Will the church meet the challenge
by Diane Dew
Truly these are the last days, when Jesus said "the love of many will wax cold." It's especially sad when the church exhibits an indifference or lack of compassion, particularly toward its own.
An interesting discussion developed while some onliners shared some of the struggles they face with their church. Since none of us knew where the other attended, no destructive gossip took place, but an honest, open, insightful expression of concern for the condition of today's churches.
Simple tasks, for example -- like finding someone willing to "go the second mile" to pick up a new person, or trying to get a pastor to return a phone call -- seem to be ignored, while recruitment of new members seems to be an all-consuming effort. The challenging question arose: Why strive to increase membership, if those already within the fold are neglected, or if regular attendees are unwilling* to "die to self," to "bear one another's burdens," to be used of God to meet others' needs? Jesus said if we are faithful in what we have, then more will be given to us. Numbers may impress (some) -- "Man looks on the outward, but God looks on the heart" (of the hurting).
External ministries, like the music ministry, are often overemphasized -- while practical services (visiting widows, caring for the sick, feeding the poor) are either nonexistent or greatly neglected. At no time did Jesus say, "they shall know you by your MUSIC" or your fine building, etc. -- but "by your LOVE one for another"! Music may draw people initially, but it will not keep them coming. Superficials fade in the face of crisis, when people realize their needs aren't being met, they will move on. Ezekiel spoke of shepherds whose neglect of the sheep caused them to "wander from mountain to hill," from one location to another. They have not bound up their wounds, or fed the flock, the prophet declared, but fed themselves! (Ezek 34)
The church's primary focus should be to serve its own: "especially those of the household of faith." (Gal 6:10) Yet many exhaust their efforts striving to increase their numbers, all the while failing to minister to those already within the fold.
Jesus is coming back for a church "without spot or wrinkle." We can strive toward that. The first step toward improvement is recognizing the problem.
* Teaching obviously is lacking concerning what true meaning of the word "ministry": service, being a servant! Simply helping! Perhaps some teaching on selfishness, as a sign of the end-times (2 Timothy 3), would be in order. My goodness, the early church "had all things in common," and distributed "as every man had need"! (Acts 2:44, 45; 4:32) "..neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own..." (Acts 4:32) The result? "...the Lord added to the church daily." (Acts 2:47)