Growing in knowledge may well be the easier part for those of us who are of the so called "Brethren Assemblies." Many in our likeminded fellowships are both justly and dangerously proud of the knowledge brought to this church age through the scholarship of JN Darby. However, the truth of the matter is we in the Brethren Movement are almost universally afflicted in some measure by the harsh spirit of Darby. That spirit that led to the great split is sadly one of Darby's most lasting legacies.
Growing in grace? Do I hafta? Isn't enough for me to be right?
Grow. In. Grace. (?) (!) ungggghhh
A young(er) missionary brother posted a (frustrated?) letter to us attempting to stimulate us and some churches across the country toward revival. His letter/blogpost had unintended/expected response of some readers feeling hurt or offended.
(begin long quote from dialogue that consumed much of the last coupla' days):him to me: The elders back home and in many places we have visited have echoed the same problems.
my response: There's sin in the church? It's endemic? Shocked, I say. Shocked. I wonder why so little is said of it in the NT.
But of course it's ever before us, heavy on our hearts as Elders and dominates my prayer list for individuals in fellowship at Laurel and is at the top (2nd line actually) of my personal prayer list.
The question is what to do about it, how to effectively lead a flock, without dispersing the flock to the weeds and losing ability to shepherd individuals. The question for a shepherd is, "What works?" (hint: how did Jesus Christ speak to his own? In his sternest correction of Peter or the James/John?).
him to me:They have seen the need to repent and follow Christ, but in general don't know how to proceed.
my response: Well we have a wee bit (and I don't say that to be self deprecating -- it is indeed a very very small bit) of understanding of that. We've been there ourselves. For years. Decades.
It's a work of the Holy Spirit, "Not by might or by power but by my Spirit saith the Lord."
It will happen in his time and by his power. It won't happen at any point in time when we're positioned so that we can get any credit for it.
God. Will. Not. Share. His glory.
In LBC's case revival started individually in the Elder's lives. Leadership does matter. Imagine that. /heh
pick a platitude. they fit:
The fish rots from the head down.
You will only be followed as far as you've traveled.
In my case it was incremental starting in '95 at a Promise Keepers event in LA Coliseum. The major point of revival began years later when I started praying for the Lord to help me name the strongholds (allusion to clearing out Canaanite pockets in lsrael) in my life and for him to breakdown those fortresses.
I knew they were there, He knew they were there. I had to name them.
Ooooohh, the pain....
Then came the hidden strongholds. And the hits keep coming and strongholds keep being revealed...
Further back and of greatest importance was with women during a dark, dry time at Laurel in the mid 80's who started praying by 2's and 3's. They continued for years and do still to this day. Revival didn't really come until 20 years later but much groundwork and foundation work was done in the intervening year.
A recurring theme from the elders in our pulpit has been the pattern of revival in Kings I, II.
Removal of sin
Return to the Word
Restoration of Worship
Again and again.
Him to me:The Scripture is full of admonition, reproof, and speaking out against sin wherever it is apparent.
My response: What moves the flock along is not loud barking by an unfamiliar sheepdog or shepherd. Regardless of your intent that was the effect. (Selah)
That's the beauty of expository teaching front to back through a book of the Bible.
(editor note for the reader: they've been surprised/confused/intrigued/mystified? by the approach we take as an Elder/Pastor team in praying over, agreeing together planning out long in advance our weekly pulpit ministry. Also this is the first church of our ilk(aka "Brethren Assembly") that they've seen proceed front to back teaching through a book -- as opposed to asking a brother to take a week or series of weeks and "teach on whatever he's led to by the Spirit."
Those passages dealing with sin and purity naturally occur in context. The flock doesn't feel put upon but is much more receptive to it. In our experience the work of the Holy Spirit in prepping individual lives to coincide with the arrival at a particular passage in sequence on a given Sunday is nothing short of miraculous. That's not to diminish the value of topical speaking just to bear witness to the fruit we've seen and the openness to the the "tough stuff" when approached in sequential expository teaching of scripture.
Careful about a strident voice (I can testify to that). It moves sheep along. Along to other churches or out of church entirely.
Paul to Timothy, "teach, exhort, reprove" and to do it with patience. It's absolutely a shepherds responsibility. No dodging it. However, the progression there is worth keeping in mind: teach, then exhort, finally reprove.
Reproof is a last resort following much prayer, and patience in personal engagemegnt.
...comes to mind Titus 2:6 often with these situations where a younger brother is really earnestly "feeling it" and wanting help effect change but unwittingly miscommunicates or is misunderstood by some in the church.
"older men teach the younger men to be sober (temperate)..." Titus 2:6
That's the tougher part for "Assembly" folks like us.
May we "Brethren" be equally known for the grace of Jesus Christ shown in the life of Robert Chapman as we are for the teachings and translations of JN Darby.
May we like Robert Chapmen be remembered for having been Agape Leaders.