“Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”-Acts 13:1-3
In 1991, I began visiting and eventually worshipping with the Christians who met on Warfield Boulevard in Clarksville. The quality of preaching and the personality of the preacher were almost non-factors in my decision to join myself to that work. The preaching that had been done by a young upstart named Alan Yeater had been influential in building the spirit of the church (Yaeter left in 1991), but the spirit was in the people, not the preacher.
THE factor that made that church special was a group of faithful, excited Christians who read their Bibles, lived unapologetically Christian lives outside of worship, and were chomping at the bit to do the work of the Lord. They wrote cards, welcomed others into their homes, held special events (Halloween, pot lucks), took pride in VBS preparation, and sang songs with the children before worship. The majority of the members saw the work of the church as their responsibility. The preacher was beside the point. And that is the way it should be!
If you examine the two predominant churches in the book of Acts, it would be easy to think of the apostles as the focus of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1, 14). But things were different in Antioch. Notice the balance of prophets and teachers. Five men are mentioned in the verses at the top of the page. Only one (Saul, later Paul) is labeled an apostle. And while Barnabas was a man of no small reputation, it is the church at large who made the gospel engine purr at Antioch. Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, Agabus (Acts 11:28), and a host of unnamed prophets and teachers would have greeted you at this growing, vibrant church. Is it any wonder the Bible tells us, “And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”-Acts 11:26?
There is another feature of the Warfield church of the late-80’s, early 90’s that was important to its character. It was scripturally organized and peacefully led. John Douthitt and our own Dave Owen were its shepherds. When you left the building after worship, it was those two men who lined up to shake your hand and inspect the flock. It was a small gesture, but it made clear to members that they were led and served by elders. It was, and always will be, God’s way of ordering his Son’s church.
So, why this bit of nostalgia preacher man?!?! It has always served as a living example of New Testament Christianity. It was proof we could live, teach, and worship according to the Scriptures while being a welcoming place for newcomers. Our goal should be the same.
Allow me a moment of observation. We at North Second Street have the raw materials to be even better. We have more Bible class teachers and men and women dedicated to encouraging one another. Our ladies have overseen a bevy of showers and birthday/anniversary gifts in the past year. Our seasoned members are examples of faithfulness and joyful service. We are so blessed with young Christians! The future is in your hands. I pray you will build on the rock.
What is to be done? This group must take the reigns of the work. Not lording, but serving. Redouble your attendance commitment. Our Bible classes are gasping for students. Serve in worship. Mature in your biblical knowledge. If the doctrine of the church were yours to protect; could you do it? Find out what is being done and be a part. Look for what is left undone and accomplish it. Praise. Sing. Glorify. Believe in the gospel power to produce faith and proclaim it. As you do these things, your sense of ownership in the work will produce a zeal for the church and its head Jesus Christ our Lord.