June 11, 2017
To my people, a letter from your pastor;
Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, Deuteronomy 16:16.
From the Earliest history of God calling out a people unto himself, God has sought out special times where the people of God could leave their normal lives and seek time with God as a congregation. There can be no doubt that it cost a man to leave his herds and his livelihood to gather with the people of God in the place that God chose. The women were under no such commandment, but the historian Josephus describes the walls of Jerusalem being packed to the fullest at these gatherings as men women and children sought time with the people of God and with God himself.
Today the revival is like everything else in Christendom, it has been conformed to our standards. It has precise starting and ending times, it occupies us for an hour and a half for five nights a week. We hear a few specials sung. We hear a man preach his preformatted sermons. We go to the altar at a precise time and we leave it at a precise time. Three weeks later there is very little evidence that anything happened. The revival, our walk with God and our relationship with the people of God have all been compartmentalized to keep them from ever interfering with life itself.
In the 1950s and early 1960s, the area churches erected a tent in Olean and the people of God sanctified their time to that meeting. The Black Creek Baptist Church regularly had people who longed for that meeting all year and paid any personal price to attend. Like everything else of old, the meeting slowly petered out as churches became cold and preaching became diluted. During World War II, while many of the men folk were off to war this church held a meeting with a Black Evangelist in which many of our young ladies including Margret Botens found grace in Christ Jesus.
In the 1950s an ex-professional boxer by the name of Charlie Young held meetings here in which many were brought under conviction and saved. Dick Botens frequently told the story of staggering out of the house of God and leaning on a tree as he realized that he was damned and without Christ. His wife ran and got Elmer Francisco, the man of God who prayed with Dick on the living room sofa until Dick was secure in Christ.
We did not plan Youth Week. It sprang up without human forethought. There are only a handful of places left in the United States where the Spirit of God can isolate the people of God and have unfettered access to the people of God. Last year, two foreign pastors who were being escorted around the United States by their respective hosts; one pastor from Burma, the other from Venezuela, and neither ever having met the other, told me the same thing. Neither man knew that the other had said it, and neither man had known the other, but their observations were identical.
Each privately explained that for six months their hosts had been taking them to every gathering possible up and down the east coast. They had been introduced to both famous and humble ministries, but each privately observed that the only meeting that they had attended in the United States where the Spirit of God had complete liberty to change anything in an instant, and in which the moderator of the meeting had complete liberty under no constraint from a clock, was at Black Creek.
10 years ago, a very small cadre of earnest believers held this church and facility together. Each person took on multiple roles and prayed fervently for their church, but the steady departure of members that had started in the early 1970s and ran unabated for 30 years had brought the membership down to 11 people with an average age above 70. In my first couple of years here, it was almost impossible to get mature Christian families to attend. Instead the Spirit of God brought in the wounded and the broken. I remember John and Sharron Vattes explaining to me that they didn’t feel right about taking any position in a church because their sons had wrought such heartache. I remember telling them that they were exactly what I needed, a couple who had suffered unspeakable hurt and disappointment from their children, who nevertheless held fast to things of God. How I thank God that they threw themselves into this work!
In my early years here, the core of those brought in from the world were those who had suffered the most from the world. One evangelist said in admiration, “This church is built from the splinters of people’s lives”. For women whose bodies had been savaged by sin, and for men who had lost all hope, and for children who had never known their homes to be a blessing until their parents came here, the idea of sanctifying a week unto God was no odd thing. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little, Luke 7:47.
Each year, Youth Week changes a little. New people come. Sometimes others drop out. I thank God that the blessings described by every generation of Christians in America from Colonial times until the 1960s, the “Special Meeting”, a camp meeting where entire families retreated to a place apart for a protracted time of preaching, fellowship and prayer, is alive at Black Creek. I thank God that our children will remember a time when they gathered together with their parents and where they witnessed their parents given over to a week for God.
I am convinced that if this ministry had been built on stable, working class families that we would never have the liberty that we have. Such families when introduced to what we do see little need for it. Then said he unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled, Luke 14:16-23.
We have two weeks until our guests arrive. This is the time to pray and fast if you must. In two weeks, Youth Week begins. Let the young people who camp here and who bunk at the church renew acquaintances. God bless the ladies who labor all week to keep us all fed. This is a holy time of unfettered preaching and exhortation in which both youth and adults come apart from the world to seek our God. Each year I see lasting fruit in people’s lives from this meeting. We are living something that every former generation testified as being essential to their walk with God, but is almost unknown by today’s Christians. It is no wonder that the church today is so powerless! Come, let us go out into the wilderness together and see what our God has for us.
Pastor John M Asquith Th.D.
Black Creek Baptist Church
Black Creek, NY 14714