“He….encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.” Acts 11:23
The Power of the Midnight Song!
But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25
George Morrison (1866-1928) was a Presbyterian pastor and preacher who was born in Scotland. The pastor of Wellington Church, Glasgow, for twenty-six years, his ministry primarily consisted of personal visits, postcards and letters for all those in his care who were sick or in sorrow or in trouble. He chose not to serve on committees, preferring to spend his time in what he considered the most important responsibilities to his church – mornings in study and afternoons in visiting his congregation. Many of his sermons and devotional thoughts have been put in print. In his volume entitled, Wind on the Heath, he has a sermon entitled, “Unconscious Ministries,” wherein he states that all of us exercise unconscious ministries. He references Paul and Silas, who sang at midnight while under adverse circumstances, not particularly paying attention that the prisoners were listening to them.
When I read that, it put a whole new light on the meaning of Acts 16:25. I often speak with pastors and missionaries who feel that their ministry is ineffective and their presence unfelt. They see so little fruit and become discouraged. I have felt that way myself many, many times. But we never know when someone might be listening, or watching, or critiquing how we respond to the trials and troubles of life. As Morrison goes on to state, “Be quite sure that the very humblest life is full of unconscious ministries. There is not a note of song we ever rise but the ear of some other prisoner will catch it.”
The power of the midnight song! As Paul and Silas sang – others listened! Oh, how that should drive us to our knees in repentance when we respond to the difficulties of life and ministry without a song in our hearts. Paul and Silas sang in prison – and the prisoners were listening! The only time in Scripture Jesus is ever recorded as having sung is the night He left the upper room and headed towards Calvary. I am sure that others were listening! I certainly would have! David often sang when his heart was troubled. If I recall, Christian, in John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” sang while going through the Valley of the Shadow heading to the Celestial City. We never know when others might be listening to our conversations, our prayers, our sermons, or even our singing. A song on our lips often means all is well in the heart. Have not most of us in ministry, somewhere along the line, had expressed to us how we had been a blessing to someone without ever knowing it?
All of us, no doubt on a daily basis, exercise unconscious ministries. That is why it is so important to keep a song in our hearts, a smile on our faces and a twinkle in our eyes. This can happen, even during the “midnight” hours of life, when we saturate our souls with the Scriptures and scale heaven with our prayers of praise. Paul and Silas sang, and the prisoners listened! Today, as we go about business for God, people are listening. Something with God is always happening even though we may not think so. Our labors are not in vain. There are prisoners of some sort all around us. And they are listening.
Maynard H. Belt
Mich. Assoc. of Regular Baptist Churches
From Where I Stand
Maynard H. Belt
MARBC State Representative
Exposing The Myths Of The Church
Change In The Church Is Of The Devil!
Let’s confess! Change bothers all of us! Just try sitting in a different seat around the dinner table and watch the response! Just take another member’s seat at church! Just try taking another route home from work! Just try telling the dog he can’t sleep at the foot of the bed anymore! Change has been around since Adam and Eve and sin in the garden. I don’t recall which translation, but Adam said to Eve, “My dear, we are living in a period of transition.”
How often have we heard that change in the church is of the devil? Well, that phrase has been round a long time too. But change in the church can also be of the Lord. Let me illustrate. When the King James Version of the Bible was issued in 1611, it was widely criticized and rejected by the clergy. G.S. Paine, in his volume, “The Men Behind The KJV,” quotes Archbishop Richard Bancroft as saying, “Tell his majesty that I had rather be rent to pieces with wild horses than any such translation by my consent should be urged upon poor churches.” When Isaac Watts was growing up in England, his Puritan father rebuked him for participating in congregational singing. In those days a Psalm would be read line by line, with the congregation singing each line following. Young Watts said that there was no music in the Psalms and that they didn’t rhyme. Outraged, the older Watts suggested that his son write his own songs if he thought he were smarter than King David. And so Isaac Watts did! Believe me, it caused quite a stir in the church when hymns began to replace Psalms. Here is just one example. In Clint Bonner’s book, “A Hymn Is Born,” he references the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church meeting in Philadelphia in May, 1789, with this statement from the floor by Rev. Adam Rankin: “I have ridden on horseback all the way from my home in Kentucky to ask this august body to refuse to allow the great and pernicious error of adopting the use of Isaac Watts’ hymns in public worship in preference to Rouse’s versifications of the Psalms of David.” In C.B. Eavey’s “History of Christian Education”, he tells the story of when Robert Raikes started the Sunday School Movement, the Archbishop of Canterbury called together the bishops to see what could be done to stop him for , he said, it was a violation of Exodus 20:8. In the late 1700's, “Sabbath (Sunday) School Societies” were started here and there throughout the young United States of America. But at first, many members of the clergy were opposed to them, maintaining that it was a desecration of the Lord’s Day to hold “school” on Sunday. A pastor in Connecticut said of a class held in his church on Sunday, “You imps of Satan, doing the devil’s work. I’ll have you set in the street.” When Clarence Jones, co-founder of missionary station HCJB in Equador, pioneered radio evangelism using the airways to proclaim the Gospel, one of the critics said, “Will God prosper this new-fangled fad since it operates in the very realm of Satan –the air?”
Over time these changes have proven to be of spiritual blessing to the saints of God. Change in the church is not always of the devil. The only constants are Jesus Christ (Hebrews 13:8) and His Word (Isa. 40:8). Living within a constantly changing culture we must study and understand the trends that are confronting the church. The context of I Chronicles 12:32 is still pertinent for today: “The Sons of Issachar understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” We must identify trends, not to be changed by the trends, but to know how to minister to those affected by them. One “trend-spotter” says that cultural changes are clues to people’s needs and that 60%-70% of American congregations are projected to die in the next 40 years, especially if they ignore demographic and cultural changes.
Under Divine design, living within a continually shifting culture, some of our approaches to ministry may need to be re-evaluated. But we do not let culture dictate our thinking. That has happened too much already. We are in the world, but are not to be of, or like, the world. The First Epistle of John should be our mandate regarding our relationship to the world. Change must be inside out, and not outside in. It must be Christocentric in purpose. It must be earnestly bathed in prayer. It must be considered in the light of Scripture. It must not imitate the fad of the world. It must reconcile with the glory of God. I am sure that Watts, Raikes, Jones and the authors of the King James Bible recognized that they were approaching ministry in a new and different way, but sought to follow the leading of the Lord, not the influence of a godless society. Their motivation was to create new ways in which to reach the lost and edify the saints of their day.
For some of our churches it may be time for some re-tooling. If so, remember change takes time. Pastors must be patient and people need to be flexible. Don’t change for the sake of change. Follow God’s leading and minister to the spirit, the world caters to the flesh. Test the waters before jumping in headlong. Educate before you initiate. Present proposals with clarity. Expect resistance. Encourage responses. Advance by favor not by foolishness. Personally, change raises my blood pressure. But change in some areas may be applicable. The world is changing so fast that, as someone said, you couldn’t stay wrong all the time even if you tried. Our goal is to do what is right and pleasing to the Lord. Even though not popular in the day of their inception, I am so thankful for hymns, for the Sunday School, for genuine Gospel presentations via radio, TV, and the Internet, and I am also thankful for my King James Bible! As we observe moderations in the church throughout the ages, it could be that some changes may be of the Lord, not of the devil – and that is not a myth!