Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Ministry of Charles Taze Russell

The ministry of Brother Russell reminds me of today's text about the apostle Paul. He made the preaching work his *main vocation* by devoting his entire life to it, (all his time, assets, and energy). Even a brief overview of his life shows that his ministry was truly a labor of love. And like the apostle Paul, despite all kinds of opposition, Br Russell never quit or slowed down...even up until the time of his death, when he passed away on a train headed towards the next stop on his speaking tour.

(photo on pg 226 of Isaiah's Prophecy Vol. 1)

(The following info is a brief overview of Brother Russell's life, from pg 69 of the Revelation - It's Grand Climax At Hand! book)

Taking the lead among these awakening Christians was Charles Taze Russell, who, in the early 1870’s, formed a Bible study class in Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, U.S.A. When he started his search for truth, Russell was in partnership with his father and on his way to becoming a millionaire. But he sold out his chain-store business interests and spent his fortune in helping to finance the publishing of God’s Kingdom in all the earth. In 1884 Russell became the first president of the corporation now known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. In 1916 he died on a train near Pampa, Texas, en route to New York, exhausted by his final preaching tour of the western United States. He set an outstanding example of storing up spiritual treasures in heaven, an example that is today followed by hundreds of thousands of self-sacrificing pioneer ministers.—Hebrews 13:7; Luke 12:33, 34; compare 1 Corinthians 9:16; 11:1.

*The info and photos below are taken from the JW Proclaimers book

(photo of a young Charles, pg 121)

A Search for Truth
C. T. Russell was born in the United States, in Allegheny (now part of Pittsburgh), Pennsylvania, on February 16, 1852. He was the second son of Joseph L. and Ann Eliza (Birney) Russell, who were Presbyterians of Scottish-Irish descent. Charles’ mother died when he was only nine years old, but from an early age, Charles was influenced by both of his religiously-minded parents. As a later associate of C. T. Russell put it, “they trained the small twig; and it grew in the direction of the Lord.” Although brought up as a Presbyterian, Charles eventually joined the Congregational Church because he preferred its views.

Young Charles was evidently quite a businessman. At just 11 years of age, he became a partner with his father in a thriving men’s clothing store. Charles enlarged the business, eventually operating a number of different stores himself. Although things went well for him in business, spiritually he was very troubled. Why was this?
Charles’ parents sincerely believed the creeds of Christendom’s churches and brought him up to accept them too. Young Charles was thus taught that God is love, yet that he had created men inherently immortal and had provided a fiery place in which he would eternally torment all except those who had been predestined to be saved. Such an idea repulsed the honest heart of teenage Charles. He reasoned: “A God that would use his power to create human beings whom he foreknew and predestinated should be eternally tormented, could be neither wise, just nor loving. His standard would be lower than that of many men.”

But young Russell was no atheist; he simply could not accept the commonly understood teachings of the churches. He explained: “Gradually I was led to see that though each of the creeds contained some elements of truth, they were, on the whole, misleading and contradictory of God’s Word.” Indeed, in the creeds of the churches, “elements of truth” were buried under a morass of pagan teachings that had infiltrated tainted Christianity during the centuries-long apostasy. Turning away from church creeds and searching for truth, Russell examined some leading Oriental religions, only to find these unsatisfying.

Russell soon came to believe that the time was near for those who served the Lord to come to a clear knowledge of His purpose. So, in 1870, fired by enthusiasm, he and a few acquaintances in Pittsburgh and nearby Allegheny got together and formed a class for Bible study. According to a later associate of Russell, the small Bible class was conducted in this manner: “Someone would raise a question. They would discuss it. They would look up all related scriptures on the point and then, when they were satisfied on the harmony of these texts, they would finally state their conclusion and make a record of it.” As Russell later acknowledged, the period “from 1870 to 1875 was a time of constant growth in grace and knowledge and love of God and his Word.”

*I'm gonna skip ahead in the story...because if not, my post will be way too long if I try to include the whole account regarding his examination of various religious doctrines, etc. -And I wanna get to the part about how he really lived his life in the same manner that Jesus and the apostles did, by putting forth the effort to take the kingdom message to the people, instead of just sitting back and letting them come to him.

(Brother Russell giving a Bible lecture, pg 53)

Although Charles Taze Russell came to be widely known for his well-advertised discourses on the Bible, his interest was not merely in large audiences but in people. Thus, shortly after he began to publish the Watch Tower in 1879, he undertook extensive traveling to visit small groups of readers of the magazine to discuss the Scriptures with them. C. T. Russell urged those who believed the precious promises of God’s Word to have a part in sharing them with other people. Those whose hearts were deeply touched by what they were learning showed real zeal in doing just that. To assist in the work, printed material was provided.

(six volumes of "Millennial Dawn" 1886-1904, pg 52)

During the following decade, Brother Russell prepared a variety of tracts that could easily be used to disseminate some of the outstanding Bible truths that had been learned. He also wrote several volumes of Millennial Dawn (later known as Studies in the Scriptures). Then he began to make personal evangelizing trips to other lands.

(Brother Russell's preaching tours in Europe from 1891-1914, map on pg 407)

Witnesses to the Most Distant Part of the Earth
Before he ascended to heaven, Jesus Christ commissioned his apostles, saying: “You will be witnesses of me . . . to the most distant part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) He had also foretold that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matthew 24:14) That work was not completed in the first century. A major part of it has been done in modern times. And the record of its accomplishment from the 1870’s to the present is truly thrilling.

Russell Travels Abroad
In 1891 he visited Canada, where enough interest had been generated since 1880 that an assembly attended by 700 could now be held in Toronto. He also traveled to Europe in 1891 to see what could be done to forward the spread of the truth there. This trip took him to Ireland, Scotland, England, many of the countries on the European continent, Russia (the area now known as Moldova), and the Middle East.

What did he conclude from his contacts on that trip? “We saw no opening or readiness for the truth in Russia . . . We saw nothing to encourage us to hope for any harvest in Italy or Turkey or Austria or Germany,” he reported. “But Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, and especially England, Ireland and Scotland, are fields ready and waiting to be harvested. These fields seem to be crying out, Come over and help us!” This was an era when the Catholic Church still forbade Bible reading, when many Protestants were forsaking their churches, and when not a few, disillusioned by the churches, were rejecting the Bible altogether.

In order to help those people who were spiritually hungry, after Brother Russell’s trip in 1891 intensified efforts were put forth to translate literature into the languages of Europe. Also, arrangements were made to print and stock literature supplies in London so that these would be more readily available for use in Britain. The British field did, indeed, prove to be ready for harvesting. By 1900, there were already nine congregations and a total of 138 Bible Students—among them some zealous colporteurs. When Brother Russell again visited Britain in 1903, a thousand gathered in Glasgow to hear him speak on “Millennial Hopes and Prospects,” 800 attended in London, and audiences of 500 to 600 in other towns.

(stops on the North American & Caribbean tour, pg 405)
C.T. Russell personally gave Bible discourses in over 300 cities (in areas indicated by the dots) in North America and the Caribbean - in many of them 10 or 15 times.

(there's a lot more detailed info in the book about how the work spread throughout many different lands, but here's a brief overview, pgs 413-414)

Opening Up the Caribbean Area
While the number of evangelizers was growing in the United States, Canada, and Europe, Bible truth was also beginning to take hold in Panama, Costa Rica, Dutch Guiana (now Suriname), and British Guiana (now Guyana) . . .
Revolution in Mexico in 1910-11 was another factor in bringing truth-hungry persons the message of God’s Kingdom. Many people fled north into the United States. There some of them came in touch with the Bible Students, learned about Jehovah’s purpose to bring lasting peace to mankind, and sent literature back into Mexico . . .
In 1913, Brother Russell himself spoke in Panama, Cuba, and Jamaica. For a public discourse that he gave in Kingston, Jamaica, two auditoriums were packed, and still some 2,000 persons had to be turned away. When the speaker said nothing about money and when no collection was taken, the press took note.

(World Preaching Tour, photo & info on pgs 419-422)

A World Tour to Further the Preaching of the Good News
A further major effort was put forth in 1911-12 to help people of the Orient. The International Bible Students Association sent a committee of seven men, headed by C. T. Russell, to examine firsthand the conditions there. Wherever they went they spoke about God’s purpose to bring blessings to mankind by means of the Messianic Kingdom. Sometimes their audience was small, but in the Philippines and in India, there were thousands . . .
After spending time in Japan, China, the Philippines, and other locations, the members of the committee logged an additional 4,000 miles [6,400 km] of travel in India. Some individuals living in India had read the Society’s literature and had written letters to express their appreciation for it as early as 1887 . . .
Before the four-month world tour by the IBSA committee was completed, Brother Russell had arranged for R. R. Hollister to be the Society’s representative in the Orient and to follow through in spreading to peoples there the message of God’s loving provision of the Messianic Kingdom. Special tracts were prepared in ten languages, and millions of these were circulated throughout India, China, Japan, and Korea by native distributors. Then books were translated into four of these languages to provide further spiritual food for those who showed interest. Here was a vast field, and much remained to be done. Yet, what had been accomplished thus far was truly amazing.

An Impressive Witness Was Given
Before the devastation of the first world war was unleashed, an extensive witness had been given worldwide. Brother Russell had made speaking trips to hundreds of cities in the United States and Canada, had undertaken repeated trips to Europe, had spoken in Panama, Jamaica, and Cuba, as well as in principal cities of the Orient. Tens of thousands of persons had personally heard his stirring Bible discourses and had observed as he publicly answered from the Scriptures questions raised by both friends and foes. Much interest was thus aroused, and thousands of newspapers in America, Europe, South Africa, and Australia regularly published Brother Russell’s sermons. Millions of books, as well as hundreds of millions of tracts and other pieces of literature in 35 languages, had been distributed by the Bible Students.
Outstanding though his role was, it was not only Brother Russell who was preaching. Others too, scattered around the globe, were uniting their voices as witnesses of Jehovah and of his Son, Jesus Christ. Those who shared were not all public speakers. They came from all walks of life, and they used every appropriate means at their disposal to spread the good news.

(newspaper sermons, pg 58)

Opening the Door of “Newspaper Gospelling”

By the end of the 19th century, the world was crisscrossed with telegraph lines. Telegraphic communication was inexpensive and fast; it revolutionized the press. News could be quickly transmitted over long distances and printed in newspapers. In the early part of the 20th century, C. T. Russell and his associates saw newspapers as an effective way of reaching large numbers of people. Russell later said: “The newspaper has become the great factor in the daily life of the civilized world.”

The December 1, 1904, issue of the Watch Tower announced that sermons by C. T. Russell were appearing in three newspapers. The next issue of the Watch Tower, under the heading “Newspaper Gospelling,” reported: “Millions of sermons have thus been scattered far and near; and some at least have done good. If the Lord wills we shall be glad to see this ‘door’ keep open, or even open still wider.” The door of “newspaper gospelling” did open still wider. In fact, by 1913 it was estimated that through 2,000 newspapers Russell’s sermons were reaching 15,000,000 readers! How, though, did Russell manage to get a weekly sermon printed even when he was traveling? Each week he telegraphed a sermon (about two newspaper columns long) to a newspaper syndicate. The syndicate, in turn, retelegraphed it to newspapers in the United States, Canada, and Europe. Russell was convinced that the Lord had pushed the door of newspaper preaching wide open. During the first decade of the 20th century, the Bible message that Russell and his associates proclaimed became widely known through such newspaper sermons. A publication called The Continent once stated concerning Russell: “His writings are said to have greater newspaper circulation every week than those of any other living man; a greater, doubtless, than the combined circulation of the writings of all the priests and preachers in North America.”