You In Your Small Corner

Where is your church?” is a question I’m often asked. My answer is: “In the middle of nowhere!” I don’t leave it at that: I explain that it’s out in the countryside, and I hand them a Salem Chapel leaflet, which saves time. Then they say, “So what kind of a church is it?” “A bible-believing church!” I reply. I try to leave it at that, because it’s what they believe at that moment that I want to get on to.

Nevertheless, “What kind of a church is it?” is a sensible question. At Salem, we’ve just finished an excellent series on Ephesians, and a new one on 1 Timothy is under way. It’s a good opportunity to take a look at New Testament teaching concerning the local church. I wonder: will any practical applications emerge?

Although my background is largely academic, I prefer to think of myself as a practical person - someone who can change a plug, plant a shrub, paint a door, and polish his shoes to a glassy shine. I was also the New Man decades before he was ever invented, and can change nappies, bathe babies, and read bedtime stories. “But, enough about me,” he said, with that charming and characteristic modesty which had won him so many friends and admirers.

Thus, as well as reading about how to do things, I also like to see examples, illustrations, experts in action, and so on. After we’ve looked at what the Word says about the local church, wouldn’t it be a good idea to take look at a few examples of such in our own day? I appreciate that you can’t really get to know a church in a single visit; but, it might help to counter the “You in your small corner, And I in mine” isolationist attitude that I’ve come across elsewhere.

If you can’t get out and about easily, or if you can’t find anywhere worth the effort of attending, then the next best thing would be a virtual visit. Let me send you, courtesy of, to Berean Baptist Church. Click on “Sermons by Speaker”, and find Sean Harris. Click on one of his sermons, then explore the grey bar below the church’s name. I can guarantee that you’ll have an interesting time. Here, for example, is a brief introduction to the church.

Berean was officially started on February 7, 1967 in reaction to the liberal influence in the Southern Baptist Convention.

Led by Pastor Sean Harris, Berean is an exceptionally unique church in its commitment to the fundamentals of the faith without the legalistic baggage that is sometimes associated with Independent Baptists. We take a very high view of the Sovereignty of God especially in the areas of the Gospel, man's salvation, end times, and the authority of Scripture in the life of the believer and the church. While we affirm the five solae that emerged from the Protestant Reformation, we are distinctively Baptist in our interpretation of Scripture. Our preaching is categorized as dynamic, challenging, and expository with a commitment to preach and teach through books of the Bible. While we use the KJV we reject the idea that it is the only Bible for English speaking people. We take church membership very seriously. We reject the tenets of the seeker-sensitive church growth movement and the influence of the emergent church.

Our worship is distinctly God and Gospel centered with a blend of traditional hymns and praise and worship. Our congregation is very friendly and diverse. Many serve or have served in the US Army or in Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg.

We are a growing ministry with much to offer to families including a private Baptist Academy (K-12), a dynamic youth group, and AWANA. We are committed to expository preaching of the Word of God and a focus on discipling believers to the glory of God!

Above all we seek to proclaim Christ in all that we do.

That second sentence is so encouraging that I can almost (but not quite) forgive them for “exceptionally unique”.

When you’ve done some exploring, may I also encourage you to download some of the documents that they have available? They make fascinating reading. Here, for example, is a short extract from their six-page “Prospective Volunteer Bible Teacher Questionnaire”.

3. Are you already in the habit of beginning your day in prayer and time with His Word?

4. Have you read the BBC covenant?

5. Are you committed to living by the BBC covenant?

6. Have you previously taught adults in any forum?

7. Would you say that God has gifted you to teach?

8. Are you willing to devote extra time to pray for the members of your class?

9. Will you commit to visiting the members of your class in the hospital unless your work schedule prevents this from happening?

10. Will you call and send an e-mail to first-time visitors who have visited your class?

11. Are you willing to attend an annual teacher training event?

12. Will you call on the members of your class who are absent?

13. Are you willing to attend special meetings for teachers as your schedule permits?

14. Will you greet visitors and make sure they get a visitor’s card?

15. Would you describe yourself as someone who definitely has a Biblical worldview?

16. Will you commit to ensuring prayer requests do not turn into times for gossip?

17. Will you be faithful to your class by arriving at least 15 minutes prior to the class session and, in case of an unavoidable absence, notify your director to secure a replacement?

18. Will you commit to use of the King James Version as the primary text you teach from?

19. Do you intend to diligently teach the truth of God’s Word as you prepare?

20. Will you commit to promoting the unity of BBC through your teaching ministry?

21. Are you already a faithful giver of 10% of your gross income to BBC in a way that can be verified (this means you will have to use a giving envelope for cash or checks)?

22. Do you attend the Sunday evening preaching service (outside of providential hindrances)?

23. Would you describe yourself as passionate about your walk with God?

24. Are you presently addicted to any illegal drug, narcotic or tobacco of any kind?

25. Are you willing to abstain from the consumption of alcohol as long as you are a teacher?

26. Would your spouse describe you as a faithful husband or wife?

27. Are you only heterosexual in your sexual orientation?

28. Have you consciously viewed pornography in the past 12 months?

29. Do you strive to limit what you watch on TV, DVDs and Internet to that which is edifying to the spirit and mind?

30. Do you sing when the corporate body of Christ worships God?

31. Do you attend the men’s/ladies ministry functions as much as possible?

32. When there is a visitor sitting next to you in worship, will you reach out to them?

33. Are you willing to give sacrificially to the ministry when led by the Spirit based on a legitimate need for such giving?

And there’s more… much more.

Also, in amongst the sermons, you can find some excellent discussions featuring Pastor Harris, other church elders, and some invited guests. They’re surprisingly interesting, instructive and - yes - entertaining!

Like them or loathe them (and many do despise all that they represent, if internet reaction is anything to go by), by the time you’ve got to know something about Berean Baptist Church, you’ll realise that these people are deadly serious about setting high standards, and calling for whole-hearted commitment from their flock. And it’s a racing certainty that you’ll learn more from your virtual visit than you will from any length of time spent wandering round Blackburn Cathedral on a wet Saturday afternoon.

Let me know what you think. Oh, and here are the rest of the words of that children’s hymn.

Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Jesus bids us shine, first of all for Him;
Well He sees and knows it if our light is dim;
He looks down from heaven, sees us shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around
Many kinds of darkness in this world abound:
Sin, and want, and sorrow—we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

Jesus bids us shine, as we work for Him,
Bringing those that wander from the paths of sin;
He will ever help us, if we shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine.

It's rather better than I thought it was!