James A. Harding (1848-1922), Kentucky evangelist and co-founder of the Nashville Bible School (now Lipscomb University), is a fascinating character. Passionate, opinionated, and faith-filled, he offers a vibrant vision for the mission of the church for both his time and ours. Below are two of my favorite (among many) quotes.
Both illustrate the importance of discipleship for Harding and his skepticism of crusading revivalism. He made these observations after spending twelve years as an itinerant evangelist from Michigan to Florida and Canada to Texas. They say something about his understanding of soteriology, the church and discipleship. I have highlighted some key phrases.
I have observed that those speakers as a rule secure the greatest number of accessions who dwell most upon escaping hell and getting into heaven, and least upon the importance of leading lives of absolute consecration to the Lord; in other words their converts are much more anxious to be saved than they are to follow Christ. (James A. Harding, Gospel Advocate 27 [14 September 1887], 588).
Our greatest trouble now is, it seems to me, a vast unconverted membership. A very large percent of the church members among us seem to have very poor conceptions of what a Christian ought to be. They are brought into the church during these high-pressure protracted meetings, and they prove to be a curse instead of a blessing. They neglect prayer, the reading of the Bible, and the Lord’s day meetings, and, of course, they fail to do good day by day as they should. Twelve years of continuous travel among the churches have forced me to the sad conclusion that a very small number of the nominal Christians are worthy of the name. (James A. Harding, Gospel Advocate 27 [9 Feb 1887], 88.)