Wednesday, October 23rd would have been the 123rd Birthday of Henrietta Mears. In commemoration of the Miss Mears’ impact and contribution to ministry, I thought it was only appropriate to share a passage of scripture that she often cited.
In Joshua 1: 2,3 God says to Joshua:
“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.”
Henrietta Mears led Hollywood’s First Presbyterian Church Sunday School from 1928-1963, founded Gospel Light Press (1933), Forest Home Camp (1938), and GLINT. I don’t think that Henrietta Mears would have wanted for us to eulogize her achievements or her memory—as the passage says “Moses my servant is dead.” In the same way that Moses vacated his position as the visionary leader of the people of Israel and passed it on to Joshua, so did Henrietta Mears. We cannot, as glorious as our past is, we cannot relive our past. But it can inform and inspire our future. It must inform and inspire our future. Although Moses was dead, Joshua would now enter the land that God had promised and take it. Taking the land wasn’t some sort of “name it and claim it” process, it was real work. While God fought many battles for the greatly outnumbered and untrained soldiers of the nation of Israel, they were still required to take the land.
Miss Mears took this passage literally. When she decided that the resort that would then become Forest Home was what she wanted—people thought her dream was impossible. But, no one advised Miss Mears except God. She believed that a training ground was needed to train the next generation of leaders that would take the Gospel around the world. In spite of how impossible the dream seemed, she took the land. She went out and walked the property and asked God for every part of Forest Home her foot touched. Through the prayers and gifts of 100’s of people, Forest Home was purchased for $30,000 in 1938. It seemed that Miss Mears got what she wanted.
Today, I believe for the organizations that Henrietta Mears founded and the church in general, that God will give us “every place that the sole of [our feet] will tread upon”. However, I believe that it will require work. And, I also think it requires a return to the principles that Mears’ vision and leadership were based upon. Don Williams in a message to the College Department, in June of 1963, summarized the core of Henrietta Mears’ vision as four things:
- a Christ-centered Gospel
- a Bible-centered church
- a Mission-centered vision
- a People-centered ministry
Here are some quotes from Henrietta Mears on each of these.
On a Christ-centered Gospel:
Growing youth is a vine seeking a trellis. If you do not strike a pole around which a vine can climb, and to which it can cling, then it will trail along the ground. This is just what is happening to youth today. They reach out the tendrils of their senses and desires, and finding nothing to lift them up they crawl along the ground. Strike the Lord Jesus Christ as a stake in the midst of young life, and see how this Presence will lift the child. His personality will become an integrated one around this great Savior and Lifter of men. Put a child’s face between your hands and lift it heavenward. Let him see the Savior “whom to know aright is life everlasting.” Let the Light of the Word shine into His heart.
[We] must continually point pupils to Christ and the necessity of a commitment to him. Christ says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” When we teach Him we teach everything. We will never be satisfied until we see young hearts and lives committed, not to his teachings, but to Him.
On a Bible-centered church:
Do you teach the Word of God? The Bible is the living seed that brings life. We are born, fed, enlightened, equipped for service, and kept by the Word of God. Youth must know how to use this Chart and Compass. Are you presenting the Word to each life and heart. Other things may be good, but this is the best. Always specialize in THE BEST!
We have a statement that the Word is the seed. This is what we, as teachers, will sow. God has given us His Word but there is a false impression that all of God’s Word can be adapted to every age. I believe the Bible clearly teaches that the Word contains “milk” for babes, “bread” for youth, and “strong meat” for men. It is not all for everyone. I believe it would be impossible to adapt the teaching in Revelation, for instance, to a six-year-old. . . . So there are portions of God’s Word beyond the realm of the experience of the child, but there is much that is within his grasp so that nothing need be substituted for the Bible in teaching him. The Seed is the Word; this we know. But good seed can be lost on the wrong soil.
We know there is nothing wrong with our textbook, the Bible. It must be in the way we have presented the great facts and teaching of the Word. When we consider the reasons for the tragic lack of interest that exists in the study of the Scriptures, we will have to admit that we have committed a spiritual crime. We have made children say, “When I don’t have to, I’ll never go back to Sunday school. There’s nothing there for me.”
On Mission-centered Vision:
Do you enlist for Service? Are you helping youth find God’s plan for their lives. We let them go out on an uncharted sea. Let each one know that he is accountable to God for his life, and that the Lord has a place for him in this world. What is more exciting than finding God’s plan in one’s life? Nothing gives greater satisfaction than the sense of building according to that plan. Several hundred young people from our college department have found God’s plan for their lives and are today engaged in full-time church vocations both at home and abroad. But hundreds more have found that God’s will had led them into professions and business and the ministry of teaching. Christ has all commissioned officers in His service.
Our duty is to enlist lives for the Lord and Master, and every opportunity is seized to accomplish this all important task.
We are training young people for world leadership in answer to Christ’s command, that they should “Go in to all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
On People-centered Ministry:
A good curriculum should be Christ-centered and child-concerned; the Bible should be our only textbook. We believe that the child’s life experiences must be based upon the foundation of God’s infallible Word. We must give him facts so that he will know how to build his life correctly.
Good curricula are written by those not only acquainted with the Bible but with the characteristics and need of the child himself. It is just as necessary for the farmer to know his soil as it is for him to know his seed if he is to gather a good crop. So the teacher must know the child’s heart in order to be effective. It is important to remember that you are teaching children not materials.
The things that Henrietta Mears built ministry upon haven’t changed. I believe future ministry still rests upon these four ideas. What do you think?
Guest post by Damon DeLillo; damondelillo.com