Basics of preaching.

In my 20+ years of experience in the open assemblies in the United States, typically there are only three explicit prerequisites for preaching:

  1. Being a Christian
  2. Being a man
  3. Having the spiritual gift of teaching

Formal study in a seminary setting is often discouraged, or at the very least looked upon with skepticism. The idea is that any man under guidance of his local assembly, through the indwelling Holy Spirit and regular study of the Bible, is capable of preaching God’s Word to the congregation if he is deemed to posses the spiritual gift of teaching.

This is not to say that assembly preachers never receive any training at all. Typically, training will come from the elders or a mentor in the assemblies who is also a preacher. With a lack of emphasis on formal biblical study, however, it is not unusual for training to start at a very young age. Boys as young as 8, in my experience, have been given the opportunity to give short sermons or testimonies as a way for them to gain experience. So in the assemblies, an 8 year old boy is more eligible to preach than a grown educated woman.

There are leadership workshops and conferences for training as well, like the Shepherding Conference at Greenwood Hills or the Rise Up conferences. There is one assembly Christian college that is seen as acceptable to attend for training (Emmaus Bible College), though any conservative Christian college is grudgingly acceptable.

There are also numerous books from assembly men teaching others how to preach. One favorite is A. P. Gibbs’ classic, The Preacher and His Preaching.

Preaching styles vary from preacher to preacher and even from message to message. There are topical studies, expository preaching, analytical studies, word studies, and various other approaches to scripture and application. Due to the low church nature of Plymouth Brethren (and my gender prohibiting me from being eligible to preach while I was in the movement), there are specific terms for these preaching styles that I’m simply unfamiliar with. The website Voices for Christ hosts probably the largest online database of Plymouth Brethren sermons.

Just as elders are not generally paid staff for the church, preachers are also not salaried and generally there are several men in an assembly who share the burden. Some preachers travel to other assemblies to preach as well, promoting community and ensuring that no one assembly is entirely insular. It’s not unusual for them to be given a love offering from the church.

Most preachers are not typically considered evangelists, however. While most assembly preachers focus on their congregation and a few local assemblies, evangelists are often commissioned from their home assembly to travel and preach regionally or even nationally. While many of them hold full-time secular employment, it’s also not unusual for an evangelist to rely on financial support from a group of assemblies or through the Plymouth Brethren group, Christian Missions in Many Lands.

I belong to me: learning agency & consent outside Christianity.

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Image courtesy of Death to the Stock Photo. Originally posted over at dani-kelley.com

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concepts of agency1 and autonomy, how necessary they are for a fulfilling life…and how impossible they are when consent is ignored. I’ve been realizing with a growing sense of anger and frustration that I had no grasp of those concepts as a Christian. Really, as I came to understand what basic respect, prioritizing consent, and honoring the autonomy of my fellow humanity looked like, I realized that Christianity as I knew it had no place for those things…and therefore had no place for me.

Don’t get me wrong. There were many things that played into my deconversion — this wasn’t the only thing. But it was certainly an eye-opening discovery.

You see, I grew up with the knowledge that I wasn’t my own person. Oh, no. I belonged to many people.

I belonged to God, because He made me.2 In fact, I belonged to Him even more because He saved me and I was a Christian.3

I belonged to my parents (who thankfully were good, wonderful, trustworthy parents who loved me with all their hearts and took great care of me). But in my culture, I belonged to them and was expected to forfeit my autonomy in favor of submission to their authority in my lives, up until the moment my dad gave me away to my spouse on my wedding day.4

I belonged to my husband,5 whether I was currently married to him or not.6 What I wanted or needed, physically or emotionally, was irrelevant, because my purpose was to serve him.

It never occurred to me to investigate this claim that I didn’t belong to myself. Continue reading

Notable Brethren: Scott Blair, former elder at Southeast Bible Chapel & former manager of Greenwood Hills Bible Camp, pleads guilty to sex crimes against children.

Content note: childhood sexual assault and brief descriptions of said assaults.

I’m so very grateful that Southeast Bible Chapel cut ties with him when he was discovered. That gives me hope.

My thoughts go out to his victims and his family. I wish for peace and healing, as best as is possible.


A former Springfield church elder is accused of sex crimes against two children. Prosecutors charged 59-year-old Scott Blair with seven felonies including child molestation and statutory sodomy.

Prosecutors said for almost a decade, Scott Blair preyed on young family members. Investigators said both of his victims were under the age of 10.

“Our office takes an aggressive stance against child abuse cases and sexual abuse cases and whenever we can corroborate a child’s account, we’ll file a charge,” explained Greene County Prosecutor Dan Patterson. “The children in this case are known to the offender which is often the common scenario.”

According to court documents, Blair inappropriately touched one girl several times at his Springfield house. She told investigators the abuse occurred when she was between the ages of six and eight years old. The victim, who is now a teenager, said Blair had also kissed her with his mouth open. The girl said the abuse stopped after she turned nine.

The second victim told investigators Blair did similar things to her within the past year. She also was between the ages of six and eight.

“What that indicates, as is often the case, many times offenders have a preference for an age group that they prey upon,” said Patterson.

Blair used to be one of the elders of the Southeast Bible Chapel. After members found out about the allegations, they cut ties with the man they once considered a leader.

In court documents, investigators wrote Blair admitted to inappropriately touching the children. When detectives asked him if there were other victims or other instances of similar behavior, Blair described an event with another family member when he was 11-years-old.

Although charges are filed, prosecutors said this is only the beginning of a long process. Wednesday, Blair posted a $25,000 bond. Thursday, he is scheduled to be booked, have his mug shot taken, and then released from the Greene County Jail.

For the victims, the process of healing, may take a lifetime.

“Oftentimes this plagues a person,” said Patterson. “And troubles them throughout their adult life.”

If convicted on all seven counts, Scott Blair could be sentenced to life in prison.

Source, February 6, 2013

He plead guilty October of the same year.

A Springfield man pleaded guilty Tuesday to sexually abusing two young girls.

Source, October 23, 2013