The small group of 21 people that met in this place January 26 and 27, 1906, didn’t have what the world had. They obviously were not rich with worldly possessions or backed by a financial system, but they had something the world didn’t have. They had strong faith in a God that specializes in doing impossible things. They had a vision that reached far beyond their small local churches and they had a driving zeal that would not allow them to quit. It takes a deep experience with God to keep the faith in the hard times.
I witnessed this kind of faith as a small child in a small country church, too small to even have a pastor that could live in the community and give care to a few lay people that attended. My parents were among this small group. They were poor; Dad was a sharecropper on a small farm but managed somehow to have enough food on the table to feed every preacher that would visit. My dad never owned an automobile and we lived on a gravel road and walked about a mile and a half or more to church. Sometimes it would be just my parents and me as a very small child and maybe two or three others. When there was no one to speak, they just prayed and went home and prayed again. Why am I saying all this? Because it was this kind of faith that started this church and has brought us to where we are today.
What is it that keeps us going when everything around us says quit, when every demon in hell seems to come out of the closet and wage warfare against us? When your flesh says you’re not capable, you are not gifted enough, or you are not ‘whatever’ enough.
Paul had the answer in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10. Now this is an incredible contrast that Paul speaks of here. We have the Holy Spirit of God, Divine Grace entrusted to poor, pathetic, broken vessels. Infallible truth committed to very fallible men; an amazing Gospel committed to an ordinary church.
We have this treasure. It is ours, and the same old simple Gospel that our forefathers were so anxious to leave that First Assembly and take to the world, still works today. Even in a sophisticated high tech world that we are in today. Do we believe that?
We look at the Church as it exists today and we see divisions, flaws, blunders, complacency, and uninspiring ordinariness, and we ask, “Is this really the vessel for the Glory of Christ? Is this the visible token of His presence?” I ask, “Who am I to house such a wonderful treasure?” There is nothing so special about any of us that merits or deserves God’s favor, but, “We have this treasure.” It is such a great thing to know that God can use us, not merely in spite of our disqualifying infirmities, but precisely because of them.
God can use the church best when it stops aiming at prosperity and prestige, stops trying to compete with the world with entertainment to impress men, and draws men’s attention to Jesus Christ.
To sum up what Paul was saying, it really does not matter how poor and unworthy you may feel yourself or how earthen the vessel, as long as you have this treasure.
I could not help but notice in the minutes of that First Assembly that they emphasized some values that still are the driving force of the Church today.
Prayer. The minutes stated, “It is therefore the sense of this Assembly that we recommend, advise, and urge that each local church hold a prayer meeting at least once a week.”
Evangelism. “After the consideration of the ripened fields and open doors for evangelism this year, strong men wept and said they were not only willing but anxious to go. It is therefore, the sense of this meeting that we do our best to press into every open door this year and work with greater zeal and energy for the spread of the glorious Gospel of the son of God than ever before.”
Today we emphasize the same core values: Prayer, Harvest, and Leadership Development.
I still contend that if we go and preach the simple message of the Gospel it will still work. People are hungry to hear about Jesus.
Click the video below to watch Brother Clements’ message at the First Assembly Commemorative Service.