By Ron Halbrook
As the church here at West Columbia continues to grow spiritually and numerically, new challenges and opportunities arise which require good leadership on the part of the elders. As one avenue of communication with the flock, the elders at times send letters to all the members of the church. They recently sent a letter to every member admonishing them to be faithful in attendance, asking for their continued help in developing leadership as we pre-pare to appoint some new deacons, and inviting them to meet with the elders at any time to discuss concerns or problems which they may have.
As a means of reinforcing some of these thoughts, the elders utilized a letter prepared by the eldership of the Williams Chapel Church of Christ in Tennessee dated 27 February 1921. A copy of the letter prepared by the Williams Chapel eldership was published on the front page of the Gospel Advocate on 23 June 1921 (p. 585). A brief editorial note said that the letter had been “used to a fine advantage in creating a better interest” among brethren, and, “Believing that this circular will help other congregations, we pass it on to our readers.” Other congregations today may wish to use this letter as we did, or to revise and adapt it, or perhaps will get ideas from it for writing their own letter to stir up the members. The Williams Chapel letter as it appeared in the Gospel Advocate read as follows.
Stirring Up the Members
Dear Brother or Sister: We find that our church register contains about one hundred and sixty names. Some of these members are meeting regularly and working faith-fully; some are lukewarm, and while they seem to hold on to the profession of faith which they have made, they are not willing to make the effort and sacrifice characteristic of the true children of God; and some have become cold and careless and have ceased to manifest any interest in their own spiritual welfare. Among the latter two classes are some who are living good, moral lives, which is commend-able; but many who make no pretensions of religious profession do that.
Now, dear reader, to which of the three classes mentioned are God’s promises made? To which class do you belong? Are you living as you promised yourself and your God that you would live when you enlisted as a soldier in the army of the Lord? Do you want your name on the church book when you realize that the world looks upon you as a hypocrite? Do you wish to live so that others will lose respect for the cause that you vowed to uphold? What would become of the church if every other member were living as you are living and were giving as you are giving? If you were to die as you are living and you will die as you live could you hope to stand with the redeemed in judgment? If so, may not at least all good, moral people hope to be saved?
It is not the purpose of this short circular to teach you your duty you already know that. It is our purpose to persuade you to do your duty if you are not doing it. If you are doing your duty, you will assist us by trying to save some other soul from destruction.
Perhaps you cannot attend regularly. You can write a letter showing that you are interested. You can send your contributions by mail. You can ask the church to meet with you at your house. If the church were a bank and you had money deposited there, you would manage some way to look after it. The church is your spiritual bank, and Christ is the Cashier. Are you making any deposits? Do you expect your check on eternity to be honored? The faithful ones are praying for you. They are spending their money for you. Will their prayers be unheeded? Will their sacrifices be in vain? We trust not.
Yours for eternity,
The Elders of Williams Chapel
As the elders here commented, this letter of long ago “reminds us to make spiritual deposits in the bank of heaven by being faithful to the Lord.”
Churches can remain independent and autonomous while learning from each other and borrowing successful methods from each other. Revelation 2-3 revealed the strengths and the weaknesses of the seven churches to each other, so that they might learn from the experiences of the various congregations, without any violation of independence or autonomy. The example of the church in Thessalonica was an inspiration to brethren far and wide (1 Thess. 1:7-8). The example of the letter by the elders of the Williams Chapel church may help to inspire other churches to stir up the members as it has inspired us here.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 24, p. 12
December 15, 1994