The first missionaries I regularly supported in prayer were from the Brethren.
An old Scottish ex-missionary to India who greeted me every week in my church for many years was from the Brethren.
Some of the most effective evangelists I know in the North East, a couple of whom I count as friends, are from the Christian Brethren.
I have a great respect for these people. My brothers in Christ, for sure, but I am talking about the Brethren - a loosely linked group of churches with no full time pastors. Some are more 'exclusive' than others. They're unfashionable. Their women still cover their heads in worship. Some have a pre-occupation with Bible prophecy. Some say the're in a kind of 'time warp', old fashioned and quaint perhaps? Dangerous even? Embarrassing? Irrelevant? Personally, I hold these people in high esteem.
How do you get to meet these people? That's a tricky one. So here's a guide. Let's start with the easy bit.
How not to find the Brethren
1. Go to pastors' conferences
2. Go to the local 'Churches Together' meeting in town
3. Go to big conferences like Spring Harvest
4. Wait until they invite you to speak at their churches
5. Go to anything 'charismatic'
6. Visit the grandiose church buildings in your town
How to find the Brethren
1. Get involved in open air evangelism
The above will explain why so few Christians in our mainline churches will ever meet them. These people keep themselves to themselves. They do not have a high view of the established church. Generally, they will not mix on any formal level with other groups of Christians. They have no paid ministers. But they do preach the gospel and hand out tracts. In many towns, they are the only ones left who are really reaching large numbers of unchurched people. Some have a rather dated or condemning method. But rather than criticise, we need to get out on the streets as much as they do, and improve on their methods.
If you go to one of their meetings in a traditional Assembly, you will find the men taking it in turns to stand up and introduce hymns, spiritual insights, scriptures and prayers. Someone will then preach a relatively short prepared sermon towards the end of the meeting. The women do not publicly contribute.
When I first went to one of these meetings, I found it extraordinary. In a sense, this was the closest thing I had ever seen to New Testament Christianity. It came right out of the 1Corinthians 14 textbook:
1 Corinthians 14:26
hat was the view of their founder, John Nelson Darby?
ON THE PRESENCE AND ACTION OF THE HOLY GHOST IN THE CHURCH
ON THE INTRODUCTION OF MR. WOLFF’S PAMPHLET; IN WHICH, WHILE DENYING THE CONTINUANCE OF GIFTS, HE ASSERTS HIS INTENTION OF DEFENDING MINISTRY FROM THE ATTACKS DIRECTED AGAINST IT…
ON MR. WOLFF’S CHAPTER 16, WHERE THE WRITER PRETENDS TO PROVE, BY TWENTY-FIVE REASONS, THAT THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY GHOST HAVE ALL CEASEDThe above is a lengthy rebuttal of a prominent church leader who believed that such things had ceased. Here's a quote from Darby's response:
Are we really come to this, that those who think they are pillars of the church give their approval to that which denies the presence of the Comforter, and while denying it, seeks to persuade us that the church enjoys ‘all the primitive blessings’? The gifts were only ‘the manifestation of the Spirit.’ How much have we lost in this respect, alas is but too evident! All that was, under the apostolic administration, a public sign of the presence of the Holy Ghost to the world… all this is lost.
In another article, entitled:
OPERATIONS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD
This leads us to see the blessing and importance of these gifts, definitely committed by Christ, as He sees good in grace, for the good and communication of His blessed fullness to the Church; whereby, fed with what is good, it should be preserved and guarded against hankering after the trash of deceivers. They are gifts to the Church, not to all but for all. The development of these in full liberty and openness of ministry is most important. Not can they be really or rightly developed otherwise.