the world in this generation”. From this conference 100 men dedicated themselves to overseas missions and became the founding core of the Student Volunteer Movement. By the time of Pierson’s death in 1911 over 5,000 Student Volunteers had sailed to mission fields abroad.\r\n\r\nBut what about the sign?\r\n\r\nWhen Pierson was 39 years old he was a prominent leader in his denomination, a well published writer of articles, sermons and poems, a powerful speaker, and successful parish minister. But he was dissatisfied with his successful ministry in high profile churches because he could not reach the poor in his local city, let alone the un-evangelised populations around the world.\r\n\r\nOn March 24th 1876 Pierson met with around sixty of his parishioners to pray – not in the church building – that the obstacles that held his church back from reaching the poor be removed.\r\n\r\nWhile they prayed, and without their knowing, their beautiful church building was burning down. Everything was destroyed, right down to the desk where Pierson stored his Bible notes. Only, the Bible notes survived.\r\n\r\nPierson took it as a sign. The church hired the local opera house as a meeting room and in the next fifteen months hundreds of people came to faith under his new style of preaching – simple, direct, challenging. He never looked back from his new focus on evangelism and mission theory.\r\n\r\nComfortable yet Dissatisfied? Talented, Equipped, but Ineffective? Pray. Invite others. Maybe even pray for the church to burn down! (Metaphorically)\r\n\r\nAnd if you have the chance, read the story of Arthur Tappan Pierson.\r\n\r\n* NOTE: spell checker want to put Liberalisation instead of Evangelisation … in a strange way, maybe not far from the truth?