Painful Observations (2)
A recent article of mine, "Painful Observations," appeared in the January 5, 1995 issue of this magazine. The results of that article have overwhelmed me. I wish to share some of my thoughts concerning those results.
Firstly, I wish to thank brother Willis for his agreement to print the article. The observations are blunt and painful and potentially controversial. I respect him for his work with GOT and thank him for his help in getting my thoughts aired.
What has overwhelmed me are the many letters, phone calls and comments of brethren both locally and elsewhere. In almost every letter there were comments of encouragement for me and/or thankfulness that I returned to faithfulness. Above everything else, these comments moved me deeply.
But that is not the point of this second article.
Briefly, I remind the reader that in "Painful Observations" I referred to the very obvious decline of growth in the Lord's church and other unhealthy changes that have come to pass in the past quarter century. I attributed much of this to laziness, bickering among brethren, declining spirituality and other factors which make it look like the church is bent upon self-destruction. The result has been a hindrance to the main mission of the Lord's people, teaching and saving souls, and also a decline in the vitality of the church itself.
In the letters and comments that resulted, a few brethren agreed with some of the observations, but the majority strongly or totally agreed.
The brethren who only partially agreed were preachers. All others (which included a few preachers, too) totally agreed. The preachers seemed bent upon justifying, or explaining why, these weaknesses and problems exist. It was suggested that I was too hard on my brethren. In one letter, a brother wrote that if some are leaving the church perhaps we should, indeed, reexamine our methods and motives. He went on to add, "But there have always been people leaving the church in disgust." Well, of course! It is never right for brethren to "quit" or leave our Lord. But my point was that many people are leaving in disgust because of the bickering (locally and nationally), complacency, lack of zeal, the poor attempts at preaching to the lost and the lack of attacking the enemies of our Lord outside of the church.
Another preacher indicated that in a certain part of the country, congregations were shrinking because jobs were being lost and brethren were moving away. I remember brethren used to say that churches were not growing because the economy was too good! Actually, this observation only proves my observations. We are not teaching the gospel to the lost around us. If some brethren leave to go elsewhere (as they did in the book of Acts), all the better, if we were doing our work. The gospel would be spread elsewhere. And if brethren must move away, we would still be converting and growing, if we were doing our work. Instead, we seem to hope the saved will move to our towns to help our congregations grow.
Let me be blunt. We have become a church full of people who have made excuse making an art. We have become a church that has too many members who find it easier to fight among ourselves than to fight the enemy outside the church. It has become easier to preach to the "already saved" than to reach out effectively to the unsaved.
In contrast, read now some of the comments from the majority of letters. One sister, who said that in the seven years that she has read the Guardian of Truth she had not felt compelled to respond to any other article, wrote the following: "The spirituality (or lack thereof) of the church today frightens me. If you're an alarmist, then an alarmist is what we need. May God send us more."
This next respondent wrote a quick note on a post card and said, "I'm also distressed to learn of the all-to-frequent bickering and sniping by brethren instead of fighting the enemy."
Another brother wrote, "I too am saddened by the flow some of the brethren are moving into. I believe your painful observations are well founded. Sadly, brethren in the U.S.A. have become at ease."
Another brother, who said that he read the article three times, wrote, "I see the same things down here" in his part of the country. Among many other comments he added, "the problem is us, not the Lord or his word. We need to get up and get to work."
And another: "Your observations were painful to you, me, and I have an idea to many others, too. Painful because they are true."
There were many more such comments.
I have written these two articles out of the desire to motivate us all to reevaluate the condition of the church as it is today. There must be changes. I stand by every statement of my painful observations. And let it be clearly understood: I am not saying that we should compromise the truth. Those who really know me will confirm this. We must always teach against error among brethren. But I strongly believe that we have gotten lost in that effort. We must remember that, for the most part, the enemy is outside and not within. Too many of us are caught up in acting like "defenders of the faith" and seem to forget that we are to be "proclaimers of the faith." The lost go untaught and unsaved, many of our brothers and sisters are discouraged, and the kingdom of our Lord is suffering and shrinking.
Let's stop excuse making. Let's figure out how to most effectively, and scripturally, reach the lost and let's do it. The enemies of God who call themselves believers and have never known the truth are stealing away those who might believe if they were taught. Let's fight those enemies of the truth. Can we do it or will we be doomed to continue the status quo?
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 9 p. 7