Lessons from South Africa’s Most Famous Pastor (Part 1)

Over Christmas I received a recent biography called Andrew Murray: Christ’s Anointed Minister to South Africa by Vance Christie (Christian Focus, 2015). It was love at first sight—a well-told story about a well-known hero of the gospel right here in our country, mightily used of God to see revival, thousands saved, and the gospel advanced. What a model for any pastor, leader, Christian or church today—in Africa or anywhere!

I am particularly drawn to Andrew Murray because of his heart for South Africa, and his calling as a pastor-missionary who loved his own local church and led his church in outward, Great Commission burden for the nations. Murray was born in South Africa as the son of a pastor-missionary who had moved here for the sake of the gospel, who pastored the Graaff-Reinet NG Kerk for 43 years. Murray himself also spent many years back in Europe for theological studies and with family there, yet chose to move back here out of love for the people and for this land and a burden for the fields white unto harvest.

Though dead, Andrew Murray still speaks to us by his devout life and legacy and through his prolific writings (240 books and booklets!). Kevin Roy writes, “The impact of Andrew Murray’s ministry on the church in South Africa is probably unparalleled by any other single figure in its history.” Still today this giant casts a long shadow across the South African and global church. I want to learn all I can from one of the most consecrated, Christlike men ever to walk this land.

Why is it that Andrew Murray has such a broad appeal across the denominations—from the most charismatic to the most conservative? What caused his family line to have such influence for Christ far beyond these shores, and for generations to come? What aspects of his theology might we disagree with or need to be more discerning about? How was it that his preaching and praying, his leading and writing, and his suffering, were so uniquely owned and used of God? How did Murray handle the sticky issues facing the church in his day—such as liberalism, racial tensions, the use of alcohol, and cooperation amongst churches? Why was he so concerned about establishing institutions for Christian education and theological training? Where do those institutions he started stand today theologically? These questions and more are what I’m on a quest to answer, and I hope you’ll join me.

Hebrews 13:7 tells us, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” That is not limited to the living! Dead men have been some of my best friends, encouragers, teachers and mentors. Christian biographies have had a huge role at every stage of my spiritual life. I pray the same will true for you.

Let me close by whetting your appetite with one of Andrew Murray’s prayers:

O God! Thou didst send Thy Son to be the Saviour of the world. Thou didst give Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him. And Thou didst pour out Thy Spirit upon all flesh, commissioning as many as received Him to make known and pass on the wondrous blessing. In the Love and Power in which Thy Spirit was sent forth, He likewise sends forth those who yield themselves to Him, to be the instruments of His Power in glorifying Thy Son.

We bless Thee for this Divine and most glorious salvation. O our God! we stand amazed, and abased, at the sloth and neglect of Thy Church in not fulfilling her Divine commission; we are humbled at our slowness of heart to perceive and believe what Thy Son did promise, to obey His will and finish His work. We cry to Thee, our God! visit Thy Church, and let Thy Spirit, the Spirit of the Divine Sending, fill all her children.

O my Father! I dedicate myself afresh to Thee, to live and labour, to pray and travail, to sacrifice and suffer for Thy Kingdom. I accept anew in faith the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Christ, and yield myself to His indwelling. I humbly plead with Thee, give me and all Thy children to be so mightily strengthened by the Holy Spirit that Christ may possess heart and life, and our one desire be that the whole earth may be filled with His glory. Amen.