Above my desk is an old lithograph of the sanctuary of Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, England. At the bottom are the words, "Trinity Church in the Rev. C. Simeon's time."

After the Bishop of Ely appointed young Charles Simeon to be Trinity's priest in 1782, the wealthy pew-owners locked their pews and absented themselves for 14 years. But a purpose-driven Simeon preached to the poorer people who stood in the aisles and heard him gladly.

Simeon came to Cambridge as a student and was converted to Christ and spiritually mentored by Henry Venn, an early evangelical in the Church of England. Appointed to Holy Trinity after studying theology, he stayed for 54 years.

I "met" Charles Simeon when I was a young pastor and leading a New England congregation through an era when the church (in general) was seen as obsolete, irrelevant, and needing to get out of the way of the so-called parachurch organizations who were "really doing the work of Christ." Hugh Evan Hopkins, Simeon's most recent biographer (Eerdmans, 1977) was my introducer, and soon I was a "Sim," as his disciples were known.

The man's pastoral style encouraged me to believe and say that the church is the center point of God's saving work in the world and that a call to pastoral ministry is among the greater graces a person can receive.

Simeon was an evangelistic pastor. Stoutly evangelical, his sermons—though dry by today's standards—were powerful and compelling. Quickly his church bulged with converts, particularly students.

His conversation parties—Friday night gatherings of spiritually curious students—grabbed me. These parties accounted for scores of young men becoming evangelical pastors and missionaries under Simeon's mentorship. I could do parties like that, I thought—and ...

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