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The Christian Missionary Alliance, Nyack College, and Prairie Bible Institute:

Sharing in the Legacy of Henry Grattan Guinness

From the book, Maxwell's Passion & Power, by W. Harold Fuller


But Why Prairie?

"I still haven't read anywhere why [Prairie Bible Institute] 'happened'," [L. E. Maxwell's] son-in-law, Bob Spaulding, once told me. He didn't mean the history--the Scottish homesteaders who moved to Alberta and called Leslie Maxwell from Kansas City to teach their children; the sacrifice of many farmers and artisans and other friends; the prayers of God's people. Spaulding knew that God's plan had brought all this together. But only the Sovereign Lord knows all the currents, the tides, that he used!

Perhaps surprisingly, Prairie was an indirect outgrowth of the mid-1800s revivals1 in Britain and North America. A young Irish evangelist, H. Grattan Guinness, preached during those revivals and went on to encourage the formation of several missions to spread the gospel in other lands. A supporter of J. Hudson Taylor,2 he had wanted to serve in China, but Taylor encouraged him to consider preparing others instead. He later became active in the Keswick "deeper life" movement, which emphasized the Cross in the believer's life. That led people to commitment for service and missionary outreach.

Guinness preached in Canada and greatly influenced young Presbyterian Albert B. Simpson, who later patterned his Missionary Training Institute3 along the lines of the East London Institute for Home and Foreign Missions (often called the Missionary Training Institute)* founded by Guinness in 1873.

Simpson founded two mission societies in the 1880s, and these merged in 1897 to form the Christian and Missionary Alliance. He deeply impressed another Presbyterian, William C. Stevens, whom he appointed principal of his growing schools in Nyack, NY. Although originally from a mainline denomination, like Guinness they both felt missionary training should be on a non-sectarian basis. Stevens later founded Midland Bible Institute, at which Leslie Maxwell and Pearl Plummer studied. Presbyterian farmers in Alberta, challenged by God's Word and the missionary needs of the world, called Maxwell to Three Hills.

We have to keep in mind that Leslie Maxwell, with this mix of Cross-centered teaching, didn't arrive in Three Hills as "instant" pricipal of Prairie Bible Institute. Three Hills became the crucible in which the vibrant young man from Kansas City grew into a prophet for his day. In turn, PBI grew around him and his team. Christians responded to his message of discipleship, of spiritual warfare, of soldierly endurance, of missionary vision.

True, his was a unique personality, but he had a single focus: identification of the believer in the death and resurrection of Christ. His goal was to see that paradoxical message produce response in our lives: worship, discipleship, obedience, service.

So a number of streams--revival and missionary, Calvinistic and Holiness--contributed to what became Prairie Bible Institute. Why did they converge in the insignificant granary town of Three Hills? Perhaps for the same reason that the grand prophecies of the Messiah's birth found fulfillement in Bethlehem. The prophet Zechariah asked, "Who has despised the day of small things?" The Apostle Paul stated the paradox: "God chose the lowly things of this world--and the things that are not--so that no one may boast before him" (1 Corinthians 1.28).

An Excerpt from:

Fuller, Harold W. Maxwell's Passion & Power. Huttonville, ON: Maxwell Foundation. 2002. 237-238.

1 Called the Second Evangelical Awakening of 1858.

2 Founder of China Inland Mission, now Overseas Missionary Fellowship (OMF).

3 MTI began in 1882, was formally organized in 1883, and moved to Nyack, NY, where it eventually became the C&MA's Nyack College.

* Note from Historicism.com: Also called Harley College / Harley House, and branched into Cliff College.

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