By Lloyd H. Beard
Many have heard the story about the two elderly ladies listening to a sermon on worldliness. They were nodding in approval and saying “Amen,” until the preacher mentioned smoking, drinking and chewing tobacco. “Now you’ve stopped preaching and started meddling,” was their response. As various liquids have different temperatures at which they boil, many individuals and congregations have “Different Meddling Points.”
In certain congregations, some topics are taboo, the evangelist having been warned to steer clear of these. Some evangelists have “read the writing on the wall,” and avoided such areas in deference to their position and salary. We would like to think this does not occur, but in too many places it is the real situation. One Sunday, after a very needed sermon, I was called into a back room “elders’ meeting” and told that my sermon was “untimely.” Brethren, how many years have to pass before the truth becomes timely? What ever happened to the noble attitude of the Bereans (Acts 17:11) or the fine preaching of Paul that “did not shrink from declaring the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27)?
There is abundant evidence that some congregations are doing little if nothing about worldliness, immorality, and faithlessness among their members. The statement was once made, “We don’t believe in discipline.” This is a sad commentary on some elders. Other congregations have gone for years with no disciplinary action of any kind. Brethren, human nature will not allow such a perfect record. Some congregations are making, to their credit, the attempt to reach “the lost among their members.” Are we allowing a good portion of our congregations to be ill-informed, weak, and rendering haphazard service to God? If so, we may be setting the stage for a future apostasy.
One subject often termed as of “little importance,” is that of attendance. Surprisingly some have actually defended those who are not faithful in this. In 1 John 1:5-7, we are told that fellowship with God and with other Christians depends upon “walking in the light.” Is nonattendance “walking in the light”? Paul stated, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough” (1 Cor. 5:6). We might debate about how much is “little.” Any house-wife can tell you that any amount will start spreading.
Some may well worry about a reduced membership lessening the amount of work a congregation can take on. However, does it make sense to sacrifice the souls at home for those not yet converted? Smaller congregations have the same problem with a slightly different twist. Brethren we have directed the charge at institutional churches, and rightly so, that they are too concerned with numbers. Perhaps a bit of that has “leavened” into our thinking also, Many churches give the appearance that the only error they oppose is the institutional question. Perhaps we are all guilty, to some degree, of emphasizing one important matter to the exclusion of others equally as important in a different area. A very excellent point, that is well taken, concerns emphasizing one area as if to trade that for justification. Justification comes from obedience in every area of service to God. James 2:10 records, “For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” He sins against the Law-giver, whether in violation of one or of many.
Brethren, how long shall we continue sweeping dust under the rug before we begin to stumble over the resulting lump. Some of the strife in congregations is a direct result of not facing up to and solving our problems. Heb. 12:11-13 states, “All discipline seems for the moment to be sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint; but rather be healed.”
Truth Magazine XXII: 28, pp. 454-455
July 20, 1978