Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

The Fellowship of the Burning Heart

Aug 28, 2011

I am beginning to see that there are really only two broad camps in the Christian world. I am being very simplistic and general here, but at the end of the day it seems there are basically just two sorts of believers. On the one hand there are those who are broken before God, tender in heart, meek in Spirit, and desirous of only God’s best.

On the other hand there are all the rest. As I said, this is far too simplistic and broad of an assessment. But it rings true. There are those who simply want the best that Christ has to offer, and they are willing to pay any price, do anything, and make any sacrifice.

They are a rare breed, and are often denounced, misunderstood, or mocked by other believers. But it is to such people that my heart yearns, and I love being with such people. I feel an instant oneness and identification with such people, and I love just being with them and seeing Jesus in them.

Of course as always one must be very wary of spiritual pride here. But those who most love God are those who are the least prideful. They are the ones who are the most humble, most often on their knees, and most broken before their Lord.

One can never be proud for long when one lingers in the presence of the nail-pierced Saviour. Indeed, one can only cry ‘Lord, I am undone – I am not worthy to stand in your presence’. One sees the need to get on one’s face before God and repent, and cry out for his mercy. Whenever we encounter God or get his heartbeat, the first response is being aware of our own sinfulness and overwhelming need.

When Isaiah saw the Lord he could only say, “Woe is me, I am ruined, for I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips” (Is. 6:5). That is always the response we find in Scripture when people encounter the living God. So a place of brokenness, humility and repentance is always our first duty. That is the only place we should seek to find ourselves in.

Jesus said, ‘blessed are those who recognise their spiritual need’ (Matt. 5:3). Only those who see how unworthy and unholy they are before a righteous God are the ones He is prepared to deal with. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). We all so desperately need to learn that lesson.

I have also come to realise that one can state all this as a sort of spiritual truism: the real followers of Christ as opposed to the Pharisees can be identified in this manner: If the Word of God is read or preached, and one’s reaction is, “Yes, that is so true – of my neighbour (or friend, or spouse, or whoever),” that is a Pharisee.

But if the Word of God is read or preached, and one’s reaction is, “Yes, that is so true – that is me, woe is me. Lord I repent, Lord I ask for your forgiveness, Lord I need you more than ever,” that is a true follower of Jesus. Such believers are in a continual state of brokenness, openness, humility, and dependency. Any Word preached or read will be met with conviction and acceptance.

My old pastor back in the US used to warn about “leaning on the arm of flesh” – loosely following Jeremiah 17:5. His point was those who are fleshly, carnal, or out of step with the Spirit will completely miss what God is trying to do. While everyone else is being blessed and encouraged in the Lord, this person is missing out, and in fact will want to argue, debate and make a big stink of things.

This has happened to me quite often. As I posted elsewhere earlier today: ‘Has anyone else experienced the demoralisation and discouragement that comes when you seek with the best of intentions to encourage others in Christ, only to get attacked by other believers? I can see why so many believers just give up, or at least sit down and shut up. If you never speak out, you never have to worry about being shot down in flames.’

When you sincerely and earnestly seek to present the lovely Saviour to others, but fellow believers simply don’t get it, but instead take offence and get reactionary and divisive, you can be sure they are leaning on the arm of flesh. They are not walking in step with the Spirit.

But that is what I crave: to always be in tune with God’s Spirit. If that is also your desire, then my advice to you is this: seek to surround yourselves with those whose heart is on fire for Jesus. Keep in fellowship with those who are totally sold out to Jesus.

In Jeremiah 20:9 we read these words, “His word burns in my heart like a fire”. That is the person who has really been with God. We should seek out those who have a deep and abiding walk with God. Learn from them and soak up what Jesus is doing in and through their lives.

Back in 1947 Dr. Henrietta Mears formed a group of dedicated disciples of Christ known as the “Fellowship of the Burning Heart”. Mears was a famous Bible teacher, and Christian educationalist. She established one of the largest Sunday Schools in the world and founded a Christian publishing company. She was radically committed to knowing Christ and making him known.

Here is how one description of this goes: “Henrietta Mears was completely sold out to what she called ‘the Cause of Christ.’ By ‘the Cause of Christ’ she meant winning the world to Christ and establishing Christianity as the guiding force in society through evangelization of the world. Mears established the Fellowship of the Burning Heart, wherein she encouraged her students to be willing to die for ‘the Cause of Christ.’ She laid her hands on them to receive her mantle. Thus they received within themselves a ‘burning heart’.”

Some of the others in this group went on to become household names in evangelical circles. These included Bill Bright, who established Campus Crusade for Christ; Richard C. Halverson, Senate Chaplain; J. Edwin Orr, historian of revival; and world-renowned evangelist, Billy Graham.

Another one who spoke about this often was A.W. Tozer. In one of his writings he said this:  “I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. I claim the Methodist and the Baptist as mine and I claim everybody that loves Jesus Christ as mine; but I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart. Men and women of all generations and everywhere that love the savior until ‘adoration’ has become the new word and they do not have to be entertained or amused. This Christ was everything. He was their all in all… I am looking for men and women who are lost in worship, those who love God until he is the sweetheart of the soul.”

I am with Tozer here; I long to be with people who have been with Jesus. I don’t want to settle for the ordinary, for the usual, or for the commonplace. I want always to be challenged and inspired by those who know Jesus above all else.

Every single person who claims Christ as Lord and King should strive to become what we read concerning Peter and John: “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

I want so very much to be part of the Fellowship of the Burning Heart. Do you?

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20 Responses to The Fellowship of the Burning Heart

  • Actually so much that Bill describes is characteristic of the Left. So smug and self-assured of their own righteousness as they are.
    Damien Spillane

  • Amen! We’re with you, Bill! I only want to be around burning-heart believers in Jesus, walking by His Spirit now, not just waiting for heaven!
    Rebecca Field

  • Yes, I do – but as Isaiah said, I am too often undone and of unclean lips! Woe is me!
    Steve Swartz

  • Bill,
    Exactly right.

    Thanks for your words and for your desire to serve God side by side with those who are like-minded.

    Count me in, my friend. God willing, together we can help push back the frontiers of error and evil.

    Michael Bauman, US

  • Michael, were you one of the lecturers of the 06 and 07 Summit conferences in Canberra?
    If you were, please allow meet tell you, with Bill’s permission, how much your lectures meant to me. It was you who taught me the concept of beauty truth and goodness of God’s character to which my pastor added Holiness, Justice and love. I would so much love to be in the group of the burning hearts, but similarly to a comment before, I am not sure that I could ever be worthy. I know that I am worthy because Christ has made me worthy, but to claim that is still hard for me, I only do it because I do not want to call God a liar.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett
    PS, I have just come back from Daniel 2:44 conference where big picture kingdom concepts are taught. I always find it encouraging.

  • Thanks Ursula

    Yes that is the same Michael. And yes, those who feel the least qualified to enter into all this are in fact the ones who are most qualified. But yes, it is all because of Jesus and what he has done for us. To him alone be the glory and the praise.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch


    Brian Carrick

  • I have to say that I have the privilege of knowing someone with a burning heart. Its always a special time when we get together. You can really sense the presence of God when he is around, its wonderful.
    Yes you can count me in.
    Jeffrey Carl

  • I love these posts you write that so obviously come from deep within your heart, where I can feel the intensity and desire the burns behind the words.

    One verse that I’ve had in my head and heard a lot this past week is from Song of Songs: “I have found the one who my heart loves.”

    It is so good to know the love of God – it has set my heart on fire, and I know that at 25 years old, this is just the beginning!

    Kathy Scott

  • Haha – I was just saying to my wife the other day that the core measure of a Christian is how much you give yourself away to Christ.
    I know Christians all over the spectrum of denomination, intellectualism, pentecostal-ness, socio-economic level, separation vs relevance styles, pro or anti-establishment, some who had the perfect upbringing and some who survived atrocious abuse.
    And throughout the myriad of variations, the people I really want to be like are the ones who give their lives away, and end up doing things at a daunting level of trusting God – simply out of LOVE.
    To me, the biggest mystery of all is WHY 1 person ends up loving God like that and another doesn’t. It is definitely not the environment, it comes from some sort of choice deep INSIDE the person. To me it is the greatest mystery of the universe… the amazing treasure of a person who throws themselves onto God. I can’t help but love these people the most. Sorry – it’s bordering on favoritism I know – but I LOVE them.
    Tim Lovett

  • This is the greatest article that you have ever written. Oh to be part of the fellowship of the Burning heart. The cost is very high though. I am still not sure I can pay it with all my sin and pride. God be merciful to me a sinner. Let your love burn in my heart and let your love burn in this world. In Jesus Name!!!!!!
    Warwick Marsh

  • The differences between those who love the philosophy of Christ, and those who truly love Christ himself are stark. It is evident in their passion to pursue the person of Jesus, to love what he loves and to hate what he hates. Let me be with Jesus alone – “to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”

    Thanks for this Bill.

    Peter Jackel

  • Really lovely to catch a glimpse of your heart, Bill, and to appreciate a little more, what drives you.
    I feel all too often that I lack that burning heart, but do earnestly seek to enter in, in my times alone with the Lord.

    In Him
    Peter Magee

  • I couldn’t agree more. It has nothing to do with denomination, race, age, class…it is all about having a whole heart for Jesus. This is why I married my husband and we cherish our relationship. Finding someone of the same heart and mind is like finding a precious, rare gem. Which surely reflects their likeness to Jesus –
    ‘Fairest of ten thousand is Jesus Christ my Saviour,
    The Lily of the Valley, the bright and Morning Star.
    He is all my glory, and in this heart of mine
    Forevermore I’m singing, this song of love divine.
    ‘Tis the song of the soul set free….!’ (to quote an old Sunday School Anniversary song)
    Many times we have felt like we were the only ones in the church that really knew Jesus the way we did and while we got on with it, trying to ‘bloom where we were planted’ , we really missed that heart fellowship with others. This even happened when we went out as Missionaries. We have come to depend on Christ alone, and cherish like-minded souls when we come across them. Converted in a strong bible-believing Methodist Church when we were 7, Jesus is everything to us and I completely agree with Tozer’s sentiments. I also know how you feel Bill, and thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. It is a great strength to us to read your writings and we pray for you and your prophetic ministry.
    Lesley Kadwell

  • To obtain slightly earlier information on this phenomenon, some may care to Google St Margaret Mary Alacoque, born in France in 1647.
    Dunstan Hartley

  • The definitive version is obviously Luke:24:32.

    Dunstan Hartley

  • Bill, I’ve always thought God would use me more, for something more significant.
    Because I am willing to be unliked for Jesus. I must admit I’m at yet another low and broken. Yes I know God has me where he wants me and I print relevant articles from here and send them to unsaved people I know. But still, I wouldn’t mind a bit of blaze and glory.
    Daniel Kempton

  • Hi folks,
    Just go into any Catholic Church and you will see a statue of Christ displaying a burning heart. I have just been to the place in France where it happened. Just check out “Sacred Heart” or “St Margaret Mary Alacoque” on the web for the full story. The devotions are held on the first Friday of every month.
    Eric Miller

  • Great article, I loved it. Oh to be gifted with a burning heart, that is my prayer.

    Karina van Vliet

  • A small point of correction: Although J. Edwin Orr and Billy Graham were well familiar with Forest Home and were influenced by the ministry of Dr. Henrietta Mears, they were not present the evening the Holy Spirit moved so powerfully – the evening that would inspire the foundation of The Fellowship of the Burning Heart. Please read Bill Bright’s take on this evening at

    Forest Home has a video in which the widows of Bill Bright and Louis Evans and the son of Richard Halverson discuss that evening in depth.

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