Jesus Says “Go” (Moderator’s Address – 1985 Annual Conference)

Editorial
May/June, 1986
Volume 21, Number 3

The theme for the 1986 Annual Conference to be held in Norfolk, VA is taken from the testimony of faith recorded in Hebrews 11. It is summarized with the words, GO FORTH IN FAITH. It continues the evangelistic thrust of the 1985 theme CALLED TO MAKE DISCIPLES, and challenges us to enter into our work with zeal, remembering those who have gone before us “in faith.”

Evangelism is the message that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day” (I Cor. 15:3-4). The first great work of the church continues to be the task of calling upon persons to make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and obedience to Him as Lord. We must continue to communicate “Christ and him crucified.” Let us enter into the great assignment by moving forth in faith.

–H.S.M.

Jesus Says “Go”

by James F. Myer

Three hundred sixty-eight days ago I left you with the words, “See you in Phoenix.” It has been a delight to have seen and heard those words of greeting shared throughout the Brotherhood this past year. But it is an even greater thrill for the reality of that expression to be experienced tonight. We are filled with thanks and praise for God’s continuing care, and for your presence at this historic event.

It has been a tremendous privilege to serve as Moderator this year and benefit from a wider contact with Brethren across the nation and in other parts of the world. We have sensed a beautiful prayer support from all corners of the Brotherhood. I can report that Brethren hospitality is alive and well. It flourishes in all directions. From Los Angeles, California where a handful of roses were handed to my wife when we stepped off the plane, to Brooklyn, New York where a personally crafted miniature gavel was presented to me we have sensed a wonderful warmth and welcome. People were friendly everywhere.

A loyal family back home on the farm enabled us to do extensive travel. We’ve been in dozens of congregations, nineteen of the 24 districts, on all six of the college campuses, at the Seminary, to several retirement homes, and spent three weeks on the Nigerian Mission field.

Brethren still make their share of blunders including this Moderator. I was preaching one place and was introducing the sermon by wanting to say, “I would like to point out in this chapter the elements…..” — but instead it came out, “I would like to point out in this chapter the elephants…” Another good brother was calling the congregation to prayer and said, “Now would everyone please bow their eyes and close their heads.” One unforgettable thing happened that shows how the differences between some of the eastern and the western Brethren are unknown to each other. A church on the West Coast wanted to honor my coming with a special presentation. The congregation has a jeweler and he prepared a piece to resemble this year’s Annual Conference logo. So the moment came when he was called upon to make his presentation. What he had chosen to make was a tie clasp. But he discovered with sudden dismay (as he prepared to pin it on), that there was no neck-tie on this Moderator. His second thought was to pin it on my lapel, but he couldn’t find any of those either! I sympathized with the dear brother who wanted desperately to make a presentation but couldn’t find anything to hang it on.

We turn now to the message which the Holy Spirit has laid upon my heart. The title of the message is very simple: JESUS SAYS “GO.” It is based on some of the most familiar words Jesus ever spoke. They were uttered near the close of Christ’s earthly ministry. The Crucifixion is over. The Resurrection has just occurred. The countdown for the Ascension has started. “Jesus, if you have anything important to say, say it now.” And He does! “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them…, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus says, “GO.”

True disciples have been traveling on “The Great Commission Highway” for over 1900 years. Brethren have been on it for 277 years. Alexander Mack believed in it. One of his famous hymns is about counting the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ. He and his early companions must have believed in going out with the gospel message. They started four congregations in their first eleven years. They pushed across the Atlantic Ocean, and then moved out from Germantown into other parts of Pennsylvania — and from there — the Brethren went into the South and the West. I thank God for a heritage which strongly believed that “Missions is the first great work of the Church”! They knew that Jesus says “GO.” There are three things about His command that should be noted:

1. GO INTO THE WORLD (Matthew 28:19a)

The KJV says “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.” The RSV says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” This is the all-time best definition of what the church’s mission is. The mission of the church includes all those activities related both to evangelism and to social responsibility. The New Testament does not teach a social gospel. What it does teach is that there are social dimensions of the gospel. So where in the world is the church supposed to be! Acts 1:8 helps to answer the question: “But ye shall receive power after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me…”

a) IN JERUSALEM — the home community. The “field” is as close as the people who sit around your breakfast table. The message needs to start at home — the place where every Pappa is supposed to be a preacher and every Mamma is to be a missionary.

b) IN JUDEA AND SAMARIA — the communities that are neighboring to our home areas.

c) IN THE UTTERMOST PART OF THE WORLD — the international mission field (every continent and every nation).

As we move into the world, the Bible warns us about some of our relationships with it. The Scriptures say that we are not to be “conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). Also, we are told to “love not the world” (I John 2:15). This is not to suggest hatred for the natural world that’s made up of such things as the sun and flowers and trees, nor enmity for the world of humanity — but it is to alert us to the intrinsic evil system that is organized apart from God. The whole world lies in wickedness (I John 5:19). There is still that old ugly thing called “sin” that is operating in the world.However, within the sphere of this godless system, is the world of humanity, to whom we have the responsibility of carrying the message of salvation. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. (This love is directed to the people of the world) — that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Thank God for the “whosoever” of the gospel. That “whosoever” includes you and me and your neighbors, and your relatives, and even all your enemies. But they have to hear about it. So the Lord has invested this message in the minds and morals and manners of God’s people, and it’s up to us to go and share it. Jesus says “Go” into the world.

Jesus doesn’t say to the world, “You come to the church.” I think we’ve often adopted that philosophy. We build facilities, arrange for services, hang our welcome sign up, and say “Come to us.” That used to work. Brethren lovefeasts used to be a major attraction in the community. Attendance flourished. Unsaved people came to watch. When week-long revival-evangelistic meetings began to be held in the COB, they too attracted large attendances and brought people in from the outside. But all this has changed. Today, sports events, split shifts, and open supermarkets not only occupy people on weekdays, but are going full throttle on Sunday too. It isn’t enough to sit in a comfortable pew and croon, “Oh Come Come Come Come to the little brown church in the vale.” Jesus said “Go” – Go into the world!

In 1974 the International Congress of World Evangelism held in Lausanne, Switzerland, highlighted the reality of the existence of over 16,000 people-groups in the world today in which no indigenous Christian church exists. Each of these people-groups will require a special cross-cultural outreach. This constitutes a tremendous call to go into the world. Dr. Donald McGavran says, “The age of missions is far from being over; it has just begun.”

The world into which Jesus says “Go” has become a high-tech world. Long ago we replaced the rooster with an electric alarm clock to get us up in the morning. Now while you wash your face, your coffee-maker comes on automatically, so that until you’re dressed, your coffee is hot and ready to drink. On the way to work, if you have a relatively new car it may even talk to you. This is the computer age. It is bombarding us from all sides. People in this automated rat-race are going to have an increasing need to hear about the ultimate meaning of life from God’s point of view.

The first GO is “Go into the world.” And even though this is a communication age, and we can quickly bounce gospel messages off satellite stations — the stubborn fact remains that this is also a very godless age. Practically all crime statistics keep on their steady upward climb. Immorality, violence, and abuse of human beings is running rampant. That’s why the world’s population needs to hear the claims of Christ’s second “Go.”

2. GO INTO THE WATER (Matthew 28:19b)

It is noteworthy that this command of Jesus was one of the principles upon which the Church of the Brethren was founded. Believer’s baptism by trine immersion is a 277-year-old trade-mark among us. We baptize in the name of the father which is a recognition of the one true Almighty God who rules over all. We baptize in the name of the Son because salvation from sin and condemnation is possible only through receiving Jesus Christ, the Son of God as our Savior, and we baptize in the name of the Holy Spirit for He moves into the believer at conversion and is the real source of new life and power in the experience of the convert to Christ.

When Jesus says baptize (or go into the water), he is not encouraging the practice of some empty meaningless symbol. It is to represent the death and burial of the, old, carnal, self-centered human existence. It is to declare resurrection to a new life patterned after the example and teaching of Jesus Christ. This requires an individual and personal decision. The Bible says, “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to those who believed on his name” (John 1:12).

Going into the water was the style of “The John the Baptist Evangelistic Crusades” by the Jordan River. Repentance was preached. People were baptized for the remission of sins. It is the clear-cut New Testament style of confronting people with the message of Christ and calling for decision. The Bible says (in the Old Testament) “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” The Bible says (in the New Testament), “Today if you hear his voice harden not your heart.”

It is precisely because of these imperatives that we are changing the style a little at this opening session of Annual Conference. We plan to extend a public invitation. We want to demonstrate that in the Church of the Brethren — calling for decisions is all right. It is proper; it is to be practiced; it is necessary for us to be in the business of confronting people with the message of Christ and inviting them to participate in the fellowship of the church. One cannot study the preaching of John the Baptist and Jesus and Paul — without noticing how much they were trying to lead people to decisions. A sermon must seek to knock on closed hearts until they open up and are willing to change.

One of the clearest needs in the Church of the Brethren as I see it is to be much more diligent in the area of witnessing to our faith, with the intention of winning people to Christ. We’ve gone to Annual Conference for the past 31 years without a Great Commission emphasis. And during the last 21 years we have lost over 40,000 members. The reason is simple. We are baptizing exactly half as many people today as we were 21 years ago. I’ve been hoping for a change in the trend. But it didn’t happen two years ago; and it didn’t happen last year. In the last twenty years our membership loss has been equivalent to twice the total number of Brethren currently living west of the Mississippi River. We dare not be content to excuse ourselves. Rufus Bucher (from Lancaster County, PA) used to say, “An excuse is the skin of a truth stuffed with a lie.” I want this Conference to be a denominational life-changing conference. Tonight I want to hold open a garbage bag and let all of us put our excuses in it.

While I was preparing this message, there was a knock on our door. An old Brethren man from a short distance away wanted to talk with me. He said a few days ago he was reading in Messenger that we are going to have a conference. Then he said he heard a voice say, “Not a conference, but a revival.” Did that old Brethren man hear a voice that God wants all of us to hear tonight? Not a conference, but a revival! We are not here in Phoenix just to pass a few papers and listen to a few reports. We are here because we are called to make disciples. Tonight, let us desire to hear Christ’s command fall with new seriousness – “Go into the water.”

The Nigerian church certainly has heard it. They have invited and baptized people and started congregations, so that today on any given Sunday there are more people in Brethren services in Nigeria than there are attending all the Churches of the Brethren in the entire United States. It was thrilling to observe such growth.

There are enough people in this auditorium tonight so that if we mean business for God, we can make a difference. We need to carry back to our local churches the message that “the time is now” for us to get serious about getting our churches on “The Great Commission Highway.” If evangelism happens, it will happen in the local church. It will happen when ordinary people like you and I are willing to assume our God-given responsibility to be a Christian inviter. In the April, 1984 issue of Christianity Today, a few well-known church growth experts made some ten-year predictions of trends in denominational growth. Among the denominations listed to grow by ten percent was the Church of the Brethren. If this happens, there is going to have to be a major change in our emphasis. Are we open to positive change tonight!

In the Summer, 1984 issue of Brethren Life & Thought, Dr. Paul Robinson cites an incident of importance: “In his Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale, Gene Bartlett tells the story of a little lady who was taking the grand tour of Europe. For a long time she had saved for this experience, and was living every moment to the full. But when she came to Westminster Abbey, she became increasingly troubled as the guide showed her through, pointing out one historical memorial after another. At last, unable to stand it any longer, she burst forth, “YOUNG MAN, ALL OF THIS IS VERY INTERESTING. BUT WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS: HAS ANYONE BEEN SAVED HERE RECENTLY?” Surely that is a question which all of us (in all of our churches) need to ask!

3. GO INTO THE WORD (Matthew 28:20)

After we’ve gone into the world, and into the water, the task is not all over. It’s just begun. Now Jesus says, “Go into the Word.” He says we are to teach them to observe “all that i have commanded you.” If we intend to make disciples we’re going to need to do it the Jesus way. He was not the champion of a “do-as-you-please” attitude. He didn’t say, “Just think about the love of God and then everything else will be okay.” The law of love and the laws of righteousness become the high standard for the newly-born disciple.

There is only one valid place for us to find out what we are commanded to do as a disciple of Christ and that is the New Testament. And I want to declare again that the Church of the Brethren is a Bible-believing New Testament Church. We hold the truths of Holy Scripture to be our guiding rule of faith and practice. We’ve had a long history of asking, “What does the New Testament say?” when we’ve tried to determine our journey of obedience. We understand the Old Testament to serve as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. It was a diligent search of Scripture and a desire to restore apostolic Christianity that led to the birth of our fraternity. And a continuing study of God’s Word along with a willingness to comply with its instructions — is the only activity that will keep us alive and growing. We must continue to find ourselves in the tradition with the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century which declared “sola Scriptura” (sole authority rests in the Scriptures). The New Testament is the final court of appeal in matters of faith.

The Bible has a long list of critics. But critics of the simple Bible message aren’t getting the world straightened out. Some don’t like what the Bible says about creation; others are uncomfortable with the miracles; and still others don’t like Paul’s writings. Quite frankly, I think we ought to stop trying to recanonize the Bible. The early Brethren didn’t try and change the Bible to fit their lives. They kept striving to change their lives to fit the Bible! That’s why the Church of the Brethren is a little different from other groups of Christians.

Because of our emphasis on Scriptural obedience, when Brethren read in the Sermon on the Mount and discovered that we are to love our enemies, they adopted and practiced the teaching of peace and nonresistance. We studied the account of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and we practice the feet-washing service. We saw things in the New Testament like the teaching that “Every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoreth her head,” and as a result, many Brethren women still practice wearing the Scriptural head covering.

There is a lot of so-called Christianity that seems to say, “Move over God, we want to do things our way.” Our call tonight is not a call to that kind of arrogance. We are called instead to make disciples. In this process we are learners. In this process Jesus is the teacher. In this process the Bible is the textbook. And we are told to search the Scriptures, and to rightly divide the word of truth. We need this discipline to keep us on track, to avoid the extremes common among Christians, and to preserve all the elements of the gospel message and of the Christian life.

Jesus started his disciples on “The Great Commission Highway” at Galilee. It has reached to Phoenix and the Brethren tonight. Have you heard Jesus say “Go”? Are we willing to receive our marching orders? There is a “go” in the Gospel. There is a “go” in the Great Commission. In fact , two-thirds of the word “God” is “go.”

I love the Church of the Brethren, but I think we need a booster-shot of Great Commission serum. Jesus said, “Follow me and I will make you to become fishers of men.” He didn’t say, “Just be keepers of the aquarium.” He says it crisply and clearly. This is the message for us tonight: Go into the world; go into the water; and go into the Word.

When I stand before the judgment throne,
And see the unreached there;
Shall I tell the Lord whose love I own,
That I knew, but didn’t care!


The message JESUS SAYS “GO” has been condensed slightly. It was the Moderator’s Address delivered at the Tuesday evening session of the 1985 Church of the Brethren Annual Conference held in Phoenix, Arizona. James F. Myer, the moderator, serves in the plural non-salaried ministry of the White Oak congregation in the Atlantic Northeast District. Bro. Myer is a farmer and a part-time staff member (promotion and development) of the Brethren Revival Fellowship.

Post

In 2023, Brethren Maine Missions (BMM) purchased the Building Materials Exchange.  The Last Sheaf Building Materials Exchange provides exposure and connection with the community of Lisbon while offering a variety of new, used, and salvaged building materials, tools, and supplies at greatly reduced prices.

Why “The Last Sheaf?”

The Last Sheaf is a reference from the Bible where God says:

When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

Deuteronomy 24:19 (NKJV)

Links:

  • https://lastsheafbme.org/

Highlights:

   GOD is faithful! The sun shines and GOD is with us, the rain comes down and GOD is with us.

 

   Since we’ve taken ownership of the Last Sheaf BME, we’ve made roof repairs, insulated the ceiling, repaired walls, etc. There were times it felt like every step we took there was another thing to fix. 

 

   We have two people on staff (Craig Keeney and Peter Bucher) assisted by a tremendous team of volunteers. We work together to make repairs, do pricing and inventory work, assist customers and more.  Interacting with and helping customers is the highlight of our day. People come with material needs; they need product to build or repair their home. People come with spiritual and emotional needs, as well. We purpose to get to know the individuals who come through our doors in order to share hope, truth, and love.

 

   One individual who had visited the Last Sheaf a couple of times was loud, large, and in charge. He had a “Goliath” personality. He made me quake in my boots a little (maybe a lot). His language was at times not appropriate anywhere, but especially not in a public place. One day he was standing right beside me and was about to speak that which I did not want to hear.  In a very quiet voice, I called him by name and before I could say any more, he apologized and said, “You are right. I shouldn’t be talking like that.”  Then he launched into a spiritual conversation with me. I was totally taken off guard by the change. He has been a different person ever since. Now he is more like a “David” personality. I now look forward to opportunities to speak with him.

 

   Donations of products/materials as well as finances are always appreciated, but the prayers of the saints are as vital a need to the work at the Last Sheaf, as anything.

Just as in biblical times the last sheaves of grain from a harvest were to be left behind to benefit the needy, we are taking leftover building materials, tools, and supplies and making them available at greatly reduced prices to those in need.

Our Mission:

Our mission is to benefit low-income homeowners, and to reduce waste in the environment by repurposing surplus building materials, enabling low income homeowners to better maintain their homes.

Register Now

BBI Registration Now Open!

Come explore God’s Word with us!. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. – Romans 10:17”

THE BOOK OF DANIEL

Captivity… Dreams… Rulers… Fire… Lions… Prayers… Kingdoms. From a dedicated youth to a faithful sage, Daniel’s life stands as an example to follow.  Yet beyond his personal life, God gifted Daniel with a message of future events.  Though difficult to grasp, these events would shape the world for the coming Messiah and the Second Coming of Christ as King.

STUDIES IN LUKE

Luke presents a warmly personal and historically accurate account of Jesus as “the Son of Man.” This course will survey the Third Gospel, with emphasis on the unique events, miracles, and parables of Jesus found in it.

HISTORY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH

This class will provide a broad overview of general church history. We will then focus on the Anabaptist and Pietist movements, especially as they relate to the formation and development of the Brethren groups. This is a two-part class. Plan to take both parts.

ONE FOUNDATION

This course is intended to lay down a measure in a world where truth is slippery and often subject to interpretation. Where “Christian Values” become a political slogan, and “good people” are our allies despite their faulty core beliefs. Where Facebook “friends” post memes about the power of God, despite a lifestyle that is anything but Godly. In the process we often fight among ourselves, doing Satan’s work for him. The purpose of this course is to lay the measure of Jesus Christ against the cults, religions, and worship in our contemporary world.

THE APOCRYPHA

While Protestant translations of the Bible contain 66 books, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches recognize additional canonical books as well.  Where did these books, collectively known as the Apocrypha, come from and why aren’t they part of our Bible?  How reliable are they, and what value is there in studying them?

STUDIES IN 1 AND 2 PETER

The goal of this class is to acquire a firm grasp of the teachings and themes of these two general epistles. Peter covers topics from salvation and suffering to spiritual deception and the return of Christ. These letters are packed with warnings and encouragements for Christian living.

THE GREAT I AM’S OF CHRIST

A detailed study of Jesus Christ and His relationship to the “I Am” metaphors in John’s gospel. Why did Jesus describe himself in these terms? How do they relate to each other? We will look at spiritual and practical applications to further our Christian growth.

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES: AN AMERICAN CULT

Have you ever been visited by someone who said they wanted to study the Bible with you so that you might discover the truth together?  Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to have much in common with evangelical Christians, and they seem to be well versed in the scriptures.  But what do they really believe and how can we effectively witness to those who have been ensnared by this false religion?

THE BOOK OF HOSEA

While we may consider Hosea as one of the minor prophets, his message vividly illustrates the major doctrine in all Scriptures.  The theme of God’s unconditional love is magnified and extended beyond those deserving it.  God expresses tender words towards His erring people inviting them to turn from sin to reconciliation with Him.

CHURCH LEADERSHIP AND ADMINISTRATION

This course will look at basic principles and polity of leading the local church. We will examine the balance between upholding a spiritually focused organism of ministry and cultivating proper order for effective organization. Practical applications will be emphasized. This is a two-part class. Plan to take both parts.

STATEMENT OF CONDUCT

The Brethren Bible Institute believes in the discipline of the whole person (spirit, soul, and body). We will aim to train students not only about how to study the Bible in a systematic way (2 Timothy 2:15), but also how to live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12). God calls Christians to the highest of character when He commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:15), and holiness requires discipline.

Indulgence in the use of tobacco, alcoholic beverages, drugs, profanity, and gambling are forbidden at BBI. Objectionable literature will be prohibited. Students are asked not to use the college pool during the Institute. Each student must be thoughtful, and respect the rights of others at all times, especially during study and rest periods.

A friendly social group intermingling of students between class periods, and at general school activities is encouraged. Each student should enjoy the friendship of the entire group. At all times, highest standards of social conduct between men and women must be maintained. This means that all forms of unbecoming behavior and unseemly familiarities will be forbidden.

Personal appearance and grooming tell much about one's character. Students are expected to be dressed in good taste. In an attempt to maintain Scriptural expressions of simplicity, modesty, and nonconformity, the following regulations shall be observed while attending BBI.

MEN should be neatly attired and groomed at all times. Fashion extremes and the wearing of jewelry should be avoided on campus. The hair should not fall over the shirt-collar when standing, nor should it cover the ears.

WOMEN should wear skirts cut full enough and of sufficient length to at least come to the knees when standing and sitting. Form-fitting, transparent, low-neckline, or sleeveless clothing will not be acceptable. Slacks and culottes are permitted only for recreation and then only when worn under a skirt of sufficient length. Wearing jewelry should be avoided on campus. Long hair for women is encouraged and all Church of the Brethren girls (and others with like convictions) shall be veiled on campus.

The Institute reserves the right to dismiss any student whose attitude and behavior is not in harmony with the ideals of the School, or whose presence undermines the general welfare of the School, even if there is no specific breach of conduct.

The Brethren Bible Institute is intended to provide sound Bible teaching and wholesome Christian fellowship for all who desire it. The Bible School Committee worked hard and long at the task of arriving at standards, which will be pleasing to the Lord. It is not always easy to know just where the line should be drawn and we do not claim perfection. No doubt certain standards seem too strict for some and too loose for others. If you are one who does not share all these convictions, we hope you will agree to adjust to them for the School period, for the sake of those who do. We are confident that the blessings received will far outweigh any sacrifice you may have to make. If you have a special problem or question, please write to us about it. To be accepted as a student at BBI, you will need to sign a statement indicating that you will cooperate with the standards of the School.