Haystack Reloaded: Could a Haystack Change the World Again?
Twice in the last couple hundred years, God has used a Haystack to change the world…
Haystack 1.0: The Haystack Prayer Meeting (1806)
In 1806, five students gather in a field on the outskirts of their Williams College campus for their weekly prayer meeting. Caught in a thunderstorm, the five found shelter under a large Haystack, and continued their prayers. Samuel Mills, a freshmen and their leader, directed the discussion and prayer toward their own missionary obligation. The students specifically discussed the needs in Asia, with one of them suggesting that it was too dangerous, and that they should wait to go until Asia was safe and 'civilized.' They decided to commit the matter to prayer, and 'willed that God should have their lives for service, wherever he needed them.' Seeing their own responsibility to reach their world and believing that the choice of what they would do with the great commission was in their hands, Samuel Mills catalyzed their faith and their prayers exclaiming "We can do this if we will."
That self dedication gave birth to the first student mission society, and within five years, through the influence of these and other students, the first mission sending organization was founded, with seven student volunteers sailing to India in 1812. Over the next several years, numerous mission societies are founded on campuses, and more missionaries were sent out through new sending boards. Kenneth Scott Latourette, one of the foremost historians on Christian movements, notes that "It was from this haystack meeting that the foreign missionary movement of the churches in the United States had an initial main impulse."
Haystack 2.0: The Student Volunteer Movement (1886)
About eighty years after the Haystack prayer meeting, a young man in his twenties, Luther Wishard, learned, of the story of these five men. Having just been appointed a leader within the then young YMCA organization, his role was to lead students in their Christian commitment. Luther visited the Haystack prayer monument (which had been erected in the exact spot where the five had prayed some sixty years after the meeting) and immediately recognized that what had happened among the students under the haystack was again happening in his generation: "What they had done was ours to complete." Kneeling in the snow by the monument, Wishard pleaded with God to do it again, praying "Where water once flowed, may it flow again." Then, recognizing that his personal whole-hearted surrender to Christ must be the first step, Wishard committed the whole of his life praying "I am willing to go anywhere at any time to do anything for Jesus."
Luther desired to go onto the mission field, but became convinced that he could be used even more to stay and raise missions awareness and send many more in his place. He organized the Mt. Hermon mission conference in 1886, at which 100 students volunteered their lives for missionary service, sparking the Student Volunteer Movement, the largest mission movement ever. Over the next generation, students on every campus in the US committed themselves to the 'evangelization of the world in this generation." Over 20,000 of them sailed to the foreign mission field, and over 80,000 others had personally committed themselves to prayer and to financially support those being sent out.
Haystack 3.0: A Movement Today? (2006):
God's already used the Haystack to see two student mission movements birthed. What about today? Could it happen again?
The answer: Of course. Each generation of believers has a choice. Will it choose to surrender itself and follow in faith seeking to see God's global purpose realized in their generation? Or will they choose to live their lives for too small a thing? Each time that God has used the Haystack to spark a mission movement a generation, it was through the dedication of just a handful of students that committed themselves to prayer for a widespread movement in their generation, and then actively did what they could do to influence their peers and their campuses to get personally involved in God's desire to bring the gospel to the least reached.
Today's students are longing for something more. They know that the material things and the purposes that the previous generations have settled for weren't enough. Will students today commit themselves to prayer and personal involvement in what God's doing globally? If so, we could very well see 'Haystack reloaded.' And given the today's global church, and the amazing technology and connectedness that exists today, we very well could see the 'evangelization of the world in our generation.' Do you believe it? Will you pray for it? Will you leverage your life - your prayers, your time and your priorities - to see it happen?
If so, pray this prayer now, and let's keep praying it together.
Lord, where water once flowed, may it flow again. May you do in our generation what you desire. Will you help us to be a generation that is about your purpose. May we be a generation that throws off the things that hinder. May we be a generation marked by sacrifice, and surrender and servanthood. May we not settle. May we join you in your great mission to see the good news proclaimed in word and deed to all peoples. May we strive for all that you have for us. May we live to the full, and may your gospel be preached to all nations in our lifetime.
Lord, I am willing to go any where, at anytime to do anything for you. Amen.
To learn more about what others are doing to ignite prayer movements today, take a second to check out "Year of the Haystack."
To learn more about the original Haystack Prayer Meeting you can read Haystack Story.