Editorial Note. — In his letter transmitting the article herewith published Rev. Buell Kazee, says: "I have not the heart to believe you will publish this, but with all my heart I believe it ought to be published. Furthermore, I believe the sentiment among our brethren is so changed as to admit it freely." — In spirit and principle the article of Pastor Kazee is the expressed conviction that neither he, nor any other pastor or church, or religious body as a whole, can ever prosper spiritually or be used by the Lord in a witness of power except as the things are placed first in our lives and teaching that the Spirit of Christ has placed first. In our thought, no article which calls believers back to this holy and now broadly forgotten center should be considered lightly by a Christian editor. Many religious bodies are falling into heresy, backsliding and perhaps even apostasy today because they are stubbornly blind to this truth, reminding one of the blindness of the Jewish ecclesiastics in putting their own self-exalting interpretation of God's Word above the promised Messiah, thus rejecting Him. — Victor I. Masters, Western Recorder.
For What Should a Believer Be Trained?
By Buell Kazee, 1940
WHEN I was very young, a boy hardly ready for high school, I had never known any church life other than the old country church up the creek in the mountains. There I was converted, called to preach, and ordained. During the period in which these events transpired we had once-a-month preaching, and a revival meeting once in a while. I remember that on Saturday we had what they called the "business meeting."
I cannot remember there ever being much "business" other than to see about getting the winter's coal, or to fix a hole in the roof, or get up a barrel for the Orphans' Home, raise a mission offering, or deal with the case of some wayward member of the church. Other than such matters, we had only one thing in mind as our objective: We were to pray for and witness to the lost of the community and get them saved.
In the revival meeting, there was nothing in our minds except to ask God for spiritual power, bring conviction to the lost, and regeneration to the convicted. That is the way we "ran" the church. The Lord frequently blessed us with "shouting and rejoicing" and salvation that made people happy and led them to quit a lot of meanness and have a different spirit about life in general.
One of the usual things about somebody who got saved was that he should go right home, or else not even wait till he got home, but go right across the church house and try to persuade some dear one to yield to Christ. This often brought a revival meeting to be remembered. As I recall, the first interest of a newborn soul was to get some other lost person interested without delay.
I HAVE seen people who were saved in a service, bear their witness in that same service to a half dozen other people, with the result that many of them were saved right there. That did not always happen, but it did happen frequently. It was the usual thing rather than the unusual. I remember that when someone was saved down at the church in a revival, if unsaved persons who stayed at home did not want to face the Holy Spirit, they usually received news before the new convert got there, and got out of the way. They knew that the first thing that new convert would do would be to tell them what the Lord had done for him, and try to get them to repent of their sins and turn to God.
I would point out that those new converts would do that before they had time to study any quarterlies, hold any offices in any organizations, or to take any study courses in methods, in books on how to win the lost to Christ, or even a course in the Bible. They followed the holy impulse exhibited by the woman of Samaria, who left teacher at water-pot to tell the neighbors of Him whom she had found.
As I think back over those times, and look at our present dominant tendency to look to organization and formal instruction, but hardly at all to what the Spirit of Christ does through the witness of converts, new or not new it makes me wonder, in connection with all our specialized training, if we have in fact ceased to understand that salvation is of the Lord, working in the hearts of convicted sinners and of praying, obedient believers, and is not of our own planning, wisdom or power.
Never before have we spread our program of training so wide or put so much emphasis on "well-trained" church members. But what is a well-trained church member? What do we visualize as to be expected of him that requires such specialization?
Why does God leave us here in this world after we are saved? Why does He not take us home? There can be but two reasons, it would seem. One is that we need the experience of opposition to teach us devotion to and understanding of God. We need to deepen our appreciation of God and His goodness on the background of or contrast with experiences contrary to our happiness. The other reason must be to let God demonstrate in us, as witnesses to Christ, His great grace. Both of these find expression in His planned outlet: "Ye shall be witnesses unto Me."
THIS is the Christian's business. He is to be a witness unto Jesus Christ, so that others who are lost may know of Him and be saved. The ultimate aim of our Lord is to save the lost and our business while here among the lost is to tell them of Jesus. That is what those young converts in the old days of my church life were trying to do — tell somebody about Jesus.
But were they not presumptious? They had not had any training. They had taken no study courses. They were by all human standards poorly prepared to do this thing. But they did it, and they got the desired results.
What was the secret? It was that they "quenched not the Spirit." They did just like Philip when the Spirit told him to climb up on the chariot of that Ethiopian; they obeyed the Spirit, and the Spirit convicted their lost friends.
You see, God has some ideas about training. This matter of saving the lost is God's business, and He knew that all the books we could write on the subject, and all the study courses we could contrive would not be as effective as "tarrying at Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high."
There is a certain thing which God calls His children to do. Outstanding things He did not call them to do, are such as building complete organizations in churches, training people to become efficient office-holders, and tellers-to-others what they should do in these organizations.
God never meant for religion to become complex. Those who were to be most numerously and broadly involved in it were not of the upper intellectual group. Nowhere in history since Christ came has He depended on the intellectuals and man of affairs to save the lost. Paul tells us plainly why (1 Corinthians 1, 2), and history confirms his position. Some of the greatest witnesses for Christ have been plain men who could not carry on complex affairs. So long as we let religion remain simple it remained effective. When we began to make it complex and full of affairs it began to be ineffective and powerless. Wherever it is known to be effective in the thing to which God called us, yon will find it also lacking in that complexity which has utilized our leaders and preachers in "denominational affairs." Whether we will follow Him or not, our Lord has put the prophetic office first in His churches.
God has a plan for the work He called us to do, and it is simple. In its representative expression it was that I, a lost sinner, through hearing the Gospel preached by a God-called, Spirit-filled man, should be convicted, converted, regenerated, and possessed with the Spirit of Christ. This Spirit is God Himself in me. He has promised both to keep me conscious of the great burden which, the Father constantly carries for the lost, and to give me the wisdom and power and the urge to tell them effectively about Jesus the Saviour. And He does what He promises.
THIS plan was demonstrated with great effect on Pentecost. It was demonstrated in plain people, who were not qualified to carry on complex "denominational business," and far less to understand the subtleties of the learned.
You say, "Were they not trained? Did they not walk with Jesus for three years, learning discipleship?"
Yes, they did! They were learning of HIM. They were learning the import of His death and resurrection, bathing their minds and hearts in the affairs of the Cross. But when the Spirit came, they began to tell things which human beings are unable to learn from any other but His Spirit. The urge that came upon them to tell these things, BECAUSE IT WAS SPIRITUAL, WAS GIVEN POWER TO MAKE THEIR SPEECH CONVINCING.
I fail to see scriptural reasons to train anybody for positions or services in the church other than those to which God calls men. He gave the list of the called in the church, namely apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. If we are to train for specialized work in the church, should we not at least place first the Holy Spirit's selections?
After the early days of my Christian life, to which I have referred, I was introduced to a new idea in training. There was set before me a great system which needed secretaries, group leaders, superintendents, directors, treasurers, committees, and so on.
From that system, applied in the local church by dividing it into many age and sex groups, I was introduced to a complex denominational system. This embodied policies and plans which required specialized and trained leadership, coommittee meetings, conferences, conventions, study courses on various methods of activity, books and pamphlets of explanation, standards and super-standards, headquarters, planning experts, specialized departments, secretaries, and other complex inventions and ideas and personnel. These tend constantly to multiply through division, or new ideas seeking institutional standing.
To save my life, I cannot find it all in the Scriptures. Yet official leaders and others say we have to have it. I have found that in trying to keep "up" on all our systems and policies and movements, and so quickly in the minds of brethren as a good pastor, I have almost forgotten the thing God called me to do, — that is, keep the testimony of Christ the Saviour fresh and glowing in my heart and in the hearts of His people, over whom He has set me as His under-shepherd. I firmly believe that this complexity has been a device of Satan to take us away from our calling. In saying this, I disclaim lack of love and respect for my brethren. Satan delights in using good men. He often goes even into the pulpit, and there is no indication that he thinks it beyond him to deceive even Baptist leaders and program-defenders.
I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is not interested in filling some of the positions we have made for workers in our church life. If they lead us away from placing supreme emphasis on that which Cod called us to do, under the idea that we are thus serving the Lord, they are not what His Spirit would have us do.
Yes, a Christian should be trained. He should first be led to understand what it means to have a burrden for the lost. But he will find very little of this in most of the books and quarterlies he studies. He finds it in trying to get the lost from sin to Christ. One must took on the fields to know, what Jesus felt in compassion for the multitudes, and look with a heart of compassion and love.
A Christian ought to know how to pray, and have a burden of prayer. But be will seldom get that out of books. No one really prays just for pastime. Real prayer arises out of burden, a sense of need. That is why so few people pray. Few look on the fields and few see, therefore few are burdened and few pray.
But if one gets into the devil-fighting business with Jesus, trying to wrest some lost soul from Satan, he will find it necessary to look to God for power. This will make him seek God on his knees. Most of us who busily run "denominational affairs," or "do church work" or transact "church business," probably find even less time for a real prayer life than do the many of our rank-and-file followers not so geared up to formal activities.
A Christian should be able to boldly proclaim his testimony. We can read the Gospel out of books, but this good news of God is sweet-sounding and powerful only when it is the voice of God speaking through the voice of man. You can do this only if you "quench not the Spirit" when Hw wants you to speak.
There is only one Book that is essential in the Christian's business, and that is the Bible. A Christian needs all of this he can know, for it is the Word of God, the sword of the Spirit. It gives all that is necessary both of means and methods and objections in the business of the believer's witness. I have seriously wondered if so many "helps" to the Bible have not taken us away from the Scriptures instead of leading us into them.
I cannot see teaching in the Bible of God's plan for New Testament churches which prescribes courses of specialized training. The one thing a Christian needs above all others is spiritual experience, always being sure that it conforms to God's Written Word. Put him to seeking and winning the lost and he will be tutored and exercised in the burden, prayer, boldness, and spiritual study of the Word. Outside of this I see no Bible mandate for training. And if there are other useful things for the believer to learn, can we not at least see how we grieve the Spirit of Christ, when we stress them immeasurably more than we do those things the Spirit Himself has put in the Bible to instruct us?
THE PLAN of work in the Bible is simply enough for a church of five and complex enough for a church of five thousand. Its effectiveness lies not in any plan but in divine power. Only God could design it and make it work. But all He needs is power. If we possessed even as much power as we have of plans we might have an even chance. But we are obviously "long" on plan and "short" on power. Gid is bountiful in power and can make the simplest plan work.
The best witnesses in the church in which I minister are simple, plain folk, who rely on the power and wisdom of God to take care of their lack of finesse in witnessing. Their hearts have something they must tell, and the Spirit guides them in uttering it, for it is He that gives it.
There is a cry in my soul every day: "Will we ever be humble enough to be satisfied with God's way, simple as it is?" "Denominational affairs" and "programs" are of our own making. Whatever they may be worth, how tragically we need afresh to learn that God's plan is a man! God wants men. He wants men separated from complex affairs; men who are free, alive, warm and with feeling, whose hearts respond to an experience with Him when and where He calls.
Are we so pre-occupied in stressing the importance of our plans that in our hearts we do not really believe that God places Spirit-filled believers before plans in His yearning desire to bring sinners from the world to Him? If so, may He arouse us from our torpor and bring us to repentance.
Are we so devoted to our plans that we refuse to admit that the absence of evidence of a primary and devotion to the things which God has made primary? If so, wherein is our stubbornness different in principle from that which the Hebrew ecclesiasts of old to crucify the Lord of gloty?
Unworthy in and of himself to speak words other than of the highest consideration of his brethren, this writer yet dares to believe that the highest and most influential within the holy fellowship of the faith of Christ is responsible to same mandates of God in His Holy Book as in the humblest believer of that fellowship. In His name I plead: Are Baptists willing to face frankly and humbly the issue of whether we have unwittingly permitted our own well-intended, but not Spirit-taught devotion to plans and organizations, to take the place of depending upon God and seeking to obey Him in all things?
===========[Western Recorder, February 8, 1940, pp. 10-11. - The Western Recorder, is the Kentucky Baptist State paper. - jrd]
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