Simple Church–Old School
I was born into a Christian home. My father and mother were first generation believers, both having been gloriously saved by the grace of God and the faithful efforts of a man who belonged to a Plymouth Brethren church. The result was from my earliest beginnings I was in church.
My church was a Brethren church, which emphasized so many things that today we hear about in missional churches. Simplicity of worship was central to the church. And at the very core was a celebration of the Lord’s Supper every week. We were an Open Brethren church (meaning and professing Christian could partake of the Lord’s Supper), not that I knew what that meant at the time. For those who have never met a Plymouth Brethren you can read a bit about them here. They are better at church splits than even the Baptists, which is a pretty impressive (or sad) accomplishment.
However for me, I was raised in a loving church where Jesus was delighted in and trusted fully. My father was one of the men who helped found that little church and they met in a local YMCA in Littleton, CO. Today it is a healthy church still preaching the Word and reaching people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It was led by a small group of elders, my father being one of them. Out of that group, one eventually came on full time to preach. This was something very unique in the Brethren world where full time pastors were simply not known. What may be of interest is who that man is, Alexander Strauch, perhaps best known for his book Biblical Eldership. He is a man of uncommon grace and kindness and I was blessed to be a part of his ministry, even as a young boy.
At an early age I came to realize that I was excluded from the Lord’s Supper each week. It was my father who explained the gospel to me and why I could not yet partake of the Lord’s Supper. Around five years of age I remember waking my father from a nap (which was seldom wise) and told him I wanted to be saved. I never saw a man roll off a couch so fast. Kneeling with me beside that couch he asked me many questions related to the gospel and then led me in a simple prayer of trust. I remember walking away to play puzzled by the tears that were in my father’s eyes, 25 years later I understood them. The next week in the shallow end of the indoor pool at the YMCA I was baptized by my father as the people sang hymns of thanksgiving. The week after that, I was given the bread and the cup and remembered my Lord.
Church was a place that you gathered with the saints. You went to Sunday School and heard bible stories from very nice ladies. You memorized tons of bible verses and the whole church would gather regularly just to listen to the children recite their verses. One year I won an inflatable alligator for memorizing the most verses in my age group, I think it was forty-three thousand, but maybe not.
Women in the church were not allowed to speak during the main service. They all had their heads covered, usually by hats. In fact some of my worst memories are connected to my mother taking me hat shopping, which was only slightly better than fabric shopping or standing in the dressing room with her while she tried on clothes. Men, all men who were members, could and would rise and share a devotional thought, a bible passage, a song or a prayer. An elder would lead that portion, acknowledging them one by one. There was always two songs reserved for the young kids to pick, and my favorite was Heavenly Sunshine (only the Lord knows why). At some point, and this is vague in my memory, one elder would bring the message for the day. Apparently this would occur in a separate service from the Lord’s Supper, but I can’t remember, to me it was all just church.
I look back and realize that the simplicity in worship, the commitment to the Word of God and the love of the gospel is the same as where I am at now. But such a path to get here.