Comparing Ourselves

P.J. Casebolt
Middlebourne, West Virginia

"For we dare no; make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves; but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise" (2 Cor. 10:12).

In spite of the strong admonition "dare not," we sometimes end up doing the very thing we ought not do.

The comparison is sometimes made that brethren who work through unscriptural human arrangements such as missionary societies and sponsoring churches engage in more evangelism than do those who contend for congregational autonomy and the all-sufficiency of the church.

Not only does this argument give aid to the "let us do evil that good may come" position (Rom. 3:8), but it also violates the divine injunction of our text.

The Missionary Society system actually closed the doors of several church buildings because the Society could not furnish evangelists to fill the pulpits. Is this success?

The evangelistic "message" of some of the sponsoring-church radio/TV/media projects has been so weak that sectarian churches and preachers have contributed to them with both their money and prayers. Is this the intent and content of the great commission?

When an eldership in California oversees a human college in the Philippines, and that college in turn sends out and controls the evangelists, is this a practice worthy of comparison?

If we want to provoke brethren to more evangelism, edification, or benevolence, we need to use some method other than comparing ourselves with brethren who resort to iniquity (lawlessness), in an effort to do the Lord's will. We dare not lend influence or respectability to the old fable that "it is better to do something wrong than to do nothing."

We can pick out a congregation which meets in an out-of-the-way building across the tracks (depending on which side of the tracks you happen to be), whose members aren't very friendly and compare it with a congregation whose building is highly visible and its membership friendly and outgoing. But such a comparison may not mean a thing.

Two of the most spiritually minded congregations I know of have buildings in their respective towns which are still difficult for me to find, and I have been to both of them on several occasions. And the parking situation at both locations is tenuous and inconvenient, to say the least.

Yet, they preach and teach publicly and privately, care for one another, and have a reputation for ministering to strangers, especially young people and college students.

On the other hand, I helped establish a congregation whose building was brand-new brick veneer, and only two blocks off the main highway through town. After I left, the congregation was divided by the introduction of the Herald of Truth sponsoring church arrangement into the budget, the remaining members decided to get off the "back street" and out onto the highway for more "visibility" and they have not been sound in the faith since.

In another town of some 4,000 population with 300 members of the church, some of the younger heads thought the congregation wasn't "doing enough" and wanted to canvas the town. In spite of the fact that members lived on every street in town, knew their neighbors and who moved in and out, and in spite of the fact that all these neighbors knew more about the church of Christ than some of its own members knew, the elders told the zealous census takers to go ahead with the canvas, just to let them work off some steam and learn a lesson.

After the door-to-door census, which lost some of its steam and some of its original proponents before the job was completed, only one "prospect" emerged from the entire effort. And when one of the elders and I went to see this sister who had moved into town some few years earlier, I recognized her as a unstable member from a congregation where I had previously preached. She knew enough about the church to know that she preferred the world to the church, and of course some of us already knew that.

When John was instructed to write letters to the seven churches of Asia, the Lord had "somewhat against" five of those congregations (Rev. 2-3). The churches at Jerusalem, Antioch, and Philippi seemed to be in good shape, yet the one at Corinth had enough problems in it to keep several congregations from being "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).

Today, we may take a lukewarm congregation in one part of town, and compare it with an active membership in some other congregation where they run people through their kitchen and gymnasium, through the baptistery, and back into the "fellowship hall" again, but such a comparison may mean nothing whatever.

What does mean something is when we can identify the Lord's church, its mission in evangelism/edification/benevolence, its work and worship, and compare ourselves with the divine standard.

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 10, p. 308
May 21, 1992