Ralph Davis on church life

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Ralph Davis is as good a preacher as it gets, if he writes it you should read it. I love the bones of the man. He was speaking in Australia recently where he was interviewed, you can read the whole thing here but these answers encouraged me in his approach to church life. Until recently he was the minister of Woodland Presbyterian Church, Hattiesburg and his little book 'The house that Jesus built'   is a great intro to reformed church life.



Can you tell us a bit about Woodland Presbyterian and its size and what the people there were like and how church life worked?

Probably about 200 people more or less and when we would have new members join us we would tell them it's sort of a vanilla type church, as we called it. We didn't try to do anything super duper. We didn't have fancy programs or something for everybody and our view was that as far as families went (we had a number of single people in the church too) they were better served by trying to practice godliness in their own home rather than dragging themselves off to church all the time for some activity. So, because of that we put the emphasis on the preaching and teaching of the Word, so we had morning and evening services on the Lord's day. But we didn't have a whole lot of other stuff. Various people in the church would have Bible studies, there was a women's bible study, there was a men's Bible study and so on, but we didn't push people, we didn't say you need to be involved in this and this and this. We placed the emphasis on preaching and teaching and public worship and then let the other things fall where they might, and according to people's time and so on. But we didn't try to press a great degree of them needing to be hyper involved in church activities. Sometimes, at least in American situations it can break up families and divide families, by just being too busy with the church. So we didn't try to hyper program anything and that sort of thing. So that's kind of what it was, it was just kind of a 'Plain Jane' congregation and if you didn't like the preaching and teaching of the Word well you should go somewhere else.

Can you tell us a bit more about practicing godliness in the household? Were there specific ways you encouraged families to relate to one another?

Not necessary specific ways although there might be something like an adult Sunday School or something like that, or in the modeling of the elders and that sort of thing. I think what came across was it will vary in different homes but we view the husband and father as having the primary initiating responsibility for that. And whatever is age appropriate and so on in his own home, it varied, but there should be family worship in the home, it didn't have to be extensive, it didn't have to be long, but the home itself should be a kind of little church and to try to inculcate that. I think we had a number of our people that did do that and not necessarily elders and deacons but just people who were trying to walk with the Lord, practiced private worship in their homes and so on. But we didn't do a lot of 'how to' stuff. Some of that came across in preaching and teaching but we never held seminars on it or something like that. We never did that on for instance giving either. People gave and they gave well but we unless we touched on it in the Scripture being preached or taught on, we didn't harangue or beat on giving or something like that. I guess all we tried to do, and we would be in the minority in American circles to think this way, but in our situation now, (I can't speak for Australia or anywhere else) but I think in our America culture, there's a mentality in the church that people think we need to provide people with this and this and this. If they think there's a need for something, then somehow the officers or the eldership of the church has to provide them with something, they have to start a program, they have to start a small group, they have to do this or that. Our view was if you feel the need for something like that, and it's not there, then go start it. 'You want a small group Bible study?' 'You want some help with it?' well holler at us 'You think there ought to be prison ministry?' then check out what options there are, then start one or get involved in one but don't necessarily expect the 'government', don't expect the church to level something down from on high on you. I guess it's trying to put responsibility on the initiative of the believers that feel the need and say use your own ingenuity and initiative about some of these things and don't expect some program, we're a church of two hundred people, we just can't do everything. And it was a little bit of a struggle, because people aren't geared to think that way, they're a bunch of socialists, and to get them to think that way sometimes is a little bit of a trick.

Posted June 11, 2011 @ 4:50 AM by Paul Levy

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