Friday, June 06, 2008

The Voice of God Through the Church

On June 6, 1908, at the Bicentennial Celebration in Des Moines, Iowa, the topic of the day was: The Voice of God Through the Church. The topic for the day included two addresses. The first, by L.W. Teeter was "What the Church Has Heard from God." Teeter stated that To tell what the church has heard from God is nothing less than to tell what God has said to the church. Teeter's address was summarized here on March 3.

The second address on the topic was by J. W. Lear: "What the Church Has Done with the Message." Lear began his address with the reminder that Christ is the head of the church. The church is his body existing in the world through the church. Therefore Christ is still incarnate in the world through the church.

After providing some church history, Lear brings us up to 1708 when eight of these honest, simple-hearted people bonded themselves together after careful meditation, prayer and fasting, to start an organization founded upon no other creed than the New Testament. ... Their great desire to unfurl a banner upon which was inscribed: "The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," is the only apology that need be offered for this action. They were fearless in the proclamation of this great Pauline truth. They were zealous in their belief and anxious that all men would join them in the propogation of the Gospel as understood by themselves, yet they maintained that membership in the church of Jesus Christ was to be had on the ground of faith, love and obedience, rather than on the material platform of compulsion....

Lear goes on to share about the spread of the churches in the eighteenth century to New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky, and early in the nineteenth the Gospel as understood by the Brethren was preached in Ohio, Illinois and Missouri and membership within the first 100 years exceeded 75,000. Lear continues, We are now eagerly setting our faces toward Europe, Asia, Africa and the islands of the sea to help reclaim these lands for Christ.

Lear moves on toward his summation: The church has already acomplished much, and it is impossible to calculate what might be wrought if it were not for the unawakened souls in the church that are applying the brakes of indifference on this mountain climb. If every member was spirit-filled and fully consecrated, our efficiency would be much greater. Commercialism is clogging the wheels of progress. Too many of our members are laying up treasures at the wrong place. Thousands will be disappointed on the great day of awards.

... God is willing to save all that call, but how much of the sending are we willing to do? We, who claim to preach a whole Gospel, and fault others for not doing so, ought to be exceedingly zealous in carrying the beautiful story to all that we can.

Source: Two Centuries of the Church of the Brethren, Chapter 4