This day, Thursday, June 30, 1892, was an occasion for thanksgiving and praise. Some twenty years earlier, Joseph Parker had instituted a Thursday noon service at his London church. This day was a landmark: it was the occasion of his one thousandth Thursday service!
Joseph had converted to Christ as a boy while walking home from church with his dad one Summer evening. After completing his studies, he became a Congregationalist preacher at Banbury. He was only 23 years old, but gifted; the church soon had to embark on a building project.
Cavendish Chapel in Manchester took note. Their attendance also was low; They asked him to become their preacher. Joseph refused, saying he must first clear the building debt from off his present church. Cavendish Chapel paid it off. Joseph preached in Manchester for many years. Again the church grew.
It was the turn of the Old Poultry Chapel of London to take note. Their empty sanctuary needed filling. Would Joseph come? Joseph refused. Fifteen months passed while Old Poultry's desperate leaders hunted for a suitable pastor. Again they approached Joseph. Only he could fill their empty pews, they said.
Joseph thought about it. However, he was in an awkward position. Manchester had recently given him a large sum, in gratitude for his efforts among them. With characteristic forthrightness, Joseph sat down with the principal donors and asked them what he should do. To his surprise, they agreed he must take the Poultry church!
The results in London were similar to those at Banbury and Manchester. People crowded in to hear his dramatic but Bible-based sermons. His congregation had to build new, a chapel called the City Temple. Joseph offered free preaching classes. He began the Thursday noon meetings.
His good preaching was a key to his success. He had a power for "investing old themes with a novelty which startled and arrested." His flair for promotion did not hurt the cause of his church. For example, in 1884, he announced that he would preach through the Bible, have the messages taken down by a stenographer, and issue the results as a commentary. We know the 25 volumes that resulted from this effort as the People's Bible. It is still in print as Preaching Through the Bible. In fact, during his life time, Joseph's popularity never diminished. Pastors of all denominations attended his Thursday meetings.
Many pastors joined in marking the 1,000th meeting, as did many lay-people who had profited from the noon lessons. They recognized that God had blessed Joseph's labors. The pastor was 62 years old then. He would be 65 before his People's Bible was complete. The church commemorated the 1,000th Thursday with a new stained glass window that represented Paul preaching at Athens.
Joseph filled the London pulpit until his death in 1902. In addition to serving as God's instrument to build up its church and preaching his complete Bible commentary, he had chaired Congregational organizations, visited America five times and written twenty other books. One secret of his success was that he always found something fresh to say because he spent time with the Bible every day.
- Adamson, William. Life of Joseph Parker, Pastor of City Temple. London: Revell, n.d.
- "Parker, Joseph." Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford, 1956.
Last updated July, 2007