A German missionary’s book about “people Christianity”

Powerful words about the body of Christ from a German missionary:

“People-church (ekklesia) is the will of God and a vital necessity.” That’s a thought from a German missionary, Christian Keysser, who served in New Guinea from 1899 to 1921. Donald McGavran of Fuller Theological Seminary wrote this about him: “Keysser’s wide ranging, courageous mind continually took the German churches to task for not being genuine Christian congregations, leaving too much in the hands of the professional paid clergy and not acting as truly Christian communities.”

Keysser said this about traditional Christianity: “They lecture, but they do not reform. In mission everything depends on life and transforming power. Because we only look after theology and doctrine and not God’s reality and power at work, we have the present lamentable weakness of the church. Deadness is prevalent despite all good doctrine.”

Keysser believed that “Christ the Living One” wants to lead His body. He grieved over “the inefficiency and lack of power of our Christianity.” In the introduction to his book, A People Reborn (1929), he writes: “I would have liked to have left out all adverse observations on churches, but when one sincerely loves one’s church and earnestly about its condition and future, then one may, indeed one must, draw attention to certain things even at the risk of causing offense.”

Congregational church is what Keysser called his view of Christianity (which matches the New Testament concept of ekklesia.) He wrote, “The prototypes were the meetings in the apostolic congregations where everyone could speak.” When that is ignored, church doesn’t “lead to the activation of the congregation.” To overcome this, Keysser says: “It is a missionary’s (pastor’s) duty to hold back and not to do himself what his Christians should carry out. Otherwise, he harms the congregation, holds back the individual, hinders the development of the various gifts that God gives.”

Here’s more from Keysser: “To lead a congregation in the right direction will never succeed without Him who said: ‘Without Me you can do nothing,’ and who has given His Spirit with His absolutely necessary assistance. Leading a congregation demands continuous watching and giving heed to divine direction . . . This is by far more difficult than the one-sided exclusive preaching. In His congregation and church, Jesus wants to be the Lord with whom one complies. He is indeed the Savior of sinners, but besides this He is also the Lord as He was most often called in the early church.”

Here are some more quotes from Christian Keysser:

“Paul requests of the Christians in Collosse that they are able to be ‘teaching and admonishing one another.’ In his letters to the congregations, he always holds the total congregation responsible.”

“You propagate a knowledge of God, but you do not bring God Himself as the helper and redeemer of people.”

“It is particularly difficult to awaken a dead congregation. The Word is often no longer effective because the people have become dull.”

“Put God into life! Never substitute the teaching about God for God Himself. The teaching about God stays in the head, but God makes Himself effective in life.”

“One cannot educate dead congregations any more than a dead child. First there must be life. This is most important in all circumstances.”

“There should not always be the same routine. You must offer variation. Avoid lethal boredom!

“The format of the service shouldn’t always be the same. Otherwise, people will become tired and fall asleep.”

“Ask people questions during the sermon and have them answer. Train them for real co-operation also in the preaching! Christian preaching was originally homilia, that is conversation, dialogue. Preaching must deal with a necessary truth until it has been apprehended, until the will has been influenced and until an action results. If this does not happen, all preaching will just be pious babbling that will not be taken seriously.”

Omission of the preaching can often have a greater effect on a dead congregation than the loudest sermon. When the missionary (pastor) is silent, all the other earnest Christians present must speak so much louder.”

Life does not manifest itself in organizing and arranging gatherings, but in the congregation’s earnest action according to God’s will.”

“The congregational meeting (ekklesia) is absolutely indispensable for the nurture of the congregation. ‘Tell it to the church,’ according to Jesus. To its own detriment church abandoned congregational meetings (ekklesia).”

“At these meetings (ekklesia), the gifts and capabilities become evident. Here the minds are taught and trained. Through the constant training the Christians obtain a remarkably sound and sure judgment. Furthermore, it becomes evident who has authority and whose word has weight. The congregational meeting is the best soil in which spiritual gifts can grow.”

“A congregation that does nothing as a congregation and that does not react strongly to sins and wrongs in its mist, is dead.

“The Bible attaches great importance to the confessing of sins. Confessing is necessary for the breaking of the chain with which Satan has bound the people. Experience shows that people are not set free from evil if they do not speak out openly and unreservedly. Confession is not a sign of weakness but of strength and resolution.”

“As the congregation grows, there certainly will be able, experienced Christians available who must be acknowledged by the congregation.”

“Only when Christian congregations are alive and one in God, can and will the world believe the message.”

“What not even the most earnest proclamation by individual messengers of God can accomplish is brought to pass by the mere presence of living congregations (ekklesias).”

“Demonstrate Christianity as a life power which influences and transforms entire peoples.”

About Steve Simms

I like to look and think outside the box. In college I encountered Jesus Christ and I have been passionate about trying to get to know Him better ever since. My wife and I long to see the power and passion of the first Christ-followers come to life in our time. I have written a book about our experiences in non-traditional church, called, "Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible--Ekklesia." If you need encouragement, search for: Elephants Encouraging The Room and/or check out my Amazon author page. Thank you!
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