In the last issue of the ShoreLight I encouraged you to do some summer reading and noted that I would be going to a few used bookstores to gather up some good selections for myself. I did do so and came away with more than I expected in the area of Congregational church history. (This is the reading I do that my children all find boring but to me it is both enjoyable and useful for the present day, even if some of the books can be a bit tedious.) I came away with seven books on Congregational churches or ministers. I have only begun to read them.
The last ShoreLight also suggested that you make the Bible a part of your summer reading program. I also did that as I am continuing to read and ponder the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. I didn’t find any helpful books on Ezekiel in the used bookstores I visited but I have several that I am reading anyway. I hope that you have also found the summer to provide some uplifting spiritual reading.
So of what use is all this reading? What has it profited me and you and how will all of this affect the life of our church here in Amber? Let me make a report of sorts with regard to three things I have been reading about and trying to focus on for our benefit together.
Awakening – The first is “awakening.” I use that term as it is the one used historically to refer to times of spiritual revival. 1740-1744 was the time of the Great Awakening in our country. It coincided with the dates of the Wesley Methodist Revivals in England. The last few months I have read or reread a number of books on this period from both a positive as well as a critical standpoint. The excesses of hyper-spiritualized evangelism almost destroyed the coming to faith realities that brought conviction of sin and awareness of eternal values.
At the beginning of the 1800’s another time of revival occurred, this time with a concentration on biblical truth and morals. This was the period when deism and rationalism advanced along with a free-feeling morality. Into this era the Second Great Awakening brought attention back to God’s revealed truth and standard.
My reading has made me ponder the question that had I been living in those times what side would I have been on? Would I have sided with the awakening or resisted it due to its faults, inconsistencies, and rigid declarations. I wonder about myself and our church in light of today’s cultural climate and willful ignorance of God’s biblical truth. Will we make the right choice in light of all the truth-claims and fake-news in our day? Do we see the eternal or are we consumed by the present? We need an awakening.
Gift Based Ministry – This entire year we have focused the teaching ministry of the church on “Gift-Based Ministry.” It is the term used by the National Church Development materials that we have been trying to work through the last few years. This is in a sense a planned attempt to create an awakening. Can we do so without the movement of the Spirit of God? Can we do so without attending to prayer and Bible study? Are our efforts useless and fruitless and will we simply wait for someone else to do for us what we should be doing ourselves?
In our Sunday Worship we have looked at the four passages that deal with spiritual gifts in the New Testament, seeking to define and grasp both their importance and their availability to each individual believer. We then tried to illustrate them by showing how these gifts were used in the early church as told in the Book of Acts. As we begin the fall I am planning to illustrate a few of them again this time in the ministry of Jesus. They are not called spiritual gifts when he uses them as they are the qualities of his life, but we can hopefully learn how to practice them effectively by observing how our Lord engaged in teaching, healing, evangelism and the distinguishing of spirits. Perhaps those of you with other gifts can find illustrations of them in your own reading of the gospel stories about Jesus.
Help – The third word I am thinking about as the
summer draws to a close is the word “help.” The passage of Scripture that comes to mind is Acts 16 when the Apostle Paul had a vision of a person begging him to “Come…and help us” (Acts 16:9). I feel not like the apostle but like the one crying out for help. I am getting older, I am losing my energy as well as my ability to relate to and connect with the youth of today. I am not the only one in this situation for we are an aging church and we have not inspired our children or the children of our community to follow in the ways of God. We need help. I have asked both the Elders and the Trustees for permission to begin looking for someone to come and help us, a younger person who could perhaps provide some perspective and assistance before our church ages out of existence. The older I get I fear that I may be more of a liability to the church than an asset. It was not without reason that the Apostle John wrote of the need for the church to have “children…fathers…and young men” (1 John 2:12-14). Does God have someone in mind rightfully suited and gifted to come and help us? I believe he does.
Well, this is my summer report. I have been musing, pondering, reading, praying, and then doing them all over again. Won’t you join me in doing what we can to bring an awakening, a gift-based ministry, and a thoughtful search for help? See you in Worship.