The Churches of God by G. H. Lang

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If you've ever wondered what the churches of the New Testament looked like - how they functioned, how they were governed, how they conducted their evangelistic and missionary enterprises, what ordinances they observed, what their liturgy consisted of, how decisions were made, how discipline was...


If you've ever wondered what the churches of the New Testament looked like - how they functioned, how they were governed, how they conducted their evangelistic and missionary enterprises, what ordinances they observed, what their liturgy consisted of, how decisions were made, how discipline was administered; if you've ever wondered how far modern churches have drifted from the New Testament pattern; if you've ever wondered what it would take for your church, and others like it, to return to the New Testament model, or if such a thing is even possible or desirable - then this book is for you!

G. H. Lang's ability to elucidate Biblical truth was never more evident than in this small treatise on the constitution, government, discipline and ministry of the church of God. His gifts as a diligent Bible student, expositor, and precise thinker, together with his many years of experience as an itinerant Bible teacher in many different countries and cultural settings, all combine to make this a go-to reference on many issues relating to the local church.

Read Sample: Chapter 9: Ministry and Oversight

About the Author

G. H. Lang (1874-1958) was a gifted Bible teacher and prolific author who in his early life was associated with the “exclusive” branch of the Plymouth Brethren but later affiliated himself with the Open Brethren. He traveled widely as an itinerant Bible teacher, depending solely on God for his support. Although Mr. Lang himself was a prolific author, it was his belief that “no man should write a book until he is 40. He needs to prove his theories in practice before publishing.” In his own case, all but nine of his many books were written after he was 50. Kingsley Press has recently re-published Lang’s amazing autobiography, An Ordered Life. 


G. H. Lang


An excellent book. A wonderful book. A book thoroughly disregarded by virtually all the churches of God including the Open Brethren churches.

On page 96 Mr. Lang wrote, "The post-apostolic church quickly departed from this pattern (i.e., of the Spirit's sovereignty over the church meeting). It has been seen and adopted only occasionally throughout the centuries, notably in seasons of powerful revival. A hundred and thirty years ago it was rediscovered by the first Brethren, followed for a while with almost apostolic blessedness, and has been, and is being very considerably forsaken, with great spiritual loss. The spiritual energy which accompanied Brethren in their first years is little appreciated today.” Presumably he means it is little appreciated in the Brethren churches today. The book, originally published in 1929, was revised shortly before the author’s death in 1958. I note this for historical context.

In other words Mr. Lang views the history of the Open Brethren as rather a microcosm of church history. Why the reversion to so many of the trappings of clerisy (clericalism), things so antithetical to the Spirit’s sovereign guidance of church meetings? Is it not due to our fleshly desire to formalize and “order” things which can be neither formalized nor ordered without doing despite to the Spirit of God? Is it not due to our natural inclination to walk by sight and not faith, to have men–not God–lead us in our assemblies? (Elder rule is not in opposition to the Spirit’s leading but facilitates it, not in “leading the meeting” but in keeping order and correcting and rebuking false teaching.)

Long before Mr. Lang penned his book, Brethren meetings were reverting. He wrote on page 156, “…the New Testament knows nothing of one gathering of saints being of a different order or rank to another. The ‘breaking of bread’ has its own peculiar and choice blessedness, but it is not more sacred than a gathering for prayer or ministry. It is the altar that sanctifies the gift, the temple the gold, and the Indweller the temple (Matt. 23:16-22). Who does not see that it is the Presence of God, not the bread and the cup on the table, that makes the assembly sacred? Therefore conduct permissible in that Presence in one meeting of saints is permissible in any other meeting…”

Then he writes, “Indeed, the apostolic believers do not appear to have met at this hour for breaking bread alone, at that for preaching the gospel, at another on Monday for prayer, and on yet another day for Bible teaching. Whenever they met in general assembly (i.e., as the church) it was to wait in the promised presence of the Lord, subject always to the direction of His Spirit as to what should occupy the time on each occasion.”

So why the widespread distinction in the Open Brethren churches between the breaking of bread meeting and other teaching meetings? This is an adaptation to clericalism and away from the Spirit’s guidance of the meeting.

Mr. Lang concludes this topic, “Hence the notion that at any meeting only this or that exercise is permissible–only the breaking of bread now, only prayer at another time, and so on–is not Scriptural, and really involves a dictating to the Lord the Spirit Himself as to what He shall or shall not incite on each occasion.”

I found particularly edifying his chapter entitled “The Public Ministry of Women,” where he notes, among other things, that in I Corinthians 11 Paul assumes women are praying in the churches, and that men are praying as well. Also the author devotes substantial space to prophesying, another ministry open to women in the meetings. He contrasts teaching with prophesying thusly, “The difference between prophesying and teaching is simple and uniform. The prophet spoke by immediate impulse of the Spirit, without premeditation or preparation for that particular occasion, whereas the teacher pondered the divine oracles, the Word of God, and delivered to the people the fruit of his meditations thereon.” This prophesying is not new revelation from God but out of the revealed Word. Space does not allow for overcoming all predicted objections to “prophesying subsequent to completion of the NT canon.” Suffice to say you need to read the book. As things stand the churches almost universally despise prophesyings, and against this the church at Thessalonica was warned by Paul.

I believe G.L Lang was the last of the giants in the Open Brethren churches, following in the path of Anthony Norris Groves, George Müller, Henry Craik, Robert Chapman, James Wright, and E.H. Broadbent. While I cannot agree with his view of reception of the Spirit, nor parts of his eschatology, these are secondary things, things I fully agree with him should never divide us. Furthermore, my opinion that he errs on these few things (we all err in many ways) does not diminish my admiration for a man who in this book has taught me much. In his doctrine of the church he does not err.
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