Pastoral Ministry and the Genius of Brethrenism -- By: Richard E. Allison

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 02:0 (NA 1969)
Article: Pastoral Ministry and the Genius of Brethrenism
Author: Richard E. Allison


Pastoral Ministry and the Genius of Brethrenism

Richard E. Allison

This is a response to “The Genius of Brethrenism.”

The “genius” of any sectarian group within the Christian context is to be found in its contribution to Christianity as a whole. The early Christians were not defenders of what had been in Old Testament Judaism. Instead they built on this past and pushed forward under the direction of the Holy Spirit. A part of their genius was their freedom to Holy Spirit guidance. They had not become hardened in their cultic practices to the point where they were no longer available for pioneering under the direction of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit used the instrument of the early church to do a new thing. However, it must be remembered that what eventuated had its roots in the past. The actual happening was a natural fruition of what had already taken place. In other words, it was a part of the continuing activity of the Spirit and not an abrogation of all that had preceded.

The early church was faithful to the message that was the natural extension of the Old Testament and included what God was continuing to do in and through Jesus Christ. While the roots are to be found in the old, the early church came into being through a response to the new.

A group of eight under the direction of Alexander Mack in 1708 founded a new group within the circumference of Christianity. They did not claim to be “the Church” but desired to be a part of the old Church instituted by Christ. The manner in which they proceeded was that of reconstitutionism. Such a process can easily lead to nostalgia over the past. Then one’s judgment becomes impaired and he makes glowing statements which have no basis in fact but which exist only in imagination about history.

This often happens as one views Pietism from the position of the present day. This is to miss the point of Pietism. Pietism sought to establish true piety. It was not nostalgic. It was cognizant of its own matrix. It was not defensive in its approach, but offensive. While not being a conventicle of Pietism, the early Brethren developed a style of life that was marked by the pietistic movement. Emphasis was placed on regeneration, a vigorous spiritual life and personal piety.

In the process of reconstituting the church, one returns to the early church and its history in Acts. There one finds no definition of the church. Instead, word pictures of it in action define its mission.

The first concept encountered in Acts 2:41 ff. is that embodied in the word kerygma. Kerygma refers to the message, the proclamation, ...

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