By Mike Willis
If one spends all of his time in his study reading the doctrines circulated by journals across the nation, he is inclined to become somewhat pessimistic regarding the prospects for the future for the Lord’s church. In any given month, I received periodicals promulgating the grace-unity heresy in the form of the following: Ensign Fair, Restoration Review, Mission, and Integrity. Then, I receive some periodicals which circulate the idea of the sponsoring church, church sponsored recreation, church contributions to human institutions in the form of the following: Gospel Advocate, Firm Foundation, Gospel Truths, Spiritual Sword, etc. Other periodicals cross my desk designed to teach peculiar views about marriage,, divorce, and remarriage (such as Bible Forum), the one cup arrangement (Old Paths Advocate), “the church-isthe-only-collectivity-authorized-to-preach-the-gospel” (Gospel Anchor), and other peculiar doctrines.
Sometimes I become rather discouraged when reading these periodicals. I tend to think that we are destined to fragment and divide ourselves to death. One man said, “When I was young, I was determined to save the world. Later, I saw the problems in the church and I was determined to save the church. Now, I am just working to save myself.” That is, indeed, a rather pessimistic view of our work. Is there any cause for optimism?
I think that there is. I have been impressed during the recent months that I have added the “Quips and Quotes” section to the paper at the number of reports which I have received indicating the growth of the Lord’s cause in a number of places. We are constantly receiving reports of new works being started, elders being appointed, and growth in hundreds of local churches. Yes, there is cause for optimism among the Lord’s people.
I was privileged to be with the Lyon’s Chapel church in Tompkinsville, Kentucky for a gospel meeting last week (August 28-September 3). On the last day of the meeting, we baptized a young couple into Christ. While returning from baptizing this couple, Brother Earl Robertson remarked that he sees the same thing happening everywhere he is going. He stated that the liberals are baptizing large numbers of children through their work with the bus ministry but that in the churches with which he is working he is witnessing the slow, steady growth of the local congregations through the conversion of young married couples who are won to Christ.
Churches all over this country are experiencing steady growth through their evangelization programs. Their growth does not draw the attention of the world or of the brotherhood but they are, nevertheless, steadily reaping the Lord’s harvest.
Where Are The Lord’s People?
Actually, we need to remember just where the Lord’s people are. Sometimes, we tend to think that the Lord’s people must be doing big things in a big way. Men are impressed when churches have a $2,000,000 contribution on one Sunday; men are impressed when churches report the baptism of 15-20 in one gospel meeting; men are impressed when a congregation reports that it has tripled its Sunday morning attendance through the bus ministry. But, that does not necessarily say that the Lord is equally impressed.
More frequently than not, these types of reactions are caused by worldly promotionalism. A congregation will get someone skilled in PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) who can motivate people to give large sums of money. When the contribution is high, they state that their members are devoted to the Lord; more likely than not, they were simply emotionally stirred in the same fashion as the denominationals stir people up. Or, a group will brag about its numerical growth through the bus ministry. They fail to relate that in order to have this growth that they have bribed young people to ride the “Joy Bus.” Furthermore, they do not relate that they are feeding the children soft drinks and cookies, having to conduct a “Kiddie Church,” and still face problems of destruction of church property and disorder in worship.
My brethren, this is not where the Lord’s people are. I have seen the Lord’s people. They are the handful of brethren who have tried to stop the denominationalism in congregations without success who, in desperation, were forced for conscience’s sake to begin a new work. They located a residence which they converted into a meeting house in which they met for several years until they could afford land. Then, all of the members pitched in and helped to erect a nice meeting house. During this time, they have grown from 30-40 to about 100. In the years immediately following, they soon grow up to 200 members. Their growth has come through dedicated and consecrated Christians winning their neighbors to Jesus Christ. This is where the Lord’s people are.
There is, indeed, a cause for optimism among us. We see these churches all over the country. They are struggling at the present but they are growing. Let the liberals announce the burial ceremony as often as they like, the Lord’s people will not be defeated. In the years to come, we are likely to witness the “anti” churches become more numerous than the “liberals,” even as happened when the split occurred over instrumental music. The “Liberals” and “Progressives” in each instance took the greater number of churches. In time, however, the ones who took their stand with the Lord began to outnumber the “liberals” who forsook the Lord. Brethren were at first attracted by the innovations but soon the new wore off. Then, the thing which attracted the crowd was replaced by something else which attracted the crowd. Each new innovation was further removed from Christ than the one before. Digression curs with rapid speed.
On the other hand, those who are converted by the simple message of Christ continue to be drawn by the simple preaching of the gospel. So long as God’s word is expounded they will continue to support the work and try to win others to Christ. There will continue to be cause for optimism so long as the gospel is preached. God has promised that His word will accomplish the purpose for which He sent it (Isa. 55:8-11); it will not return to Him void. Let us trust His promise and continue to be dedicated the preaching of the word.
Truth Magazine XXII: 47, pp. 755-756
November 30, 1978