Recently I joined other denominational leaders at a conference. I was struck by what our speaker said about our ability to work well with each other to bring about Christ’s Kingdom here on earth. It reminded me why I found a home amongst the Brethren. There is a stream in western Christianity that teaches that the faith of a person is private, something just between them and God. While I do not deny that our faith in God is deeply personal, I believe that faith is best when expressed through the relationships God gave us in his Church. We need each other. We need to be connected, not working or journeying alone.
For a brief moment, I considered calling this column “Yoked.” I quickly remembered that “Yoked” has a couple of pop-cultural references. To be “yoked,” as pop-culture would say, is to be muscular — a bit of poking fun at the body-building culture. And of course, there is the Christian dating website, Equally Yoked!
Though we probably won’t brand this regular communication with the work “Yoked,” the metaphor does work for this first one. Christ calls us to put down our burdens, the ones that overpower us and overwhelm us, and pick up his load, for “his yoke is easy, his burden is light.” Paul also uses this metaphor with the Corinthians when he reminds the people of the Corinth church that not to be “unequally yoked” because light and darkness cannot fellowship together. The implications being that this journey requires the help of others when we step into the yoke of the Christian faith. With this as our metaphor, may we be eager to step into our shared work together. May we have the eyes to see this shared work, call it out into the light, and celebrate with one another when we see it.
This will not be a natural inclination for the Brethren. Most of us desire a spirit of humility and simplicity. Drawing attention to ourselves or toward others is not something we do. But we must overcome that. Andy Stanley said, “what is celebrated is repeated. The behaviors that are celebrated are repeated. The decisions that are celebrated are repeated. The values that are celebrated are repeated.” Celebrating our work together will go farther than any motivational sermon or speech ever could.
So please celebrate the work done in your local congregation and community. Please share in celebrations with your regional teams and other churches in your area. If you see something that needs celebrating, please email email@example.com.
I will start the year with this celebration. Last year our churches reported that we baptized 238 people into the body of Christ. To highlight a few places across the denomination, we celebrate with Real Life Church in Niles, Michigan. They baptized 17 people in 2019. We celebrate with First Brethren in Bryan, OH, 11 baptisms in 2019. Park Street in Ashland, OH, and United Community both baptized 11. Raystown Brethren and Berlin Brethren baptized 9 and 7 in 2019, respectively. Carson Oaks in Stockton, CA, baptized 15, and Cheyenne Brethren baptized 6. In the Southeast region, Grace Community has welcomed 23 new believers and baptized 9. Mount Olive baptized 19 and St. Luke Brethren baptized 17.
Again Andy Stanley once said, “I’m convinced baptisms do more to drive home our vision than anything else we do.” For Brethren, this is the first act of obedience in a lifelong journey of obedience to Christ. Two hundred thirty-eight people started that journey this past year. Well done, Church. I pray that 2020 will be a fruitful season for us. May your walk with Christ be filled with joy and may your burden be light because of Christ and your fellow laborers.