Dr. Keith Shearer, pastor of New Beginnings Grace Brethren Church of Myerstown, PA, is the moderator of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches (FGBC) for the year 2005-2006. He delivered the annual Moderator’s Address on Wednesday night of the Equip05 conference in Winona Lake, IN, on August 3, 2005.
Dan Allan, the previous year’s moderator, had challenged the FGBC to get off the brink and seize the opportunities that God has placed before them. He was responding to his predecessor, John Teevan, who outlined ten initiatives that put the FGBC on the brink of opportunity. In this year’s address Shearer asked, “What’s keeping us from jumping, flying, getting off the brink of opportunity?”
The moderator’s assignment is to assess the state of the Fellowship. In doing so, Shearer had invited Grace Brethren people to describe how they viewed the current attitudes of the FGBC as they relate to the values espoused by the Fellowship. A sign hanging behind him outlined those values: Jesus–His Word, His Church, His Mission.
It begins, Shearer said, with Jesus, who is the center of who and what we are. We are a worshiping church, passionate to follow God. Our desire is to exalt Jesus as our highest value.
Regarding God’s Word, the Brethren have a strong commitment to biblical truth and integrity. We are passionate for His Word and its accuracy. We see the Bible as timeless truth, relevant to every culture and in every time period.
The local church is “the crown jewel” of the FGBC. Its emphasis is not on ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) but on biblical relationships, the experience of being family. We’re a family movement, he said, stressing relationship over organization. Shearer spoke about the importance of networking leadership, of empowering and encouraging emerging leaders and young pastors. He urged providing a safe environment, celebrating one another, and giving people the freedom to be authentic.
Shearer, who assumed his role as moderator at the conclusion of Equip05, summarized the FGBC understanding of the mission of the church as “not Missiology [the study of missions] but the Great Commission.” He said, “We must be intentional about mission with one vision though there may be many strategies.” He welcomed the renewed use of the term soul-winning and emphasized the need to pray and weep for the lost. The center of mission, he said, is the glory of God.
Shearer offered three concluding statements. First is the idea that we are not concerned only about orthodoxy in doctrine but equally about the expression of truth in living it out authentically in love.
Second, we need a Revelation 5:9 vision where Jesus is front and center and exalted by the worship of unnumbered multitudes from every tribe and nation.
Finally, pointing the conferees to next year’s Celebration 06 Conference, Shearer noted the theme, “Hearts on Fire; Igniting Biblical Fervor.”
His challenge was in the form of questions: “What keeps us from jumping off the brink of opportunity? What keeps us from the fire? What quenches the Holy Spirit?”
He implored the audience to consider those obstacles that keep Grace Brethren people, individually and as a Fellowship, from experiencing the fervor of the Spirit as we live out our values–following Jesus, honoring His Word, growing His church, and pursuing His mission.
Shearer has written a book, tentatively titled Childlike Faith and scheduled to appear early this fall, which will be used as a basis for all the Focus Retreats this year. Watch the BMH Books website at www.bmhbooks.com for availability.