One thing I regret about our decades long life in Chicagoland is that we did not more often get up to Elmbrook Church to listen to Stuart Briscoe’s sermons, for surely he has been one of our generation’s most capable and exemplary preachers. But, I’m glad to recommend to you his new autobiography: Flowing Streams: Journeys of a Life Well Lived.
I’m wondering if there are some Briscoe listeners out there who would like to speak up for his impact in your life or some memorable events you recall from his ministry in Elmbrook Wisconsin.
The book struck me in a few ways:
Piety: Briscoe came from a pious family — Plymouth Brethren in fact — and he came to faith in a place he called The Tin Church in northern England. Throughout this book these pietistic streams continued to refresh his life. His early connections in leadership were with Capenwray in England, and this part of the story made me aware again of the impact of Christian institutions — and made me aware again of the many who have influenced the Church who did not go through the “standard” process.
Candor: Briscoe has always been a preacher who speaks his mind and who does not play the party line. One of my memories of his preaching was when he spoke about Jonah and said that all this talk about proving how long a human could last inside a whale was a waste of time. Instead of talking about Jonah’s whale, he said, we need to talk about Jonah’s God — and he did and the sermon was both worshipful and instructive.
Jill and the family: if we remember his candor, we will appreciate all the more how he speaks about his constant travels and the stress this put on his wife, Jill, a leader in the church as well. And the stress on his kids, one of whom was a student of mine at one time. And he doesn’t offer any kind of theories and formulas for resolving the tension for ministers who travel — he speaks of how they struggled and of the stress and of how over time they worked this out.
Evangelism: Briscoe was/is an evangelist. He tells numerous stories of speaking and of God’s Spirit at work and of folks coming to faith.
Bible: This book often weaves in texts and probably some sermonic memories, but they are not forced and they are not cheezy.
Natural: This book is Briscoe’s story, and in that story he opens up things he has learned and wisdom he has for young pastors today. It is not a didactic book that says “I’ve been there, listen up.” It’s more: “Here’s my story and this is what I have learned.”
Elmbrook: Often he mentions Elmbrook Church, but not at all too often. We meet Mel Lawrenz, the senior teaching pastor now (and whose book we have mentioned here), and others but Briscoe does not gain our attention by opening up private rooms and meetings.
This is a model example for pastors.