Thursday, October 20, 2011
We've been reading the biography of evangelist Billy Sunday during our family worship time at night, and it's been an interesting insight into one of the popular "revivalists" during the early part of the 20th century (although, obviously, no one can plan a "revival". Only the Holy Spirit brings a genuine revival in a believer's heart, in God's perfect timing. But all the same, it's good to read about folks like this who make up the tapestry of Christian history). The story is entertaining and lively in describing how Billy was a popular baseball player-turned-evangelist, and how he translated his baseball player flair into his evangelical revivals. Situated in the Prohibition era, the bio describes Billy's crusade against the alcohol industry, having himself struggled with drinking during his time as a baseball player. The description of his mannerisms and methodologies are colorful, describing Billy jumping about on stages and calling folks to follow the "sawdust trail", but his theology can, at times, be lacking (e.g. using a revival tent as a vehicle to encourage men to go off to fight in the first World War?) Likewise, there's a crudeness of some of his message content, often resorting to using goofy slang and childish name-calling, versus simply preaching the message of Christ (Gal. 3:16). Sadly, as the book nears the close we learn that due to Billy (and his wife) spending long times on the road away from his children, leaving them at home in the care of a housekeeper, that ultimately all of his four children died early, with two of his boys sinking into alcohol that ultimately took their lives (sadly ironic, in light of Billy's crusades against liquor). If anything, that's probably the principle message I took away from this text: while evangelism and ministry is important, don't pursue this at the cost of your obligation to shepherding your own family.