By Olen Holderby
During forty-five years of preaching I have found it helpful, in beginning my labors at any new place, to begin with a good understanding between the local brethren and me. To accomplish this, in my first sermon I normally would offer both explanations and expectations. My personal limitations are fully explained; and my own methods of getting acquainted with everyone are clearly set forth. I comment upon the values of optimism and enthusiasm; and express my contempt for pessimism. I have come to work with (not for) the local church. I will preach to both saint and sinner; though my main focus will be regarding the basic duties of the local membership. In doing this I shall be careful not to show any respect of persons (Jas. 2:9).
In Acts 2:36-42, we witness a local church of the Lord coming into existence, we see how people became members of it, and the text ends by showing that local church at work. We often speak of the beginning. Here it is! Since we are concerned with our working together, we surely are interested in the question:
What Is A Working Church?
A working church is a teaching or preaching church. A fine example of this is found in 1 Thessalonians 1:8. Paul said, “For from you sounded out the word of the Lord” and , they were so persistent in this that the news of their faith was spread abroad. We need to do, as they did, turn from our “idols to serve the living and true God.” What we normally refer to as the teaching program of the church needs to be a planned one, an organized one, observed carefully, evaluated properly, and changed when and where necessary. An inadequate teaching program makes for failure and should not be long tolerated. Apart from the salvation of souls the church would have no reason to even exist; thus, we recognize the mission of the church – preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ in order that souls might be saved (Rom. 1: 14-17). This does not overlook the fact that each individual member is to be involved in the teaching of this same gospel (Matt. 28:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:2). Here is one area in which the function of the local church and the individual Christian overlaps; and neither can rule out the other. There can be no dodging of responsibility in either case!
A working church will be a church with all of her officers at work. 1 Timothy 3:1, clearly shows that such officers have a work, a good work, to do. They are overseers of a flock which they are to feed (Acts 20:28); they watch for the souls of the flock (Heb. 13:17), and must give an account for the job which they do. Their oversight is limited to the local church; and their motives are regulated (1 Pet. 5:2-3). Their examples, in work and conduct, will prove to be the most powerful tool at their command.
A working church is a church with her evangelist at work. I am told to be an example to believers in word, conversation, charity, spirit, faith, and purity (1 Tim. 4:12). I shall endeavor to do just that, to practice what I preach! I hasten, however, to add that an example is set to be followed (1 Cor. 11:1). You have the right to expect me to be just what God’s Word teaches me to be.
A working church is a church with all her members at work. In addition to the individual teaching, already noticed, members are to cooperate and to show enthusiasm. Your functions are to be governed by a knowledge of God’s Word (Rom. 10:1-3). Wherever you are, you are to function as the Savior would have you to do (Acts 8:4); you are to be laborers in his vineyard (Matt. 20:1ff). Just as you have the right to expect me to be just what the Lord would have me be; I have a right to expect you to be what the Lord would have you to be. Let neither of us disappoint the other.
A working church is a giving church. Individual members contribute to the work of the local church (1 Cor. 16:1-2); and the local church must spend those funds doing what the Lord has told the church to do. In addition to her mission of preaching the gospel, the local church may spend her funds in assisting needy saints (2 Cor. 8,9). Because her work is so important, and because an accounting must be given, great wisdom must be utilized in using such funds. However, let us not use wisdom as an excuse for not using those funds.
A working church will be a church bound together by love for one another and for the Lord. This is obvious from such passages as Matthew 22:37-39; 1 John 3:18; and John 15:12. No one argues as to whether or not we should love one another; we all know this. But, what is often overlooked is how that love functions. Love can be known only by the action which it prompts. Many passages reflect upon this, but the traits found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, will suffice for this lesson. Let us not forget what it is that proves our love for one another – Action! Action! Action!
This, in my view, is a working church; if the church is not thus functioning, she is operating at a direct loss to the Lord. In such a case, let us not forget Romans 2:16.
Now that we know what to expect of each other, let us all go to work! Let us patiently and persistently give to the Lord the best of what we are and the best of what we have. If we all do this we shall have a happy and successful work together.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 3, p. 78
February 2, 1989