In 1947, The Fellowship of the Burning Heart was created by four souls one evening during a Sunday school retreat in the San Bernadino mountains. Three college-aged men met with the speaker, Henrietta Mears, in her cabin to pray. Their desire came from having been deeply touched by what she had shared with them in her talk. Mears had just returned from a post-World War II tour in which she’d witnessed first-hand a very war-torn Europe.
She had met war-heroes, young men who had served on the front lines during the war. They’d been sent out on missions that no one expected them to return from. The soldiers had been called “the expendables.” Their experiences moved Henrietta and she spoke about them at the retreat about being “expendable for Christ.” She sparked passion in her listeners.
As the story goes, Mears encouraged her students at the retreat to be willing to die for ‘the Cause of Christ.’ That night, as the the young men talked and prayed with her, a strong visitation of the Holy Spirit came upon them. They immediately drew up a commitment pledge to live by as members of The Fellowship of the Burning Heart.
These young disciples, inspired and sent out by Henrietta Mears, became men of renown in Evangelical Christianity: Bill Bright (established Campus Crusade for Christ), Dick Halverson (Chaplain of the U.S. Senate), Louis Evans (Pastor in Washington at the National Presbyterian Church, where most American presidents have attended services and visitors have included Queen Elizabeth and Mother Teresa. He became close to President Reagan and Nancy.)Billy Graham was part of the same group mentored by Henrietta Mears.
A. W. Tozer, dearly loved for his books on the deeper Christian life (The Pursuit of God) wrote 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.”
Of course the original “Burning Heart” is Christ. A person who comes close enough to Him catches fire. Our highest commitment and pledge in life must be, therefore, to come as close as possible to Him.
Later, the group adopted Calvin’s seal of a heart being offered on an outstretched hand with the words, “My heart I offer to You, Lord, promptly and sincerely.” (John Calvin)