By William C. Sexton
“Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Gal. 6:6).
When I first moved back to Kansas City after being away 23 years, I was pleased to find about nine “sound” congregations in the area, instead of the four that were here when I left. Although some of them are small, I considered such to be evidence of growth.
I was speaking at Blue Springs shortly after I moved back, and I expressed my observation of the growth. Brother Lindy McDaniel, after the lesson and in response to my observation remarked, that “when we see the meeting houses filled with enthusiastic brethren in meetings, then we’ll see the growth we are potentially capable of producing.” I believe that he’s right. However, I’m concerned that the “growth” may not be all that balanced and real. Here I express some observations in that regard, for our consideration.
I find it discouraging having as many congregations in the area who claim to be “sound,” that when a meeting is going on, so very few show up from other congregations. What is reflected by such action or the lack of it? I’m afraid that therein lies a deeper problem than we are freely admitting!
One expressed to me, rather off handedly, that he hoped that we’d give little consideration to what other congregations are doing when we plan a meeting – we’d thereby manifest a real concern for the souls of the lost! There may be some truth there worth pondering, yet I wonder if there isn’t some undercurrent forces at work there too, which need some uncovering!
Perspective On Numbers
To be overly concerned about numbers is not good; and such reflects, perhaps, an egotistical view. Some will drive many miles to hear a certain (“big name”) preacher, yet they wouldn’t travel. across the street to hear another – that reflects human attraction and attachment rather than love for the gospel and souls of the lost. Neither should we let up because others do not support us (2 Tim. 4:10, 16), remembering that all faithful men have had to stand alone or apart at time. Yet, we need to deal honestly and forthrightly with such action – or the lack of support!
We conservatives may like to feel that we are growing, presenting the truth on a united front, etc., when in fact there are so many weak spots in our defenses. I truly believe that the “truth” is the only thing that will make men free and stand ultimately, providing the only real basis for growth (Jn. 8:3132; 2 Pet. 3:18). However, men have often been puffed up, feeling secure, thinking that all was well when in fact they were weak, miserable, and in great need of the divine remedy (cf. Rev. 3:15-20).
The plain truth is that we are all too busy, and there is evidence of a lack of true dedication. We can all find things to do to “justify” ourselves from attending a meeting. But I have observed over the years that people as a rule do what they want to. Honesty demands that we admit that we do pretty much what we want to. Therefore, if we really wanted to attend, we’d do so; otherwise, we’ll make justifying excuses!
Effect of Lack of Support
New members, filled with enthusiasm, anticipate many loyal, dedicated Christians from surrounding congregations at a meeting, singing with zest and life in worship of God. Frequently, they find a meager few, with no real reason present other than the simple lack of interest in the true gospel message being presented; they cannot help but be “let down.” I see it on the faces, detect such in the voice, see the results after the meeting. Often there is not the zeal and zest after as before, simply because they have been disappointed by the lack of support of older Christians.
Yes, I believe the effect is evidenced on many fronts and in various ways. Preachers are often affected, too, by the lack of support. Often you can see the apologetic, rationalizations, etc., but you know deep in the heart, they are reading the “body language” rather correctly – “there’s simply not the real interest in what I’m saying.”
Not for a minute am I suggesting that we need to let up, be unconcerned about presenting the gospel in meetings of all sorts, when the opportunity can be made. I’m saying, though, let us observe the playing field and the players! There is an evidenced lack of support of the gospel from quarters where there ought to be much.
I am truly grateful to see brethren who will drive even up to and over a hundred miles to attend a meeting, and there are some around, but often they are in places where there are very few “sound brethren” around. Preachers who have worked in hard places often will drive and lend their support. Last year when I was in a meeting in Merrillville, Indiana, brother Leslie Diestelkamp and his wife drove over 65 miles to attend the meeting, on a rainy night. Recently, in a meeting in Morrrilton, Arkansas, some brethren drove from Beebe which must be 60 or so miles. Brother Dick Blackford related to me recently that in a meeting out in the northwest (Utah, Wyoming, etc.), that it’s not unusual to see people drive over a hundred miles to attend a gospel meeting. Why? Because they are hungry to hear the gospel! I see reports from the northeast and other “hard” places where the same is true.
Why then brethren should it be that we in our own area do not support the gospel when it is preached? Why not bring that “prospect” we are studying with to a meeting on that night, instead of having the in-home study and allow him/her to witness and participate in the worship with other enthusiastic Christians?
Beloved, let us heed the apostle Paul (Rom. 11:25; 12:16) when he said, “lest ye should be wise in you own conceits. . . Be not wise in your own conceits.” Are you really dedicated to the saving of souls? Are you really supportive of the gospel message? Your body language, action, tells the story very plainly!
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 3, pp. 82, 87
February 4, 1988