To have divine operations in the life of a church is the greatest imaginable privilege and the mightiest power active on earth. Without fanfare, fleshly gimmicks or entertainment, the Holy Spirit troubles and turns hearts to repentance and faith in Christ, and God’s people are stirred to prayer and active service. Faithful churches everywhere desire the blessing of increased instrumentality.
BIBLICAL PREREQUISITES FOR SPIRITUAL INSTRUMENTALITY
This year’s 40th School of Theology presented some of the key prerequisites for experiencing God’s saving and sanctifying power in the life of churches.
We acknowledge that our sovereign God in His mercy and kindness may save lost souls at any time and in the most unworthy environments, but the exhortations of Scripture make it obvious that for consistent usefulness we must ever conform our ways to honour God’s Word.
Obedience, Reverence and Persuasion
The following essential prerequisites for blessing were selected for attention this year. We stressed the need for obedience on major duties of the Word frequently omitted. We dare not forget that it was in the context of obedience that the Lord announced the sending of the Holy Spirit (John 14.15-16). Faithful expository preaching fails if it does not include sincere application, or address the spiritual needs and battles of the hour.
We also pleaded for renewed reverence in worship, without which there can surely be no genuine visitation of God, for we are called to ‘serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear’ (Hebrews 12.28).
In addition we advocated persuasion, a neglected ingredient of evangelism, almost universally upheld by Gospel churches in the past. From Isaiah’s ‘Come let us reason together,’ to the many persuading, beseeching, convincing and warning texts related to the evangelism of the apostles, wrestling with souls is the method of the Bible, and we long to see it revived in preaching.
Reverence, a Pathway to Power
The social revolution that began in the 1960s, swept away absolute moral standards. It also dismantled respect for authority, divine and human, so that the trivialisation of all things quickly became the norm. Many churches have gradually aligned themselves to the secular tide by extreme informality and entertainment-style worship. Is music morally neutral? Do musical forms convey a distinctive message? To address such issues we welcomed Dr John Makujina, Professor of Biblical Studies at Erskine College, Due West, South Carolina, author of the acclaimed work, Measuring the Music. His approach to the aims and claims of the contemporary worship scene was exceptionally thoughtful and challenging.
Contemporary Concerns – Surge of the Cults
In the light of the considerably increased public outreach of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons, and the vulnerability of people from nominal Christian backgrounds, we heard practical counsel from a leading writer and speaker on these movements in the USA, David A Reed. Once a Jehovah’s Witness elder, he is author of Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse, and a companion volume on interacting with Mormons.
Afternoon Interval Sessions
During our popular Afternoon Interval Sessions we heard Pastor Antoine Skaff, Pastor of Badaro Baptist Church, Beirut, Lebanon, speaking on churches in the Middle East, and Pastor James Zenker, Pastor of Beeches Road Baptist Chapel, Blackheath, West Midlands, on Sunday School ministry.