Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
In his booklet “A Revolutionary Gospel,” Lewis Benson writes of three stages of work that seventeenth-century Friends undertook: the first in the sequence was turning people to Christ through preaching the Word (the substance of vocal ministry), which reached to the witness of God in others (convincing/convicting of sin); the second stage was settling and establishing the newly convinced, which entailed repentance and amendment of life; and the third was building on this newly laid foundation, thereby enabling the Church to form and become a witness to the society at large of the new order of righteous community.
Many in our liberal meetings today are not yet convinced—have not moved into the first stage—and therefore the second and third stages of development (settling and building) go largely undiscovered. The work for any who have been inwardly convicted of truth and have learned the necessity of silently watching for its promptings for guidance to speak in meeting have before them the work of the first stage: turning people to Christ, the truth, through giving voice to the power and spirit of the Lord that can reach to the witness of God in everyone. This was the vocal (gospel) ministry as it was at first, and is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Benson concludes the segment on stages of the work with a paragraph that reminds, reassures, and, yes, comforts us that our time is not the only time of mistaken notions of individualism.
“A fairly large segment of first-generation Quakers misunderstood the nature of the Quaker revolution. They thought it was leading to an individualistic righteousness and a loose association of free-wheeling religious individualists. They failed to catch the vision of a great people gathered to God by Christ who would learn together, obey together, witness together and suffer together. However, faithful Friends, who had grown up in the truth, became builders of the new righteousness and the new community.” (p.11)
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