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Stuart Briscoe’s Well Lived Life

posted by xscot mcknight

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.



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RJS

posted August 28, 2008 at 4:43 am


I’ve never been to Elmbrook — but the Briscoe’s son was in my class in college (decades ago now) and Jill and Stuart would each speak at chapel once a year or so when visiting. I skipped Chapel often as a student (no attendence was taken), but not those…they are in the very very small handful of chapels and speakers I still remember.



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Woody Anderson

posted August 28, 2008 at 9:01 am


As an evangelical kid growing up in the Milwaukee area, I can say how profound the Briscoes’s influence has been. When he came to Elmbrook, the evangelical churches in the area were for the most part stridently fundamentalist, and Stuart and Jill were a breath of fresh air. No wonder that so many, especially younger people, started flocking to his church. That church was built, without a lot of bells and whistles and technique, largely on clear biblical preaching — theologically informed, practical, relevant, and not reactionary. I regard him as a true hero in the faith.



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dan Wilt

posted August 28, 2008 at 9:21 am


Honesty in public communication is very challenging – we fear many things for noble and less-than-noble reasons.
Thank you for pointing us again toward the call to candor through highlighting Briscoe, Scott.



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Steph

posted August 28, 2008 at 10:17 am


I finished this book last week, and was delighted by all of it. As both a former Elmbrook staff member and a friend of the Briscoes, I had a particular interest in reading the book – you know how it is when you get to read something that mentions names and places you know, and how fun that is –that was the experience I was expecting, peppered with Stuart’s high view of scripture and great, GREAT stories.
The book not only exceeded my expectations, but, if possible, it increased the level of love and respect I have for Stuart and Jill, for many of the reasons you’ve mentioned already, Scot. Their model of ‘ministry family’ is significant, not only because they’ve done it so well, but, because like most families, they’ve encountered hard things along the way, and have continued in ministry with grace, dignity, and hope, never avoiding the questions and scrutiny along the way.
When I was working at Elmbrook, Stuart was at the height of his itinerant ministry, so he was often not present for staff gatherings. When he was, though, everyone around the table had reason to sit up and pay closer attention, because we were clearly gathered around one whose words had credence. I remember being a yet-unjaded 25-year-old ministry assistant, sitting around that table one Monday morning. Stuart was in the midst of a teaching series on Ephesians that was having a profound impact on my life. We had the opportunity, weekly, to reflect on the weekend services publicly, and I opened my mouth [probably something I did just a little too often as a 25 year old.. probably still do] to talk about the influence of the teaching of the Word and just simply couldn’t speak for weeping. It was a little embarrassing [lots of 40 year old alpha males in the room :)] but after the meeting Stuart sought me out, and warmly thanked me, prayed with and for me. That’s his way. When our church endured the profound tragedy of the suicide of our junior high pastor, he and Jill came home immediately, shepherded all of us through the trauma, and preached a funeral sermon that was appropriate, terribly sad, yet hopeful. He’s a masterful preacher.
Jill is a remarkably gifted speaker. [She's speaking at our church in Racine on Nov 17th - shameless plug for St. Michael's. :)] Her willingness to use the years at home with small children as a preparation for her public ministry has been a model for more young moms than I can count. When I was lamenting the changes in my own life season [home with 4 small kids] to her this past January, she said something along the lines of ‘this is just the Selah before your next Psalm… if you waste this opportunity to prepare, to do this part well, you won’t be ready for what comes next’…. she’s not afraid to name the crucible. And you should see her hold arenas full of 15,000 people in the palm of her hand. Gifted, gifted.
I’ll stop now. BUT, if you have the chance to find the recording/DVD from their anniversary celebration from about a month ago – their 50th wedding anniversary – you will hear Stuart give one of the most profound explanations of his egalitarian support of women in ministry that I’ve ever heard. It’s available somewhere at http://www.elmbrook.org.
Thanks, Scot, for this opportunity!
Steph



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Brian

posted August 28, 2008 at 12:13 pm


My wife and I do not know Stuart personally, but we likely would not have met without his presence at Elmbroook. It was an important place in my wife’s nurture, and we were married there.



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Jim Martin

posted August 28, 2008 at 2:36 pm


Scot–In the early 80′s, I spent a day with one of my mentor’s. I remember asking him what preachers I ought to be listening to. He gave me three or four names. One of those names was Stuart Briscoe. I listened to numerous sermons and was quite impressed. Later, I read various articles/Interviews in LEADERSHIP JOURNAL.
I am glad to know an autobiography is out. This ought to be worthwhile reading.



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Anonymous

posted August 28, 2008 at 5:59 pm


Friday Friendlies: Internet Finds « David Morgan’s Weblog

[...] A biography about an itinerant pastor that also sounds good [...]



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Andy Rowell

posted August 28, 2008 at 6:51 pm


Am I the first one to receive Christianity Today’s September 2008 issue with Scot McKnight on “McLaren Emerging?”



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Matias

posted August 29, 2008 at 5:36 am


Stuart and Jill have demonstrated a winsome, focused integrity in private and in public in my years crossing paths with them all over the world.
Stuart once preached a very pedantic, long-winded sermon on a Saturday evening at Elmbrook. Sensing that he had left his audience behind he stopped after about an hour and said, “this is a bit like eating a large piece of fish, just spit out the bones.”
Jill and Stuart represent for me people who have never lost sight of their having been born again and that ministry is about God’s word and people.



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sean

posted August 29, 2008 at 9:56 am


I grew up at elmbrook during the second half Stuart’s pastorate (my last year there before college was Stuart’s last year as senior pastor). At the time, I didn’t realize how fortunate I was to grow up under his and Jill’s influence. I feel that I was spared from many of the aspects of evangelicalism that make some of my friends bitter about their upbringing.
It was normal to see a woman in the pulpit. One of my favorite lines from Stuart (there are many) was “if it’s a sin to bury your own talents, how much more to bury someone else’s!”
Dispensational theology never came out of his mouth.
His serious Bible exposition (sometimes he would go almost a whole sermon using only illustrations provided by the text) encouraged a serious searching of scripture. I remember one sermon on Jude where he told us that it was problematic if we weren’t growing in the knowledge of God and of the Christian faith. My sense is that the briscoes formed in such a way that the only inexcusable thing in a sunday service was an insufficiently biblical or boring sermon.
Woody is right to say that it grew because of Stuart’s preaching ability. When I was a kid, often the services consisted of a few hymns from the hymnal with a prayer and 45 minute sermon.
Stuart is thoughtful and open. For example, he preached a sermon on Genesis that allowed people to take the bible seriously without believing in a six day creation.
Elmbrook didn’t have a flag in the sanctuary. Stuart once even reprimanded the congregation for brining petitions about a partial-birth abortion ban.
I no longer know what it would mean to call myself an evangelical Christian, but I look back fondly on my early formation (combined, of course, in Milwaukee with Lutheran catechesis). I still like listening to their sermons.
The Briscoes (and their immense trickle-down influence at Elmbrook, where they are still revered by many) helped steer my life into its current direction. I am grateful to them and for them.



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Steph

posted August 29, 2008 at 12:03 pm


well said, sean! :)



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John N

posted August 29, 2008 at 1:39 pm


I had the joy to sit under a tree in Holland eating ice cream and talking with Stuart one evening. He and Jill were the speakers at a conference that I was speaking at a workshop. He had been one of my “hero’s” both for his preaching and his writing. It was a fabulous evening. He is a very down to earth person, humble, funny and real. It was a highlight I will not forget.
Peace,
John



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don bryant

posted August 30, 2008 at 6:25 am


I remember Stuart Briscoe coming to my church when I was a high school student. My church was very much into the Keswick movment with its deep strains of inner life work. I can still feel 40 some years later the inspiration and deeply biblical piety. The years have led me into a more reformed view of sancitification, and I have become a bit more suspicious of the crisis oriented preaching of the deeper life movement with its “breakthrough” focus. But its warmth and vigor in the ministry of Briscoe is the deeper life movement at its best.



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Paul Wilkinson

posted September 1, 2008 at 2:54 pm


Okay guys, enough talk; let’s get some of Stuart’s classic books back in print. I just finished reading all of The Sermon on the Mount, The Ten Commandments and The Fruit of the Spirit OUT LOUD to my teenaged sons. Great stuff. Solid scripture. And out-of print, why?



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Anonymous

posted September 3, 2008 at 8:13 pm


Linkathon Extra 9/3 at Phoenix Preacher

[...] Scot McKnight on Stuart Briscoe. [...]



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Mike Mangold

posted September 6, 2008 at 10:59 pm


Scot: Elmbrook Church, services Saturday 5pm, Sunday 8am, 9:30am, and 11am. Per Mapquest, Libertyville to Brookfield, Total Estimated Time: 1 hour 20 minutes Total Estimated Distance: 66.52 miles.



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