Have We Forgotten?
W. R. Jones
Have we forgotten what our business really is? For the most part I think the answer is yes. Peter Drucker, a well known business management expert, has written several books advising business people how to be successful. In one book, The Practice Of Management, he points out that the most dangerous and destructive thing any business manager can do is to forget what "the company's business really is."
A case in point is about a mile from my house. Many years ago a man started a lawn mower sales and repair business which became very successful. He was honest and did good work. His prices were high, but we stood in line to trade with him because he attended to business in a depend-able way. The owner grew old and had to step down. He turned it over to his son whose only interest in life is "scuba diving." Within a year he divided the showroom in half, reduced his lawn mower stock, and reduced his faithful crew. His main interest became scuba diving equipment. The business began to decline and a reputable competitor opened up which no one had dared try in past years. Early on I predicted the demise of this business. Sure enough, I passed by the other day and the sign is up: "out of business." The son, whose only interest was "scuba diving," had forgotten what their business really was. He "killed the goose that laid the golden egg" because he forgot and neglected their foremost business.
When I observe preachers, elders, and other leading men in the church today, I am made to wonder if we haven't to some degree forgotten "what our business really is." I know the church is not a "business" like Mr. Drucker advises, but I believe we would do well to take a look at this advice about "forgetting what our business realty is."
What Is Our Business?
"In a nut shell" our business should be, as Jesus said, "my Father's business" (Luke 2:49). Our business should be the mission of Christ which was to "seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). This, of course, includes restoring the erring, edifying one another, and as Paul instructed Timothy: "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). Plain and simple,our business is "soul saving." In the past forty years many churches of Christ have drifted into the "social gospel" mold and have turned to entertainment, recreation, secular education, and other things of the same secular stripe. But I am not writing about these brethren who have chosen to follow after "liberalism." I am talking about those of us who are trying to maintain the church on a solid foundation. Have we forgotten what our "business" really is?
Why Are We Not Reaching Many of the Lost?
Is it impossible? Is it because there are no honest souls left and our task is an impossible one. No, it is not true. There are still many about us who are "disciple material" and can be converted. The trouble with many of us, after having the door slammed in our face a few times, is simply this: nobody cares, and nobody will listen. We have talked ourselves into a negative attitude and have withdrawn into a dark cave of defeat to wait for the end. If the Lord had been so easily discouraged, we would never have had redemption.
Difficult times. Obviously, we are in hard times and most people are not interested. Let us remember, however, this was also true when Jesus came and through much of the ministry of his apostles. In spite of that, people were converted and the church grew rapidly. I have heard it said, "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Maybe we need a little more of that spirit.
The Value of the Soul. I think the "value system" about the soul of man has been misplaced in many of us. Materialism has greatly diminished our value of a soul. Many of us have lost our "everlasting" view of the soul. Case in point: a man drowned in a bayou and hundreds joined in the search for his body. Thousands of dollars were spent in the recovery effort which, after four days finally succeeded. I am not criticizing the effort, but I could never find where any concern had been shown for his soul during life, even though he was surrounded by Christians. In death his body was supremely important. In life his soul was supremely unimportant. Jesus said, "For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Matt.16:26) Consider the following thought. I don't know where it came from and I wish I had said it, but I didn't. "There are many things in life worth winning, but when one is won over to the side of truth, we beat the devil in the battle over the eternal soul of man. This will outshine and outlast all the achievements of the world put together."
A Tragic Misconception. Sadly, there is a common belief among members of the church that they do not have any evangelistic responsibility. "After all," they say, "that is why we support a preacher." When will Christians learn that the presence of an evangelist has nothing to do with their own responsibility toward saving souls. The astounding growth of the church in the first century is not attributed to preachers alone but to individual Christians. "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). I like the story of the store owner who went to a convention. Someone asked him what his business was. He replied, "My business is to serve Christ and win souls." He added, "I run a hardware store to make a living."
Preachers Have a Duty. Preachers should lead the way in spreading the word. They should set an example for others to follow. I fear we dig ponds and sit back and expect the fish to jump in. That is, we build nice buildings and expect the lost of this world to rally in them. We would do well to remember that the Lord has made us "fishers of men" and not merely the "keepers of the aquarium." Preachers face a lot of discouragement, you may be sure. I fear that many of us have re-treated to ivory towers where we read what pleases us, play with our computers, and look for something to write about that will attract a lot of attention. I don't look for this to improve unless we get a renewed interest in what our "business" really is. Preachers need to lead the way and also teach the members their responsibility toward the souls of others.
Enlist God's Help by Prayer. There is a song which says, "Lead me to some soul today; 0 teach me Lord, just what to say; friends of mine are lost in sin, and cannot find their way. Few there are who seem to care; and few there are that pray; Melt my heart and fill my life: give me one soul today." I believe we ought to pray for the Lord to help us in the work of "saving souls." When there appears to be a drought of prospects, ask the Lord to help you open a door. But someone fearfully says, "Will I be lost if I don't win a soul today!" No! Someone else is involved and we can't always succeed. But the danger of our being lost is because we are not trying. The danger lays with our indifference toward the souls.
What Could We Expect If We
Were To Suddenly Change?
What could we expect if all preachers, elders, and paper editors, along with each congregation suddenly returned to what "our business really is?" This is what I think would happen and it would all be for the good.
1. The number baptized into Christ would increase dramatically.
2. We would be too busy to do much meddling in the affairs of other congregations.
3. We would get back to exposing false religions with more fervor.
4. There would be less time for "finger pointing" about every little thing.
5. There would be an increased degree of unity and harmony among us.
Of Course, Error Must Be Exposed. In the meantime, when real error (not just some slightly different slant) rears it ugly head, sound and faithful brethren must step forth and expose it as needed. We should expose what is wrong and teach what is right and give brethren an opportunity to consider it before we plunge into what sometime seems to be a personal warfare. I still have a lot of confidence in our brethren about seeing the truth when it is plainly and lovingly set forth. Let us trust the power of truth when rightly applied. Don't look too long and hard for something to expose. If you do, you are likely to see things that really never existed. But, when error becomes obvious, don't put it off, deal with it.
We Still Have a Common Mission. I remember back in the fifties and six-ties how united we were in our fight against institutionalism, centralization, organizational corruption, and the social gospel. All during that time there were things of a "lesser light" about which we differed, but we rallied to a common and much needed cause. When I was up to my neck in a debate, I remember how so many preachers and others gathered around to help any way they could, great or small. Many of those preachers, in their heart, very likely believed they could have done a better job, but it didn't matter. They were behind the truth and they were behind my efforts. It was one of the most unselfish outpourings I have ever witnessed, except in cases of natural disaster. My brethren, though the former conflict is in the past, we still have a "common mission" of supreme importance, namely, "to seek and to save the lost." Let us not forget our real business.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 20, p. 10-11