By Cecil Willis
It is my intention to write for the next several months under the title “Problems Within the Church.” It should be obvious to all thinking and informed brethren that one will be unable to exhaust this theme, even by several months of writing upon it. In this article I want only to say some general things upon the subject. With the next issue of the paper, I will begin to delineate some of those things that I consider to be acute problems within the church.
Some See No Problems
There are some brethren who are so naive or so blind that they see no problems at all. The danger posed by a problem in the church is enhanced when it is not recognized as a problem. Some are spiritually so deaf and blind to what is going on around them that they could ride a ship pitched and tossed in a storm raged sea and think that they were riding on a placid lake. Certainly in such instances, “if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14.) Some of the most dreaded diseases are so feared because they cannot easily be detected in their early stages. The most dangerous enemy is an infiltrated one. The most serious problems in the church are those that are not universally recognized by brethren as problems. In fact, one of the most serious problems before us is the unwillingness on the part of a large number of brethren to recognize and admit that we face any problems.
Let none think that our only problems are those already infiltrated within our ranks. There are many enemies without which threaten us. But the most serious and threatening are those enemies that already have made their way within the Body and are now pitched for battle. The greatest problems, then, are those within the church.
A Perpetual Crisis
Whenever one begins to write or to speak concerning problems within the church, some brethren begin to fear and to quake. These brethren are stark cowards. The Lord’s church has ever been beset by problems. I have heard older brethren state that there had never been a time within their long life when the Lord’s church did not confront some crisis. One is certainly blind or ignorant who would insinuate that the Lord’s church today has no problems. So long as frail, fallible human beings constitute the church, the church shall pass from one critical moment to another. None of her previous problems has annihilated the church yet. Nor shall any of her present distresses destroy her. (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28.)
When to Discuss Problems
There are many brethren today who do not think that we should “air” our problems before the world. Such fearful brethren should never hand an alien a New Testament, for I know of no place where the problems within and without the church are more impartially or forthrightly dealt with than in the New Testament. One impugns the wisdom of God when he states that the problems within the church should not be “aired” before the world, for this God certainly did in the pages of inspiration. Furthermore, one might consider the ethical problem of insinuating to the world that we have no problems. Is this not a blatant lie?
We should also remember that no problem that has arisen in the church in the past has ever yet been solved by ignoring it. One can select the most propitious time and place possible to discuss these problems, and yet he will be charged with doing so at the wrong time. I hardly know of a better place to discuss our problems than in a journal such as TRUTH MAGAZINE. Certainly its primary intent is to provide a medium through which discussions may be conducted as will edify members of the church. Probably 99% of our subscribers are members of the church. Therefore, where could be a better place to discuss our problems than through the pages of TRUTH MAGAZINE?
How to Discuss Problems
One certainly should use all the diplomacy and discretion at his command when he comes to deal with problems of such magnitude as those now confronting us. I certainly do not claim perfectly to know how these matters should be discussed. However, I shall use my best judgment in dealing with the problems before us. Without doubt, there will be some good brethren who will say, “I agreed with what you said, but I did not like the way you said it.” If when I get done with this series, these are your sentiments, remember these pages are open to you to show us how these problems should be dealt with. I certainly am ready to learn better how to deal with these problems. Feel free to write upon them. I simply want to see the problems properly dealt with.
One further preliminary remark: The Lord’s church is not beset by just one problem. She is confronted by many. It is difficult for any brother to keep his perspective balanced. Some preachers see Catholicism as the only threat to the church. Others see worldliness as the only problem. Perhaps others see the current institutional threat as the only problem. These all constitute threats, though admittedly some pose more serious threats at present than others. But we are beset by many problems. I do not profess to recognize them all. But upon several of our problems do I wish to speak in this series of articles.
Soldiers Must Fight!
Before closing this article, I wish to call to your attention two things more: ( 1 ) A Christian is called a soldier in the scripture ( 2 Tim. 2 :3, 4 ), and ( 2 ) The primary purpose of a soldier is to fight. (1 Tim. 1:18: 5:12). The Christian, therefore cannot be a non-combatant, spiritually speaking. We are engaged in mortal conflict with our adversary, the devil ( I Pet. 5:8 ), and with his ministers. ( 2 Cor. 11: 15. ) The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but spiritual. (2 Cor. 10:3, 4.) Both our offensive and defensive weapons are enumerated. (Eph. 6:10-20.) The faithful Christian must put these weapons to their proper use.
The Christian who refuses to recognize the enemies of the Cause of righteousness and to oppose them with every weapon provided in the divine arsenal is a traitor to the Prince of Peace, and should be so labeled. Study with us some of the problems currently before the church. Then “war the good warfare;” “fight the good fight of the faith.”
Truth Magazine VI: 12, p.2-3