Buildings or the Broken?
Last time you hear about Brown’s hope for ministry; the Divine Master’s mercy and the congregation pleading for it in prayer. By God’s grace under Brown’s faithful preaching and with the church’s devotion to praying together for God to move he added to their numbers in a remarkable way.
In fact they enjoyed so much of God’s blessing in the conversion of sinners that they outgrew their building! What a wonderful “problem” to face. By the beginning of 1869, just a little over 2 years after taking the position at Stepney Green Tabernacle, Brown reached the conclusion that their building had to be replaced with one at least three times as large! God continued to bless them and provided all the funding from across the globe to support the gospel ministry there, places as far away as America, India, and Japan!
Covenant Hope is indebted to many who partner with us from all around the world too! We praise God for the gospel partnerships with individuals and churches that help to provide for us, and let’s pray that we too would steward our resources well, for the glory of God and the advance of gospel ministry and churches other than our own.
So they were able to rebuild the Tabernacle to accommodate their growing congregation, but somewhat surprisingly we have no record of Brown’s pleasure in his new building. In fact another incident that has been recorded illustrates that his great interest in ministry lay not in buildings, but in the gospel of free grace to broken souls.
Listen to the story recorded in Brown’s own words:
A good brother said he should like to show us over the chapel before my preaching. He took us to the gallery… Then he took us to the pulpit… Then he asked us to note that every pew was cushioned… he also drew our attention to the fact that there were such nice brass rings and rails at the end of every pew… I stood it as long as I could, and said to him, ‘Well, brother, I have seen a few chapels in my time. Now you have pointed out the beauties, may I ask you one or two questions which really I am more interested in? How many drunkards did you have saved here last year?’ ‘Oh, my dear, Mr Brown, we are a most respectable people.’ I said, ‘Have you had many harlots (prostitutes) gathered in here?’ He said, ‘My dear Mr Brown, again I can assure you we have a most respectable congregation.’ I said, ‘My dear brother, I say in all love, I think my Master cares far more for drunkards and harlots and outsiders being saved in this chapel than he cares about your red cushions and brass rails.’ The glory of a place of worship, after all, is just this–the ingathering of the outcasts to Jesus Christ.
May we never forget what is most important, not a nice building (though we are thankful for DECC), nor keeping up appearances, but that we are all sinners saved by grace and are called to welcome sinners in and point them to Christ the Great Friend of Sinners. Will you join me in praying that God would draw into our church, broken and burdened sinners, and transform them by the power of the gospel.
Grace and peace,