Do you believe anybody can change the world? Do you think it is even possible? Do you think it has ever happened before?

I mean, yes, we all know and believe that Jesus changed the world. But what about His people; can an ordinary Christian change the world?

Let me introduce you to a group of people you might never have heard of that did just that.

First, a little background to remind us of some British history. England went back and forth between being Catholic and Protestant for about a hundred years after the Reformation, and sometimes things got violent. For a brief time in the 1630s, there was a Civil War in England. People actually killed the king and were ruled by a Protectorate. When the monarchy was restored twenty years later in 1660, the new king (who happened to be the son of the murdered king) wanted very little to do with an active Christianity.

By the early 1700s, England was really tired of the back and forth fight of “Are we Protestant or Catholic?” People wanted the debate to end so they could get on with their lives.

Not surprisingly, then, it did not take long for morality to tank. English society got really, really bad. We can make a good argument that it was even worse than our own society is today. IIn the 1730s, the infant mortality rate was seventy-five percent. The favorite public sports were dig-fighting and bull-baiting; animals were killed in awful, torturous ways for fun and sport. One out of every five women was a prostitute. Alcoholism was rampant; people were afraid to drink the water because of the plague so they drank gin instead and gave it to their kids!

By law, poor people were not allowed to learn to read or write; the government wawa afraid that if they were educated, there would be revolution. Society was horrible, without hope. This was a nation that called itself Christian, but forgot to act like it.

Then, a couple of brothers named John and Charles Wesley came along. They actually had read the Bible and got very serious about living out their faith. They got very serious about holiness, about reading and knowing the Scriptures and praying, about sharing their faith with people who did not know God, and about living life in community with other believers. Slowly, the tide actually efan to turn as they shared the true good news,

By the time the Welseys were elderly in the late 1700s, thousands and thousands of people in England and America had been influenced by their teachings and methods. It is a particular grouping of these people that I want to introduce us to.

They were various individuals who believed Jesus was real, and His power could change one person’s heart as well as the heart of a city, a nation and the whole world. They were called by God to take part in doing just that. They were politicians, writers, preachers, actors, singers, teachers, bankers and artisans who dared to believe that really Christianity could be lived out. They all had huge dreams individually, dreams to make a real difference. God had empowered each of these people with incredible creativity and skill in their respective fields.

Meet Hannah More, a best-selling author, also a teacher by trade (yes, both were unusual for women at that time), who believed all children should be able to read. She had the incredible idea to invite the children of her village to church on Sundays, the only day the children did not have to work, and then invite them to stay for school all day. She gave them a meal and reading lessons.

Meet Henry Thorton. He was a banker and economist, and was quite wealthy. Before he married, he gave eighty percent of his income away to help the poor and spread the gospel. After he married, it was about fifty percent which is still incredibly and challengingly generous.

Meet William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament by age twenty-five. He had hundreds of good ideas to improve society. He started the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, so people could be informed to treat animals kindly and not cruelly, as was the fashion. He wrote a best-selling book called A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians in the Higher and Middle Classes in the Country Contrasted with Real Christianity, which is a great title. He also had a personal conviction and agenda that the slave trade must end.

In 1790, Henry Thorton bought a house in a town some five miles outside of London called Clapham. Within a few short years, Horton, Wilberforce, More and about thirty others had bought or built homes around this first house so they could live in proximity to, and in community with, one another, to pool their talents, ideas and resources, and get serious about changing the world. They never gave themselves a name, but people noticed them and their absolutely enormous influence and called them the Clapham Sect.

So, when William Wilberforce’s first bill to abolish the slave trade was defeated in 1791 (when he was only thirty-two!) the Clapham bunch decided to band together to change the earth.

Hannah More wrote books and plays about the ends of slavery and abut the dignity of every man woman and child.

The poets wrote beautiful poems; the singers sang catchy, memorable songs about the veil of the save trade; the actors stage plays.

The potters crafted gorgeous vases and plates and porcelain brooches with the image of a slave and the caption, “Am I not a man?” which were best-sellers. Ever hear of Josiah Wedgewood famous for Wedgewood pottery? He did that.

The painters made  posters depicting the evils of the slave trade and sold them to shopkeepers for their windows.

Olaudah Equiano, a freed slave who has been blessed to learn to read in captivity, wrote his life story, revealing the horror of slavery from the inside. It was a runaway best seller.

The politicians worked together tirelessly to get the votes

Essentially, they commandeered popular culture with antislavery sentiment. And they pooled their own money together to pay for all this.

It took thirty years of organized effort, but we know today that legitimized slavery is a thing of the past. In 1826, the slave trade was abolished in the British Empire and these were the people who made it happen – ordinary Christians who dared to live their Christianity and do extraordinary things.

Is taking down the slave trade, an ancient, wiceked practice, not enough for you?

They started and financed the missions movement and effort into India.

They reversed the rampant alcoholism problem.

They started Sunday schools and regular schools and made the literacy rate go through the roof,

They reformed prisons,

They started orphanages,

They organized homes and shelters for the poor.

They helped return dignity to women.

They fought for better conditions for workers.

They brought back decency to popular music, literature and the stage.

They were a passionate few who lived in community on purpose, and changed the entire Western World.

Now, what about you and me? Too many of us are choosing money over mission. We put out our applications and go wherever we can get the fattest paycheck. Often, we go there alone, without any friends or family around to be a healthy and supportive community, and then we wonder why we are so discouraged and out, stirring very little creativity in our hearts and minds and having very little impact on our neighborhoods,

What if we made disciplined choices to choose mission over money, and decided to live in proximity to and in community with one another, to pool our talents, ideas and resources, and get serious about changing the world? What could our generation  accomplish if we who seek to follow Jesus banded together like the Clapham Sect chose to do?

It actually says in Genesis 11 that if we work together, there is nothing we cannot do. How powerful it could be if we all took our faith seriously and determined in our hearts to make our lives count for eternity! The social justice issues that frustrate so many would be naturally eliminated if the good news of Jesus were really proclaimed again. The poor would be cared for, the overlooked would be welcomed and encouraged, the broken and confused would be set free, and the evil practices of greedy, selfish people would be eliminated.

Not only could our own communities be transformed, but we could band together to send missionaries to the ends of the earth. There are millions of people who have still never heard the gospel, and we can no longer hide behind the excuse that it is impossible to get there; the world is more connected than ever. The reason so many have never heard about Jesus is because we do not give enough money or prayer support to send those who are willing to go, nor will most of us go ourselves. We could be the generation who finishes the task of letting the whole world know about the saving power of Jesus, if we will.

History tells us that a passionate few, living in community and on purpose, can change truly the world.

Will we accept the challenge in our generation?

Mary Gautreaux’s book, Kingdom Minded: Learning to Walk in Discipline as a Follower of Christ can be found at https://wisdomhousepubs.com/product/kingdom-minded/