When I was in the One True Church, all brothers were expected to be exercised for ministry. What this meant was that we had to prepare a Bible message for the two weekly meetings that had an open platform – Sunday morning worship and Thursday night prayer meeting.
We weren’t given much direction. Our leader, Brother Brother-among-brothers would tell us that we had to get on our knees before an open Bible and ask for God to speak to us. He said that when he was young, he used to be constrained by reading commentaries and by being swayed by systematic theology instead of being taught by God. This, he thought, led to the pitfall of lifeless ministry where one wears their Bibles on their head. That’s what worldly denomination churches do, he said – preaching head-knowledge messages without anointing. That is, of course, when they weren’t preaching psychology instead of the word of God.
But we were much better than that because we got messages from the Lord as we were on our knees before an open Bible like Brother Brother-among-brothers had been doing for thirty years.
There were some unwritten but understood rules on Sunday mornings and Thursday nights. Younger brothers (which was most of us) would go first. This way, we could be followed up by an older brother. The last brother to go was always a leading brother – the ones who led the church. If Brother Brother-among-brothers was in town, he for sure went last. Or he just took the whole time.
The goal of giving ministry was to encourage the Saints and not to be talked to by a leading brother after the meeting. Encouraging the Saints was the easy part because the congregation was conditioned to say amen a lot and they pretty much said amen to anything positive you might say about the Bible and the Christian walk if it was not phenomenally stupid.
The older brothers went later. If they felt a need to correct, they might do so by saying the opposite of a point you may have made earlier. Oddly enough, the congregation might have said amen to what you said and then to the correction. If you were off , you would likely get talked to by a leading brother after the meeting.
This set up afforded me the opportunity to hear lots of different preaching – the good, the bad, and the ugly. From the deft and inspiring to the unskilled and incoherent, we heard it all. Some expressed a clear progression of thought that I can go back and reflect upon as when I heard it thirty years ago. Others would get the plane in the air, lose the flight plan, and never find the runway. On a couple of rare occasions, Brother Brother-among-brothers would ask the wayward preacher to sit down.
It was worth the risk to get up. It was heady stuff to be a twenty-one year old having the word of the Lord for a captive, amening audience.
One Sunday morning Brother Younger-younger got up. He was even younger than me because I had by that time graduated to possibly being the second brother up on occasions but definitely not the third. He made a tactical error of basing his sermon on the text concerning the stabbing of an extremely overweight king named Eglon.
Apparently, that fat surrounding Eglon’s belly and the corresponding stabbing was a picture of the carnality in our life and God’s attempt to cut through our resistance to penetrate the heart. Brother Younger-younger was up front making jousting motions saying “God wants to get to your heart! God wants to get to your heart!” The congregation wasn’t amening at this point but kind of had their mouth stuck between the a and the men.
But there’s more.
Brother Younger-younger posed a question to the congregation. What does it mean that when Eglon was stabbed by Ehud’s sword that the dying king’s humongous belly created such a vacuum that it swallowed the sword so that Ehud was unable to dislodge it from his bowels?
No one answered because when someone is preaching, you really don’t answer the question they might post. But we didn’t know.
However, Brother Younger-younger knew. He turned triumphantly to Psalm 119:11 and read, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”
You see, the Bible, also known by Christians as the sword of the Spirit, must cut through the fleshly resistance of our carnal nature and be sucked in so as to penetrate into the inner being of our heart so that we may be transformed into godliness. Presumably this needs to happen before we die in our excrement.
Brother Younger-younger sat down yielding the floor to an older brother.
He got talked to by a leading brother after the meeting.