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In the summer of 1947, a small group of people met to pray at a cabin at Forrest Home Christian Conference Center in the San Bernadino Mountains of Southern California. This prayer meeting lasted all night amid tears, joy, pleading and praises to our God. By the time they were done for the night, they had all experienced a unique move of the Holy spirit within themselves. They made a covenant among them that night, calling themselves, “The Fellowship of the Burning Heart.”
Henrietta Mears, Bill Bright, Richard C Halverson, Louis Evans were the original four. Others who passed through the Fellowship included Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Jim Rayburn (Young Life founder), J. Edwin Orr (Revival historian), Billy Graham, and more. The testimony of these members and deep commitment has for years been an inspiration to me. Here is the commitment they made:
The Original Charter of the Fellowship of the Burning Heart
His word burns in my heart like a fire (Jeremiah 20:9).
I am committed to the principle that Christian discipleship is sustained solely by God alone through His Spirit; that the abiding life of John 15 is His way of sustaining me. Therefore, I pledge myself to a disciplined devotional life in which I promise through prayer, Bible study, and devotional reading to give God not less than one continuous hour per day (Psalm 1).
I am committed to the principle that Christian Discipleship begins with Christian character. Therefore, I pledge myself to holy living that by a life of self-denial and self-discipline, I may emulate those Christ-like qualities of chastity and virtue which will magnify the Lord (Phil. 1:20-21).
I am committed to the principle that Discipleship exercises itself principally in the winning for the lost to Christ. Therefore, I pledge myself to seek every possible opportunity to witness, and to witness at every possible opportunity, to the end that I may be responsible for bringing at least one to Christ every 12 months (Matt. 28:19; Acts 1:8).
I am committed to the principle that Christian Discipleship demands nothing less than absolute consecration to Christ. Therefore, I present my body a living sacrifice, utterly abandoned to God. By this commitment, I will that God’s perfect will shall find complete expression in my life; and I offer myself in all sobriety to be expendable for Christ (Rom. 12:1-2; Phil 3:7-14).
Bill Bright, one of the original four, remembers:
“In 1947 I had a very unique, life-changing experience with the Holy Spirit. Dr. Henrietta Mears, Lou Evans, Jr., Dick Halverson, and I were forever changed when the Holy Spirit came upon us in a supernatural way.
I really didn’t know who the Holy Spirit was at that time. For each of us it was a divine, supernatural encounter with God. Out of that experience, before the night was over, we formed what we called the Fellowship of the Burning Heart.
We committed ourselves to make Christ the Lord of our lives and live expendably for Him. We made an impossible list of do’s and don’ts to keep, and it wasn’t long before we all violated them all. But the fact is that we were on fire for Christ and we were determined to be expendable for God.
An important part of the Fellowship of the Burning Heart was discipleship and spiritual maturity. We set a very high standard for ourselves. To be a member of the Fellowship, one had to spend an hour every day in the Scriptures and in prayer. He had to witness to someone every day and follow other very rigid rules.
We were willing to pay the price of discipleship, but soon most of us had broken those standards and had failed to measure up to our high resolve. We began living under a cloud. We found ourselves feeling guilty because we had broken our agreement with God. We had begun to operate in the energy of the flesh in order to fulfill the work of the Spirit, and it doesn’t work that way. This failure to keep all our own rules 100 percent discouraged us and destroyed our effectiveness.
Since then, I have realized that placing Jesus Christ at the center of my life and claiming the power of the Holy Spirit to live and witness for Him is the only way I can live supernaturally.
While we started in the Spirit, and ended up living in the flesh, God must have seen our hearts. Out of that movement, God gave birth to many wonderful things. Dick Halverson went on to be Chaplain of the U.S. Senate for many years. Dr. Louie Evans, Jr. had a great ministry and still does as a leader in the Presbyterian church and beyond. Dr. Mears became one of the most influential Christian educators of the 20th century. And God graciously gave me that vision which was, in a sense, born that night, and later in a more dramatic and specific way — the vision for Campus Crusade for Christ, formed in 1951….
While the Fellowship of the Burning Heart no longer exists, my heart is still burning.”
Bill Bright is right in his assessment that, “While we started in the Spirit, and ended up living in the flesh….” If you read the charter, the work our God intended to do in them was quantified in deeds of the flesh. We as believers so often fail, individually and corporately, at this point. We cannot live as a fellowship of the burning heart by our own actions. It is a work of our God the Holy Spirit in us as we yield in absolute surrender to His control over us. The life of Christ in us, not our own efforts, is the key to spiritual power and holy living. Our role is to deny our self-life and our human efforts and turn in full dependence upon our God.
Yet our God was faithful to the members of the fellowship. As Bright stated, “While we started in the Spirit, and ended up living in the flesh, God must have seen our hearts.” Indeed, our God sees all of our hearts. The key for us is to join into a kind of fellowship of fully yielded and surrendered disciples who will together walk not in a commitment to do a list of things, but in a commitment to help each other deny the self, take up the cross of our own crucifixion, and live full surrendered to our God and Savior.