A number of replies have been received in response to Bill Brown’s call for help in the January-February issue of “Focus.” For readers unfamiliar with Bill Brown’s letter, he is a keen new believer who finds himself in a quandary in deciding which church to “join.” He has narrowed his choice down to two: a strong, thriving, active church, with a good Gospel-preaching and Bible-believing pastor, a good programme and a warm welcome; and another —a “Gospel Chapel”—where the members are devoted to Christ and stress a weekly “communion service” but whose numbers are not growing and the preaching sometimes poor.
It is not possible to fully reproduce all the letters received, but the following excerpts will indicate their general tenor:
One writer from Ontario asks: “Is not the whole question fictitious?” and expresses concern that “such strategy should appear” in such “a worthy paper as ‘Ministry in Focus’.” Since others may share his suspicions, it should be stated here that the question, submitted by a mature Christian, related to an actual incident of which he had knowledge— and which of course is frequently repeated in the experiences of God’s people. The name of the person whose problem was submitted, and some of the details of his experiences were, of course, changed as we would not wish to identify the brother.
A Christian of 42 years’ experience, from Illinois, suggests that, in his choice, Bill Brown should be guided by the emphasis placed on worship in the church, for “out of an attitude of devotion, service will naturally follow. The worship service will always be the high point in the devoted believer’s experience.” In such a “worship service,” there should be “the opportunity for individual worship,” recognizing “the priesthood of the individual believer,” each one having “direct access to God, without interference or direction from a clergy.” He deplores the situation in which “the pastor does all the preaching, most of the teaching and most of the praying. God tells us to provoke one another to love and to good works; I know of no place where this command is better carried out than at the worship meeting, where we, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, prompt each other to worship.”
A brother from Ontario cautions Bill Brown against choosing the larger congregation because of its size. He cites an experience at a missionary conference where two-thirds of the missionaries present came from small congregations (“under one hundred members”).
Another brother from Ontario advises Bill Brown to “join the active church of which he speaks! According to Scripture, there is no standing still in the Christian life”—for the local church as for the individual believer. He feels, therefore, that the group of believers who appear devoted to Christ, yet are not growing—a Scriptural impossibility, in his opinion—“is in a backslidden condition and it would be spiritual suicide for Bill Brown to join such a group.” However, he adds, “had Bill been a mature Christian, the advice would have been reversed, as there is a possibility that he would be able to stir up the folks in this ‘Chapel’ to their God-given task of ‘making disciples’.”
If you can give any counsel to those confronted with a similar problem to Bill Brown’s, or if you have any comments to make on the responses printed in the last issue of “Focus” or above—or if you have any other question you would like to see discussed in this column, please send your contribution to: Dr. James T. Naismith, 1121 Hilltop St., Peterborough, Ontario, K9J 5S6.
Question For Consideration:
The following question has been submitted by a brother from Ontario: In a recent publication, reference is made to the Lord’s “coming secretly for His own” and Matthew 24:41 is cited. “Does the whole context of this verse not deal with the Lord’s return to the earth? If this is not so, then verse 51 must teach not only a partial rapture but the possibility of a believer losing his salvation some day. God forbid!”
It is certainly true that many take the expression “the one shall be taken” to refer to those who are raptured at the coming of the Lord for His people; and “the other left” to those left for judgment. But is this the meaning of the passage? Your comments are invited.