Darrow Miller and Friends

William Wilberforce: A Model for Today

WHM146809Some 180 years after his death, William Wilberforce has something to teach us. That’s partly because his world and our world have a lot in common.

In most of the ways that matter to Christians, many societies are sliding backwards. Sometimes we wonder why this is. What went wrong? What we should we be doing differently?

For some people the answer is simple: we are seeing the end times, what Paul wrote to Timothy … “in the last days there will come times of difficulty” (2 Timothy 3:1).

Maybe so. But except for the sanction of same-sex “marriage” the behaviors we are witnessing are not unique to this moment in history.  For example, our friend Christian Overman recently pointed out some facts about Great Britain in the day of Wilberforce:

  • Twenty-five percent of the single women in London were prostitutes.
  • Liquor flowed so plentifully that the day became known as the “Gin Age.”
  • Gambling was a national obsession and ruined thousands.
  • Daylight fornication [was practiced] on the village green.
  • Executions, known as Hanging Shows, attracted huge crowds.

Maybe some Christians were saying at that time, These are the end times! But obviously they weren’t. Instead, God sent (the Wesleyan) revival. The fruit of that included William Wilberforce (and other British leaders) who “saw Christianity as something more than a private, personal religion. They saw ‘real Christianity’ having enormous implications for the whole of society.” 

That’s a picture of what Disciple Nations Alliance is all about, seeking to bring the power of the gospel message to bear on the culture around us. This is included in the Great Commission, which Jesus himself characterized as “making disciples of all nations” and “teaching them to obey all I have commanded.”

This is not meant to trivialize the serious erosion of moral behavior around us. As we have written in this space before, “The problems we face in the West … are moral and spiritual problems at their core. A nation that puts money over family, convenience over the life of a baby, feelings over covenantal commitment, or consumption over thrift, reveals its moral bankruptcy and is destined to a slow death.”

Accordingly, Jesus’ commands are comprehensive. They impinge on the whole of every individual. He calls every believer to follow Him, in whatever capacity He directs.

After Wilberforce came to faith in Christ, he felt he should leave politics and go “into the ministry.” But John Newton (author of “Amazing Grace”) counseled him to serve the Great Commission using his political skills in the British government. Wilberforce agreed, and became the driving force behind the abolition of the British slave trade. He also worked to reform British culture in general. God used him, and others like him, to bring change to that society. Look at the bullet list above. God used the efforts of Wilberforce et. al. to reduce the scourge of prostitution, the effects of drunkenness, the menace of gambling. Public executions were eventually outlawed. These achievements were done in the name of Christ for the glory of God.

I’m glad Wilberforce listened to Newton.

We can’t all be William Wilberforce. But we can recognize that God uses Christians, working in their spheres of influence, to shape the culture. God calls every Christian to do that.

Communicating that truth, and equipping churches to practice it, is the burden of the Disciple Nations Alliance.

–          Gary Brumbelow

print this page Print this page

Gary is the Disciple Nations Alliance editorial manager. He manages Darrow Miller and Friends and serves as editor and co-writer on various book projects. For eight years Gary served as a cross-cultural church planting missionary among First Nations people of Canada. His career also includes 14 years as executive director of InterAct Ministries, an Oregon-based church-planting organization in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Gary is a graduate of Grace University, earned an MA from Wheaton College and a Graduate Studies Diploma from Western Seminary. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife, Valerie. They have two married sons and twelve grandchildren. In addition to his work with the DNA, Gary serves as the pastor of Troutdale Community Church.


  1. kudzai masimira

    June 9, 2014 - 12:35 pm

    I love the DNA, the vision and the founders. They have influenced my understanding of the great commission and the assignment of the body of Christ. The church needs to hear this message at all costs. Darrow, Bob, Hein you guys rock, keep rocking the boat!!

    • admin

      June 9, 2014 - 1:07 pm

      Dear Kudzai,

      You are very thoughtful to take a moment to express this word of appreciation. Thanks for your enthusiastic response, and may every blessing of Jesus Christ be yours in abundance!

      Gary Brumbelow