Below is a report I received from a dear brother and Pastor from California. He is South African but has been living in the States for a decade. He joined us a couple of weeks ago at a gathering we had at a camp-ground in Missouri ( not tents, I am too old for tents) There were about 25 of us from North America, but the backgrounds were much more varied. We had Americans, Canadians, myself from Scotland, South Africa and Sierra Leone. Within this group we had further diverse backgrounds which included those from Baptist backgrounds, Pentecostal, Conservative families, Mennonites and non-denominational. Please read his report below, it echo’s my own thoughts about the gathering and was exactly what we who called this meeting were seeking, praise God……….....................
Brother Greg from Sermon Index invited me to attend a conference at camp grounds in Missouri during the week of 17 March. I did not know anything about the various participants beforehand except for some communication with Brother Greg and having read most of the Principles book, produced by Gospel Fellowships, the organizers of the conference.
The conference was unlike any other I had ever attended. There was no preaching, no agenda and no program. About 25 brothers and sisters gathered from various parts of the US and Canada with one purpose and that to spend time in communion – communion with the Lord and with one another. The conference was also different in that there was no food! The two days had been set aside as fast days.
From the moment I was collected at the airport to the moment I was dropped off again, for four days there was only one theme – the Lord and His Word. There were no conversations about sport, politics or anything of the world. This was not because there were rules against such things but because each person had only one driving passion – to know, and honor the Lord.
Brothers sat around the table and simply spoke from their hearts and the Scriptures. There were no formal “sermons” or “messages” yet the Lord clearly spoke through the body. No one was in charge and no one was leading. This would be a recipe for disaster and chaos in most church environments, but not here. Even though we came from many different cultural and church backgrounds, because there was no (visible) selfish ambition or self-promotion, each one participated out of a genuine desire to serve one another.
We spent all the time we were not sleeping either praying or talking to one another about the Lord and His will. I never once felt a discordant note but was aware of a real humility and love and a desire to seek each other’s benefit throughout.
Differences of doctrine was never an issue. Yes, we came from many different backgrounds and there were a few minor doctrinal differences (on non-essentials) but in an atmosphere of love and respect these differences never presented any difficulty – There was not even a hint of discord nor did anyone feel they had to pussyfoot around issues. We could speak openly and frankly without threatening because of the underlying respect, love and humility.
One of the things I saw demonstrated was also how close we can become doctrinally, if we only have the right heart. At the end of the day, there is only one Bible and one Spirit and if we are genuinely led by the Spirit and obedient to the Word, we MUST come to the unity of the faith.
Even though my personal participation and enjoyment was severely limited by a physical affliction, I can say without a doubt that this has to be one of the highlights of my Christian walk. This is partly because I had come to a particularly low point in my relationship with Christians in America because of the incredible carnality I witness amongst “believers” everywhere. I had almost come to the conclusion that real fellowship and real believers did not exist in America, except for a few rare exceptions.
For the first time in a very long time, I felt I was amongst my own and amongst people who spoke my language. Normally when I fellowship with American believers I have to translate what I say and what they say. But here, from the very beginning, I found people who understood me and who I fully understood. I felt, for the first time in a decade, that I was at home. This was because we all spoke one language – the Word of God and we were citizens of the same heavenly country.
I was deeply touched by the love and care of the brothers and tremendously encouraged to know that there is a remnant, even in America. This has to be one of the very few times ever I felt that no one was trying to push themselves and that all were genuinely seeking the glory of God and the edification of the body alone. Indeed a little taste of heaven.