By Irven Lee
Anything that troubles or harms the church in any community is serious because the Lord has a special work for His people to fulfill. The church cannot do its work properly if it uses its strength in fightings within its own ranks, while it defiles its image in the community. It is a grievous sin to crucify the Lord afresh and put Him to an open shame. Many churches are in trouble in this decade.
It is not a new thing for the church to be disturbed by sin within the camp. Corinth was bothered by factions, fornication, conflicts before the pagan courts, an unholy way of partaking of the Lord’s supper, jealousy over spiritual gifts, etc. Where is there a church with more problems today? They came behind in no gift and had great teaching, but there were many things to trouble them.
The church at Rome faced the task of maintaining unity among brethren who were from differing backgrounds. Some were from Jewish families while others were from pagan ancestors from many parts of the world. Notice the fourteenth chapter of Romans carefully. Often little things can cause big problems. Even economic, social, and racial differences have been known to disturb American churches. The Lord’s plan is for all of us to be one in Christ Jesus by working out the little conflicts and realizing that we are all one under God. With Him there is no respect of persons.
When members or the church in a given community lose their zeal in reaching others they then concentrate in searching for the weaknesses in their brethren. They become professional critics of those who do try to save some. None is better at criticizing those who bear responsibility than those who do not take the lead in service.
The Gender Of Church Problems
We all know something about masculine, feminine, and neuter gender – men, women, and things. Things do not cause church problems. Men or women may mention things as they disturb the peace, but things of themselves do not cause trouble. Brethren can cause trouble over the color of the ceiling, but the paint is not the trouble maker. There may be sharp contention over the time of the night services or the time for a gospel meeting, but the clock and the calendar are not the guilty parties in such cases. Church problems are always either masculine or feminine in gender. They are never neuter.
Move The Preacher
Sinners who are embarrassed by the passages the preacher reads from the Bible think that asking the preacher to leave would take care of the problem. They seem to know that the Scripture passages cannot be removed. Removing the preacher might help because they may be able to get one in his place who would not read those passages.
A man who wants to make all decisions for the church will surely ask for a change of preachers if the preacher crosses him in any way. A man who must have his way does not want elders. He tells the group that if they get elders they will not be able to make the decisions. He may mean that he will not be able to make the decisions. It is amazing how one man can sometimes make the decisions while the whole group is sitting there in a “business meeting.”
It may be best to move the preacher. He may be the problem. Apostasy or digression may be promoted by the preacher. I suppose this is usually the way apostasy is promoted, with the help of a worldly faction. Worldliness and digressive doctrine usually come in the same package. Have you considered this fact?
Preachers may be very jealous and inclined to develop parties or factions that they can count on to say “yes” to what they preach. A preacher may be so spineless that he will not say 44yes” or “no” when there is a battle between truth and error. False doctrine can be brought in privily if preachers and elders will cover their eyes, ears, and mouths – like the three little monkeys that see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. An unscriptural practice that is being promoted in an area conquers every church except where faithful men oppose it. Promoting it or ignoring it allows it to enter and take charge. Many problems have entered and destroyed churches (i.e., liberalism) while the members sat in ignorance and said, “Peace!, Peace!” Churches may employ weaklings to preach for a while and then employ false teachers while they still say, “We are not liberal.” It might be good to give the digressives all the preachers and elders who will not put on the whole armor and fight a good fight as good servants of the Lord ought to do. (Read Eph. 6:10-20; 1 Tim. 1:18, 19; 2 Tim. 4:1-5; Titus 1:9-14; Acts 20:29-3 1.) We owe a great debt to all disciples who will do all to stand, and then stand.
Arm Chair Preachers
There are peace loving brethren who suppose that teaching the whole counsel and rebuking sin will not strike fire. Their word to the preachers is that “it might be better for you to move on” if some are heard to complain. The Master Teacher was a man of sorrows and acquainted -with grief, but it was not because He preached the wrong doctrine, neither was it because He taught in a wrong manner. He was meek and lowly and spoke only the truth in love. He spoke the truth to sinners of various kinds including some robed hypocrites. He was not crucified because they misunderstood Him. They crucified Him because they did understand that He was talking to them about their sins.
The apostles were warned that they would not win a popularity contest (John 15:17-21; 16:1-4). They also learned by experience what it meant to be hated by the world (2 Cor. 11:20-23). Our Lord and the apostles gave warnings to us, “Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26). “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). Our Lord did not say, “Go into all the world and please every creature” (read Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 7:52).
Arm chair quarterbacks are referred to by coaches and players during football season, but not with respect. People watching a game on television often talk as if they could do much better than those very skilled athletes on the playing field. Some people sitting way back in the auditorium on padded pews are skilled in joining the professional critics in detecting all the preacher’s weak points. If somebody objects to the sermon, those whom I call “arm chair preachers” declare that the preacher must be at fault or there would have been no critics. All need to be skilled in discerning good and evil. Let each encourage the good influence and restrain the evil influence whether it is in the pew or in the pulpit. Do not encourage the preacher to move on if the special error or trouble maker sits in the pew. Arm chair preachers seldom suggest that the critic, who objects to the good, move on for the sake of peace. Moves are not necessary. Correction and repentance are much better at solving problems. Give your right hand of fellowship to the one who is standing for right. Call for repentance for one who objects to the right or presents evil.
“Good” Trouble Makers
There are a few men who attend regularly, maintain high moral standards, and do many deeds of kindness who have a feeling that none knows how to be preachers, elders, or any other special servant in the Lord’s church. Such men can see the faults of others, but they cannot see their own, egotism or over confidence in their own judgment. Some seem to feel that their own judgments are the only ones that are always right.
There are a few devout people who make laws for the Lord and seek to enforce these laws. Some have described men like this as men who stand so straight they lean backwards. These devout people convince themselves that their judgments are actually the will of God. They may overlook generic authority and suppose that a thing is wrong unless there is an example of it in Scripture. The Lord may teach u His will without using certain examples. These devout men are causing many churches to be seriously troubled. The Christ loves the church, and He does not want these misled men to disturb and hinder His people. Many who think they see problems may be the problems themselves.
The Master was a great teacher, and His doctrine furnishes us completely to every good work. All of us need to be careful lest we become problems. We need to contend earnestly for the faith, but we must not just be contentious for some hobby of our own. Let us first examine ourselves to see that we are in the faith and walking by faith. We may then press toward the goal with firmness of purpose and reasonableness of mind.
The Lord’s disciples are to be separate from the world, so they are not the greatest at celebrating “brotherhood week” when all denominations may say, “We are all one.” But the true men of God are not to sow discord among brethren. Being a worthy peace maker is not the same as saying, “Peace! peace!” when there is no peace.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 7, pp. 205-206
April 4, 1985