Upon his visit to a settlement of Christians known as the United Brethren in 1571, a Polish noble said the following:
“O immortal God, what joy was then kindled in my heart! Verily it seemed to me, when I observed and inquired about everything, that I was in the church of Ephesus or Thessalonica, or some other apostolic church; here I saw with my own eyes and heard with my own ears such things as we read in apostolic letters…”
Praise the Lord, I know just how this brother felt, because this past weekend I was privileged to be part of a two-day conference of Christians and churches from throughout the greater Ohio area where I came away with precisely the same sentiment. Probably four or five hundred saints all gathered together under the same roof, many meeting for the first time, others coming together like family who only get to see each other once or twice a year, and all remarkably full of love and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ. From the singing to the fellowship to the ministry of the Word, never have I witnessed such a testimony of God’s eternal purpose being worked out in the earth among men.
We originally made contact with these saints (albeit indirectly) through the occasional fellowship we have with the church in a city about two hours north of us. More recently we’ve been blessed to receive a couple visits from a certain brother from among them who functions as a “worker,” visiting and strengthening the Lord’s testimony in various places.
The ministry was spiritually rich and yet intensely practical at the same time. Revelation of Christ and God’s economy abounded. The theme of the conference was “Joyfulness: the highest state of a healthy Christian”, and one of the highlights from the spoken ministry was how clearly the brother brought out the beauty of the relationship between Father and Son as they shared in the work of creation. This can be seen in Proverbs 8 where the writer speaks of the Wisdom of God (which is Christ) who was with God “before the beginning of the earth” (v.23) and stood “beside Him” as His “master workman” (v.30) as the Father brought forth all things in both the visible and invisible creation through His Son (Colossians 1:16). There the Son was daily His Father’s delight, rejoicing constantly before Him, and even “delighting in the sons of man” when together they decided to share their creation with humanity for the working out of God’s eternal plan.
Each of us who attended the conference was given hospitality in the homes of various saints. I stayed with a precious Hispanic couple by the name of Jose and Mercedes. Besides myself they also gave room and board to a Chinese couple and another brother named David, both from Ann Arbor, Michigan. What a blessing it was to sit around the breakfast table and realize that in this small company of six people there was represented three separate nationalities, all united as one new man in Jesus Christ! It was like a microcosm of the conference itself, which was full of cultural variety. This alone is an amazing testimony, in my opinion.
Also, the more I interacted with individuals throughout the weekend the more it became evident to me that there was a deep sense of spiritual reality among all the members of the Body. Like Jeremiah said, “they all knew the Lord, from the least of them to the greatest.” Here I was seeing a real priesthood of believers. Almost at once I realized that what I was touching was well beyond the range of my own personal experience. Here among these people I saw a history with Christ and a laboring for the Lord’s purpose that extended far past anything I’ve attained in my little pursuit. It was like wading into the deep end of a pool and suddenly losing your footing. These were waters to swim in!
Well, I could go on and on, but suffice it to say that as a result of the time we spent with these Christians I see more clearly than ever the will and intent of God. He is after something in this age, and He has not only a goal but a way of achieving that goal as well. My heart is on fire for His purpose, and my face is set squarely in the direction of that goal. I pray everyone reading this post will be able to join me in saying, in echo of what the brother shared at this conference: Yes, we are human and we are weak. There are many difficulties we face and many obstacles of life and the enemy standing in our way. But make no mistake about it, our lives will be poured out as a drink offering for the one thing God is after. “We are for Christ! We are for the church life!”
In closing I recall the following quote from a man named John W. Kennedy, who labored among indigenous local churches in India in his own day and wrote a little book on church history called Torch of the Testimony, wherein he traced the “2000 year history of those Christians and churches which have stood outside both the Catholic and Protestant traditions”, in pursuit of Christ and God’s eternal purpose. This weekend I was privileged to break bread with a number of such churches of our own generation, and have returned home fired with a passion to see the same testimony established in my little neck of the woods. So again I say, praise the Lord!
“Churches as they were in the times of the apostles have never ceased to exist… wherever God works through the power of His unchangeable Word, people made partakers of the divine nature, anxious to obey the Word which has shed a flood of light into their souls, have gathered together and are gathering together as the disciples did in Acts.”