We who have received so much from our spiritual “fathers” are in grave danger of paying lip service to our heritage. We shouldn’t be surprised if, in days of self indulgence, evidence is widespread of falling attendances at gospel addresses and Bible classes, of a rising demand for committee members and Sunday School teachers and a significant decrease in hospitality. There are probably many other symptoms, but the pattern is disturbing. It is indicative of a later generation failing to appreciate the legacy handed down to them by their forefathers: a legacy of laying foundations of ecclesial service for others to build and expand upon. Examples abound in our ecclesial history of stalwart brethren and sisters and families who had strength of vision, a resolve to band together in home classes and gospel proclamation ventures and to advance the cause of Truth. We are truly indebted to them for most of what we enjoy today. Most of the ‘colour’ and ‘texture’ of the ecclesial fabric that we enjoy (and take for granted) has been painstakingly woven into the backdrop of our family and ecclesial lives. Today senior brethren and sisters bemoan the signs that “things are not what they used to be”. We are in danger of taking so much for granted and, being complacent, to let things slip into a state akin to that of Sardis who had a name and reputation, but were “dead”. To reverse the complacency and to revitalise the spirit of our ecclesias is often the topic on the agenda of arranging brethren’s meetings.

We cannot safely argue that the former days were better than these. Often earlier ecclesial growth and vitality was forged on the anvil of hard times. Our fathers faced military conscription, financial adversity and often labour intensive employment. The modern generation has more financial resources, more spare time and greater ecclesial numbers yet with more resources at our disposal we are hard pressed to replicate the dedicated drive of the previous generation.

The purpose of the articles “Remember the Days of Old” is not to eulogise the individuals of the former generation but rather to encourage us all to pick up the mantle of their pioneering spirit. The articles relate to specific activities and are by no means exclusive since there are many other examples in Australia and overseas that would serve the same purpose of reminding us of how indebted we are to our heritage. We have given a ‘thumbnail sketch’ of the early days in suburban Adelaide, of the excitement generated by the new venture known as “Bible Schools”, of the background to what we now gratefully know as the Unity Basis, and of the beginnings of Bethsalem as it moves into its new aged care facility. Moving further back into the past, we have also highlighted the intense love and devotion of Brother John Thomas to God’s saving Word as a salutary reminder of what is the core motivation to service. All of these articles are designed to be “goads” prompting us to look to our foundations with real appreciation and encouraging our resolve to advance the cause for which our spiritual “fathers” lived and died.

Unfortunately motivation towards a resurgence of ecclesial zeal doesn’t come by reflection alone. An exhortation to “strengthen the things which remain” can have a five minute retention rate. The real transforming effect comes by “picking up the mantle”, by individually or as families following in the footsteps of a previous generation. Many Scriptural commendations were given to sons or grandsons who elected to walk in the ways of their fathers. For those who have come in from “outside” the Faith, the example is still there, set by their teachers and older spiritual “fathers” in their ecclesias. Therefore let us revisit our roots and determine what it was that our fathers and mothers believed in and taught—by word and by example. It means making family Bible reading time a daily fixture. It means getting out our writings and reading with our Bibles at hand and marking in helpful notes and notes from our classes. It means taking all the family out for the leaflet distribution and ecclesial outings. It means extending our meal tables to include others—young and old in the household of faith. It means many and varied things, but the common factor is a faithful continuance in the things that our mentors believed in.

One essential feature in our ‘snapshot’ review of several activities is to remind ourselves that the hand of God has prospered the work. The brethren referred to in the articles were but God’s workmen serving valiantly and prayerfully for His glory, not for their own. They were not indispensable but God’s providence guided responsive hands to do a good work in our midst. It was also a “team” effort and many put their hands to the plough. It is true that the Word was ably taught and published, yet it is equally true that many leaflets were folded, many financial sacrifices were made, many contacts were brought to interested friends classes and much manual labour was employed week after week on Bible School sites, ecclesial halls and camp sites. Brethren and sisters of like mind and values blended together, cementing lifelong friendships that have stood the test of time and trials of faith.

Lest we give the impression that the signs are all negative, there are some examples of a “patient continuance in well doing” with strong ecclesial platforms and edifying class programs. There are several preaching efforts leading to the formation of new light-stands with the accompanying demand upon levels of commitment. There have been the innovative “Schools of the Prophets” held in many parts of Australia and overseas where young brethren can be excited in the delight of finding the gems that the glory of God has concealed. Bible Schools, Youth Conferences and Family Weeks still attract folk from near and far to thrill and rejoice in the company of others of like precious faith when the Word is magnified in their midst. Many families could no doubt relate to the exhortations given earnestly in their cars returning home from Bible Schools; parents and children encouraging each other to draw closer to the essential elements of family life in the Lord. And it is so often these family groups that show the clearest signs of fatigue from the demands of a materialistic world and are irregular in attendances. Yet, the danger is that the special events, as important as they are, remain ‘special’. The real test is to see the same zeal and mutual encouragement in the weekly routine of ecclesial life. The ‘big’ events always attract a lot of attention and rightly so, but the call, in these articles, is for us to serve Christ in our homes, in our ecclesias on a daily and weekly basis with a sense of long-term purpose that created so much of what we presently enjoy.

There is much to be done and the days are increasingly faith-destroying. We can apply the exhortation in the words, “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Heb 2:1). This can encourage us all to redouble our efforts to preserve and advance the Truth in these last days and to not let them slip or drift away from our grasp. It is a sobering thought to consider meeting our loved ones from the past assembled at the judgment seat and to picture their first earnest inquiry of us, “Have you kept the Faith? Did you pick up the mantle of ecclesial service?” How will we answer?