Saving the World But Losing the Church
Connie W. Adams
The increased zeal of churches generally for reaching the lost is certainly to be commended. Congregations of the Lord's people who have no compassion for the lost and who are content to "keep house" with a few scattered services and a gospel meeting now and then, but have no real program of work to convert the sinner, will die on the vine. The spirit of evangelism was a distinguishing mark of the early church. With limited facilities they accomplished within forty years of the day of Pentecost the momentous task of evangelizing the world. There have been various periods of interest along this line in the history of God's people in this country, the most re- cent being that which commenced at the end of World War II. In many instances we have had zeal without knowledge. It is the conviction of this writer that evangelistic efforts in some cases have made us guilty of trying to save the world while losing the church.
The elaborate schemes of some of the larger sponsoring churches to send men to build hospitals, schools and establish "missions" have resulted in nullifying and claim to return to the Bible for authority. When a man goes into a field to preach and is supported by a centralized arrangement unknown to the New Testament, he is hindered from the start in getting people to "speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where it is silent." When he plunges the church into every conceivable kind of enterprise not taught in the Bible, while preaching "back to Jerusalem" his claim is inconsistent.
When brethren countenance and use false teachers in their efforts to build up the kingdom of God, they are trying to save the world while losing the church. Every generation has had its share of heretics, ranging from Hymenaeus and Philetus in the Bible to Don Carlos Janes, R. H. Boll, Carl Ketcherside and others of more recent vintage. There are preachers who do not believe that instrumental music is wrong who are being used freely in meeting work among the churches who profess to be "on the march." And now arises the specter of teachers in some of the colleges who believe evolution can be harmonized with the Bible. When men of this kind are allowed to occupy the pulpit and are respected by those who use them we are losing the church while trying to save the world.
The increase of worldliness among the professed saints of God nullifies our efforts to reach the lost. They cannot hear what we say because the conduct of members has caused them to lose respect for the church. Cheating, lying, drinking, dancing, foul language, immorality, immodesty and such like hinder the progress of the gospel.
There is a growing attitude of softness and tolerance for error. Preachers who use "great plainness of speech" are unwelcome in many pulpits. To call the names of false religious systems and point out their error is unpardonable in the estimation of some. Pleasant little talks with moral overtones, or sensational subjects have hypnotized many. The church can be no stronger than the kind of preaching it receives. The cries for twenty-minute sermonettes filled with poetry and human wisdom and the criticism for men who "quote too much scripture" are symptoms of losing the church. The mania for "Doctors," college presidents' and world travelers to fill the pulpit in preference to an ordinary man of God who knows the Bible and is not ashamed to preach it is another straw in the wind. In recent years over the country several preachers have joined the sectarians in Easter and Christmas programs. Thus they have descended to the "plain of ONO" seeking the approval of false teachers.
We are losing the church when we concentrate only on baptizing folks only to leave them as babes in Christ without going to work to edify them. The teaching program of many congregations is inadequate. Teachers are selected who are untaught or else unconverted. Materials are chosen sometimes without due consideration. All of this weakens the church and sets it back in trying to win the lost.
While we are lifting our eyes to the fields white unto harvest, let us not neglect the building up of the church, for we might be trying to save the world while losing the church.
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 4, pp. 16-17 January 1966