The Limerick New Testament fellowship meet at Punches hotel on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. in a large function room. On my visit there were about a dozen or so adults in attendance and lots of children who streamed in and out of the main meeting as they attended ‘Sunday School’ in a different room.
The meeting commenced with a welcome and introduction from the pulpit by one of the leaders, after which the ‘worship’ took on the familiar format of communal singing, the words of the songs projected onto a screen at the front of the room. The hymns were old favourites like ‘I will Enter His Gates With Thanksgiving…’ and some new ones that I, at least had not heard before. The songs were on the meatier side of the Christian spectrum with meaningful lyrics and not the modern trend of inane choruses repeated over and over. The singing was interrupted by occasional prayer and the reading of selections of Scripture, one lady prayed powerfully in appreciation of Jesus’ love and protection over her life. After about an hour the bread and wine were shared , unusually people had to go to the top of the room to take the little glass of wine and a piece of bread. After the offering collection the fellowship announcements were made and the last hour was taken up with a message from the pulpit.
The overriding impression I got of this small group is one of absolute commitment and patent sincerity and an obvious desire to see God move in this area. Their emphasis is hugely on evangelism and personal holiness as prerequisites to Revival. The great Scottish revivalist Duncan Campbell was quoted a couple of times in conjunction with the exhortation in Psalm 24... Who may ascend the hill of the LORD ? Who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God his Saviour. This group really are serious about seeking God and devote a half night of prayer to the task on a regular basis. The closing message was a stirring call to ‘sincerity before God’ by believers, and a reminder that we are to be subject to the truth of Gods Word and not replace its authority with our own conceits or entertainments, such as teaching the gift of ‘tongues’ by imitation as distinct from receiving it supernaturally from the Holy Spirit. These Pentecostals seem to me to be like a cross between the old Puritans and Calvinists with lots of seasoning by the Holy Ghost.
The positives that I observed in my brief encounter with Limerick New Testament Church were their patent sincerity and zeal, their carefulness in applying the Word of God to their lives, their passion for evangelism and the fact that the leader (or one of them) is an Irishman. My last positive probably needs some explanation for those readers outside of Ireland, a number of Christian fellowships do not have many local people in leadership roles in this country. For too long we have embraced a hybrid Anglo-American structure to Christian groups which the majority of Irish people still find quite alien.
On the negative side it was still sad to see the ‘men in suits’ in charge as this seems to me to be aping the worldly uniform of ‘hierarchy’ a la businessmen etc,. Also it never ceases to amaze me that a simple thing like the seating formation at a meeting can be so out of kilter with the New Testament teaching on the priesthood of all believers. This fellowship, like the majority of others in the city has the chairs facing the pulpit at the front of the room in a traditional meeting format, rather than a circular arrangement which facilitates the unity and equality of believers both in the practise of contributing at a meeting and in the symbolic representation of our position together before God. I remember some years ago visiting a group in Ennis where the ‘radical’ brother through whom I got saved was a leader, and being horrified at the ‘suits’ and ‘chairs’ which just imitated the other nominal churches that he had once so fearlessly railed against. The only groups that I know of who consistently meet in circular formation are the Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Brethren. My other tiny gripe is the overhead projector which becomes the focal point for all the meeting and literally takes ones eyes off the Lord, I know hymn books can be awkward but I think they are far less intrusive than the big screen.
I hope to return to this meeting as the preaching there was exceptional and these people clearly mean business with God. The challenge of the Word shared remains with me and has caused me to reflect deeply in my own heart.
The LNTC website is http://lntchurch.com/