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Encouragement from the Bern Synod of 1532

July 4, 2013

Let’s face it, when it comes to church life, it is easy to get caught up in the numbers, even if we know better.  We get excited when we see a crowd in church and discouraged when there is only a small number at a given service.  Our forefathers in the faith experienced the same thing, and the Acts of the Bern Synod of 1532 serve as a helpful reminder that God’s work with an individual or with small number of people is greatly important and worthy of our investment:

Our gracious lords decreed in the Reformation that each minister should preach on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  We have sometimes excused ourselves on the ground that we cannot obtain hearers.  But it will be deemed good that each endeavor as much as possible to observe the aforesaid preaching days, even if there are no more than one or two hearers.  The Lord was not annoyed to speak with a single Samaritan woman at the fountain.  How should it be an annoyance to a servant of Christ to speak for the glory of His Lord, even to the least important person on earth?  God is no respecter of persons, and a believing soul is more precious to Him than all the world.  This speaking on work days might be done not from the pulpit, but below, and might adopt the simplest manner possible.  That we are so ready to leave off, demonstrates how very little the glory of God is consequence to us, or that we have more regard for the great multitude than for the little band and the upright hearts which it should ever be our concern to help.  At the same time, there are many brothers who are glad to preach on all the days.  We praise their diligence, for it is a sign of an excellent zeal.

– Acts of the Synod of Bern, Chapter 41, translated by R. Sherman Isbell, in Reformed Confessions of the 16th and 17th Centuries in English Translation, Vol. 1, 1523-1552, compiled with introductions by James T. Dennison, Jr., (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 272.

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