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Archibald G. Brown: Spurgeon's Successor
By: Iain Murray
If you are familiar at all with church history, more likely than not, you have heard of Charles Spurgeon. Charles Spurgeon was nicknamed the “Prince of Preachers” because of his power in the pulpit. Spurgeon lead a college, preached multiple times a week, edited a magazine, wrote books and sermons, ran an orphanage, led a church with around 6000 members, and ect. Looking at his weekly schedule, one would think that it would take several people to do what this one man alone accomplished daily. Most of this information is common information about Spurgeon, but what most people do not know about is the man who succeeded him. Spurgeon once said of this man that he “would walk four miles just to hear him preach.” Who is this man, whom Spurgeon himself so greatly admired?
Achibald G. Brown was born to two godly parents. Brown’s father John Brown was a wealthy banker and deacon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle. Brown’s earliest memory was of his mother Emma holding his hand and praying over him while he was sick. Everyone who knew Emma admired her character. Emma was called “Bible Brown” by those who know her best. It was into this family that Brown was reared. Early on, Brown’s lifestyle began worry his parents. As a result of this, Brown was sent away to boarding school at Brighton. To the shock of his parents, shortly after arriving Brown developed a distaste for the school and returned home. After returning Brown took on an apprenticeship importing tea. After returning home, Brown’s parents convinced him to attend church with them. It was here that Brown was introduction to Charles Spurgeon. After attending church with them for a period of time, he developed a liking to his Sunday school teacher Ann Bigg. Ann was an older attractive teacher, who seemed to contradict to his perception of Christianity. One day Bigg told Brown about a revival at a nearby church and was curious if he would like to attend. It was here that the Lord began to work upon Brown’s life. Murray describes Brown’s conversion after this revival by saying, “In a moment he arrested a careless young man, who was cursing and swearing on Monday, and singing God’s praise at twelve o’clock on Wednesday. After forty hours of deep conviction he had come to rest on Christ alone.” Soon after this he began his pursuit of ministry.
Shortly after Brown’s conversion Brown asked to teach a Sunday school class at church. Brown’s Sunday school teacher did not think he was serious and thought that he was only good at entertaining the other children in the room. The Sunday school teacher turned him down for this opportunity, to which he responded by asking if he could try to create his own class. The teacher told him that if he could provide the people, then he could start his own class. Shortly after this, Brown returned with over 20 different people of all ages. One day while walking past the Metropolitan Tabernacle Brown ran into Charles Spurgeon. Brown told Spurgeon that he was interested in entering into the Pastor’s College. Spurgeon responded to Brown by saying that they had been looking for him because of everything that Brown’s father had told him. Brown would soon become one of Spurgeon’s best students. As the Pastor’s College grew, so did its requests for ministers. One of the Pastor’s College ministers was rejected as a pastor after his probation period. The deacons of the church returned to Spurgeon to request another minister. Spurgeon then pointed them to Brown. Brown accepted the offer and moved to East London to pastor the East London Tabernacle.
East London during this time was a poverty stricken town. Brown said that while he was moving in everyone else was moving out. The church began with only a handful of people, but it would soon pack out its facilities. Brown’s congregation would soon have to build a facility to hold the sheer amount of people attending. This new facility was similar to the Metropolitan Tabernacle in size. One of the first things Brown instituted upon arrival at the East London Tabernacle was a weekly Monday night prayer meeting. Brown believed that in order for revival to occur, the church must devote itself to prayer. This weekly prayer meeting filled their sanctuary. These meetings had a notable affect upon the people attending. One man saw Brown thirty years after he departed from East London and discussed how much he missed those prayer meetings. The man spoke of how people would often walk in two feet of snow in order to get to those meetings. Even in the midst of a blizzard hundreds of men would gather together to devote themselves to prayer. Brown correctly understood that, it is by prayer we display our dependence upon the Lord. In order for a revival to take place, the Spirit must move. Brown also believed that the public reading of scripture was of utmost importance.
Holding a high regard for the public reading of scripture, once saved Brown’s life. A woman in Brown’s congregation was converted through his preaching. The woman went home changed. The woman’s husband was angered by her change. The husband decided to take a revolver to the church and shoot Brown after the second prayer. The East London Tabernacle practiced weekly public reading of scripture. That morning the Presenter read from Isaiah 53. The husband was converted as a result of this reading, before the sermon even began. Afterwards the man came up to Brown, explained what happened, and gave him his revolver. Brown’s preaching style carried with it this same type of power. Brown’s preaching was described as simple, yet powerful. Not only does Brown’s life model an example in preaching, praying, but he also is a model for service.
While Brown was pastor at East London he established a mission society and employed several missionaries. Brown established a system of visitation in this community which reached 8000 houses, including ones which included 1800 sick and dying. Brown started an orphanage, soup kitchen, a seaside home for the elderly or poor, and finally he purchased an entire street of houses which he converted into senior living facilities for older persons in need. Brown went around and took up money for the poor around his community. No one questioned Brown for taking the money, because they knew his character. Brown gave up most of his own money in order to help those in his community. Once a thief broke into Brown’s home and stole his gold chain watch which his father gave him. The church offered to buy Brown a new watch, but he turned it down in order that the money could be spent helping the poor in the community. Although Brown experienced a great deal of success, he also experienced many difficulties. Brown experienced the loss of four wives to death during his lifetime. Brown suffered the loss of his best friend Charles Spurgeon early on in his ministry. Brown preached at both the funeral service and the burial for Spurgeon.
After Spurgeon died the Metropolitan Tabernacle was trying to determine who would be his successor. Brown had already moved on from the East London Tabernacle to another preaching assignment. Thomas Spurgeon, Charles’ son, was selected to replace his father. Under the leadership of Thomas, the Metropolitan Tabernacle experienced a great decline. Thomas then sought out the assistance of Archibald G Brown. Brown had a reputation by this time of reviving churches. Brown’s congregation at the time became sorrowful for their lost, but thought that this opportunity was from the Lord. The Metropolitan Tabernacle called Brown to be their co-pastor. Brown’s responsibilities were not equivalent to that of a co-pastor. Brown’s responsibilities were the equivalent of three men’s daily workload. Although his workload was extensive, more would be soon added to it as a result of Thomas becoming too sick to preach. Brown would soon take over the full responsibility of preaching. At the age of 65, all of the work demanded of him took a toll on him. Brown decided to step down as the pastor of the Tabernacle. Brown during this time was struggling with depressed. Brown was not seeing the results that were formerly there with his previous pastorates. Brown cited the extensive workload and the decline in membership as reasons for his desire to step down. The deacons convinced him otherwise and he decided to stay. The deacons explained to him that they believed that God has chosen Brown to lead their congregation. The deacons had no plans of allowing Brown to leave. The deacons offered this counteroffer, that he would continue to preach and they would relieve him of his other duties. Brown accepted the offer. Brown was a model example of God’s calling to be a lifelong servant of the church. The retirement which Brown desire, was not easy living lifestyle, but a less physically demanding service to the church. Even in his old age Brown still found theology of utmost importance. Brown learned from Spurgeon that theology was not an issue of which could be looked over. Brown preached and defended the doctrines of grace against the semi-pelagians of his day, even in his old age. Brown believed that “God blessed the preached gospel most when it was preached in the Calvinistic way.” Archibald G. Brown is an incredible model for pastors to look to for an example.
Brown regularly practiced spiritual disciplines. If Brown was not out ministering, he could be found in his study, either praying or prepare to preach. As previously mentioned prayer was the foundation upon which his house was built. Brown’s church’s weekly prayer meeting is a testimony in itself. For hundreds of people to gather in three feet of snow in order to pray, is the result of the Holy Spirit, and picture of a church that is faithful in prayer. Brown regularly meditated upon the word. The reading of scripture was of utmost importance to him both in private and in public worship. Brown both served his congregation and his community. Brown’s faithfulness to this discipline resulted in the blessing of the community. Journaling was a regular part of Brown’s life. Most of the information we have on Brown we receive from his journal. Brown is an example for pastors of the importance and power of simple, yet exegetical preaching. Brown models the importance of faithfulness of a minister no matter their age. Furthermore, Brown models the importance of faithfulness, even when there seems to be no results. Finally, Brown models how to delight in the Lord even in the midst of loss. Even though Brown lost four wives to death and his closest friend, he remained faithful in proclaiming the glory of God.
Publisher: Banner Of Truth
Binding Type: Paperback
Book Grade: A
Elephant Room Round 1 Review
Session One: Preaching to Build the Attendance vs. Preaching to Build the Attendees (Matt Chandler and Steven Furtick)
Review: Session one discusses whether our primary focus in preaching should be evangelistic or for the edification of believers. I felt like this discussion never got to the point until the very end. By the time it actually got to the point, there was little time and discussion on the subject. I thought in the end, the upper-hand went to Chandler in this discussion. Furtick, strayed away from saying, that he preaches primarily to unbelievers. I do not affirm or deny whether he does. As a result of this, it was difficult for a discussion on the topic to take place. There were not two sides that consistently held to the positions advertised. Chandler throughout the discussion was consistent within his system of thought. In the end I was left wanting more discussion to have taken place on the topic. I also thought that Platt’s comments were amazing. I have never thought about a potential danger of using the service as evangelism as being a crutch to your congregation. Platt argued that this form of thinking causes your congregation to bring unbelievers to hear a man preach, rather than equipping them to preach to them themselves. I thoroughly enjoyed what was said here. Chandler has one or two one-liners which are hilarious!
Session Two: Unity: Can’t We All Get Along? vs. Discernment: My Way of the Highway (James Mcdonald and Steven Furtick)
Review: The conversation begins by discussing which pastors both McDonald and Furtick listen to. McDonald admits that he does not listen to many pastors. Furtick on the other hand listens to TD Jakes, Osteen, Piper, ect. Driscoll and McDonald calls this a meat eating vegetarian, the equivalent of a contradiction. Furtick explains this by saying that he takes in the good and throws out the bad. Furtick then explains that we far too easily divide and in doing so inevitably lose sight of the gospel hope and love. The conversation then turns to would Furtick recommend these people to his congregation. Furtick argues that they need to learn and be edified by both. Driscoll and Mcdonald admit that their people need to know a wolf from a sheep. Noble chimes in and argues that we should not call people wolves over methodology. Platt chimes in and says that wolves are those who deny doctrinal issues. McDonald then adds that there are those who are harmful to the gospel witness. Driscoll concludes with a helpful illustration of the Difference between National and State borders. When national borders are challenged then that is a cause to go to war over. An example of a national issue would be Jesus, trinity, inerrancy, and the atonement. State borders on the other hand are things in which people can disagree on while still admitting they have the same allegiance to the country as a whole. An example of state borders would be speaking in tongues or end times views. The discussion was a very good discussion. McDonald and company unquestioned had the upper-hand in the discussion.
Session Three: Culture in the Church vs. Church in the Culture
(Mark Driscoll and Perry Noble)
Review: Perry Noble begins by arguing that people in the United States are not, not interested in Christianity. Noble argues the big problem in America is that the church is just not asking/answering questions people care about. Noble uses the illustration that people do not care about the dichotomy or trichotomy of the Spirit. People want to know what the bible says about their family members dying. The majority of the discussion was based around Perry Noble and what took place on Easter at his church. Noble based a service in his church around the theme song “Highway to Hell.” Mcdonald and Driscoll thought that this may have gone too far in allowing the culture to dictate the service. Mcdonald acknowledged that this song is Satanic in nature and glories in the fact that one is on a highway to hell. Noble presents the general pragmatic approach to church services, “if it works, then do it.” Noble argued that since people were saved as a result of it, then it is ok. There are some serious dangers and flaws to this approach. Nobles approach can most accurate be defined as a liberal version of the normative principle. Driscoll offers a quasi mixture of both the regulative and normative principle. Driscoll offers a helpful tool for evaluating culture in the church. Driscoll argues that we should “Accept, Reject, or Redeem” different parts of culture. Some things need to be all together rejected. Some need to be accepted and applied immediately. Others need to be redeemed in order for them to be profitable for the church.
Session Seven: Compassion Amplifies the Gospel vs. Compassion Distorts the Gospel (David Platt and Mark Driscoll)
Review: Platt begins by arguing that compassion amplifies the gospel. Furthermore, compassion helps advance the gospel. Platt then says believing and sharing the gospel means we cannot neglect meeting the needs of others. Laurie then jumps in and says that he agrees with everything that Platt has stated. He then gives an asterisk warning of the danger of doing relief ministry to the neglect of proclamation ministry. Laurie argues that 100 years from now people are not going to care what I gave them; if the person(s) are in hell I have neglected my mission. The conversation then turns to how many relief agencies send care packages, but never share the gospel (e.g. Samaritans Purse, Salvation Army, World Vision, and Red Cross). Laurie then defends Samaritans Purse and Franklin Graham. McDonald then concludes we can at least agree that most Christian relief agencies disperse goods no different than those which are accompanied by no gospel message. McDonald then asks Platt, how fearful are you that the gospel may be confused with our good works? Platt then says that it will always be a fearful thing and that is why we must always bring the gospel message to the forefront. Platt argues that he feels like anytime you stress the necessity for the meeting the needs of brothers you are caricatured as being a social liberal. McDonald then asks the question, “Too much proclamation, and not enough compassion?” Platt responds by saying, “Not too much proclamation, and not enough compassion.” McDonald concludes the session. There was not much disagreement within the discussion. I agree with Platt in that the common tendency of modern evangelicals is to caricature those who see the importance of meeting the needs of others as social liberals. Our generation seems to flee from any language in regards meeting the needs of others. People tend to think that this may confuse the gospel. I feel like the only way to not be caricatured as a social liberal is by giving an asterisk every time you preach the importance of meeting the needs of others. John and James constantly stress good works. Both authors write these things from the presupposition that the Spirit has transformed the person’s life. If pastors are preaching to believers, the importance of meeting the needs of others, why is it that we always have to walk on eggshells not to fall into this category? I recognize that within their conversation the context is preaching the gospel alongside meeting the needs of others. Meeting the needs of others and proclaiming the gospel are old friends that do not need to be reconciled.
In order to not give everything from away and entice you to buy the dvd series, I am only going to provide a brief summary of the rest of the sessions. These dvds can be purchased, along with the Elephant Room Round 2 @ http://www.theelephantroom.com/
Session Four: Love the Gospel vs. Share the Gospel
(Greg Laurie and Mark Driscoll)
Summary: This session Greg and Mark discuss why is it that it seems as if those who love and glory most in the gospel are those who are the least evangelistic.
Session Five: Money
(David Platt and Mark Driscoll)
Summary: This session discusses prosperity compared to poverty. Obviously the love of money is bad, but are we called to be poor?
Session Six: Multi-Site: Personality Cult vs. God’s Greater Glory
(Perry Noble and Matt Chandler)
If you have something you would like to add or something important that you thought I left out about the conference, feel free to join in. Also, if you have a critique or only wish to affirm what was said, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Join the Discussion!!
Conference Grade: A +
Meaning of Marriage
By Tim and Kathy Keller
In the Meaning of Marriage, Tim and his wife Kathy step back from American Fairytale-ism and offer a rational, yet beautiful picture of marriage. I have read several books on marriage and none compare to this. What happens to your marriage when the initial butterflies disappear? For most, this is when the marriage begins to fall apart. Keller offers a different outcome. For the Christian, once the butterflies fade, it inaugurates a beautiful walk, hand and hand with your spouse. Longevity creates stability, and joy is the result. The Kellers offer over against an American understanding of marriage its Christian counterpart. I have never before read a book that diagnosed America’s understanding of marriage so well. The Kellers almost seem prophetic in their diagnosis of America. As a surgeon with a steady scalpel, the Kellers cut away all the hidden cancer which plague our understanding of marriage. Keller critiques several false notations that haunt most youth groups and college ministries. One of those notations that Keller offers a critique to is that you must be satisfied in God alone before He will bring you a spouse. I found the most helpful diagnosis and critique to be his critique of the idea a person must be compatible with you before you should marry them. The purpose of marriage is change. This change is a change, which transforms you into the likeness of Christ. The spouse that you said, “I do” to, should not be the spouse that you are married to now. When considering a spouse you should not make our decision based whether he/she are compatible to you or not. You should look for someone that you can see God working in their life and who you would like to join in that journey with him/her. The Kellers also revive the importance of marriage as a covenant rather than a contract. Contracts can be broken. Covenants on the other hand, entail more than promises to stay together. Covenants call for faithfulness, love, long suffering, patience, pursuit of one another, ect. My only critique of the book is in their explanation of gender roles. At times it became confusing as to their position. Kathy opens her chapter by arguing for a complentarian view of gender roles within marriage. Kathy at times seems to distort the line between the two positions. Tim and Kathy Keller’s Meaning of Marriage is unquestioned the best book I have read on marriage. Buy this book and share it with everyone that you can.
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin Publishing)
Publication Date: 2012
Binding Type: Paperback
Book Grade: A+
For the best price on this book click here or click on the book image at the top of the page
Community: Taking Your Small Group off of Life Support
Move over Dr. Gregory House, you are no longer the only House bringing those near death patients off life support. Brad House in his book Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support has replaced Dr. House’s role as the reviver of life. House breaks down the modern church’s understanding of how small groups should operate and rebuilds them into a anew. Community groups are no longer viewed as an event, but are part of each individual’s everyday life. All too often small groups/ community groups end up being social gatherings, sprinkled with a bit of Jesus on top. House challenges this notion by calling community groups to be social, yet Christ-Centered. Repentance is a constant theme of these groups. Love and grace bind each member of this community together. Why are these groups gathering together? They gather together to demonstrate what a gospel transformed life looks like. Furthermore, these groups gather together to promote mission. A life-giving community group is missionally focused group. These groups do not gather just to gather. These groups are gathering for the purpose of advancing the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Although this type of community group may seem utopic, House offers several practical applications which make this type of community a reality. I have read many books on community and a couple on community groups; I would have to say that this book is possibly the best book I have read on community groups. I would also say that this book ranks high on my list of books on the topic of community. I would highly recommend this book to all churches. Even if you church does not have small groups/community groups, the application of this book could transform your Sunday School classes and overall church community.
The Foundation: Building Blocks for Life
Part one begins by establishing the fact that mankind was created in image of God. God, being trinity, has since eternity been in fellowship and communion. Therefore, since we were created in his image and called to be imitators of God, we too are to live likewise (Eph 1:10). When God created man, he created him to live communally. The first thing described as not good in creation was that man was alone. Man was not created to live in isolation. House then takes this concept and demonstrates how community is central to the identity of the Christian. “Community is where implications of the gospel are lived out.” Mission occurs as a result of Christians desiring for others to take part in their gospel transformed community. After establishing a biblical foundation for community, House then discusses how this type of community is absent from most of our churches. From this point, House then seeks to establish what must occur in order to bring these groups “back to life and off of life-support.”
Health Plan: Redefining Community Groups
The first step in reviving community groups is to redefine our perception of these groups. The reason our community groups are dying is because no one expects much out of them. To revive these groups we need to start afresh with a new set of standards and goals for these groups. One major change in perception of community is a change that involves viewing them as a lifestyle rather than an event. Community group meetings are not events, but a way of life. For a community group to succeed and establish true community it must first change this common misconception. Next, community groups need to be life-giving rather than life-taking. Community and unity among believers is a gift of the Spirit. In order to revive community groups they need to be transformed into life-giving organism. Next, House discusses something that has worked very well at Mars Hill and something he desires other churches to consider: community groups organized according to geographic location or according to neighborhoods. When a community group has a set geographic location to it, it makes it possible for the group to engage their own culture. An implication of this point then arises, that being, the importance of community groups engaging each individual’s private spaces and their public sphere. A person’s private space is something which they only allow their closest of friends to enter. Community occurs when those within your church begin to enter your private life and from there you allow them to settle in. Next, community groups are brought back to life though consistent or rhythmic gathering. House here gives an example of how his community group gathers weekly at a local restaurant for fellowship and biblical community. Everyone in House’s community group has set in their schedule weekly, this weekly constant gathering. No longer is community optional, it has become for them a part of their weekly routine. Community becomes a lifestyle rather than an event. After establishing what is required for the development of community House then discusses what must take place in order for these groups to flourish.
Treatment: Effecting Change in Your Groups
The first thing that is needed for your community to flourish is for repentance to become a regular part of your group’s meeting. Community groups need to be a place of transparency and a place to find grace. Your community group needs to be a place where people can know they can be honest about their sin. Additionally, community groups need to be a place where they can find accountability for change. Finally, House argues that those who lead community groups need to be proven leaders. Often times leadership positions are given to anyone who is willing to help. House argues much like deacons and elders within a church, community leaders need to be those who are able to teach and have shown an ability to lead. House’s offers a suggestion of offering regular training seminars for all leaders. Furthermore, churches should offer regular meetings for community group leaders. The regular meetings should be an opportunity for growth, discussion, challenge, and prayer.
Publisher: Crossway/ Re:Lit
Publication Date: 2011
Binding Type: Paperback
Book Grade: A+
For the best price on this book click here or click on the book image at the top of the page
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