Various Thoughts on the Church
A Growing Church...
A growing church does not just happen. It is like a garden that must be planted, cultivated, watered and cared for. A growing church is the result of planning and working the plan. It is the result of good people’s reaching to others to bring them in. It is the result of careful concern for the word of God. It is the result of faithful, uncompromising preaching of that Word. If we want a growing church, we, too, must be as diligent as a farmer in his garden.
It was one of these "modern" churches of Christ, with recreation center, youth gymnasium, banquet room, and an inexhaustible program of picnics, youth rallies, ball games, and entertainments. But the Sunday attendance kept steadily declining. The elders and the preacher were much worried and put out a questionnaire to some of the most faithful of the saints who were becoming lax in their attendance, asking why they had ceased coming to church on Sundays. They found out! Many of the saints said they had conscientious scruples against going to places of entertainment and amusement on the Lord’s day.
Which reminds me of the old saying: "If you have to get members by feeding them chicken, ice cream, and iced tea, they will be as dead as the chicken, as cold as the ice cream, and as weak as the tea." I concur with this assessment. Physical recreation and entertainment are necessary parts of our lives, but they are no part of the mission and work of the church of our Lord. I don’t know the source of that quote, but it certainly is apropos. Let us always let the church be the church and keep secular activities in their place.
The Function of the Church
It seems that over and over again we must stress what the work of the church is. How often, indeed, do we see people with the idea that the church is a glorified country club designed to cater to the fleshly appetites of its membership. Are we thinking of pleasing the Lord or of pleasing ourselves? Are we after spiritual amenities or physical ones?
Just for the record, let us re-emphasize what the work of the congregation is.
1. Preaching the gospel to those lost in sin. This is, indeed, one of the fundamental reasons for the existence of the church. The church is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Let us never forget why the church is here.
2. Edifying those who are Christians. Once we have obeyed the gospel of Christ, there is the constant need for growth. This growth comes through being taught the word of God. This is one of the great purposes of the local church.
3. Aid to saints in distress. When some emergency situation comes upon fellow-Christians, we all sustain a responsibility to give aid and help to those in need. The local church itself may enter into such work.
Brethren, this is the purpose for which the church exists.
Church, Assembly, or Congregation
Some have been writing lately that the word "church" is really not a good translation of the word ekklesia. They say that we should use such terms as assembly or congregation. Do they realize that usage in a given language often determines what a word means? The word "church" has been used for centuries to refer to "an assembly of God’s people" or "a congregation." We have come to understand that when "church" is used, it refers to an assembly or a group of called-out people. True, some other words might be better, but, so far as I can see, it is not wrong to use the word "church" if we understand what the NT teaches about it. Of course, it is not used in a denominational sense, nor to refer to a building; but it does describe the people of God.
Are You a Regular or Part-time Attender?
We have a good number of members here who are regular attenders. They attend every service! And then we have some who are part-time attenders. Which are you? Now it follows that the regular attenders will get regular benefits from their efforts, and the part-time attenders will get part-time benefits. Some get only one-third of the benefit that others do. Some may get two-thirds and some may not even get one-tenth of the benefits possible. Can’t you see that you are the loser by your part-time action? In fact, you may be an eternal loser!
Now, we (the church) are not a police force and I (the preacher) am not a truant officer. It is my duty to warn you and to teach you what God says about slackers. But I will not camp out on your door-step to get you to come out for the benefit you can get nor will I try to pet people or coddle them to get them to attend. If the pure, positive preaching of God’s word will not cause you to love the Lord enough to sacrifice for Him and to put forth the extra effort to be regular, I know of nothing else that will. I have no bag of "gimmicks" to use; there is no flambouyancy or super-showmanship on my part. But if you sincerely want to live a godly life and go to Heaven, I honestly believe that I (the preacher) and we (the church) can be of genuine help to you. Think it over!