Revised June 24, 2016
1895 - 1901
The Faith Mission
1895 - WM. IRVINE JOINS THE FAITH MISSION when he was 32 years old. After attending the Bible Institute he chose to associate himself with the Faith Mission, a Protestant evangelical movement founded in 1886 in Scotland by John George Govan. Irvine wrote: "I finally chose to join the Faith Mission, which showed the most spiritual and fire, and so...I started preaching with them in July 1895" (Letter to Dunbars, October 13, 1920). When he joined FM there were 47 workers; when he left six years later, there were 62, a growth of about 2 workers a year. He received no formal training from Faith Mission.
The Faith Mission sent pairs of men and women they called "pilgrims" or "workers" from village to village preaching and holding gospel meetings and annual conventions. Their workers had no guaranteed salaries, took up no collections, relinquished their homes and possessions, and accepted food and lodging from those who offered it.
His name and location were first mentioned in the FM monthly publication Bright Words: "In the south a mission is being worked by two brothers who have recently joined us, William Irvine from Queenzieburn..." (August 15, 1895).
The founder of The Faith Mission, John George Govan (aka J. G. Govan), was born to William and Margaret Govan in Glasgow, Scotland on January 19, 1861 and died October 3, 1927. He had six brothers and six sisters. He wrote: "I may mention the blessedness of having godly parents--a father and mother who loved the Lord Jesus...I was converted when quite young through an address my father gave...and as a boy of twelve" (In the Train of His Triumph - Reminiscences of the Early Days of the Faith Mission by J. G. Govan ) The FM librarian was unable to locate records showing the Govan family to be members of a particular denomination.
On October 14, 1886, when he was 25 years old, with no ecclesiastical credentials, John Govan started The Faith Mission. "The Faith Mission was instituted in October, 1886, for the evangelization, especially of villages, country districts, and small towns in Scotland, but open to extend further, either in this country or elsewhere, as God might lead." (The Faith Mission Aims and Principles)
"I believe God gave us the name [Faith Mission.] Faith was to be the principle of the Mission--faith in God, and in Him alone; absolute dependence upon Him for everything necessary, for guidance, for health, and strength besides food and clothing; faith for the future as well as faith for the present. Faith lives on distinct promises such as--'They who preach the Gospel shall live by the Gospel' and 'They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.' And the word 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee' covers all contingencies...We want those who will forswear all the comforts of home, all the ambitions of life and the pleasures of the world to go out as 'pilgrims' and strangers on the earth,' and live entirely for God." (First! Magazine, Sept-Oct, 2011*)
At this time, female preachers were a rarity, except for the Salvation Army. The first female FM workers accepted by the FM were Agnes Jack and Annie Martin who began in March, 1887. In September, 1894, J. G. Govan married Annie Martin, who was born in 1870 and died on July 26, 1932. They had two sons and two daughters. View Govan Family Tombstone in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Faith Mission Headquarters is located in Edinburgh, Scotland, along with their Bible College. Their workers evangelize in Scotland, England and Ireland, each country having its own Headquarters. Affiliated branches are established in Canada, South Africa and France. They hold annual conventions in Ireland and Scotland.
Originally, "The [Faith] Mission concentrated mainly on harnessing the energies of youth, engaging in a type of itinerant evangelism better suited to unmarried workers." (Channel of Revival by Andrew A. Woolsey, p. 99) There were married worker couples and also sister workers on their early Workers Lists; however, only the Superintendent workers were allowed to marry. If a worker married, they had to leave the work.
The FM first formed weekly "Prayer Union" meetings in June, 1887, "where Christians were able to encourage one another; to have fellowship and to pray with one another, and conserve the work of evangelism." The Prayer Unions did not take the place of a church--the members retained their membership in and attended the church of their choice.
"The Mission was determined not to start a "sect," and strenuously kept clear of administering baptism or the supper of the Lord. The solution came to the Chief in the idea of The Prayer Union." (Faith Triumphant - A Review of the Work of The Faith Mission 1886-1936, page 27)
"The mission does not seek to advance its own interests, to draw away members from existing organizations, or run down others sects. Its aim is to build up THE KINGDOM, and for this purpose to have fellowship with all God's people." (Spirit of Revival by I. R. Govan, p. 41)
"As an interdenominational agency, it works closely with all Christian churches that share a similar concern for passionate evangelism and evangelical truth, especially in areas where there is little or no biblical witness." (FM website homepage)
It is important to understand that the Faith Mission is NOT a sect, church or religion. They do not have organized churches, do not baptize or take communion in their Prayer Union services. As their name states, they are a MISSION - not a religion.
The 1901 Irish census shows Wm Irvine as a Visitor in a home; Occupation: Evangelist Preacher; Religion: Presbyterian (the faith he was brought up in). Note his religion was not given as "Faith Mission," which is not a denomination.
The following publications may be obtained from Faith Mission about their mission.
MAGAZINE: BRIGHT WORDS: Since 1889, the Faith Mission has published a monthly magazine titled Bright Words. It was renamed Life Indeed and later renamed: First! This publication provides news and reports concerning workers, their current locations, converts and missions, testimonies, as well as spiritual articles. Wm Irvine is mentioned many times in this publication.
BOOK: SPIRIT OF REVIVAL by I. R. [Isabella Rosie] Govan Stewart wrote a biography in 1978 of her father and the story of the early years of The Faith Mission and many later editions have been printed.
BOOK: HERITAGE OF REVIVAL - A CENTURY OF RURAL EVANGELISM is a book by Rev. Colin N. Peckham about the early history and activities of the Faith Mission. Reprinted by permission on TTT, it can also be purchased from Faith Mission. The author who was the General Director of The Faith Mission wrote the following statement in an email to the VOT Editor on July 22, 1999 regarding William Irvine:
"The Faith Mission is an 'interdenominational' mission working
the major Protestant denominations who accept the simple truth of the
i.e. that salvation is by faith in Christ alone.
"William Irvine was converted as a young man and joined The Faith
Mission in 1895. He worked in the South of Ireland and had very
missions within the different denominations. He became very
of these churches and started to work independently. He
broke away from The Faith Mission and became very legalistic with the
of salvation being on 'what you do' rather than by faith alone. (Obviously
we believe that such faith must be expressed in one's lifestyle).
"Our magazines of that period record William Irvine's time with us. I also have the diary* of someone who worked with him in those days. Much of the Cooneyite way of working was identical to that of The Faith Mission, and was certainly not a new revelation from the Lord." *probably John Long's Journal
APPEARANCES & DRESS: Well known for its "bonneted sisters, the female Faith Mission workers wore bonnets tied in a bow under their necks. They also wore black stockings and court shoes. The male workers wore coats with lapels and a Faith Mission motif on their pockets. Initially, all workers dressed in solid dark colors. The blue suit and jaunty blue hat have since disappeared. Click Here to view 1888 picture in TTT Photo Gallery
"The Faith Mission workers have a dress 'code' which was strictly adhered to in earlier times and regulation sheets were issued. Unfortunately I don't have any applying to earlier years. Bonnets and black stockings were worn until into the 1960's (when I joined the Mission). I am enclosing one or two photographs which may help you. Early in the century, skirts were worn long and stockings were not seen, though I understand they were usually black; shoes in the 1950s and 60s were to be court shoes with a firm heel." (Letter by Mr. Keith H. Percival, General Director of The Faith Mission, Nov. 22, 1993*)
FAITH MISSION FINANCES: They were openly accountable with their finances. Reports were printed in their monthly publication. Every September they published a Statement of Accounts report summarizing their annual income and expenses. Their Fourteenth Annual Report begins with the following statement by their founder, John G. Govan:
"Faith Mission was founded in 1886, for the promotion of spiritual life and godliness through the evangelising of the country districts of Scotland, and farther afield if God leads, on unsectarian lines. Evangelists, called "Pilgrims," generally work in pairs. They visit a place for several weeks, more or less, according as circumstances and the leadings of the Spirit of God seem to indicate advisable, visiting among the people and holding meetings for the unsaved and for Christians, in which they welcome the cooperation of all who love the Lord Jesus in sincerity. The Mission is maintained on the faith principle, by freewill offerings during missions and unsolicited contributions to headquarters. The finances are divided into three distinct sections-(a) General Account; (b) Special Fund for Training, etc.; (r) Foreign Fund..." (Bright Words, Sept. 1900)
They were a FAITH Mission, in the literal sense of the term. Their pilgrim workers did not pass around a collection plate. At times a box was placed in the back of their mission room to receive donations and their workers also received donations directly. After a mission, the workers counted the contributions together and recorded the amount in a notebook. The funds were used for heating, lighting, moving halls, lodgings, etc. The workers filed a statement with FM headquarters on a quarterly basis, which included income, expenses, attendance figures and time spent visiting. Any mission surplus was sent to FM Headquarters regularly; deficits from a mission were met by FM Headquarters. (Information provided by Bobby Dukelow, retired FM Worker to Robert Kee, April 16, 2002)
An allowance was also sent to each Pilgrim by The Faith Mission Headquarters. Concerning the allowance Pilgrims received for the year ending September,1900: "The amount for maintenance of our workers is 10 pounds less [than the year 1899] and when the total amount of 1420 pounds is divided by the number of pilgrims in the Mission, after deducting the few who are not supported out of the Mission's funds, it gives the average cost of about 28 pounds each for maintenance, which is exceedingly moderate." (Bright Words, Sept. 1900). NOTE: 28 pounds divided by twelve months translates to a Faith Mission Pilgrim Worker receiving 2.33 pounds per month in 1900.
In the chapter titled Faith Mission in Accounts of the Early Days, Goodhand Pattison wrote:
"Now for a while I must return to, and endeavor to follow up, some of William Irvine's movements, and...introduce the 'Faith Mission'...The name and subject were both quite new to me until William Irvine's arrival in these parts, and while he made no secret of the fact either publicly or privately, that in preaching the Gospel he was connected with and owed allegiance to that association, and would continue to do so - so he used to say - until he found better; yet he never for a moment sought to preach up the Faith Mission so as to obscure his hearers' vision, or 'hide for a moment his Lord from their eyes.' First and last, it was 'Jesus Only.'
"The headquarters of the Faith Mission was at Rothesay in Scotland, and its chief organizer and promoter was John G. Govan assisted by either one or two brothers...Workers, male and female, were known as pilgrims, and to the number of about 60 were scattered mostly in Scotland and Ireland, usually in pairs, but not always in the case of brothers.
"The work in Ireland at that time was, in a minor sense, directed by a senior pilgrim named Potter, but I understand that all reports, monies, etc. were dealt with at Headquarters, and responsibility in regard to choosing and sending out of pilgrims, their up-keep, etc. was also borne by their chief, Mr. Govan.
"While conducting missions they did not take up collections, but at or near the close of a mission, if not before, they intimated or allowed it to be understood that they would accept a thank-offering from those who felt like giving one, for blessing received. These offerings were sent to Headquarters... In their preaching they did not usually attack clergy or churches, but when the mission was over and any professed to have got saved, or otherwise helped by their ministrations, they sought to establish 'Prayer Unions,' with cards of membership pledging the members to attendance of united prayer meetings at various centers, etc., as found convenient, thus securing in a measure the lively interest and sympathy of members when pilgrims had gone elsewhere."
Faith Mission Photo Gallery Page
FAITH MISSION HEADQUARTERS
2 Drum Street, Edinburgh, Scotland EH17 8QG
Telephone: +44 (0)131 664 4336
Fax: +44 (0)131 672 1322
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