Pastor Tom Watkins – Pastoring the Bible Methodist Church, Manchester Tennessee
My mind calls up images of my Middle Tennessee Holiness Church of the 1950’s. I’ll start with the building. It was a makeshift church, that turned an old beer joint into a place of worship. It was a poor building, with several separate smaller buildings, used for Sunday school rooms. There was nothing appealing or stately about the design. It was not what it looked like that mattered. It was what was happing inside that made it beautiful.
The Church was made up of “holiness people” who loved God with all their hearts. People who felt a deep need to stay spiritual. They longed for the glory of God to return in all his majesty.
I was a young boy, whose introduction to Christianity was the environment of this less than grand holiness church. My older sister introduced me to church, we were bus children. The vehicle that transported us to church was a paneled van of the 1940’s vintage.
The saints gathered and there seemed to be an electric atmosphere from the early part of the day. I remember the ladies all wore hats, and when God’s presence filled the place, those hats caught my attention as they bobbed around. No crowd could sing number 185 in the Songs of Inspiration book, “When We All Get to Heaven” as they did! Heaven was their goal and Jesus, their heavenly bridegroom. They lived for the Lord’s return.
Holiness unto the Lord was indeed their watch word and song! My home church folk were not really a lot different from other church people around them. In those days, outward standard meant modesty, and many dressed the same way, but there was a difference because of an experience they called “sanctification.”
It was entire sanctification that drove their belief, preaching, singing and that was lived out though their lives. They knew God was able to deliver them from the carnal war within. Other’s who believed, you just had to live with the old man, were proved wrong by the sweet Holy Ghost filled saints who walked among them.
That little makeshift church, soon was replaced with a beautiful building. God was moving and in the new sanctuary, the saints brought sweet fellowship, blessed singing and anointed preaching.
I remember meals together, invitations to the community and the presence of God among us. There were revival meetings with men of God preaching fearlessly from God’s Word. We enjoyed missionary rally, Sunday school rallies and preacher meetings. What a thrill it was to see our brothers and sisters gather from miles around to worship.
Some big life issues were settled at a wooden altar. I felt hands on my shoulders as I struggled in prayer. There were words of encouragement, songs led by the pastor to motivate faith and victories won at the altar.
I am spoiled to the “old fashion holiness way.” I know that times and techniques change, but here are some things connected with the experience of Holiness that do not change.
You might be wondering what those things might be? I am glad you ask. “The holiness without which no man shall see the Lord” is a holiness that works.
- I remember the price paid and the sacrifice made. Those who went before were willing to make the sacrifice and pay the price. I had a church to attend because people possessed the Spirit and He gave them victory over self.
- They came to church when they could have done something else. They came when they expected company. They came when one parent, had to stay home with a sick child. They came when the had a good day or bad.
- Church was important because as sold out children of God; people who were filled with the Spirit, they sensed the impact of church. They realized Christ died for the Church. they were filled with a love for Christ and His people. They wanted to stand by the church even when it seemed the gates of hell were pressing in.
- There was a real love manifested toward all men. But, especially there was love for their brothers and sisters in the faith. Gossip was not tolerated, uncharitable criticism was addressed. They were called to build one another up, not to tear down. All felt love even when the truth came close and searching.
- They allowed the Holy Spirit to guide them. Oh, if advice was needed, they would listen and encourage each other, but they advised the individual to be obedient to the Spirit. They stood by, suffered long, and showed kindness toward those who struggled.
- They were compassionate. Often leading a helping hand to those in need. Many times, a generous offering was offered when no one knew.
With all the modern innovations today, there are still somethings that cannot be improved upon. The work of the Holy Spirit, in the heart of believers enables one to live with a good conscience. The Spirit is still working in lives.
If you want to grow a congregation, it is more than buildings. It is more than dollars. It is more than ten our ministries gearing up to meet this changing society. It is really simple; get back to old-fashioned holiness. Holiness seeks the lost and loves without expecting returns. Holiness lives consistently at home and in the world.
The new man created in righteousness and holiness is reaching to others. That is what Jesus called us to.
Holiness is enabling grace, that will keep you.