“Friends everywhere, I ask you to pray as I preach,” said Charles Fuller. “In all my ministry never have I felt the conflict of Satanic powers as I do now when I stand before the microphone, preaching the shed blood of Christ as sinful man’s only way of approach to God.”
Charles Fuller’s call to Gospel ministry began with hearing Ephesians 1:8, preached by Paul Rader in 1917. “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,” Paul writes, “in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” After that day at the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, Charles Fuller was never the same.
Powerful Preachers From The Past: Charles E. Fuller
As you might know, the era of the late 1800s to the 1940s saw a number of American evangelists and the beginning of what would later be called Fundamentalism. Charles Fuller (1887-1968) is part of a movement to reintroduce people to the truths–the fundamentals–of having a relationship with Jesus and adhering to the Word of God. It came on the heels on heels of people like D.L. Moody (1837-1899), founder of Moody Church. Notable people included former baseball star Billy Sunday (1862-1935) who called people to repentance through revival campaigns that numbered more than 250 and amassed an enormous media following. A little later on, in 1949, Billy Graham holds the Los Angeles Crusades and launches to celebrity status. We know his legacy well, preaching to more than 215 million people in 185 countries.*
Charles Fuller’s work is notable. He became well known for The Old Fashioned Revival Hour, a radio program that ran from 1937 up until his death in 1968. By the 1940s, more than 650 radio stations around the country aired his program, carried by CBS and ABC radio. Those who tuned in heard great hymns sung by a quartet followed by a short message from Fuller.
In the 1920s, as pastor of Calvary Church in Placentia, California, Fuller was not too keen about radio. It might be odd for us to realize, but radio was not seen as a particularly good place for the Gospel to be presented. In a 1923 article titled “Restless over Radio”, a friend of Fuller’s listed several reasons to take precautions:
(1) it would give some one preacher too much prominence
(2) it is costly and draws money away from other Christian enterprises
(3) it creates a “stay-at-home” habit
(4) it deprives a listener of that personal contact with the preacher himself
(5) decisions made for Christ through radio preaching cannot be followed up as well as those made in a church
(6) when radio is used for all kinds of commercial purposes and amusements, it is questionable whether the Gospel should also use it
(7) should the Gospel be preached over the air waves when Satan is the prince of the power of the air?
Pragmatics won the day, as the article concludes with a poignant question about radio, a question that can also be applied to other mediums of communications like the Internet: “Should we not avail ourselves of this newest agency for broadcasting the Gospel, not allowing it to interfere with our emphasizing the obligation to assemble together, and recognizing the fact that the radio — with all of its advantages — is also another menace to the spread of the Gospel and the saving of souls?”
Here are two links that will help you better see The Old Fashioned Revival Hour:
In 1947, Fuller founded Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, hiring young and soon to be great theologians like Carl F. Henry who served as first editor of Christianity Today, a magazine founded by Billy Graham to be a counter voice to The Christian Century, a longstanding mainline Protestant publication. As you might know, Fuller Seminary was similarly a response to liberal seminaries. It became a training ground for evangelists and missionaries and is now among the largest seminaries in the world.
Charles Fuller is a person who God mightily used to usher in new ways to hear the Gospel and find a relationship with a personal Savior (a term he made common). He allowed God to take him into new ventures with wisdom and careful footing. If you read his biography “Give the Winds A Mighty Voice”, you’ll see the steps he took to build a presence on the radio and in his seminary work. It was incremental and thoughtful.
Let us be willing and ready for God’s use. Let us be disciplined and well-read in the decisions we make as leaders. Let us live out this quote from Fuller: “To know the Word of God, to live the Word of God, to preach the Word, to teach the Word, is the sum of all wisdom, the heart of all Christian service.”
*It’s also worth noting that in 1906, Los Angeles saw the pentecostal movement begin with the leadership of William Seymour during the Azusa Street Revival. Although this is slightly different in influence and message, it remains a founding moment for a movement that desires to see the Holy Spirit’s work in people’s lives.