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Honiton Evangelical Congregational Church October

Dear Friends,


Covering the same ground again

I had a very helpful conversation when I was out visiting and was dismayed to discover that one person at least had got the impression that I frown on the general conversation, enquiries after one another’s health and the generalities that are shared when we have a cup of tea after the service. For the record, I think it is good to meet after the service and spend time together. Obviously all sorts of things will be talked about if we are getting to know one another as we need to do. Casual enquiries about how people are or how their football team is doing are fine.

The arrival of the internet has produced a situation where some Christians don’t attend church but comfort themselves that they are listening to ‘better’ ministry from well-known preachers, dead and alive. That available ministry from people like Dr Lloyd-Jones and many gifted contemporary preachers is to be valued and used but not if it withdraws us from meeting together.

Why do we need to meet together when we could easily find superior ministry to download? God promises to be present with his people when they assemble together (Hebrews 12: 22 – 24) and if we are to be ‘teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom’ and (Hebrews 10: 24 & 25), ‘to stir one another to love and good works’ and to be ‘encouraging one another’ then we need ‘to meet together’. As a preacher there is something unique about preaching where you have a pastoral relationship to your hearers. God made us as social, not individual, creatures so we need to be together – not to value this is a sign of an acute spiritual sickness.

My concern, and this applies generally to when we meet, is that it would be sad and a neglect of our duty to love one another (John 13: 34 & 35) if we are not. ‘teaching and admonishing’, ‘encouraging’ making efforts to, ‘stir up one another’. This surely means that our conversations on Sundays and at other times should actually make it clear that we are Christians who are united to the Lord Jesus, bonded together through him and take seriously the responsibility for one another that he has given us.

So general conversation is fine but you have a problem, not with me but the Lord, if your conversation doesn’t include the occasional sharing of a scripture that has helped you, a hymn that you found helpful and which moved you during the service or just a thought which the Bible readings or the sermon evoked.

The fact that something doesn’t come easily isn’t a sign it can’t be done. When I was visiting a church member in Middlesbrough I asked her about her spiritual life – she just changed the subject and I was totally discouraged with her. Next time I visited she introduced talking about spiritual things and had much that was helpful to share. It was a delight. Few of us find it easy but we can all change by God’s grace – we are to regard ourselves as works in progress and not the finished article.

Yours in the Lord,