The Need for the Assemblies to Show up to the Conversation

If the greater Evangelical Christian world is a party, then “the Brethren” are in the corner twiddling their thumbs, waiting for it to be over.  Ok, this may be an exaggeration, but there is truth to it.

The brethren are not really part of the evangelical landscape, or at least in what I have seen.  I see this in two ways.  One is theologically, and the other is ecumenically.

A great history

No one will deny that the Brethren have an important theological history.  It was Darby and the Brethren that ignited Dispensationalism to the world.  Dispensationalism is a framework still used today, although in many different variations.

It is taught in seminaries like Dallas Theological Seminary.  In fact, it is Dallas that we have to thank for the constant development, revision, and defense of Dispensationalism.

Where are we now?

The question is, what are we contributing and engaging with today?  I am not saying that we need to birth something as good or greater than Dispensationalism.  But we should still be engaged in current Biblical and Theological discussion, something I see the Brethren lacking.

Not that we have to understand every major and minor view, for then our brains would give out and we would then only be reading scholars and not the Bible.  But people need to be aware of current discussion.

Are we in the mix of important discussions?

Are we aware of important ideas being discussed that have huge impacts on how we read the Bible or understand God?  What about the New Perspective on Paul advocated by important biblical scholars like James D. G. Dunn and N. T. Wright?

Or debates on subordination within the Trinity discussed by theologians like Kevin Giles, Wayne Grudem, and Robert Letham?  The former could change how we read the whole New Testament (although that is not necessarily a bad thing).  The latter would change how we view Christ’s role in the Trinity and His relationship to the Father.

Both of which are immensely important.  The field of biblical and theological studies is always changing and there need to be people within the Brethren who are aware of these changes, or else we will be caught off guard.

Building relationships with other groups

The other area that I see the Brethren lacking is in the ecumenical community.  I’m sure for some the word ecumenical means forsaking the truth about the Bible for liberal theology, and that is not what I am advocating.

I advocate for an ecumenical movement like what Peter Leithart argues for in his book The End of Protestantism.  A movement that is simply local Pastor and Elders going to other churches in their area and to begin to talk and build relationships with one another.

Together in the gospel

Together we can be stronger in spreading the message of the gospel, meeting the needs of the church at large and keeping out blatant false teaching.  As part of the Brethren I always heard talk of the how the church is not a building but the universal church, every believer everywhere.  So why aren’t we interacting with the whole church?  It is like sitting down for dinner but not speaking to any of your family members!

Restricted by fear

Some might fear that by coming together we will lose many of the things that make the Brethren distinct.  That is all well and good, and the Brethren have good things to offer, but we could say the same about the Baptists, the Lutherans, the Reformed churches, and perhaps even the Pentecostals!

By coming together and talking, we sharpen one another, and as we discuss and think through our doctrine and church practice we will become stronger, not weaker.

The Brethren can no longer stay in the corner of the ‘Evangelical Party’.  It is time for us to talk, learn, and worship with our brothers and sisters across the street and throughout the world.



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    Very interesting thought. Probably all of us have heard that the Brethren have displayed an “holier than thou” attitude. Maybe that is what you mean by sitting in the corner and not mixing with others. The Brethren might take pride in their various views about church leadership, etc.
    I am not ecumenical and I am not against what you are proposing in getting together with some local pastors to discuss some things.
    One question popped into my mind – where do you draw the line as to who you will meet with and maybe work with?


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      Nathan Jersey Abdy

      Drawing the line can be a hard place to find. Definitely when there are differences on biblical authority it is hard to talk about doctrinal issues. And your question also deals with how much stock we personally put into our own position. Some people put really high stock in the age of the earth or whatever else. Then the question becomes do we value more our position on this issue or the relationship we have made. Are we willing to give up the progress we have made in talking with other Christians over this issue. And that answer depends on the issue and the people involved.


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    The challenge above (or at least questions above) were why I have joined the committee serving up the Iron Sharpens Iron Conferences in the Buffalo area, now reaching out to The Rochester NY area the last few years… 400-600 or more believers from various “denominations” of the greater church meeting together to be challenged as men to serve in the church, home, and our communities in the service of the Lord and the Father. Sad to see no one from my assembly join us the last 6 years, but isolating themselves from the ministry so well planned by the Holy Spirit. Their loss, 600’s gain annually… sad. We must stop practicing the actions that say the “autonomous assembly” IS Christ’s church. HIS church includes millions, many of which have great ministry even though not “assembly principle” enjoined. Next ISI Conference is in Rochester next spring, at Journey off Mt. Reed Blvd!!! Perhaps I’ll see you there!


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    Its so sad to read articles like this. We don’t need “Brethren” to argue against all these new trends. We need simple believers like you and me to know the God of the Bible. We need to preach what the Bible teaches, not what men think about it, or suppose it says. Where is the consecutive studies in the local Assemblies, by “gifted” teachers in their Assemblies. Where are the men and women who challenge us with teaching empowered by the Holy Spirit of God Himself? I could suggest they have been corked over and aren’t allowed to teach the Bible. But where are they? Where are our young Bible teachers? Where are our Elders who see gifted teaching and fan the flame and provide for them to get a Bible school education instead of a secular one? They are too concerned about you wearing a coat and tie than they are about nurturing the gift of teaching. Where are the Elders who have a Sunday night meeting to give an opportunity for young men to grow in their abilities and to build up the Saints in their faith. Where are the Elders who are not AFRAID of any question and can answer them Biblically not “experientially”.
    Where are our young men and women? Young men and women are more concerned about discussing what would you do if your kid came to you and said he\she was gay than they are about what the Bible says. They are more concerned about their children’s birthday parties than a Bible study on why we believe what we believe. They are so easily offended and leave so quickly. Where are our young families that will go to a dying work and revive it by yielding to the Spirit of God and do the work of an evangelist? Instead let’s go to the Church that meets our kids (really our needs so I do not have to do it) needs. I downloaded and shared a tremendous message from Voices of Christ on God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit and shared the 1st one at a home Bible study. It was a dud. People said it was too much. Too much what? Scripture? I couldn’t believe my ears. Are we so dull of hearing the Word of God that we can’t even recognize solid teaching anymore? I grew up with solid teaching not living the life teaching. I learned of God, who He is, what he can do with those who love Him. I learned the Bible is correct no matter how much it hurts to hear it, no matter what the sin it convict s me of, and it is correct even when men and women don’t want it to be. I learned Matthew 11:29 – “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls”. I learned Act 17:11- “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, (and to the point of the brother’s article) and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” I learned Isaiah 1:18- “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Psalms 34:8- “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” I say learn of God and His Son Jesus Christ and the living part will be it’s result. Where are the men who burn the midnight oil study the Book, crying out to God for understanding, and wisdom to share His word faithfully. Sometimes I lie awake at night crying out to the Lord, wishing I had the gift of teaching, wishing I could answer and challenge these new doctrines of those found in Acts 17:21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.). Though I may not have the gift of teaching I study my Bible as if I did so that I can do like 1Peter 3:15 says “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” That I might 2Timothy 2:15- “Study to shew thyself (myself) approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” May we get back to the Lord being the pre-imminent one as in Galatians 1:5- “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” And lastly, since when do we as Bible believers yield ourselves to debates following their rules, that the last time I looked, was on it’s 10th edition of correction. Nobody wins a debate! Oh but the Word of God brings conviction and changes lives. Dear brother… Study and let’s see you be the one who faithful upholds God in a debate. Don’t study books about the Bible (they have their place), study the Bible, to learn about God and His plan of Salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord! Be the one who knows the truth not just knows OF THE TRUTH through others writings, but let the Spirit of God teach you the things He knows about Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God!


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      Nathan Jersey Abdy

      Mr. Fritchey, I’ve read your comment, but I am not sure exactly what you are taking issue to in regards to my article.


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    I’ll start by saying that I don’t really know much yet about the Brethren landscape, but I grew up in an evangelical church. I was born there, I went through all the stages: Sunday school, teenage group, youth group, etc.
    I ended up behind the pulpit a few times. I didn’t miss meetings, and attended everything. We were one of the most conservative churches in our area.
    I grew up in a church where the Bible was preached everytime, and we escaped most of the trends around us.
    We had only one case of immorality, and it led to church disipline. People behaved or left by themselves.

    I follow what’s going on in the evangelical world, and let me tell you something: you don’t want the assemblies to go in that chaotic mud right now.
    You can find everything and anything over there. Faithful preachers and churches are slowly isolating themselves from the mainstream movements, because “evangelical” today doesn’t mean much.
    Prominent pastors are attacking doctrines like the Trinity, God’s omniscience, or the inerrancy of the Bible, and if a few years ago, people used to rise in defense of the Bible, attacks come now from within, and there is no shock anymore among evangelicals.
    Some people still preach Christ faithfully, and it is a blessing, but for each one of those, you have 20 others who bring shame on the Lord’s name day after day, not only with false doctrines, but by plain immorality: “leader” have multiple affairs just to be “restored” and back on stage 3 months later.

    Moreover, evangelicalism has its own traditions now, like the altar calls, the sinner’s prayer, pastoriatry, etc. Everybody wants to be a “leader” of something, and “servant” has become an insult. They have lost all biblical ground on ecclesiology.
    The word “evangelical” has lost its meaning, and this is said by their own people. Unless the Lord, in His grace, leads to a deep revival, it is going to explode and most of what would remain will go to apostasy.
    In the recent years, the emptiness that reigned for years has been slowly filled by things we thought we were done with: one of the most prominent evangelical pastors, whose books are sold everywhere, recently called people to follow the Pope. And I’m not going to start about the Word of Faith/Charismatic practices going rampant…

    Remember the church I described in the beginning? The one I grew up and spent almost all my life in? How brothers preached from the Bible?
    I learned about the deity of Christ in my twenties, on internet… We didn’t know anything, even what salvation was, because we spent all our time practicing on music or learning stories from the Bible without any link to redemptive history. And we were the local church with the soundest doctrine…
    The Lord saved me years later, and had to bring me out of my comfort zone, serving with Christians from a Brethren assembly. I found them to be closer than anyone I knew to the qualities of a Christian according to the Bible, but their “church system” was not comfortable for me.
    However, once saved, I went back once in the church I used to attend (a more “modern” one) and that day, I understood I had nothing to do there.
    The next week, I went to the assembly I once found boring and I never moved from there. It was like water in the desert, oxygen in the sea. Nothing there was a trap for my ego to grow. We gathered for Christ, knowing that everything we are begins with Him.

    I understand the need to be in contact with believers, and there are a lot among evangelicals, but today, it is a big mess and you have to deal with each case one by one, far from the big gatherings you see everywhere in the media. Discernment and wisdom will have to be used. A lot.
    As the former poster said:”We need simple believers like you and me to know the God of the Bible. We need to preach what the Bible teaches, not what men think about it, or suppose it says.”

    Let’s remember what the Lord said in Revelation 3.8: “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”


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      Nathan Jersey Abdy

      Hey, I appreciate your comment. I understand that the greater christian world and now evangelical world is turbulent. That is true. Would it be hard to work with other churches and see which are orthodox or not? Yes, the christian world is pretty crazy. But that does not mean we should let it be and go do our own thing. The brethren have always been a pretty separated denomination and becoming more separated is not going to help that. You would say that we have a pretty good thing going here. So shouldn’t we share what we have? If Jesus commanded that we go and take the gospel to all the nations then surely we should give the gospel to all the Christians.
      Sure, dealing with some of the interesting or just straight up crazy doctrinal things is hard and complicated and perhaps the brethren are not the best suited for the job. But I would also add that if that is true, then we should work and prepare to deal with doctrinal issues that oppose the gospel and orthodox Christianity.


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        That’s something I wanted to adress but for some reason didn’t: the almost invisible influence of the Brethren that everybody forgets.
        I remember once when John MacArthur was asked about church organisation, he talked about a small book written by an not very known Plymouth Brethren author where everything on the matter came straight from the New Testament, and he admired that. He still has this book after more than 50 years of ministry, and it is the base for the way their community works.
        When I started to research the Brethren, I found out that a lot of great missionaries I heard about were from there too.

        Your concern is shared by a few people in the assemblies, and I agree that any gathering of believers shouldn’t remain isolated, but mediatic cross-denominational gatherings lead to compromise these days.

        You can work with other Christians, as the local assembly I know does. But I felt you talked about a worldwide recogniton.

        Right now the evangelical world is going towards a big split, and I would advise to not join the big pool for now but check which ones come out of it, and if they do it to preserve the faith once delivered to the saints.

        Let’s be careful like snakes and pure like doves.


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          Nathan Jersey Abdy

          I do not think that cross-denominational gathers always lead to compromise, but that also depends on what you value or put high on the priority list. Something should never be compromised (namely the truth of the gospel, biblical authority, the Trinity), while other things do not need to be agreed upon.
          I’m not sure what you mean by “world recognition.” I am not asking that the brethren step out onto the international stage. Would I like to see a globally united church one day? Yes, but that day is very far away and the Lord could return before then.
          And waiting for this ‘split’ to end and seeing who comes out I am not sure is the best course of action. If we can do something to move the discussion back to truth on whatever level we can, I think it is worth it.
          I’ve send in another article to clarify and further explain my points so look for that when it comes out.


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      Thank you D.O. I appreciated your encouraging, thoughtful, Biblically accurate and informed response. We have several believers in our Assembly who have a very similar testimony. The perspective you give needs to be heard. Thank you for sharing.


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