Starting with the imperative of genuine love, Brother Donald Brechbill speaks of the church’s interaction with society in three different ways:
- as a presence in society,
- as a voice in society, and
- as a person in society.
Using personal examples, historical illustrations, and Jesus’ interaction with humanity, he asks us to consider how our efforts of reaching the world are accomplishing the Great Commission of Jesus. And how committed are we to alleviate the suffering brought into the world through sin?
The presentation ends with an interactive question-and-answer session from the audience.
- How does your “identity” impact how you view your place in society?
- In what ways do you see your church being salt and light?
- How can we more effectively communicate our message across social / cultural barriers?
- How involved should the church be in humanitarian aid?
- Mass evangelism or personal discipleship? How is you church fulfilling her calling?
Opening prayer by Curt Wagoner:
Gracious God, heavenly Father, in the name of Jesus, I pray that you would abundantly bless Brother Donald this evening as he exercises a prophet’s voice and declares unto us your truth, as he challenges us. O heavenly Father, would you calm any anxieties that maybe in his breast, would you strengthen him? Would you bless him? Would you take a coal from off the altar and place it upon his tongue and equip him, enable him to be a vessel for Your glory tonight. Bless every heart that’s worshiping that we truly might worship you in Spirit and in truth. In Jesus’ name, I pray, amen.
Donald Brechbill message begins:
Welcome to all. It’s wonderful to be able to address so many people on a platform like this. And I consider it a great joy, a great pleasure to represent the kingdom of God on Earth and speak to those who represent the kingdom of God on Earth. It is a great work that God is doing. And you know, we’re living in a day when there is so much bad press out there, and I’m glad this evening that I can bring some good news to the world. And that is that the kingdom of God on Earth is flourishing and doing well. It is growing. It is prospering. God’s people are alive and well, and God’s kingdom is advancing
The topic this evening is “Church of God, Awake! Arise!” and I guess if you take that very literally we could assume that the church of God is asleep and sitting down. I don’t think that was the intention of the planning committee, but rather to buoy us, or to encourage us as a church of God to rise up and take our place in the world, in society about us, and to become the Kingdom on Earth, Kingdom of God on Earth that he has called us to be.
I appreciated some of the Scriptures that have already been read to us about the Kingdom of God. We have some wonderful promises about the Kingdom of God, that it is a Kingdom that is going to grow, and going to advance. I believe that Brother Curt read this promise to us on Friday evening. This is the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, and the little stone that was hewn out of the mountain without hands. And it said that this stone smote the image in its feet and this little stone grew and grew and grew until it became a huge mountain and filled the entire Earth. And that’s one promise that we have that the Kingdom of God is going to supersede the Kingdoms of this world, and the Kingdom of God is going to continue to grow and prosper and it’s going to continue to be a force for good in this world. Another verse that I love is the promise of Jesus’ birth in Isaiah chapter 9 where we read the “Unto us a child is born…” and then we read that:
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.Isaiah 9:7
That’s a promise that we have that the Kingdom of God is going to continue to grow, and continue to increase, and while we may not know exactly how that’s all going to take place, we can rejoice tonight to be a part of a Kingdom that will not be destroyed, and a Kingdom that will last forever.
The words of Jesus to Simon Peter in Matthew chapter 16; in this setting Jesus was asking his disciples “Who do men say that I am?” And Peter, impulsive Peter, quickly answered,
Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus said to Peter,
Simon Barjona: flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Jesus said both these words to Peter. He said, “Thou art Peter.” You’re just Peter, but “I am going to build my church upon this rock.” “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” And what I take out of that verse is that Jesus is saying, “I will build my church.” It’s God’s work. He is the one who does the work. He is the one who makes it grow and prosper. Yes, he uses people in the building up of his Kingdom, but all of our efforts would be vain if Jesus Christ was not the head of the church, the Lord of the church, and building the church.
If you have the worksheet or the handout there in front of you, you’ll notice that we want to begin this evening by talking about our identity, because I believe that identity is an important factor in our effectiveness in the world. If we don’t know who we are, and we are moving into society, we are giving an uncertain sound, and we’re not going to to be very effective in moving society toward Christ.
So we need to know who we are. I have enjoyed doing a word study on the little phrase “in Christ” or “in him.” If you do a word study of that, you’ll find that it is found over a hundred and forty times in the New Testament. It’s a very prominent thought “being in Christ” or “in him.” We need to know who we are in Christ, and if we know who we are in Christ, then we placed ourselves in a position where we can lead others to Christ, where we can represent Christ to a lost world. Several verses about being “in Christ.”
[Therefore] being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.Romans 3:24
That verse tells us that our redemption is “in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ JesusRomans 8:1
That’s talking about our position. If we are in Christ Jesus, then we are free from condemnation and we need not walk after the flesh, but we can walk after the Spirit. Another favorite verse of mine about being “in Christ” is Colossians 2:10 where it says:
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power.Colossians 2:10
That means that in Jesus Christ. We have all of the resources; everything at our disposal to accomplish the work that God has called us to do so. We need to know who we are in Christ if we want to be effective in communicating the Gospel to the world.
In Matthew 28, we have what we typically know as the Great Commission, and there Jesus said to his disciples – this was just shortly before he was taken up to glory – he said that:
All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.Matthew 28:18-20
I love that promise. Jesus said “I have all power.” “I have overcome the world.” “I have overcome death hell and the grave.” “All power is given unto me in heaven and in Earth.”
Therefore, you go, teach, preach, and make disciples of all nations. It’s like he’s saying, “Here’s my debit card. There’s endless resources at your disposal. Go preach, teach, and make disciples of all nations.” That’s the commission that’s been given to the church, and we have no excuse for not doing it because he has promised us all power in the fulfilling of that Great Commission.
If you want to be effective in sharing Christ with the world, we not only need to know who we are in Christ. We need to know who we are in the body of Christ. And I believe this has been stated every evening this weekend that the Kingdom of God is made up of real people who meet together and worship together in real church fellowships. It’s not some theoretical idea that, you know, that we’re a part of this universal church that is somehow… No, it’s made up of real people, and if we want to be effective in communicating the Gospel, then we need to be connected to the body of Christ in real tangible ways. And that means that we’re going to be relating to others who are in Christ, and we’re going to be worshiping together. And the Bible makes this connection very, very, very, very keen. In John, we read:
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?1 John 4:20
So we’re called to be representing Christ’s body on Earth. And that’s a real tangible body, made up of real, real people who learn to live together, learn to forgive, learn to love one another, learn to accept one another, and learn to worship God together.
Now we have a phrase that we sometimes quote, and I wasn’t sure whether or not to drop it this evening or not. But I think I will simply because, if nothing else, it will generate some discussion afterwards, and it goes something like this.
You will not ever truly know us until you have lived among us and have been hurt by us and have found healing for that hurt.
Now that might sound not very encouraging. However, I think if we’re honest, we will have to admit that that’s true in human relationships. That offenses do happen. Jesus said, don’t be surprised if offenses happen. It can’t help but be that offenses will come to pass. But you know, there’s something about being in a relationship with someone where you have experienced this, where you have experienced offense, and reconciliation, and redemption, that relationship is now strong enough and secure enough that you don’t need to worry, or you don’t need to fear that this relationship is going to fall apart.
Okay, we’ve already been through the hard things in this relationship and we have discovered that we can forgive, and we can be reconciled, and we can move forward, and this the life that happens in the body of Christ. This is what redemption is all about. If you stop and think about it, that’s actually why we can be so secure in our relationship with God through Christ, because we have offended the holiness of God. We have been redeemed. We have been forgiven. We had been reconciled to God. Now we can rest in that relationship knowing that, as Paul said, nothing, “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” There is nothing that can come between us. And in the body of Christ, within the body of Christ, we can have those same kinds of relationships, relationships that are enduring, relationships that are going to go the distance.
You need to know who you are in relation to the world about you. By this we’re talking about – you we could call this your worldview – how do you look at yourself in relation to the world about you? In Luke chapter 10, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. He was travelling between Jerusalem and Jericho, and he came upon this man who had been beaten, robbed, and left by the wayside bleeding, left to die. And we read that as he came upon this man, it says that he had compassion on him, and he went to him and bound his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him. Now when you were talking about our worldview, we noticed that this man had compassion on the man who he found lying by the roadside. And that simply means that he was able to empathize with him. He was able to feel for him. He felt the pain that that man was experiencing lying there by the roadside. He felt the pain of his wounds. He felt it very, very keenly. And I believe that one of the reasons that this man who was a Samaritan (and last night we heard about racism and cross-cultural relationships), here we have a case of cross-cultural relationships where we have a man who was a Samaritan and he comes upon this Jew lying by the roadside. And he could have just chosen to pass by, but it says he had compassion on him, and that’s because he felt everything that that man by the roadside was experiencing. He felt that very keenly. And I believe was a reason for that. He was a Samaritan. He understood the pain of rejection. He maybe had never been beaten with clubs, but he certainly was beaten with words, and he experienced the insult. He knew the pain of the insult of being rejected. He knew the pain of being ostracized. He was a Samaritan, so he was able to relate to the man who was lying in the ditch by the the wayside. He was moved with compassion.
And what I would like to draw from this is that as we interact with the world about us, may we never become so far removed from what we have been redeemed from, from the sin that we’ve been redeemed from, that we cannot have compassion on those who are bound in sin or those who are struggling against sin. May we always be the kind of people who are compassionate people, and are able to connect with and relate to. “Oh, yes, I see you struggling in that area of your life. I understand because I’ve struggled against sin and I know how powerful it can be. But I also know that there is redemption for it, and let me tell you how I found freedom in that area of my life.”
The church’s most powerful weapon is love. Jesus said,
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.John 13:35
The world will say to us, “We don’t care how much you know, until we know how much you care.” Love is a universal language that transcends language, that transcends cultural barriers. People cannot resist love. Everyone wants it. Everyone yearns for it. And as children of God, as children of the Prince of Peace, we should be the most loving, caring, compassionate people on the face of the Earth. And this evening I want to encourage us to exercise that when we have opportunity to be loving people.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.1 Corinthians 13:1-3
So we can do all kinds of good deeds and and service, but if it’s not motivated by a genuine concern and care for people, then it is, in Paul’s words, nothing.
This evening. I would like to talk about the church and our interaction with society. I would like to think of us talk about the church in three different ways. First of all, I would like to talk about the church as a presence in society, and then I will speak of the church as a voice in society, and then I would like to speak of the church as a person, or a body, in society.
First of all, the church as a presence. And this is something that we as Anabaptist people do well, in that we are not afraid of being “in the world but not of the world.” That is very much a part of our theology and of our history. We are used to being different from the world, and being viewed as as someone different from the world. But we’re living in a day – a want to talk about that in a good sense first of all, in that I believe that the church’s presence in the world is very, very powerful. I believe that the body of Christ in society today – it is has a subtle, silent effect, not counting our message, just simply our presence in the world. And we want to talk about that.
We’re living in a day when there is a huge thrust towards secularization, and the church is being marginalized and set aside, and if we allow ourselves to be driven and governed by fear, we could feel like that the church is no longer an effective presence in society, that because have the secular media – who is really a minority – and yet they have the mics and the cameras, and they are presenting themselves as representing society as a whole – and I believe that’s a big deception, because I believe that the church is still healthy and well in our society today, and the church is, in fact, making a difference in the world.
The fact that academia rages against the truth in the name of tolerance and relativism is proof positive that the influence of the church is yet alive and well. If the church is the archaic and obsolete religion that they make her out to be, all they would need to do is ignore her and she would lie down in the dustbin of history. But the fact is that the church is a relevant force in our society today. The church is making a difference, and we would like to talk a little bit about that.
But first of all, talking about our Anabaptist heritage and how we have come to be the quiet in the land, and perhaps too content with being the quiet in the land. If you take a look at our history, the Anabaptist movement was a very evangelistic movement in the early days of Anabaptism in Europe. It really swept across Europe like wildfire, and many, many people embraced Anabaptism.
However, later – a hundred fifty years after the beginnings of the radical reformation, things began to change. The persecution of Anabaptism in Europe was not as intense and there was also the situation of the Thirty Years’ War in Europe which devastated much of Europe and left many valleys and farms and villages pretty much depopulated. And the situation that we have in the late sixteen or seventeen hundreds is that there were still a lot of our Anabaptist people living in Switzerland, but Switzerland wanted to extradite all of the Anabaptist, they one wanted them just to get out of here. This is a Protestant land. We don’t want Anabaptists here. And so they begin expelling them from Switzerland. And as they travel down the Rhine with no home. No place to go. Germany was open to them coming and dwelling and occupying these empty villages and farms. And so the Anabaptist people – what were they to do? They had no place to go. They had no home. And so they moved into Palatinate of Germany and began to settle on these farms and villages in Germany that had been decimated by the Thirty Years’ War. However, the rulers of Germany told them, “You can live here and you can farm here (which they were very excited about) but you may not proselytize. This is Lutheran Germany. You may not proselytize.” And so our people, unfortunately, more or less for a lack of a choice, settled down to the quiet lifestyle of farming, and eventually they emigrated to America, and again settled down to the quiet lifestyle of farming and became the quiet in the land. And that is our heritage and that’s why we as Anabaptist people tend to be most comfortable just being the witness, being the silent witness, and being the quiet in the land. And that has been a strength, but I believe that we need to also be motivated to be more proactive in society.
Jesus made these observations in Matthew chapter 5. He said, “You are the salt of the earth, and you are the light of the world.” He didn’t say, “Go out and be the salt of the earth.” He didn’t say, “Go out and be the light of the world.” He said, “you are.” Your presence in society salts the Earth, salts the world, and you are the light of the world. Your presence there has an impact that you do make a difference in society just by living the Christ-life and being there, a silent witness is a witness. Light dispels darkness. You cannot dispel light with darkness, but you can dispel darkness with light. Light is more powerful than darkness. When light enters a room, the darkness must flee. And so it is in society today. Light dispels darkness, and the presence of the Kingdom of God on Earth dispels the darkness about us.
The subtle influence of the church. The church has many subtle influences, and one of them is prayer. And we cannot underestimate the value in the power of the church as a prayer force in society. And today as we listen to the news and we face another election, I want to call us as God’s children to be fervent in prayer because prayer does change things. And you can change the world through prayer. It will. Prayer does make a difference, and we are exhorted to pray. Paul said,
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.1 Timothy 2:1, 2
So we are exhorted, and we’re commanded to pray. And I believe that we need to be a praying people. The church provides moral integrity for society. As the world tries to get rid of the Ten Commandments, and get rid of any kind of moral absolutes, the church still exists and the church maybe is the only moral anchor for our society today. And as a church, we provide a moral anchor for society, and we have that influence on society.
The church also provides a tremendous stability in society. We’ve heard a lot about the shaking. The Hebrew writer talked about:
Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.Hebrews 12:26, 27
And those things that cannot be shaken is that which the church has to offer to the world. Security in the midst of an insecure world. And you know, we’re moving into a day when there are many, many people who are looking for something secure to build a life around, and I want to encourage us as a church to be proactive and to be reaching out to others and giving them something solid in the midst of a world that is being rocked with all kinds of insecurity.
I’d would like to move on talking about the church as a voice. We talked about the churches of presence. I would like to talk to us about the church as a voice. You remember when John the Baptist came preaching, he was introducing the Kingdom of God, and he came as, the Bible says, the voice of one crying in the wilderness. He was a voice and the church is a voice, must be a voice, has a voice. And we need to use our voice. Our the church has a message. We have a message for the world. And the the message that we have for the world is a message of hope. And it’s a message that the world is yearning to hear. A message of hope as opposed to a message of condemnation. Even in the sending of Jesus,
For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.John 3:17
And as a church, we have a message of hope to give to a world that is sinking in despair. And we need to be sharing that message wherever we go, that Jesus Christ has come into the world to save sinners and that he can redeem your situation, however lost it may appear to be.
The word preached. I believe that we do a good job of sharing the word in our churches on Sunday mornings. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Faith is born by hearing the word of God preached or shared. And we need to be sharing the word of God wherever we go. The word of God builds faith in the hearts of men and women who have no faith. If they hear the Word of God, that that plants a seed in their heart that can grow and develop into a living faith.
I appreciated Brother Melvin’s comments on Friday evening about revival, and how is revival sustained? And he commented that revival cannot be sustained merely by periodic revivals. And so that raises the question then, “How is revival sustained?” And, “Is it possible to sustain revival?” I believe that it is possible to sustain revival.
I believe the revival is sustained by faithful consistent preaching of the Word. The Word of the Bible is living. It is quick and powerful. It is living, and it has the ability to impart life to others. And I believe that a faithful consistent preaching of the Word is the secret to sustained revival. I believe that revival is also sustained by the word of their testimony. Your testimony is very, very powerful. And your testimony is something that people cannot rebut it. I mean, if you say “This is what God did for me: I was bound in sin. I was carrying a load of guilt and condemnation. The Lord Jesus delivered me from that. He forgave my sins, gave me peace, gave me freedom, his Holy Spirit dwells within me, as you share that testimony people cannot refute that because that’s your experience. And that’s a very, very powerful thing. And I believe that revival can be sustained by sharing our testimony. I believe that as young people in our churches here the older people talking about what God has done and is doing in your life today, it brings life and encouragement to them, and I believe that revival can be sustained across generations.
I want to talk a little bit about – we’re talking about the church as a voice – I want to talk a little bit about mass evangelism, something that we as Anabaptist people were not all that big on, at least we don’t do that – at least until this weekend, radio broadcast or television broadcast. We’re not really, we don’t have a history of doing that kind of thing in a broad way to the masses. However, I am encouraged by what I see with CAM’s Billboard Evangelism. I believe that is probably the most public voice of the Anabaptist people in America today. A couple of weeks ago we traveled from Blue Mountain to Philadelphia on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and I think we passed at least eight CAM billboards on a hundred twenty mile stretch of highway. And I was just so blessed. I mean, it’s almost like traveling on the highway of holiness – all of these billboards, all these Christian billboards, there is actually the most prominent billboard on the highway. And I just want to bless all of you who are involved in that ministry. It is a great ministry, and I believe it is the most public voice of the Anabaptist people in America today. And I want to say, it is making a difference. It is making a difference. People do not ignore those billboards. They might get angry. They might try to ignore them, but they don’t ignore them. They cannot ignore them. And we have the promise that:
So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.Isaiah 55:11
I want to bless all those who are involved in that ministry. For mass mass evangelism to personal discipleship. I want to talk a little bit about compassionate pastoral counseling. I thought about this last evening as we were listening to Brother Finny talk about racism and the various perspectives on racism – and that was very interesting because I know which perspective I have – I mean, when I see people running down the street stealing from a store, I immediately say, “They have a problem. They are the problem. This is an individual problem. They need to they need to change their ways.” So I immediately identified my perspective there. But carrying this over into pastoral counseling I realized that we have the same two perspectives in the area of pastoral counseling. Whether you are pastoral, a lay-counselor, or whatever, or just simply a brother trying to help another brother, there is this same two perspectives. The one perspective is, “Oh, it’s an individual choice. Every person is responsible for their actions. If you’re struggling against sin, you just simply need to repent of your sin and change your way of living, and that will solve the problem.” And then there’s this other way of looking at it that, “Maybe there are deeper issues at work in your life. Maybe there are things in your life that I do not fully understand that this is such a huge struggle for you, that you’re not overcoming as you would like to. Maybe there’s something from your past that is influencing you today.” And so we take the broader perspective in the area of pastoral counseling. And I believed as a church, we are called to do this and I thank you, Brother Finny, for giving us that perspective because I believe that also comes into play in doing pastoral counseling.
I would like to share a few comments about crossing cultural barriers. In John chapter 4. We have the story of Jesus and the woman at the well. She was a Samaritan woman, and Jesus went up to her and he said four words. He said, “Give me to drink.” And this woman was aghast that he would ask drink of her. And in doing that, Jesus crossed several cultural barriers. He crossed a political barrier. He was a Jew; she was a Samaritan. He crossed a gender barrier. He was a man; she was a woman. He crossed a religious barrier. Again, he was a Jew and she was a Samaritan, and they had two different religions. But notice the ease with which Jesus did that. It wasn’t as though, you know, he had to prepare some huge defense in doing what he did; he just simply said, “May I have a drink of water?” I guess the point that I would like to draw from this is that what we call cultural barriers, I wonder if cultural barriers aren’t as much a creation of our own as a reality. Really, the needs of humanity are pretty much universally the same.
Brother Finny talked about the racial differences are 0.1%, so that means that we are 99.9% alike. That’s really not very much difference. And I think culturally is very, very much the same way. Last year, our daughter, I had the privilege of visiting a Muslim mosque with a group of her friends. And when they were there they met with a group of Muslim girls and they spent a couple of hours together with them visiting with a group of Muslim girls. And it was very interesting what these Muslim girls said to them. They said, “Thank you so much for coming.” They said, “We see you on the streets in town,” and they said, “We really wanted to come up and talk to you but they said we weren’t sure if that would be acceptable in your culture.” Now who has the cultural barrier here? Who is creating the cultural barrier? You realize there really was no barrier between these girls. They had several hours of wonderful fellowship, just sitting together, and exchanging views, and talking about the various religions to each other. And so this, what we call “cultural barriers” was actually just a figment of the imagination, it really wasn’t a barrier at all. Now, I do admit that when we’re going into other other countries, there are things that we need to be aware of because we don’t want to be foolish and offend people unnecessarily.
However, I don’t believe that it is nearly as large of a concern as what we may think it is. As a matter of fact, we have a family that came among us, and they were not from Anabaptist background, and their testimony was this, they said that, “We wanted so much to connect with you people.” They said, “We would see you in town.” As a matter of fact, they said, “We would get right behind you in the checkout line hoping that you would talk to us,” but he said “you always ignored us; you never reached out to us and talked to us,” and they said, “We wanted so bad to talk with you.” They finally broke through the cultural barrier that we Anabaptist people had created and connected with us and became a part of us.
But this thing of cultural barriers, I believe is something that maybe we North American Anabaptist people are the ones who are creating the cultural barrier as much as anyone. And I am just wanting to encourage us: the church has a voice. The world is looking for answers. You have a message to share; you have something to share with the world. And I want to encourage you to open your mouth, and to share with others the message that you have to share with others, the hope that we have in Christ.
Lastly. I want to talk about the church as a person. There was once a little girl who was lying in bed trying to be very brave in the midst of a thunderstorm. The lightning was flashing and the thunder was cracking, and she was trying to be very, very brave. When suddenly a very close blast of thunder brought her out of bed, and she raced over to her parents’ bedroom, leapt into their bed, and crawled down under the covers between Mom and Dad. And Dad reached out to her and tried to comfort her, and he said to her, “Sweetie, you don’t have to be afraid. God is taking care of us.” And she said to him, “I know that, but I need someone with skin on.”
And you know, we live in a world full of people, and we can offer the Gospel to them, and then we can say, you know “Come to Jesus, and all your needs will be supplied. Jesus is the answer. Christ is the answer.” But we live in a world full of people who are looking for – who need someone with skin on, someone with flesh and blood who is able to identify with us in flesh and blood, someone who is able to relate to me where I am, and connect with me where I am.
We want to talk next about becoming the hands and feet of Christ. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:
Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.1 Corinthians 12:27
You, the church on Earth today, are the body of Christ. You represent Jesus Christ in this world, and you may be the only Gospel that many people will ever read. I will like to talk to us about alleviating the suffering that comes from sin. I believe the one of the callings of the church, yes, is to share the Gospel and help people to find the freedom from sin that is available in Christ Jesus. But I believe that there’s another calling that the church has, one that, I believe, that we can do more to fulfill. And that is alleviating the suffering that comes from sin.
When Jesus sent out his disciples, he said to them, “As you go preach, share the gospel, preach that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” “Preach saying the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” and then right on top of that,” he said, “heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils, freely you have received, freely give.” And I believe that continues to be God’s call to the church today to alleviate the suffering that sin has brought into the world.
And when you think about the suffering that sin has brought into the world, actually it would be all of the suffering that is in the world today, is a byproduct of sin. And I believe the church has a responsibility, a call, to alleviate the suffering, to be proactive in alleviating the suffering that sin has brought into the world. Jesus said in Matthew chapter 25:
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.Matthew 25:31-40
I want to encourage you in your small group discussion afterwards, I would like to encourage us to consider, “How can we as a church be more proactive in alleviating the misery that sin has brought into the world? How can we be ministering to the needs of the society about us?”
Sometimes we get this impression that as a church we are called to do spiritual work. That’s our job. We’re called to minister to the spiritual needs of people, and it’s just not real spiritual to serve in a soup kitchen or to do these other menial sorts of tasks. But I want to encourage us that there is huge needs out there. As a matter of fact, we’re living in a day of opportunity where the church is going to have many, many opportunities to be meeting real needs. And if we are too “spiritual” to meet the real needs of society about us, then I fear that we’re not going to be very successful in communicating the Gospel to them, and leading them to the Lord Jesus Christ. Because after all, love should be the trademark of the Christian.
By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.John 13:35
We need to be providing care for the elderly. We need to be establishing homes for abused girls. We need to be supporting ,and maybe creating, medical clinics that provide compassionate care. I spent a lot of time in the hospital this summer, and that’s a place where you will find people who are looking for answers and open to the Gospel because they have real needs. We need to be providing hospice centers that can provide adjuvant care for people, homeless shelters, retreats for battered wives, care for the vulnerable among us, the children among us, care for the physically handicapped, care for the blind, ministry for those with addictions.
Brother Melvin shared on Wednesday night that there was a day when the church provided these kinds of services for the people. The only place to get this kind of care was monasteries and convents. And you could go there and you could know that you would be taken care of if you had needs like these, that needed to be cared for. And the church provided these kinds of things. As he shared, the government took over these responsibilities, and unfortunately we are far too comfortable with the government doing these kinds of things. We pay our taxes, and we say “Well, that’s the government’s job. That’s their job. They take care of the social needs of society. That’s their job.” But I believe – I want to challenge us that, as a church, I believe that we are neglecting our calling if we are not engaging and meeting these kinds of needs in our society. And I believe that as we do this, many, many doors are open to share the Gospel and many, many souls will be saved as a result of the loving care that they receive from us.
So, I believe the title of the message this evening was “Church of God, Awake! Arise!” And I trust this evening that I have given you some motivation to do that. As I already said, I believe that the church is a very vital force in our society. But I also believe that there are many things that we could be doing, should be doing, must be doing, to influence, to impact our society. And I want to encourage us to rise up. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. Don’t be ashamed to be different. Don’t be ashamed of the message that you have to share. Be bold. In the book of Daniel we read that those who know their God shall shall do exploits. They shall be strong, and they shall do exploits. That means that they are going to be involved in society. It means that they are going to be actively engaged in meeting the needs of society, and I want to encourage you to do that.
God bless you. Thank you for tuning in this evening, and God bless you for being a part of this with us.
Question and Answer period begins:
Curt Wagoner: Thank you, brother, Donald. That was very inspiring. You were very much engaged in better equipping the saints of God to be what God wants us to be in the Kingdom of Heaven. I was thinking as you were concluding your comments about a Scripture, I believe by the Apostle Paul perhaps, in the book of 1 Corinthians when he says, “The love of Christ constraineth us.” The love of Christ constraineth us. I have looked at that many different times and I know the word “constrain” as it’s used there in the Authorized Version, the word constrain can mean a couple of different things. It can mean it holds us back. But the word constrain also means it propels us forward. And that’s the meaning that I like as I think about that passage. “The love of Christ constraineth us,” and I think you’ve given us a a constraining message. You have propelled us tonight as we consider the truths that you’ve given to us: the churches as a presence, the church as a voice, and the church as a person. Again, thank you so very much for that. We have a few questions that have been submitted and I’m going to invite brother Phillip Hess to come forward now, and we’ll anticipate some of those questions being addressed to you, you can answer them. We’ll have about 15 to 20 minutes, perhaps, of Q&A time here. Brother Philip.
Philip Hess: Well, Brother Donald, thank you very much. I enjoyed and appreciated that message. Brother Curt started us out by telling us about Daniel 7, where it says that the Ancient of Days came and the saints possessed the Kingdom. And I believe that you gave us some practical discussion tonight about how we can go ahead and build that Kingdom right now, and use the opportunities we have. So thank you for that. One thing that stuck out to me was early in your message you said that the title “Church of God, Awake! Arise!” might sound as if we are asleep and sitting down, and you didn’t think that was the case. But maybe that is the case for some of us. Maybe some of us are in a comfortable position somewhere, and maybe our eyes are nodding off a bit. So, thank you for the challenge that we rise up and be alert. So, we do have some questions here. Some of them came earlier in the message, and you may have answered them to some extent, but I’ll go ahead and ask them as they came in and we can learn something. The first question is:
Can you give us Anabaptist groups some practical ways to reclaim our Biblical identity, instead of just becoming another American fixture, and feeling comfortable by adapting to our present culture? People in other countries are wondering why we as Anabaptists want to pursue some of the same pursuits as the average American, such as generating great amounts of wealth all the way from the shores of Delaware to the coast of Oregon.
Donald Brechbill: Well, thank you for that question. That is a question that I believe that we as Anabaptist people need to take very, very seriously. Because I believe that our witness is actually dependent on that. We have become, as I shared earlier, the quiet in the land. We’re good farmers and businessman. And we do well in that in those arenas. I think we put far more energy and effort into our farms and businesses than we do into Kingdom building. And that’s really the burden of my message this evening, is that there are so many things that we could be and should be doing with our time, and with our money that would be building the Kingdom of Heaven rather than building our personal estates. And I really believe that if we intend to be the influence in our society that God intended for us to be, then I believe that we need to seriously consider where we are investing our time and our money. Yeah.
Philip Hess: Thank you. I think that’s good. Brother Curt, I’m sure this is something you’ve thought about, too.
Curt Wagoner: I have. Thank you for that response, Brother Donald. You know, as I think about, I think about Anabaptist people and mission work among us. You know, we have this idea so many times that that to do missions means that you go someplace and you exercise there, and that place as you do mission work. I noticed then one of the passages of Scripture you referred to, I think this was the passage in Matthew 10, which actually was the first time that Jesus sent disciples out with with an evangelistic message. I noticed there in that passage that unlike we find in what we refer to as the Great Commission in Matthew 28 where it says, “Go and teach” in Matthew 10 it says “As you go, preach.” And you made a very, very valid point about Walmart, and the people in line behind us at the checkout line. As you go, preach. As you go to the Walmart, as you go to the checkout counter, “as you go, preach.” As you think about the people behind you, or in front of you, preach. Be ready to preach. So I valued that emphasis that you put into this message tonight. Thank you so much for that.
Philip Hess: Yes, okay. Here’s another question.
Can you explain how we can be the moral compass and still not participate in the political realm?
Donald Brechbill: I’m trying to understand what the connection would be between being a moral compass and participating in the political realm. I don’t see a connection at all. The assumption there would be that the only way to be a moral compass, the only way to provide moral direction for society is through political force, and that has not proven to be true historically, and is certainly not true today. I mean the church, and I think this is part of our Anabaptist vision, is that the church influences society without the help of the political arena. The church impacts people, one person at a time, community by community, the Church of Jesus Christ does not need a political platform (I’m talking about a government platform) to carry forth her message. She is the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and that has nothing to do with political power, political position at all. The church is a moral compass, just simply by being Christ’s in a world that is lost from Christ.
Philip Hess: Thank you. Yeah. Here’s another question. Maybe Brother Curt can weigh in on this one, too. It says:
You call to open many specialty tools such as hospice and addiction centers. You also advocate our people receive higher education to fulfill these goals. Or should we quietly meet these needs on an individual level?
Donald Brechbill: I was calling us to become more involved in these kinds of things, and certainly there, in order to fulfill some of those we would need to get higher education. That’s certainly true. I shared that splattering of ideas just to trigger our thinking and to make us aware of all of some of the possibilities. And that’s really just a small list of the possibilities of what the church could be doing. But I guess what I would challenge us to do – so take that list, if you will, and ask yourself, “How much of what is on that list, you know, of the church (I’m thinking particularly of our Anabaptist people) are actually engaged in doing those kinds of things?” And I guess my burden is that it seems as though we are so really uninvolved in so many ways of the real needs of society, and we are really quite comfortable to let maybe the Catholic Church, or the Lutherans, or the government take care of those needs, and we’ll take care of our farms. I guess, that’s really the burden that I had.
Philip Hess: What are your thoughts on that, Brother Curt?
Curt Wagoner: Well, the linking between higher education and ministering, as in the examples that Brother Donald has put before us, it’s an interesting thought. I think sometimes that we make an idol out of education. And I speak that carefully. I do have a college degree. I don’t flaunt that; I don’t boast about it. But so I’m not opposed to higher education, but I think that a man or woman that’s surrendered to God, it’s impossible to describe how much impact that individual can have, and there’s a place for education. And there are opportunities that education will open for us, but there’s so much that can be done without going on into the realm of higher education. So I’m not I’m not sure if I’m actually addressing the question, but I’m just I’m just focusing in on that link a little bit between higher education and ministry opportunities and these examples that Brother Donald gave to us.
Philip Hess: Sure. Thank you. Okay. I’m going to read a couple comments now. And I think these are probably directed at us as Anabaptist people. And something we can learn from that, and I welcome responses on these. So one is:
Please be aware that cultural differences are nothing like genetic variations and go much deeper than not knowing if it’s alright to approach a plain person in public. I was a convert to the Anabaptists many years ago and experienced this, and also observed other converts. The plain people’s poor understanding of this is one of the main reasons that many converts do not last.
Curt Wagoner: Let me let me just make a comment if I may. So, your quote Brother Donald, early on where you said: “You won’t know us until you’ve lived among us, been hurt by us, and been healed.” I think that was kind of the way you said it; I tried to jot it down, but: “You won’t know us until you’ve lived among us, been hurt by us, and been healed.” There’s some really powerful, powerful statements there, some expression there that I’m just kind of pondering a little bit. You’re not, of course, advocating that the church of God would hurt people – I know you well enough to know that you’re not advocating that.
Donald Brechbill: That’s correct.
Curt Wagoner: But that is just a good thought to be thinking about. The reality is that we do hurt people, and we’ve been hurt by people. You’ve been hurt by people. I’ve been hurt by people, and no doubt we have done the same to others. We don’t want to do that. But in the church, in the in the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth, those kinds of things do happen.
Philip Hess: Yeah well, I was struck earlier by your comment, Brother Donald, about the little girl who needed somebody with skin on, and we all need that. And yet, unfortunately, everybody that I know that has skin on also has some character problems and some sanctification issues and some failures, and I’m at the top of that list. And so if we as Anabaptist people have some unique issues, then we want to be humble enough to understand those and work on them. And that’s what I heard from you this evening. So thank you for that. Now here’s another question:
I know I’m supposed to care about the lost but I don’t think I do that much. How can I overcome this?
Donald Brechbill: Thank you for that question, because I actually wanted to address that issue. So what if I don’t have compassion for other people? What if I don’t feel the pain of other people? What do I do about that? What if I don’t really have a burden for the lost? What do I do about that? Well, I would encourage you to get down on your knees and ask God to give you that burden. Ask God to help you to feel the lostness of the lost, and to feel the pain of others. I believe that something that comes with being a child of God, being a follower of Jesus. I believe if the Spirit of Christ is in us, then we’re going to feel the pain that Jesus would feel in that situation, and if we don’t have that burden or feel that pain, then maybe we need to pray, we need to cleanse our hearts, and we need to ask God to fill us with his Spirit and give give us a burden for the lost.
Philip Hess: Yeah, do you have a thought on that Brother Curt?
Curt Wagoner: That’s a point very well made. Very well made. Thank you so much for that.
Philip Hess: Well, here’s another one. This is more about church life, I suppose, than the expansion of the Kingdom. But,
In our church life, how do we know when to let love cover a multitude of sins, and when to go and tell our brother his fault as Matthew 18 says?
Donald Brechbill: Well, I guess from our tradition, we have put placed a lot of emphasis on Matthew 18. “Love covering the multitude of sins” – I don’t believe that excuses us from being brethren to one another and confronting sin in one another’s life whenever we see it. I believe that should be very much a part of brotherhood, and I think that I would definitely lean more towards the side of taking action. “Love covering the multitude of sins” – maybe if the brother has sinned against me some way, and I might be the only person who really knows about it, you know, I can forgive that brother in my heart and I don’t need to publish it or blacken his name by letting everybody else know how he has offended me, and that’s one way that we can apply that Scripture to brotherhood. But I don’t believe that’s passage is canceling out that command in Matthew 18.
Philip Hess: Okay. So you’re saying that perhaps I could go ahead and talk to that brother about his sin, but I could cover it by not telling other people about it.
Donald Brechbill: Well, that’s that’s the order of Matthew 18: “Go to him alone.” That’s the first step, yes.”
Philip Hess: That’s good. Thank you. Here’s another question.
About five years ago, a presentation was given at Kingdom Fellowship Weekend about ways to minister to expectant mothers considering abortion and their babies. Do we know if anyone is taking hold of this vision?
Philip Hess: Brother Donald or Brother Kurt, do you know of anyone who’s working on that?
Donald Brechbill: I’m not able to answer that I don’t know of any anything that’s happening like that. Do you know, Curt?
Curt Wagoner: And I know that that my exposure is limited too, but I’m also not aware of anybody doing anything with that. I feel certain that there are individuals who are involved, but whether there’s any kind of concerted effort to do something that way, I’m not certain.
Philip Hess: Maybe we need to seek out if there’s an opportunity there.
Editor’s note: (This above question is addressed in a few paragraphs. Keep reading…)
Philip Hess: Okay, and maybe we’ll just have one final question.
I just wonder, Brother Donald, if you could comment on what things you see that might be genuine cultural barriers that prevent us from reaching out to other people; what those things might be, and what to do about them if they exist.
Donald Brechbill: Genuine cultural barriers? Well, as I was sharing earlier, I think that we as Anabaptist people – we are probably as guilty of creating cultural barriers as anyone, and I think we need to face that honestly. I love our Anabaptist people and I’m not trying to put us down. We have a tendency to be like the Pharisee who prayed, “I thank you, God, that I am not like other men are.” And I think that one of the things that we need to do is to identify with those who are struggling with sin issues and not be so distant from people who have real issues that we can’t identify with them, that we can’t actually get close to them and try to help them. So when I think of real cultural barriers, I’m thinking more of our own issues than the issues of society about us, although I’m sure that there are other cultural issues. I think there are things that we do (that we’re not even aware of) that are cultural barriers. And I think that’s what the comment there was all about, that we Anabaptist people are more culturally removed than what we know. And so when people try to come among us, there are innuendos, there are things that we say and do that we think that everybody should understand what they don’t understand. And so I think that we probably have created cultural barriers in that way. And I guess, going the other way, cultural barriers, yes, I believe that there are some real cultural barriers especially like going into inner-city. The urban living is so different from rural living, and those of us who have grown up in the country, to try to go into the city and evangelize is almost like going into a foreign land to evangelize because of the cultural differences between the way people live, between the way people think, and between the way people respond. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be doing it, but I think urban evangelization requires someone who is able to enter that culture and understand and learn how these people think, and what their real needs are, and what is the best way to reach them. Then, of course, there is religious cultures. I mentioned the Muslim culture. And we, actually I believe as Anabaptists people, we actually have an advantage in ministering to Muslims in that they respect us for our distinctive garb, and for our modest apparel. And we actually have an advantage in going into the Muslim culture. They will be more ready to listen to us because of what we represent, what we stand for. I don’t know if that gives a further answer to that question or not, but that’s what I would have to say there.
Philip Hess: Thank you. I just have a couple more small items, but maybe before I do that, Brother Curt, do you have anything you wanted to add?
Curt Wagoner: Well, yes, I would comment on that a little bit. I think one thing we can do to help remove cultural barriers is to remember what great sinners we were and what great salvation we have received in Jesus Christ. I often pray that God would not let me forget how miserable I was before I surrendered my life to Jesus and became a born-again individual. I have opportunities to speak to individuals who are agnostics and skeptics. Many times I have opportunities to do that, and I am very free to tell them that “I understand your perspective, because I too was once an agnostic. I lived the agnostic lifestyle, and I understand the misery, the inner mystery, the inner turmoil that exist in the heart of a person who’s lived that life. And so if we can somehow communicate to other individuals that we are not this sanctified, perfected individual, but we actually are people that that remember what it was like to be lost. And we have a testimony that we can share with them. I think some things like that will help to break down some of the cultural barriers as we encounter them. They have for me at least.
Philip Hess: That’s powerful. Thank you. Another question or two came in while we were talking here, but I’m sorry we don’t have time for that. I just wanted to comment. There’s a question earlier about whether anything had been done regarding helping expectant mothers, and a comment came in that said:
“His Image Ministries” in Kampala, Uganda was greatly inspired by that message.
So I don’t know anything about that ministry, but apparently there was some ministry that was inspired by that. And also there was a question about whether that message could be available. I’m sure that we could link that on the Kingdom Fellowship Weekend website, or point out which one that was. It was preached a few years ago.
Editor’s note: (The above questions were referring to “Lifting a Standard Against the Innocent Bloodshed of Abortion” by Finny Kuruvilla, and “Save Lives to Serve Jesus” by Dwayne Stoltzfus. There’s a ministry called “His Image Ministries” that specifically serves this pro-life cause.)
Philip Hess: So again, thank you Brother Donald for answering our questions and for preaching to us, and that’s all that I have.
Curt Wagoner: And thank you Brother Phillip. This has been inspiring as we had the opportunity to engage in this discussion a little bit, and engaging this question-and-answer time, not only this evening, but the prior evenings as well. So brother Donald has prepared some questions. And we’re going to display those questions on the screen here momentarily. For those of you that are connected by Zoom, you’ll be able to see these. I will go ahead and read them so that those who are called in can know what the questions are. There are five questions:
- How does your identity impact how you view your place in society?
- In what ways do you see your church being salt and light?
- How can we more effectively communicate our message across social / cultural barriers?
- How involved should the church be in humanitarian aid?
- Mass evangelism or personal discipleship? How is your church fulfilling her calling?