Each year in an attempt to keep myself fresh and stimulated in ministry I attend a number of conferences. The Bala Ministers’ Conference is quite distinct from other conferences in that it lays a strong emphasis on open prayer and open discussion. Over the years I have enjoyed these discussions being chaired by men like Elwyn Davies, Hywel Jones and Stephen Clark. In more recent years the responsibility has been on my shoulders and this year I hope to share that role with a young minister, Peter Campbell from Penrhyndeudraeth, North Wales. Pete will open the discussion by summarising a book by Kevin de Young, The Hole in Our Holiness (Crossway, Illinois, 2012).
I have recently read the book which emphasises the fact that even though as Christians we are in Union With Christ , that is joined to Him by Faith, we must also make every effort to live in Communion with Christ. By that he means that we not only thank God for what He has done for us through the work of Christ in saving us, and through the Holy Spirit who lives in us to enable us to live the Christian life, but we in cooperation with God in Trinity are to make every effort to live a life that is pleasing in God’s sight.
Towards the end of the book he develops Four Practices for Oneness With Christ. These are: –
1. We pursue communion with Christ through prayer.
2. We pursue communion with Christ through the word of truth.
3. We pursue communion with Christ through fellowship with other Christians.
4. We pursue communion with Christ through partaking of the Lord’s Supper.
In our age which emphasises individual responsibility and personal development, we would probably all have no problem with numbers 1 & 2, but we may not fully agree with the emphases of 3 & 4. They are however clear Biblical principles and for that reason in the remainder of this letter I want to quote fully what he writes under point 3.
Because the church is the body of Christ we cannot have communion with Christ without also communing with our fellow Christians. Fellowship within the family of God is one expression of communion with Christ. John says, “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John1:3). That’s a remarkable statement. No matter how goofy or insignificant your church may seem, fellowship in that body of believers is fellowship with God. Those serious about communing with Christ will be diligent to share in fellowship with other Christians (Acts 2:42; Heb. 10:24-25). In more than a decade of pastoral ministry I’ve never met a Christian who was healthier, more mature, and more active in ministry by being apart from the church. But I have found the opposite to be invariably true. The weakest Christians are those least connected to the body. And the less involved you are, the more disconnected those following you will be. The man who attempts Christianity without the church shoots himself in the foot, shoots his children in the leg, and shoots his grandchildren in the heart.
In a time when Christians are increasingly returning to the spirit that typified the Old Testament period of Judges, ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes’ it is vital that we recapture the understanding explained above, so that we take our place not in a human, man-centred organisation, but rather that we cooperate with the Head of the Church as He works out His will in our world and prepares us for all eternity where as His redeemed people we will be “Forever with the Lord and each other.”
Your fellow-church member,
Bernard Lewis May 2014