George Fox, John Wimber, and the Priesthood of All Believers
Corrie Ten Boom’s book Tramp for the Lord has always been inspiring. After surviving a Nazi concentration camp she became a Spirit-led missionary. She often went places solely by God’s leading and with nothing set up. Once arrived, she’d seek the Lord for what He was leading her to. Sometimes, the Lord opened up regular ministry, or had her there to witness or minister to just one person, or sometimes just to speak to her with some revelation for her own life. Either way, she was always ready to obey the leading of the Spirit and go as He led.
Divine Appointments With Others and Some History
Many of our 11 Euro-mission trips—often staying three months or more—had us experience many similarities to the things Corrie Ten Boon described in Tramp for the Lord in her trips and adventures:
On the last one, the Lord opened up doors, often in unusual ways, and often at the last moment, to minister in various places, followed by numerous divine appointments. Things worked out to preach at a church in London literally two days before we were leaving.
So we ministered in London, which was accompanied by a radical outpouring, and afterwards we discerned that the Holy Spirit was leading us to the English countryside. As we were driving, we made a stop at a gas station-service area to fuel up and get some breakfast, and while we were sitting at a table we pulled out our Bible and started reading, and ended up having a divine appointment.
A lady came up, and seeing that we were reading the Bible, told us she didn’t run into that very often in England. We ended up sharing some things and then praying for her. She then had a revelation regarding the trip she was on presently as something that had been pre-ordained. “The Lord just sent me out to talk with someone at a wedding that had experienced a death in their family recently, and then I run into you afterward. Divine appointments! Yes, that is what the Kingdom of God is all about, isn’t it?” she remarked.
We were off driving again, thinking about what a blessing that divine appointment just was, when I saw a castle in the distance and felt the Holy Spirit leading me to get off the road.
We checked out the castle and found out that it had been a place where the historic minister George Fox had been imprisoned as leader of the radical Protestant Christian group known as the Quakers.
Video of George Fox at Launceston Castle:
They were called Quakers because when they experienced the presence of the Spirit they would quake and shake. The Holy Spirit came upon them during their ministry meetings and people saw them shaking and quaking and disparagingly called them Quakers, and the name stuck.
The Quakers were a Protestant group that took Martin Luther’s revelation from the Bible of “The Priesthood of all Believers” very literally and seriously.
They had no formal order in their services; rather, they would wait upon the inspiration of the Spirit to lead one of those present to share a word, a psalm, or to preach. They had a strong view of equality and all were welcome to share, be it men, women, young, or old; they simply put Acts 2:17- 21 and Galatians 3:28 into practice.
However, this, along with other issues such as their unwillingness to take oaths, see others as superiors, participate in war, or swear allegiance to the King, caused them to be widely persecuted.
George Fox, the founder and leader of the Quakers, had experienced a powerful conversion. He had sunk into a period of depression as he neared his twenties, and began to seek out different religious leaders. And yet, he found no one that could help him. At a certain point of desperation, however, a voice spoke to him.
He writes in his journal: “When all my hope was gone so that I had nothing left outwardly that could help me, nor could tell me what to do, then, Oh Then! I heard a voice which said ‘There is one, even Jesus Christ, who can speak to thy condition.’ And when I heard it my heart did leap for joy.” He began a ministry as an itinerant preacher traveling from village to village, wishing to bring the Gospel to all. He ministered to individuals and groups as the Spirit led.
Along with the Puritans, Fox also saw the formal, ritualistic, practices of Anglicanism and Catholicism as stumbling blocks that kept people from God rather than lead people to Him. He proclaimed what he himself had experienced: “Let Christ! Let Him be your prophet, priest and king! Obey Him!”
He encouraged people to go directly to God, not the clergy, for “Christ is the one mediator between God and man.” He refused to attend formal state church services or pay their tithes. These were practices and beliefs in that day that would get you landed in prison.
Completely fearless, he was often imprisoned for proclaiming his convictions—just as he was in the Launceston Castle which you can see in the accompanying video, where he had been imprisoned for proclaiming the Gospel.
He and other Quakers boldly stood up to judges and magistrates for their rights. In doing so, they set a historical precedent for the right to speak freely and publish freely as they willed.
This led to a historical trend in Western society, growing into little concepts we know today as freedom of speech and human rights. Religious toleration was granted in 1689 in England and is one of the legacies of the Western world. Quakers were not tolerated and yet stood up for their rights, helping to influence the toleration that these rights eventually brought forth. This principle of freedom was first brought forth in the American Colonies in Pennsylvania by its founder the Quaker William Penn, and was later adopted into the American Constitution.
Moreover, Fox’s view of the priesthood of all believers also extended into many aspects: He denounced class privilege in society, pioneered the care of the mentally ill, demanded just treatment for Native Americans, and refused to see any man as superior to another; rather, all were equal. These views and practices help set historical foundations.
The Quakers today however are nothing close to the early radicals of the same name. Due to inherent errors in some of their beliefs, they’ve drifted far off and are in serious need of reform like many other denominations.
Yet, their historical influence continues. To paraphrase historian Kenneth Scott Latourette: The Protestant ethic of the Priesthood of all believers and the faith of the individual before God to judge for himself wove itself into society through diverse Protestant movements. “Thus it is no accident that out of Protestantism arose democratic movements in both Church and State.”
In fact, when it comes to America, Latourette says: “The radical Protestantism which predominated in churches in the Thirteen Colonies, seeking as it was to carry through the distinctive principals of the Reformation, “salvation by faith of the individual” and “the priesthood of all believers,” underlay and permeated the democracy which characterized the United States.”
History shows that America’s roots are distinctly influenced by a Christian ethic regardless of faithless naysayers and the ill-conceived agenda they ram down every child’s throat in our schools today like one would a goose’s throat to make foie gras!
John Wimber was himself originally a Quaker before his involvement in the Vineyard movement. He later understood something of the wells of revival that had been stirred up when Lonnie Frisbee ministered on that unforgettable Mother’s Day service and the Holy Ghost revival that ensued. An ongoing empowering followed. All kinds of regular people, who were not in formal ministry, began to pray for the sick and the filling of the Spirit, as well as move in deliverance.
Wimber eventually encouraged this and began to teach on the subjects of healing and signs and wonders. At the center was the equipping of the saints to do the works of the Kingdom: healing, miracles, and deliverance could be performed and experienced by all believers.
In retrospect, what was actually occurring was a fulfilling of Martin Luther’s call in the Reformation for “a priesthood of all believers.” Even though those participating back in the early Vineyard didn’t realize it, Martin Luther’s revelation that the Body of Christ was called to be “a priesthood of all believers” was finding fulfillment some 460 odd years later.
Luther’s view was that Christians are all priests; there is no higher tier of an elite “priesthood” and a lower class of “lay people” (a Catholic term Luther despised) who were to be pulled around by the nose by a spiritually elite class of so-called clergy.
Fox’s view of all as equals and able to participate in meetings was similar to the “Doing the Stuff” ethic of the early Vineyard itself were everyone were encouraged to join in on. There was also the similar manifestation of quaking and shaking under the Spirit’s power that the early Quakers experienced as did those in Vineyard outpourings—something of the wells of revival stirred back up.
I personally experienced being filled with the Spirit in that early movement—when it was still called Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda back in the Canyon High School Gym.
After that experience, I ended up leading some people to the Lord and started my own Bible Study with a group of surfers down at the beach. We just looked at the Book of Acts and saw them laying hands on others and started doing the same things ourselves. We were amazed to experience the same effects:
The sick healed, the Holy Spirit filling, deliverance, and the lost getting saved.
I’ve come to realize over time, as a friend put it, that “we were children of revival,” who experienced that rallying principle of the Reformation: “A Priesthood of All Believers.” Hallelujah! What a blessing it was and is to be part of that!
Well, the beat needs to go on, there needs to be a return to those early roots, if there is a hope of life with any of these movements. Billy Graham even said: “If we as God’s people do not get back to Acts chapter 2 and the power of the Spirit, there will be no hope for us in this present generation.” (1)
Divine Appointments and More
Historical people like George Fox and others can serve as inspiration, whether we agree with every point of doctrine they espoused or not. Like Corrie Ten Boom, who experienced divine appointments and sought to be led by the Lord, their lives can inspire us by their passionate desire to fully follow Christ.
It is a blessing to see God move on people’s lives, whether it is in a group situation or with just one person. People encountering the Kingdom of God is what it is all about. People with vision to help those who, like us, work to see the Kingdom touch others, are essential as well.
We were recently ministering at a church when we had seven people receive the Lord. Many were also touched with healing power and compassion. Some gave us personal testimonies afterward of how they experienced God’s freeing and renewing power. It is awesome to see the Kingdom of God encounter people like this; being “led by the Spirit” (Rom. 8:14) is key to seeing the Kingdom demonstrated.
We were up the coast recently when we had a spontaneous encounter with a young maid at a motel. She was walking by numerous times and I began to wonder if maybe God wanted us to talk with her. Patrick happened to step in dog poop right then on the way to the car. This led to being forced to talk to her to get some cleaning materials. The Lord can sure use unusual things to open up a conversation. After some discussion in Spanish, it turned out she was a believer who needed prayer. She rarely got to go to church because of her work schedule. We ended up talking and praying with her and could visibly see her life and heart had encountered God’s love in a very real way.
Maids who don’t speak much English can often be overlooked people in our twisted society that is so focused on celebrity and riches. Jesus took time to minister to those like the women at the well or the little children, those not on the celebrity “A list” in those days. Ministry to the one person is just as important as to the many! (Luke 15:1-32)
Whether it was healing one little boy, teaching a couple of sisters the value of waiting and listening to the Lord, or teaching a larger group about prayer, Jesus and His disciples spent a lot of time doing things that are typically not going to make you a lot of money in this world nor even be seen as that important in the fallen view of the day, where people only see value in things that can make a profit somehow or flash some big impressive numbers around. He spent His time ministering whether it was to just one or to many.
Even though Jesus and His disciples experienced miracles like the coin out of the fish’s mouth or the multiplying of bread on occasion, they still had to function on the day to day. Yet, how were they able to be out there doing this ministry all the time? This was their calling, but it wasn’t a big money-making operation there, was it? Rather they were out being led as the Spirit guided them to those the Father wanted them to minister to.
There are verses in the New Testament that often get overlooked. One of them is Luke 8:3: Here we see that Jesus Himself and His disciples were undergirded financially by a small group of women who were “helping to support them out of their own means.”
Whether the particular situation at hand for us is ministering to one person or a group, we ourselves seek to follow the example of Jesus and do the will of His heavenly Father who was led by the Holy Spirit, not something that makes a lot of profit but whose eternal consequences are immeasurable, priceless really!
We so appreciate those who help to support us, and obviously see and understand the value of the Kingdom of God being brought forth and extended to others! You are of those who have heard that heavenly sound and know that treasure laid in heaven is so much more valuable than just the passing riches of this world!
We ask that you would consider lending support to our efforts if you haven’t done so. For, just like those women who were doing such an important thing in supporting Jesus’ ministry, which had such unseen eternal consequences, your support is so important in helping us fulfill the things God calls us to do and has more eternal value than you could understand. Learn more at:
(1) Excerpted from Billy Graham's opening sermon at Amsterdam 2000.
Video-- Martin Luther: The Priesthood of all Believers