Let’s face it.
Life in the Father’s house, the local church on earth can be exhausting... sometimes. I am not even talking about the complexities associated with interacting with individual personalities and the challenges that come with imperfect communication.
I am talking about the exhaustion that comes from a church life associated with too many activities.
At Eastside Baptist Church we are currently doing a series of sermons entitled, “Life in the Father’s House”. The purpose of this series is to help our growing community to focus on the essentials of church life. To that end our Associate Pastor, Frans Brits, preached a message last Sunday on Acts 2:42,
"And they devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
The church born at Pentecost spontaneously exhibited 4 marks (with apologies to 9 Marks Ministries). The early church was founded on four pillars :
(i) The people all met to hear the apostle’s teaching , the inspired Word of God
(ii) The people met to have fellowship – to connect with one another
(iii) The people met to celebrate ‘the breaking of bread’ or the Lord’s supper, by which the life and death of Jesus was remembered regularly with thanksgiving.
(iv) The people all met to pray.
That’s it! The simplicity just resonates in the heart of a tired pastor, and I think also a tired church member. Tired, not because we are tired of church life and the gospel. NO! Tired because of endless activities, which actually rob us of our joy in the name of discipleship. Life needs time for reflection and business easily puts a grinding halt to that. The unexamined life can become a pain!
And so, as I was sitting with this text preached by our dear pastor in my heart and on my mind in the course of the week, I happened to lay my hand on a book by Gary Millar and Phil Campbell, entitled “Saving Eutychus: How to preach God’s word and keep people awake”.
This is actually a book about preaching, but in this book one of the authors, Gary Millar makes reference (pp. 23,24) to a church that impacted him deeply.
Here is the record, and I leave you to figure out why I am drawn to the idea of a wholehearted, devoted simplicity in the life of the church based on the model of Acts 2:42.
“From 1988-1991 (when I was a theological student), I was part of a remarkable church family. Gilcomston South Church of Scotland in Aberdeen wasn’t a huge church. Nor was it a particularly ‘happening’ church. We met twice on a Sunday, had a midweek central Bible study and a Saturday night prayer meeting—and that was it. There was an organ, and we sang five hymns or psalms (often to Germanic minor tunes). The pastor, William Still, preached steadily through the Bible (this was still relatively novel at the time, even though he had been doing it for 40 years). But what set that church family apart was its very simple commitment to ‘the ministry of the word nourished by prayer’ (as Mr. Still would repeatedly say). I have never been part of a church family that had a greater sense of expectancy when we gathered to hear the Bible explained. And I have never been part of a church family where prayer was so obviously the heartbeat of everything that went on. And I have never been part of a church family where God was so obviously present week by week as he spoke through his word. And, it seems to me, there might just be a connection.
Of course ‘Gilc’ was, and is, just like any church family—full of flawed, messed-up people like you and me. But those of us who had the privilege of ‘passing through’ went on from there with an indelible sense that preaching and praying go together. It was just part of the DNA of the church family. The precious group of 50 or 60 people who met week by week at the Saturday night prayer meeting spend most of the two hours praying for the proclamation of the gospel elsewhere—in other churches in our city, in Scotland, and on every continent around the world, one by one. Eventually, someone would pray, ‘And Lord, spare a though for us in our own place tomorrow . . .’ and the others, who had been praying faithfully on their own all through the week for the preaching at Gilc, would murmur a heartfelt ‘Amen.’