A Waiting Worship and A Free Gospel Ministry
We gather in expectant silence to wait upon our Lord. When we gather in His name, Christ Jesus is truly here with us. Therefore we do not seek to worship, pray or sing in our own wisdom or strength, but to hear what the True Shepherd would have us do. The hour of worship is His, to program as He sees fit: our task is to respond with the worship, prayer, ministry or song that He give us.
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit: and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.
(John 4:23, 24)
Since Jesus Christ is the head of the church, our worship should not depend on any one appointed person, but on Christ’s living ministry in our midst. Jesus may at times minister to the meeting directly, with no words being spoken. A message may be given to us inwardly and individually for ourselves alone. At other times, we may be given words to speak to the body of worshippers. All true Gospel ministry is given by the direct prompting of Christ through his Holy Spirit. When the Lord gives a message, the speaker’s human accomplishments or talents are of no account, for what God asks us to do, He also strengthens us to do. No one should let feelings of unworthiness prevent them from speaking if they sense a divine call to speak.
Christ also prepares the listeners to receive rightly the spoken messages that He gives. When we listen with the spiritual ear, we may be richly nourished by a message that appears undistinguished in human terms.
Take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak. . . but speak whatsoever shall be given you in that hour. . . for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)
To encourage a vigorous gospel ministry, we recognize those who have shown a special gift as Ministers of the Gospel, and “esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake”
(I Thessalonians 5:13). However, we do not appoint them to any fixed duties or pay them to perform their services, so that they may be free to exercise their gifts where and when they are called to do so, to speak or not to speak as anointed. Both men and women are called to the work of the ministry.
I will pour our my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. (Joel 2:28)
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. It any one speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and dominion forever and ever. (I Peter 4:10-11)
We believe in God the Father, Almighty, the maker and preserver of all people; and in his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior; and in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. Jesus Christ came into the world, took our nature upon himself and tasted death for everyone, as a perfect sacrifice for sin and a perfect example and pattern to His people in all ages. No one can be saved from sin in any other way than by repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, where he lives and makes intercession for us. At the same time, He is present among us by His Spirit to minister to us, to teach us, and to strengthen us for His service. As George Fox, an early Friend, proclaimed, “Christ is come to teach His people Himself.”
For God so loved the world, that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
We believe that, since Christ, the Light of the world, died for all, His light is available to all by the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. Everyone in the world has been visited by this light, and all people have God’s law written in their hearts in some measure. Only the Holy Spirit, speaking in each heart, can convince us of sin and turn us toward the forgiving love of God, which is offered to all through Jesus Christ. Only by responding in faith to Christ’s light in us can we be turned from sin and made a new creation, fit to glorify and serve God. As we are obedient in the light that we have experienced, we will receive more light and strength to know and do God’s will.
That was the true Light, which gives light to every man who comes into the world. (John 1:9)
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present age; looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)
The Holy Scriptures
The Scriptures are the very words of God, given through His inspired prophets and apostles. We cannot rightly understand them unless we are in the same Spirit that gave them forth. All Christians should learn the Bible and seek to live in accord with its teachings, confident that the Jesus proclaimed in Scripture is the same One who lives among us as Lord today.
Though we seek to be led by the direct promptings of the Holy Spirit, this does not weaken the importance of the Scriptures in our Christian walk. The Scriptures give us a standard outside ourselves to test our impressions of God’s leadings. A thorough knowledge of the Bible will help us to distinguish the Holy Spirit’s inward guidance from our own impulses or form harmful spiritual influences. Robert Barclay, an early Friend, wrote:
The Holy Scriptures are the only fit outward judge of controversies among Christians; whatsoever doctrine is contrary to their testimony may justly be rejected as false. Whatsoever any do, pretending to be inspired by the Spirit, which is contrary to the Scriptures, should be considered and reckoned as a delusion of the devil. As every evil contradicts the Scriptures, so it doth also contradict the Spirit, from which the Scriptures came, whose motions can never contradict one another.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16, 17)
Baptism and Communion
We believe that the true baptism into Christ, and the true communion with Him, are spiritual. As witness to the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and direct communion with God, we set aside outward ceremonies designed to symbolize these inward realities. Therefore, we do not “baptize” with water or observe communion with bread and wine. We seek to have communion with Jesus Christ, the substance of our faith, and to be baptized with Him into His life.
With other Christians, we affirm the necessity of baptism and communion for salvation and full Christian living. Our avoidance of outward rituals obliges us to examine ourselves humbly, to be sure that we participate as faithfully in these spiritual realities as our fellow Christians do in their outward expressions.
John answered, saying to them all, “I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming. . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:16)
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20)
Over many years, Friends have arrived at a number of testimonies - fruits of our search to discern what the Lord requires of us as a people. Some of these are outlined below.
War and violent conflict are utterly opposed to the Gospel of Christ. We do not participate in war, but instead seek to let the Spirit of love govern all of our dealings with others, including enemies.
Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts. (Zechariah 4:6)
Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. (Luke 6:27, 28)
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight.” (John 18:36)
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. (II Corinthians 10:3, 4)
We seek to follow the plain command of Jesus “Swear not at all” (Matthew 5:34-37). We avoid the use of oaths in all circumstances, and seek to make truthfulness the standard for all of our conduct, a standard that makes oaths pointless.
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation. (James 5:12)
Believing that simplicity, straightforwardness and modesty should govern all aspects of the Christian’s walk, we seek to set aside anything vain and unnecessary in dress, possession and speech, so that we may be more free to turn our lives to the service of our Lord. Our life choices should stem from a constant search to know God’s will for us, rather than from the shifting fashions of a godless world.
Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)
Let not your adorning be outward. . . but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
(I Peter 3:3, 4)
We believe that faithfulness to our Lord requires that we avoid gambling, betting, and the use of alcohol, tobacco and other harmful drugs. These testimonies are especially important today, when drug abuse is destroying parts of our society and state governments actively promote the addictive and destructive practice of gambling.
What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.
(I Corinthians 6:19, 20)
Marriage is a gift of God, appointed for the help and blessing of both partners, and for the right upbringing of the next generation. God’s gift of sexuality was intended to bless and support the union of man and woman in marriage., We seek to uphold marriage as a lifelong divine covenant, supported by chastity outside of marriage and fidelity within it. A rightly founded marriage depends on a common faith in God and a mutual desire to open heart and home to the spirit of Christ.
Our meetings for business are sometimes called “meetings for worship with a concern for business.” We conduct our business in a spirit of worship, seeking to discern the Lord’s will in each decision that comes before us. Decisions are not made by voting, but by seeking to come to one mind in Christ. A clerk presides over the meeting and seeks to express the “sense of the meeting” as it emerges from the body’s prayerful reflection.
Most local congregations are called Monthly Meetings, since they gather for business once per month (in addition to meeting for worship at least once per week). Groups of Monthly Meetings are organized into Quarterly Meetings, which are in turn organized into a Yearly Meeting. (Crossroads Friends Meeting is a part of Salem Quarterly Meeting, and Ohio Yearly Meeting.) All members are encouraged to take part in the business of their Monthly, Quarterly and Yearly Meetings.
Members of our Yearly Meeting are sometimes called “Conservative Friends,” since we have tried to maintain the basic Christian beliefs and testimonies given to the first Friends many years ago.
Parts of this presentation are adapted from “The Society of Friends,” published by the Tract Association of Friends, and from the Book of Discipline of Ohio Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.