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Saturday, August 19, 2017
Date Posted:

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How To Set A Church On Fire

A sermon preached in the Martyrs Memorial Church by Dr. Ian Paisley, M.P. 1972
Dr. Ian Paisley

A young Christian met me in the Session room, and he said "I'm trying to win souls for the Lord, would you give me some Scriptures suitable for a backslider to get him back to the Lord." What a privilege when young people only saved are searching the Word of God to get texts of Scripture that they can use in their evangelisation of the lost. My that rejoices the preacher's heart.

A.T. Pierson, was a Presbyterian preacher in the United States. In 1876 he was called to a very fashionable Presbyterian congregation, and he says in one of his books: "The building was a beautiful edifice but it was completely unsuitable for evangelism and soul winning," and he said that one night he went home broken-hearted at the formalism and the deadness of the church, and he said: "Oh Lord set my church on fire." And that night the Lord literally answered his prayer, the church went on fire and was burned to the ground. And as he stood among the ashes he said "Lord I didn't mean it that way."

But the Lord did a mighty thing, they hired, as they were building their new building, an old opera house, and he records in the sixteen months that they were sojourning in that opera house there were more souls saved than in the past sixteen years of his minister. Because he said not only did the church catch fire but the members moved with love and moved with the circumstances started to pray. And when the church starts to pray the fire is not far away.

A praying church is a warm church, it is a church on fire. I don't want to see this church burnt to the ground, but I want to see every member of this church really on fire for the Lord. I wonder how we could get this church really ablaze for Jesus Christ.


First of all if we want to set the church on fire, we need to have a unanimous vote of 'no confidence in the flesh.' That's where we start. Let's convene a great church meeting this morning, and let's propose and second and carry unanimously that this church has no confidence in the flesh. If we are trusting in ourselves, if we are trusting in our beautiful building that God has given to us, if we're trusting in the crowds of people that come, and we're trusting in our own efforts in the evangelistic field, my friend these things will fail.

But, thank God, if our trust is in the Lord and in the Lord alone, we shall win this battle gloriously, wonderfully and triumphantly. Let us have done with the flesh and the things of the flesh. Let me turn you to some Scriptures, Philippians chapter three and verse three, and here we have the apostle Paul speaking and he tells us what we should do. He says: "For we are the circumcision which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." That's a great Scripture, isn't it? Worshipping in the spirit and rejoicing.

You know when you're depending on the flesh, one day you'll be up and the next day you'll be down. One day you'll be filled with blessing and the next day you'll be filled with despair, but if you're trusting in the Lord things will go well.

Philippians three verse three, Galatians five and twenty-four, the apostle's speaking again and he says here: "And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." John fifteen and verse five: "Without me ye can do nothing."

And when the church passes a unanimous vote of "no confidence in the flesh" that church is beginning to go on fire for the Lord. But if we're depending on ourselves, if we're depending on our own puny efforts, if we're depending on our own activities we will fail hopelessly and helplessly. "Without me ye can do nothing."

Let's invite the Lord Jesus Christ into the church, let's invite the Lord Jesus Christ into our service. Sunday School teacher, invite Jesus into your class this afternoon. My duty of teaching that Sunday School class it will become a delight to go to the Sabbath School to teach the boys and girls about Jesus Christ. What a difference it makes when we have no confidence in the flesh.


Having passed a vote of no confidence in the flesh there must be an utter abandonment to God the Holy Ghost, this is absolutely important. An utter abandonment to the Spirit of God. You see the church today has its great organisations and its great plans, and its great blue print for evangelism and so on, and the Spirit of God has neither part nor lot in this business and so the church is dead the Spirit of Life is not present. The church is cold for the Spirit of fire and consuming fire is not among the people of God, but praise the Lord today we can utterly abandon ourselves to the Spirit of God.

My when we hand everything over to Him what a difference it makes. What a difference it makes when the Spirit of the Lord is in control, when He takes the preacher and fills him with His power, and when He takes the believers and fills them with His power. "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." This is what the church needs isn't it? This is what you need my brother and sister, and when you're filled and abandoned to the Spirit of God the dead prayers will become alive, the cold prayer meetings will become hot, the whole of your Christian service will be changed completely, radically and from the heart.

And you'll go out ablaze and afire for Jesus Christ, may we do this today, may we hand ourselves over. In the year 1835, seven men met in Hamburg in a shoemaker's shop and they resolved to personally spread the gospel by the power of the Spirit of God, handed themselves over. Seven insignificant men in an old shoemaker's shop, and they said "Lord have your way, we're abandoning ourselves to the Spirit of the Lord." You know what happened? In twenty years they had founded fifty churches with a membership of ten thousand and they had circulated half a million Bibles, and they had circulated eight million gospel tracts, and in thirty years, that work instead of having fifty churches, had five hundred churches. Why? Because the Spirit of God came in.

My if the Spirit of God came into this place this church would be far too small in a few months, and every Christian here said "I'm gonna win a soul next month for Jesus and bring him to this house." My, we would have a housing problem right away, wouldn't we? Yes! If you would just give yourself to the Lord.

A dear woman came to Chapman one day and said to Chapman: "It's all right for you you're the preacher, but I can't reach anybody I'm only a poor needle woman, I spend my time in a top attic with my needle and the needlework to make the ends meet." And the reacher said "Doesn't the milkman leave milk at your door, did you ever try to win him for Christ? Doesn't the breadserver bring bread to your house? Doesn't people call at your home?" She said "They do." He said "Start winning them for the Lord." And not very long after, that woman had a pew full of people, she had the breadserver and the milkman saved, and the man that came to see about the business, all saved. She started a witness for the Lord, she abandoned herself to the Spirit of the Lord.

You say "I couldn't do it preacher." I know you couldn't do it. I couldn't preach or do anything, I'd make a mess of it, but let the Spirit of God take you over and you'll do it, what'll happen you'll be surprised at yourself. You'll say "I never thought I could do this." When the power of God comes upon you you'll do it. The next thing we need to do we need to have an unalterable determination to pray through for revival, a unanimous vote of no confidence in the flesh, an utter abandonment to the Spirit of God, an unalterable determination to pray through for revival.


Yes. To pray with strong crying and tears, not just to pray and go home but to have the spirit of prayer upon us continually. To go to sleep praying, to wake up praying, to live praying, to work praying, to preach praying, that's the sort of way we need to do. And when we start praying like that we'll have revival all right.

We'll have people come to Christ all right, you'll get your family circle complete if you start praying like that. We had a wonderful happening this week in our mission in Coleraine, a dear Godly woman whose son was gloriously saved, and my they were praying for the father and the two daughters. And this week I had the joy of leading the two daughters and the father to Christ. Mr, that dear woman said to me "This is the greatest day of my life, think of it Mr. Paisley, my prayers are answered, we've household salvation." She's a Presbyterian, but she was shouting. I said "Keep at it and get a lot more people saved." Oh there's joy in winning souls for Christ. Friend this church is in business to win souls for Christ, this is our business!

An unalterable determination to pray through for revival, to pray it through. To kneel down and say "Oh God help me, help the preacher, help the elders and the committee men and the Sunday School teachers, help every member of the church to make a contribution in the church for God and truth and righteousness."

My when you start praying like that the Lord will start working, and instead of saying on Wednesday night, "I don't think I'll go to the prayer meeting." You know what you'll be doing, you'll be praying that Wednesday night would come that you'll get to the prayer meeting, and you'll be praying all the time and witnessing all the time. Thank God for young men in this church who are out in the streets winning souls for Christ, thank God for those in this service today who weren't saved in this church but were saved through the prayers of people who went out and won them for Christ. We have them in God's house, this delights the preacher's heart. Every member should be a soul winner, every member should be praying, everyone of us should be on fire for the Lord.


And then the next things we must do, we must have unceasing efforts to get the sinners in. The Bible says: "Go." The Bible doesn't say to the sinners "Come to church." The Bible says to the saints "Go and win them." "Go." Go and win them, that's what we have to do, we've got to go out and win them. Spurgeon said to his congregation once, he said: "I'm fishing this pond so much that you'll have to replenish it with fish." And this is true.

When the sinners are not in the meeting the preacher cannot see them saved. I remember in the old days down the road, when that church was burning for the Lord, I remember one member brought fourteen souls and every one of them got saved. And I remember one night he came in, he was just a young believer, and he hit me on the shoulder, and he said to me "Paisley, you better preach tonight, I have seven of my ungodly companions here and you better preach or I'll talk to you after the service." My, a preacher can preach when his members are like that, a great encouragement, and they all came to Christ. Some of them are on the evangelistic field today, some of those converts, fourteen of them. He brought them personally to Jesus.

My we do need to win souls for Christ, we need to get them in. You've got to preach to ten to get one, you've got to preach to a hundred to get ten, you've got to preach to a thousand to get a hundred you've got to preach to ten thousand to get a thousand, you've got to bring them in. Don't be content to come to God's house yourself, don't be content to say the meetings are great, souls are being saved, you should go into this business as well, you start to become a vital part of this church.


You remember D. L. Moody, he took a pew in the church, the days they rented pews, and the preacher said to him "You don't need a whole pew, you can't sit in the whole pew just rent one seat." "Oh," says Moody, "I'm renting the pew, a big one, I want a big pew." The preacher says "You must be very proud." He said "You'll see how proud I am." And the first day Moody had that pew he had it filled from end to end with some of the toughest people of the streets of Chicago, and when he got the pew filled he prayed until every one of them were saved, and then he made every one of them hire a pew and fill a pew, and soon that church that was sleeping was awakened. One man, Moody, the shoe seller with little ability, but when God came in what a mighty man of God He made him. You know when he started off he said "I couldn't speak to older people, I'll speak to children." So he started a Sunday School, and he built that Sunday School until it had almost two thousand members. What a Sunday School, and he said what a din on a Sunday afternoon before the service started. Think of this place filled with two thousand children, if they're anything like my two boys I'm telling you there would be a racket all right. Moody knew every child, he knew every home they came from, he loved them and he prayed them into the arms of Jesus. And one day, Torrey says, Moody was walking down one of the streets of Chicago and he saw a little girl of about seven years of age and he said to her "Will you come to my Sunday School." "Yes, I'll come to your Sunday School." "It's on a Sunday afternoon," and he named the street, and she smiled from ear to ear, she says "Yes, I'll come." She had no intention of coming of course. And Moody stood at the door that Sunday, and although all the other hundreds were there the little girl that he had invited hadn't come. He said "I'll have to find her." All that week he looked everywhere for that little girl, and he was driving on a street car one day and there he saw her standing by the side of the road, and he ran down the stairs of the street-car, and he jumped off, he nearly broke his neck in jumping off, and he ran over to the footpath and when she saw him coming she started to run too, and she ran up one street and Moody after her, and down another street and Moody after her, and she ran up a stairway and Moody after her, and she ran into a bedroom and dived under the bed and Moody dived under the bed after her and he pulled her out, and Moody said "When I pulled out that little girl I pulled seven souls into the kingdom of heaven. Her father was a publican, a liquor shop man, and Moody won her father and her mother and the whole family for Jesus, you know why? He was determined to get them in friend, if you really set about this thing. If this church really sets about getting sinners to Christ, it could do it. I suppose there is not another church in this land with a greater potential for soul-winning than this church, let's get along with the job, let's not be content on Sunday by saying "Ten souls have come to Christ." Let's set a target for a hundred souls on a Sunday night. Let's get a vision that's great and glorious.


Remember what Carey said when he went to India, he says "I'm going to expect great things from God, but I'm going to attempt great things for God." May God help us to attempt great things for Himself. And then there must be an unshakeable faith in our God, we must believe.

Don't you think friend if you go out to win souls that the old devil is not going to contest every foot of the ground, he'll do that. You'll have your disappointments, and your depressions, and your oppositions, but let me tell you, have an unshakeable faith in God. Believe. This church is here because people believe, we're saved because you believe, you won others to Christ because you believe, the most powerful thing in the world is faith. That's what we need.

You say "Preacher, how could I get the faith that Moody had? That Muller had?" I'll tell you. "Faith cometh by hearing, hearing by the Word of God." And if you read that Book and soak yourself in that Book and become what the early Methodists were called, "Bible Worms, not book worms but Bible Worms. Ever eating the Word of God and seeking through the page to get the truth, you know what'll happen, your faith will grow, it'll be like a grain of mustard seed at the beginning, boy it'll grow until you've a faith in the Almighty God, unshakeable faith.

Let's set this church on fire this morning. Let's pass a unanimous vote of no confidence in the flesh, let's utterly abandon ourselves to the Spirit of God, let's have an unalterable determination to pray through for revival, let's make unceasing efforts to get the sinners in, and let's above all things have an unshakeable faith in the God of Heaven, and if we do this, this church will go on fire.


I remember the day well when God set the first light to this church. I had been in prayer with four of my brethren one night and one day, and we had prayed through and God had touched our soul. Next Lord's Day morning I didn't even enter the pulpit, I just stood at the Communion table, I suppose that morning I preached as I had never preached before, and God broke in among the handful of people we had at that time, tears were shed, men and women got right with God and right with one another. Some people went mad, oh yes, one man said, he went out, and he said "Paisley's gone mad -- he's finished, he's a madman, did you ever hear the things he said this morning, he's terrible." He says "I don't like these spasms the preacher takes." Thank God, God give more of these spasms. Of course he left, there was a lot of people left.

I remember one morning saying "There's windows and doors in this church and we'll open all the windows and we'll open all the doors and we'll sing the doxology, and any old crook that doesn't want to stay with us can get out now, we don't want you any more." We preached strong stuff in those days. And that night God started to save, and He's been saving souls ever since. Yes. This church needs to keep the fire burning in its soul. We don't want to be a dead formal church, we don't want to have putty members in the pew, we want members to be real, living, alive, we want the house of God to be a family where we can warm our souls at the fires of God, and on the Lord's Day we want men and women to come to Christ. Maybe sitting in this congregation there's some sinner who never trusted Jesus, thank God he can trust Him this morning. His nail-pierced hand is outstretched to you, where are you sinner. He says "Come and I will give you rest." You need rest. Will you come and get rest this morning. Let's bow our heads:

Father in heaven we thank Thee for a real sense of Thy presence, and a measure of Thy power. May this church really go on fire for God. Take away our deadness and our formalism. Take away, our God, our mere doing of things because we should do them. Help us to do all to the glory of God, whether we eat or drink or whatsoever we do may we do it to the glory of the Lord. Lord set us on fire this morning. Set this church on fire, bless these young men that are going soul-winning. May others catch the soul-winner's fire. Make every meeting a place of blessing and salvation. Lord for the sinners that are with us this morning, may they come to Christ.

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