Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: Christian fellowship

There is a famine

Image by nancygebhardt from Pixabay 

Rural and small town churches across Canada are rapidly disappearing.  Fifty years ago, the town where I grew up had five churches.  Only two remain, and they are the churches where one is least likely to ever hear Bible-based preaching.  Smaller towns nearby have no churches at all.

This is more than a demographic curiosity.  It means that in whole swaths across our nation people are deprived of a readily accessible place to hear the Word of God preached.  In times past many people deemed this a necessity.  Families would invest money, time and labour to ensure they would have a place of worship.

What has caused the decline?  One part of the problem is the cost of maintaining a minister.  To provide suitable living accommodations and a decent salary for a minister and his family was by far the greatest part of the operating cost of most small town churches.  Some denominations would have one minister serving congregations in three or four towns.  Over a period of years the smaller congregations died out one by one.  Other denominations merged rural and small town congregations into a congregation in a larger town.  Many people find it too far to drive and now many congregations in the larger towns are struggling.

Ministers do not want to stay long in a low-paying church; the parishioners find the constant turnover of ministers discouraging.  Some ministers are young and find it hard to develop a rapport with parishioners older than themselves.  Others have been taught new ideas in the Bible Schools and Seminaries that do not resonate with their staid small-town parishioners.  Old-fashioned Bible truths and the old hymns are laid by in favour of teachings and choruses thought to be more appealing to younger people.  None of it seems to have worked.

The real problem is the notion that a church cannot survive without a trained and salaried minister.  The pattern shown in the Scriptures is for believers to meet together for worship and mutual edification.  In such a setting, The Holy Spirit will eventually give direction to choose one or more brethren to be ordained as ministers.  They will minister to the needs of the brothers and sisters, while continuing to earn their own livelihood.  The congregation may provide help for expenses incurred in their ministry, but they will not need a salary.

The preparation needed for the ministry is not training in Bible School or Seminary, but a genuine spiritual life, with love for God, the brotherhood and all mankind.  Such a minister is well equipped to minister to the needs of people and point them to the same Saviour who has delivered him in all his times of need.

The preaching of the Word should not be a lecture by someone who is considered to have superior knowledge, but an exposition of Bible truths that relate to the very real present day needs of every man and woman, including the preacher himself.

This is the pattern of the New Testament and of Anabaptists of former generations.  Congregations organized in such a manner can prosper and grow and multiply.

There was once much sound Bible-based preaching in most denominations.  I fear that over time the reliance on trained and salaried ministers introduced unsound teachings, as well as creating a financial burden that small-town congregations could not manage.

Are there still people in the small towns and rural areas with a longing for Christian fellowship and sound Bible-based preaching?  Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost and to gather together His scattered sheep.  Such sheep are not only to be found in the glamour of foreign mission fields or big city missions, some might be found in the very prosaic setting of a small town.

Things I am thankful for

I know that it is still three weeks until Thanksgiving Day, but there are many things to be thankful for every day and I want to tell you about the things that I am thankful for right now.

My wife arrived home Thursday from a nine day stay in Edmonton where she was helping an elderly cousin who recently moved there from Saskatoon. I was glad she could go and help, and even more thankful when she came home. I was working while she was gone, plus taking care of the household chores. Some of the ways that she does things that seemed odd to me before make a lot more sense after having to do them myself.

Our youngest grandson had surgery to correct a lazy eye that same day. I am thankful that went well.

Pookie, our little white cat who had an encounter with a dog is back to his normal energetic self. He doesn’t look too good yet, but the wounds are healing with no more sign of infection.

A young couple whom we have not seen for ten years dropped in on us Saturday evening. They live in Québec and are out for a short visit with their oldest son who is working on a farm here. I said young, but that is from my perspective, Kevin must be 45 and there is some gray in his beard. We have known both of them, and their parents for years and it was a special treat to have them in our home, even if only for an hour.

There was a welcome at church this evening for a young couple, Renaldo and Brenda, (mid-thirties this time) who are moving back here after spending the past eleven years in Alberta.

Renaldo spent time in voluntary service in Montréal when in his youth, during the time that we were missionaries there. We had been living in Ontario before going to Montréal. Three young brethren from the Swanson congregation came to visit him. One of the three was Ken Klassen who first laid eyes on his future wife during that trip. He is now our son in law and the father of our grandchildren.

Brenda doesn’t remember the first time we met, as she was not yet four years old then. In January of 1981 her parents and their little children made a stop in our home in Ontario. At that time I had always counted on my wife to cut my hair, but she had undergone surgery a couple weeks earlier and wasn’t able to do it. Somehow it was mentioned that I was getting a little shaggy and Brenda’s father offered to cut my hair. We got out the clippers and the job was quickly done. Brenda doesn’t remember that, but her mother was there last night and she does. Then Brenda put me on the spot and asked if I remember the time she had been in our apartment in Montréal when she was 16. I had to admit that I had forgotten about that.

I am thankful for all the little things like this that bind us together as our paths cross and recross over the years.

Christian fellowship in the church

The New Testament depicts the church as a body where believers of many backgrounds are united in true brotherhood.  The disarray in many churches should not cause us to abandon hope that this is still possible in our day.  It is yet God’s plan for His children.  Are we humble enough to trust the Holy Spirit and other believers to join in true Christian brotherhood?

Words of Jesus:
Matthew 18:3  Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 7:21: Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Luke 6:31 31  And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
Matthew 5:9  Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Luke 17:3-4  If thy brother trespass against thee . . .   seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

Words of the apostle John:
1 John 2:3  And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments.
1 John 3:14  We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.
1 John 2:10  He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him.

Words of the apostle Peter:
1 Peter 2:17  Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
1 Peter 3:8-9  Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:  Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 4:8-9  And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.  Use hospitality one to another without grudging.
1 Peter 5:5  Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

Words of James, the brother of our Lord:
James 2:1  My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
James 4:11  Speak not evil one of another, brethren.
James 5:9  Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned:
James 5:16  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.
James 3:17-18  But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Words of the apostle Paul:
Romans 12:9,10 & 13  Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.  Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; . . .   Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Romans 14:1   Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
Romans 14:19  Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.
Romans 15:5-6   Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus:  That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 8:13  Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend (stumble), I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend (stumble).
Ephesians 2:19  Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
Col 3:11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

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