Revival in Australia, Part Three
By Jason Harris
The glowing evangelistic days of Torrey and Alexander’s Melbourne mission in 1902 were not one-off events. There were many campaigns held around the country. One of the most notable was held in 1909 when Charles Alexander returned to Australia, this time with J. Wilbur Chapman. Chapman was one of the most well known evangelists in America at this point. He is also notable for having been a significant influence in the early ministry of Billy Sunday (Billy Sunday and the Redemption of Urban America, 49ff). The Chapman-Alexander Campaign included a month each in Melbourne and Sydney, two weeks in Brisbane, and ten days in Adelaide, as well as shorter visits to Albury, Ballarat, Bendigo, Castlemaine, Moss Vale, and Townsville (A Romance of Soul Winning and Song, 152, 162).
Again in Melbourne, Alexander led his choir of over 1,200 voices. On the afternoon of his first choir rehearsal, the rain was pouring down in true Melbourne fashion. Three men sat questioning whether anyone would come to the practice through the pouring rain, when one of the men exclaimed “You chaps don’t know an Alexander crowd. They’ll come if they have to swim.” And come they did! (Romance, 155)
Once again, Melbourne’s Town Hall and Exhibition Building were packed out day after day as the gospel was preached with power and clarity. Chapman regularly preached to audiences
of over ten thousand people, and the only thing that kept the meetings from being larger is that there was no building in Melbourne capable of holding greater crowds and no speaker capable of speaking to them without amplification.
Again in Sydney, the Town Hall was not large enough to contain the crowds that came to hear the preaching. But once again God worked and many lives were changed and many souls were converted through the ministry of the word in Sydney. Though Chapman was the leading preacher, he brought with him a whole team of workers from Canada, Ireland, Scotland, England, and America. These, in conjunction with dozens of Australian pastors and evangelists, formed a team that preached and ministered systematically in a broad range of ways and places in each city where they ministered.
On the last Sunday of the Sydney Mission, the throngs were so great that the police, fearing accidents among the waiting thousands, ordered the doors to be opened at five o’clock. Word was sent to the hotel where Dr. Chapman and the Alexanders and others of the party were staying, to come at once to the Town Hall. They hurried over and began the meeting at half-past five. An hour later, by arrangement with the police outside, certain doors were opened for the attenders of the first meeting to pass out, while at the other end of the building the waiting crowds poured in to fill it once more for a second service. (Romance, 160)
The Chapman-Alexander campaign lasted for four months, as in each place where they went the believers were strengthened, the word was proclaimed, and sinners were convicted. As I study these missions and read the stories, I cannot help but pray “God, these people hungered for your word. Give us that same hunger. Do it again, Lord. Please. Do it again.”