In my personal reading, I’ve found a few thoughts I wish to share with you:
1. The church needs to be among society.
Alexander Campbell: “That the church may have an influence upon society at large, there is wanting a fuller display of Christian philanthropy… care for the poor… the expression of the most unfeigned sympathy for the distresses of mankind, not only among the brotherhood, but among all men… an ardent zeal for the conversion of sinners. The full display of these attributes is the most effective means of causing to sound abroad, and to achieve new conquests among our fellow citizens.” (The Christian System, page 254).
Flavil R. Yeakley Jr.: “Someone once said that the way to build a strong church is to find the hurt in a community and heal it. The source of all the hurt, of course is man’s alienation from God. But many people are not interested in being saved. They do not even know that they are lost. However, they do know other hurts: alienation from other people, the break down of the husband-wife relationship, and the alienation of older people from society in general. We must start with people where they are in order to lead them where they ought to go” (1977, Harding Lectures, p. 262).
Folks, we need to be out in the world (John 17:15-16). We are to be the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16), the pillar and ground of truth (1 Timothy 3:15), holding forth the word of life (Philippians 2:16). We need to be looking for opportunities to let out lights shine.
2. Christians need to be involved in one another’s lives.
Flavil R. Yeakley Jr. cites a survey of new converts who fell away. He says, “What was counted… was the number of new friends the person had made in the church and the number of former non-Christian friends the person no longer counted as being close friends. The more changes a person had in his friendship pattern the more likely he was to remain a faithful convert. In this study, 100% of the people who had zero, one or two changes in friendship pattern dropped out… three changes 88% (dropped out); four changes 66% (dropped out); five changes 50%; six changes 11%. The drop out rate was zero for those who reported seven or more changes in their friendship patters.” (ibid, p. 349-350).
God’s people should be a part of each others lives (1 Thessalonians 5:14; Hebrews 3:13; Galatians 6:1-2; James 5:20). We should be provoking each other on to “love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). We should “greet the friends by name” (3 John 14).
An unknown writer has penned these words – “If this is not a place where tears are understood, where do I go to cry? / If this is not a place where my spirit can wing, where do I go to fly? / If this is not a place where my questions can be asked, where do I go to seek? / If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard, where do I go to speak? / If this is not a place where you will accept me as I am, where do I go to be me? / If this is not a place where I can try and fail and learn and grow, where can I be – just me?” ~ Jimmy Jividen, Koinonia, page 119. Fellowship in Christ is helpful to spiritual health. Love should richly flow through the assembly. “Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Corinthians 16:14). “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
3. All member should be included in the work.
Alexander Campbell: “Too long has it been considered the duty, the almost exclusive duty, of the preacher to convert the world… while (others) have only to look on and pray for his success… the work of the Lord will never progress… the regenerating influence of the church will amount to little or nothing – so long as it is thought to be not equally the duty of every member… All are called to labor for the Lord. I hold that every citizen in Christ’s kingdom is bound to take up arms for the King, as much as I am” (The Christian System, p. 254).
It is our duty to “proclaim the praises of Him who called (us) out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The early church “went everywhere preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). There comes a time when we each “ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12). It is unimaginable the results which would be achieved if every child of God took serious their responsiblity to proclaim and teach the Gospel. This is the key to realizing growth potential.
4. Our giving should be liberal.
V.P. Black wrote a book in 1969 entitled “My God and My Money.” In the book he gives figures from the year 1944 on how much Americans spent on this or that. He records that the sum total of all American giving (in all types of churches) to mission work amounted to only half what they spent on dog food each year. He wrote, “If this does not indicate that the people of America care twice as much for dogs as religious people care for the souls of those outside our own land, what does it prove?”(p. 57).
Again, he wrote, “Money is not filthy lucre. It is not the devil’s coin, it is stored up human power. It is so much of myself which I can keep at work furthering the purposes of my Lord through His church… My money is an indispensable factor in advancing the purpose of my God…” (p. 56)
Folks, let us always keep our treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:21). Let us keep our priorities in order (Matthew 6:33). What we spend our money on may indicate what it is we truly value
Also remember in the work at hand, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6). How much are we investing into reaching souls?
5. Money is no substitution for work.
Jerry Jones: “We cannot reach the world with dollars (alone) but with people” (1982 Harding Lectures, p. 58). Sometimes people use their giving to excuse themselves from true involvement.
It takes both. Paul said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). The love of Christ should constrain us (2 Corinthians 5:14), also the terror of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:11).
6. We need to put into practice what we know.
Carl Mitchell said, “I know of a brother that was asked for the third time to teach a personal evangelism course in the local church. The first evening he went to class and saw the same people who had been there in the prior classes he had taught, so he dismissed the class saying he refused to teach the same people the same thing for the third time! The did not need another class on personal evangelism! The needed to do what they already knew how to do!… When we cooperate with the effort to turn the church inward, we join the force of him who opposes it being turned outward” (ibid, p. 119).
Let us be “doers of the word and not hearers only” (James 1:22). “Lead me to some soul today/ O teach me Lord just what to say/ Friends of mine are lost in sin/ And cannot find their way/ Few there are who seem to care/ And few there are who pray/ Melt my heart and fill my life/ Give me one soul today (song: Lead Me to Some Soul Today by Wendell P. Loveless). How long has it been since we taught another the Gospel?