The Need for Realism
J. H. Large
READERS WHO HAVE FOLLOWED THIS SERIES will know-that our main concern has been the need to deal realistically and sympathetically with the inquiries young believers naturally make when they find that the outlook in some of the religious circles in which they have moved differs from that to which they have been accustomed in assembly life. If elder brethren are to be a real help to them they must be willing and able to give, in the right spirit, reasoned scriptural explanations for the convictions they hold. We have, in previous issues, covered some of the points likely to be raised but we make no apology for repeating what we have strongly stressed before, that it is not enough to convince young people that the assembly position is the scriptural one. Mere insistence on correctness of form will not carry much weight. It must be shown in actual practice that the scriptural order offers the best conditions for the development of spiritual fellowship, the nourishment of God's people and their welding together in effective witness.
The Need for Submission
On the other hand, nothing we have said is meant to infer that failure on the part of others absolves any of us from the responsibility to discover God's will from His Word and to obey it. Even where conditions are far from perfect, spiritually-minded people will not make that an excuse for declining to submit to the teaching of Scripture. Whilst we have always striven to understand the genuine perplexities of young believers and have stressed the obligation resting upon elders to give them helpful guidance, and to demonstrate how the scriptural pattern can be held in grace and power, we must remind young believers that one of the ways in which they can please the Lord is by giving due respect to elders. When the duty of submission is so plainly taught in Scripture (e.g. I Peter 5. 5) we are not deterred from urging it from fear of being unpopular. Remembering the solemn responsibilities of elders and the fact that they have to give an account to the Chief Shepherd, we should be more ready to encourage them in their task rather than dishearten them by lack of co-operation. It is a delightful thing to see young and old working together, for the well-being of an assembly.
The Need for Vision
It is our conviction that the majority of young people are ready to respond to inspired leadership from men of grace and conviction. The extent to which large-scale efforts outside the assemblies have relied upon the support of young people from assemblies, serves to show that there are reserves of zeal and energy waiting to be tapped. But leaders must be men of spiritual vision who have caught a glimpse of the divine ideal for church life. To think this can be acquired by attention to the mere frame-work of truth, however important, is as foolish as supposing that the life and atmosphere of a real home can be enjoyed by studying the architect's plan of the house. Although the early church was not free from the imperfections inseparable from human nature, the man who has made a prayerful attempt to immerse his mind and heart in the atmosphere of the New Testament must surely have felt a glow in his soul, urging him to strive after the ideal. A man who claims to have reached it reveals that he has not glimpsed it.
If men who have had dealings with God would only give themselves to the care of the church, enthusiasm would prove infectious and they would have the satisfaction of seeing young men seeking to fit themselves for leadership in the years to come, instead of having to lament the fact that their youthful energies are being diverted into other channels. If we are not happy about their activities the obvious answer is to provide better employment for them. When there is ample evidence of great opportunities open to assemblies to achieve great things in the cause of Christ and for the blessing of men, it is disheartening to a degree to see brethren neglecting these opportunities, seemingly content to let things take their course. We thank God for every man of spiritual calibre who is rising to the occasion, but alas it is sometimes the case that men of standing and ability, whom God seems to have fitted for leadership, show a distressing lack of enterprise and initiative in the things of God whilst they can display these qualities to splendid advantage in successful businesses.
An Urgent Call
In these matters no one can be the judge of another but it seems to us that when capable men allow the life of an assembly to languish through neglect, they are incurring a solemn responsibility which ought to make a spiritually sensitive man shudder. Is it possible that some are handicapped by a defective view of divine sovereignty which obscures the corresponding truth of human responsibility? When the returned remnant needed stirring up God sent them two messengers, and if the one declared 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord', the other urged the people to 'be strong . . . and work' because God's Spirit remained among them, Zech. 4. 6; Hag. 2. 4, 5. No one would dispute for a moment that unless the Spirit of God is at work nothing will be accomplished for God but one of the ways in which the Spirit of God worked in those days was to stir up the spirits of two God-given leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua, and then the spirit of all the remnant of the people, so that 'they came and did work in the house of die Lord', Hag. 1. 14, 15. We are sure there would be a stir if all could be induced to weigh up this matter before the Lord.
We propose to conclude this series by an article in the next issue dealing with some mailers which demand close attention if assembly life is to flourish.