Michael Rannelli, NJ
This article is a reprint from the Italian Assembly Magazine "La Voce Nel Deserto" (The Voice in the Wilderness) of which our brother was associate editor for many years. La Voce is no longer in publication. This was written in 1955 but it is as timely as ever for today; simple and searching. Brother Rannelli was called home in Feb. 1999.
We are living in days when many are not loyal to the truths they profess to hold. Many truths are believed in, but not practiced. To possess truths and not let the truths possess us is the same as those Israelites who gathered more manna than they could eat. We read that the unused portion bred worms and stank. The Lord deliver us from such. I would rather meet a believer who possesses little truth but practices what he knows than meet one who has "all knowledge" and yet is not a help to the testimony of the Lord. The Apostle John in his epistles emphasizes this, that it is not only imperative to know the truth but just as important to walk in the truth.
I maintain that loyalty to the assembly is paramount to loyalty to Christ. Is not the assembly the place where His honor dwelleth? (Ps. 26:8) Is not Christ in the center of the twos and threes gathered in His name? (Matt. 18:20) Is it not His presence in the midst of the assembly that gives power and authority to the testimony? (1 Cor. 5:4)
If we were loyal to the assembly we would not see fifty present for the Sunday worship meeting and then only half as many at the gospel meeting or prayer and Bible study meeting. We would not forsake the assembling of ourselves at any meetings convened by the assembly. Lately I was saddened when some neglected their own meeting to go and hear a famous speaker. I do not believe that such have yet understood the meaning of the presence of any man, no matter how great he is.
Some are not satisfied with the simplicity of the assembly gatherings and are attracted more by the popularity and seemingly success of certain movements. They memorize Matthew 18:20 about the "twos and the threes" and yet cast envious eyes at the crowds flocking to hear so and so. I do not advocate speaking against any man of God or vessel of honor no matter what his connections may be. Our Lords counsel is the best, "Leave them alone." We can even pray for them, and should. Ever remember that it is faithfulness that God rewards and not success.
I admire the "great woman of Shunem" who could have chosen to be spoken for to the king or to the captain of the host, but she refused such an offer stating nobly: "I dwell among my own people." (2 Kings 4:13) She was content to dwell among her own people; Are we? Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God. Are we choosing the path of ease? Are we ashamed of the reproach connected with the assembly testimony?
It is a wonderful thing to attend conferences and go to help or visit other assemblies but are we doing so at the expense of our own little assembly? Must we admit "Mine own vineyard have I not kept." When we have to leave are we concerned about our responsibilities, about someone taking over our Sunday School class?
When we go to the assembly meeting do we feel exercised to be there early so that we can spend some time praying for the meeting and those taking part? Do we heartily join in the singing to make the singing worthy of Him of Whom we sing? Are we exercised in the assembly or do we leave everything to the same few? Are we exercising our gift? Remember that one of the gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28 is "helps." Are we "helps" in the assembly or "hindrances?" Are we always critical instead of helping to strengthen the things that remain? Are we endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Are we exercised to see souls saved and to see the assembly grow? Are we inviting friends and strangers to the meetings, or better yet taking them? Do we use our car for the Lords sake? Do we visit the newly saved or the sick to encourage them? Are we giving out tracts with the assembly address and meeting notices? Are we building up the Sunday School and work among the young?
Are we helping to make the assembly testimony as attractive as possible? De we help to keep the meeting place clean and neat? Are we concerned about the financial affairs of the assembly? If we miss one Sunday meeting do we double the offering the next Sunday? Does the Lord get robbed of His portion? Are we faithfully supporting the various activities for the Lord with which our assembly is associated? Are we interested in missionary and pioneer work and supporting the Lords servants?
Are we exercised about entertaining the Lords people or do we just leave this responsibility up to the same reliable few? Do we invite the Lords servants to our home for dinner or supper when they come for special meetings? Are we by our actions, deportment, dress and talk a credit to our assembly?
There is so much more ground to be possessed in our assemblies. There is so much work to be done. There should be no unemployment among Gods children. Every one of us will admit that we can all do more for the Lord and be more faithful to our assembly. Let us see how many of the above questions we can answer in the affirmative. Let us ask ourselves the question, "If everyone in my assembly was like me, what kind of an assembly would we have?"
Let us seek to increase our devotion to the Lord and in that measure will there be increased devotion to the assembly. Like the Psalmist we will say, "Lord, I have loved the habitation of Thy house, and the place where Thine honor dwelleth."