What is It All About?
"I suppose you wonder why I don't go to your church. Why should I? I've got it pretty good-nice job, wife, and kids, and we're crazy about one another. We live in a good country and we have lots of friends. And look at the times we live in too, with all the benefits of medical and productive science. If we'll only use our heads and play it right, we'll soon have a way of life that will make religion and the church unnecessary."
"You know, preacher, I don't understand why you're in this church business anyway. It would seem to me that you could get into something more alive and tied in with the real concerns of living. For the life of me, I don't see the point of what you're doing. Look at my wife who is one of your best members! She attends all these meetings, three times a week like clockwork. Twice a year you have week-long meetings. All the time she is baking and taking food to people, visiting old people who are senile in the old folks home . . . and for what? Everybody rushing from one thing to another as if the devil were after them. That personal work meeting you had last month-my wife comes home on Friday exhausted and says, `I don't know why I do it.' The other evening I said, `Well, why do you do it?' And she couldn't say a thing! She didn't know!"
"Sometimes she comes home all freshly steamed up with a new idea or program to make more members for your church. I guess you have to get up a new show now and then to whip up the enthusiasm or reserves of your exhausted faithful."
"One of my pet peeves about your enterprise is the effect you have on my family. I spend a lot of the time I am home alone because you have either my wife or my kids trucking off to some shindig so that we are seldom home together. If I were mixed in it too, nobody would be home and I would be as frazzled as the rest of you."
"Look at you! You're run ragged trying to keep ahead of the show! While I don't believe much or go to your church, I've often wondered why you people don't train and organize your personnel better. It sure would save you a lot. No business could survive on the methods you people use."
"There is something else on my mind. It has to do with the kinds of life religious people live in contrast to the life they preach. I know my faults and I don't make pretenses-I am what I am; but a lot of your people that think they are too good to sit in the same pew with me aren't what they seem. They are always looking down their noses at people that aren't just like them. I don't want to have anything to do with the church until the people in it are really as good as they claim to be. I may not be much, but at least I am not a hypocrite!"
"There's something else that gets me about your brand of religion, preacher. You're always fussing among yourselves as to who is right. We had some friends over the other night that ,are from the same church as you. During dinner the conversation turned to some of the differences between you. Liberal versus conservative, who did what to who first. It all makes me sick! Why don't you get down to your real business, whatever that is?"
We have all heard this kind of dialogue at one time or another, both within and without the church. Many of us dismiss it as ignorant palaver, and it is ignorant-but it is not palaver. These are genuine and sincere doubts expressed in ignorance of what the church is really all about. Even many in the Lord's church do not know what they are about, or what the church is. This man and others like him are rebelling against "churchism," or "denominationalism." Unfortunately, many are turned against the truth found in God's ,word because they are rightly repelled by churchism, parochialism, legalism, and partyism. To deny that there are such problems among God's people is to overlook the fact that these problems were part of the New Testament church as well. Recognizing a problem is the first step in correcting it. The fault lies not with the truth and the pattern, but in the failure of men to put the truth into life. We need to be about changing people rather than the pattern.
The simplest and most obvious answer is that our business is to preach the Gospel (1 Thess. 1:6-8; Matt. 28:18,19). But, what is that? The Gospel is "good news!" What good news? The man in our introduction might ask, "Good news? I haven't heard any good news." And in many instances, that is true. Not only have many outside the church not heard any good news, but sometimes even those in the church hear precious little of it. They live not under the good news of the Gospel, but under its bad news. The bad news is seen in the demands it makes upon us. The good news becomes bad news depending on one's viewpoint and how the Gospel is presented. We do not lose sight of obedience or of sin-but brethren, most know they are sinners and are trying to drown that guilt in hectic "pleasure seeking"-booze, women, being a "good-ole-boy." The simplest way to present the good news to these people is to take the approach John did, "God is love" (1 Jn. 4:16). The Gospel is the good news that God loves us, and wants us to be happy. He loved us so much that he lived and died and arose again that we might be able to escape this mundane, irrelevant, corrupt world. It is not so much what we have to do, but what God has done!
Everyone has wants and desires. Some are immediate and superficial; "I want an attractive home, a good wife, a satisfying job, esteem by people who mean something to me." But, our greatest want is much deeper. One young woman put it well to me in conversation once when she said, "I could take just about anything dished out to me, if there was just one person who really loved and respected me . . . someone I could talk to who would approve and encourage me." We all desire to be at one with someone, to have someone to share with us, and through whom we can find meaning in our life. People let us down, and often. People have a bad habit of being selfish, wanting more that they are willing to give. We need God, because he is the one who really loves us (Rom. 5:1-10). This is the good news. God loves us, and does not want even one soul to be lost now or in eternity. Everything around us may fall apart, every close friendship may be destroyed, our physical life may be filled with pain and anguish, but God knows, cares, and will make it right in the end. He put His seal on this relationship by offering His very own Son in our place. He paid all of our debts with the blood of His beloved Son, and He calls us to a life that is not only good to be lived, but will bring eternal happiness to all who will accept it. It is not a matter of "Which church is best," "What's wrong with instrumental music in worship," "Are only members of the church of Christ going to heaven?" but rather "You do not need to be alone anymore. God loves you and wants you to be part of his family."
Of course, in practicality, this is simplistic. People must often be impressed with the severity of sin (Acts 2:36,37), even that they are guilty of sin (Acts 8:19-24), and need God. After entering into this new relationship with God, it is necessary to impress upon the babe how to maintain it-God talks to us, but only through His word (Gal. 1:6-9). This is not legalism-this is a natural part of any relationship, human or divine. We must seek to please the one we wish to be one with. Presumptuousness, disregard, arrogance, indifference, or lack of genuine effort to please will destroy any relationship, human or divine.
Every living man needs God. We have the way to God, because we have found it ourselves. We need not be ashamed of our joy. We are no longer strangers, without hope, lonely, and without love. God has raised us to be princes, and kings. He has made us part of his family. We have an inheritance of which no two-bit Tennessee lawyer can cheat us. We have the world by the tail. We have Satan on the run, and the best weapons in the world to cope with his fiery.arrows. The way to God is in the Gospel. Let us get that good news to those still in darkness.
Truth Magazine XXI: 4, pp. 56-57