By Mike Willis
The material in this issue and the next one is designed to discuss the work of the Lord’s church. Although an entire issue could be devoted to this subject in which the scriptures were presented to discuss what works the Lord has given the church to do and another entire issue could be devoted to the unscriptural activities in which our brethren are involved, that is not the purpose of these issues. These issues are designed to discuss problems within the body of Christ pertaining to some of the activities in which we are involved. Secondly, I have asked a number of brethren involved in special programs of work to give us an assessment of that part of their work to relate to you what others are doing.
Far too many congregations are doing absolutely nothing except to “keep house” for the Lord. The members faithfully attend the public worship services, engage in the proper acts of worship, decry the sin of denominationalism (and any other “isms”), and go home “until we meet again.” Baptisms are not occurring; souls are not being restored. When one asks the members of such a congregation why they are not growing, they blame the world. While I am perfectly willing to admit that the “world” is more preoccupied with materialism than it was some decades before, I fear that we might be blaming the world for our own failures. We cannot excuse ourselves for our own lack of growth until we have tried every scriptural method of reaching the world around us which is available to us.
What we have done, however, is to conduct the public worship services and have said, “Here is the gospel; if the world wants it, let it come and get it.” When they do not show up at the public worship services, we somehow feel that we have discharged our duty to them. Jesus said, “Go into all the world.” He did not say, “Invite the world and if they do not come, you are excused.” We have a responsibility to take the gospel to the world around us. But, indeed, that is not all that is being done in the field of evangelism.
Twice a year, we conduct a “gospel meeting.” The gospel meetings are designed to win the lost to Christ. Yet, in large metropolitan areas, they are meticulously scheduled in order that they not conflict with other meetings in the area. Why? Because the world will not come if so many meetings are conducted in one week? Absolutely not! Rather, what has happened is that the crowds are made up of visiting brethren from other congregations in the vicinity. When several meetings are in progress in one week, the congregation will not have a crowd of visitors from other congregations. We have forgotten our primary purpose in having a “gospel meeting.” Gospel meetings are designed to bring the lost to Christ, not to bring visiting brethren to a particular congregation. We simply must wake up to the fact that something different must be done by the members of the local congregation to make gospel meetings a successful means of winning souls to Christ. Hence, I have asked that a couple of articles be written about gospel meetings: (1) one is to suggest means whereby the local churches can work to have a successful gospel meeting; (2) the other suggests to the preacher that he plan his sermons with the idea of leading someone to Christ. Both of these articles will be-very practical and useful to local churches and preachers.
Another aspect of the local work which has been given some serious examination is the publication of church bulletins. I receive a number of bulletins from congregations located all over the country. I have taken the time to write to many of the ones responsible for putting out these bulletins to help me to assess what is being done through the bulletins published by the local church. I think that you will be interested in some of the things which I want to suggest regarding your local bulletin.
Another important series in this special is on the usage of various new methods to reach the lost. Brethren across the country are using call-in radio programs, preacher training programs, fair booths, lectureships, and personal work programs as special programs of work. I think that you will be interested in reading what they think that these special programs have done to help the local church and to cause it to grow.
We have also received an article on the elders’ role in the local church to show the importance of the elders being leaders in the local church. I have known of several churches which were dying on the vine because of elderships which were unwilling to press forward with new, scriptural programs of work. Many times the deacons and members were having to push the elders into taking the initiative to get something done. Hence, one article in this special issue will consider the work of the elders in leading the church to do the works which God has given it to do.
I sincerely hope that this special of Truth Magazine will be useful to local congregations across this great land. If the articles in this and the next issue of the paper will cause some elderships to realistically assess what is being done to promote the gospel of Christ in the area of the country in which they live, it will have served its purpose. Any church which is not making some headway toward winning souls for Christ had better get concerned. A few funerals will cause any church to die. I pray that we will all use this as an opportunity to look at ourselves in order that we might do a better job of “planting and watering.”
Truth Magazine XXI: 27, p. 418
July 14, 1977