|Volume 19 Number 11 November 2017||
How often we have heard the statement from a brother in Christ, “The church isn’t doing anything”? It is true that we often fail in fulfilling the many obligations that God has given to us. Yet, there are some pertinent observations that need to be made relative to such a broad statement.
First of all, we could say that the brother who makes such an accusation has taken to himself some of the attributes that are considered belonging only to God. In Psalms 139, we learn that God is omnipresent and omniscient. Thus, for a brother to be absolutely correct in saying that “The church isn’t doing anything,” he would have to possess all the knowledge of what all the brethren may or may not be doing. Otherwise, where he could not be and what he could not know, some brethren could be doing some work for the Lord. It is humanly impossible for a mortal man to have a complete knowledge of every good deed done by Christians.
One may not know of a marriage saved because an elder or a preacher counseled a husband and a wife privately. Few may be aware of activities by fellow Christians, such as, a letter of encouragement written to a friend, a family providing transportation to worship for an elderly person, a sister caring for a loved one who is an invalid, members visiting those who are shut-ins or sick, a young person carrying a gift to an aged Christian, another young person reading the Bible for one whose eye sight is dimmed, a concerned Christian providing food for indigent parents, a member of the church contributing money for the care of orphans or to the support of a Christian school, a mother teaching her daughter how to become a good homemaker, a Christian encouraging a brother who has become weak in the faith or a father instructing his son in the way of the Lord.
These, too, are not widely known Christian deeds: parents providing opportunities for a Christian education for their children in the home, in a Christian school and the Bible class at the local congregation. Christians may serve in a number of ways, like: teenagers standing firm on their convictions not to engage in acts of worldliness or prayers to God in secret for the spiritual welfare of loved ones, friends and brethren. Other Christians might engage in quiet meditation on the grace of God and His Word. The faithful attendance by brethren to the various periods of Bible study and worship also is praiseworthy. How many people know about the teaching of the Bible to seekers of truth in the privacy of their homes and countless other acts of love and loyalty performed by faithful brothers and sisters in Christ?
Second, the brother who says that the church is not doing anything may, in fact, be projecting his own lack of involvement in the work of the Lord. William Thackeray, an English novelist, wrote, “The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own.” This is so often true with the critic who beholds the church as being complacent and inactive. The truth of the matter is that the brother who is complaining seldom responds to the various work programs and periods of fellowship afforded by an eldership. On the other hand, inquire of the brother or sister who participates in the suggested areas of service and you will discover a more positive attitude. Jesus condemns the rash judgment of the church by such a hypercritical brother (Matthew 7:1-5).
Third, what the brother usually means when he says, “The church isn’t doing anything” is that the church collectively, in a highly organized manner is not doing anything. Most of our larger congregations are geared to organized machinery. Organized work programs can be productive and expedient in a congregation. However, organization for organization’s sake is worthless. This is not to say that some amount of organization should not be had in reference to general visitation and personal evangelism. What we must understand is that each Christian is a living stone and a priest in the house (family) of God (1 Peter 2:5). This means that a member does not have to be told when and what to do for the Lord. Furthermore, when individual Christians are faithful and active, so is the church collectively.
The Christian life is practical in every respect and consists of living and doing for others (Matthew 25:31-46). Since the Christian is not to shine his light but rather to radiate a glow by one’s life of service, many deeds will go unheeded by the majority of people (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus also taught that when a disciple does a charitable deed in secret that God will bless him (Matthew 6:4). The Book of Hebrews informs us that “God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).
Fourth, we need to cease from comparing one congregation with another congregation. It is common to assume that a congregation is very active when visited one time. A visitor to the church where you attend may be highly impressed with the activities taking place at that particular time. It is often the case that a congregation located near a college campus or in a metropolis has more people from which to draw and more opportunities for service. On the other hand, there are small rural congregations that do more, percentage wise, than larger churches in mission work. One congregation should not be condemned for another congregation’s achievement. Each congregation has a distinct personality of its own and varied opportunities to serve others (Galatians 6:10). Zeal is contagious. When we work, it inspires others to do the same. When we are busy, we will have the feeling that the church is active.
God created mankind with a love for music. The first reference given regarding music is Genesis 4:21 (NKJV) where Jubal is noted as the father of all who handle the harp and the flute. People love to be entertained by music. Song writers tell stories and fables through song. People can listen and fantasize about being in the story, yet, the listeners never have to actually live out what the songs say.
God sent numerous prophets to Israel. Through them God attempted to get the Israelites to come back to Him. He loved them and wanted them to be saved. He strongly desired to be in the proper covenant relationship with them.
Sometimes, the Israelites would not listen at all to what a prophet said. At other times, they would listen intently and repent. Still other times, they would listen closely but not repent. Ezekiel 33: 31-32 reads:
So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.
The Israelites listened to Ezekiel and thought that his speeches and sermons were interesting. They took pleasure in listening to him, but they had no intention of living the way Ezekiel said they needed to live. They had no interest in obeying God. There are people today just like that. They attend worship services. They enjoy hearing the preacher, but when they leave the assembly, they have no intention of living the way God wants them to live. They will even commend those who are preaching. They will smile and say they really enjoyed the message, but they love the world more than they love God (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15).
Study your Bible and learn what God wants you to do. Then, obey Him. If any of this is hard to understand, ask an adult to help you.