By Lanny Parish
All problems that we are confronted with spiritually, I believe the New Testament reveals their solution, directly or in principle (2 Pet. 1:3). The statement which is the title to this article is no exception! I know of no one who will deny that the church of Christ is not growing (as it should). There must be a reason or reasons. I believe the New Testament reveals at least two of these which I present for your consideration:
The first is preachers. Over the past few years, I have observed the “work” habits of a number of brothers in Christ who are receiving “full-time” wages and are presumed to be doing “full-time” work as ministers of the gospel of Christ. But, in many instances I have noticed first hand (and have also been told of others), that some preachers who are supposed to be “full-time” are not performing their duties “full-time” (2 Tim. 4:5).
When preachers accept “full-time” wages it is expected and required that the “laborer be worthy of his hire.” Yet, many preachers in this category (“full-time”) spend few hours per week in diligent study of God’s Word which is evidenced in their class teaching and their sermons. One can not teach what he does not know – and he cannot know what he has not learned (2 Tim. 2:15). Perhaps this is one reason preachers are no bolder than they are in their preaching and personal work; their faith and conviction has not matured as a result of not properly utilizing their time (1 Tim. 4:13,15,16).
Some preachers abuse their “full-time” status by spending too much time on the golf course, fishing, drinking coffee, just plain gossiping, too much time away from the local work for whatever reason, etc. There is no way that I know that any person in any endeavor, spiritual or secular, can do an effective job unless he is diligent, devoted and consistent in his efforts. Preachers are no exception (2 Tim. 4:2)! How many nonmembers have we as preachers talked within the past year? How do we know it won’t do any good? How many denominational preachers have we as preachers tried to discuss the Bible with? How do we know it won’t do any good? Have we met everyone in our neighborhood? How many “liberal-minded” brethren have we tried to study with? Preacher brothers, we need to ask ourselves these questions and consider our answers!
When preachers assume the responsibility of “full-time” work, they do so by choice and, therefore, incur the weight and privilege of the obligations of a minister outlined in the New Testament which is primarily to preach the gospel! Preachers of all people, know these things and brethren should know them and require the same as God’s Word does.
If all preachers will “put their hands to the plow” (Lk. 9:62) and earnestly and diligently “fulfill thy ministry” we will see the church grow as it should! God’s Word hasn’t lost any of its power (Rom. 1:16)! I thank God for those brethren who are faithfully and diligently discharging their duty as a gospel preacher and I pray that the rest will begin. So, preachers who are not fulfilling their ministry as the New Testament reveals is one reason the church is not growing as it should. (I’ll not address the obvious and understood fact that preachers deserve and are expected to take time off to relax and enjoy wholesome recreation just like anyone else.)
The second reason the New Testament reveals that the church is not growing as it should is members. It is easy for us all to get the “pass-the-buck” syndrome (Gen. 3:12-13) when things are not progressing as we think they should. We need to possess the honest, honorable character of “the-buck-stops-here” and take the initiative to perform accordingly.
It seems to be the programmed nature of some members to want to blame the preacher for the church not growing as it should, and for some preachers to reciprocate with the favor of blaming the members. Surely, brethren we realize, even if both sides are wrong – that two wrongs don’t make a right (Gal. 6:7)!
I am acutely aware, having preached “full-time” for a number of years, that some members feel it is their duty to bemoan not only preachers and other members but, the work in general. Also, I have experienced the same with preachers (Acts 10:34; Rom. 14:12).
Members who are not happy and grateful for the privilege of being who they are and what they are (God’s child) seldom radiate the blessedness they are missing. And as result, those they come in contact with perceive their’disposition and attitude and have no intention of being permanently associated with such, which can mean they won’t even consider the church (Matt. 5:16).
When folks see members of the church of Christ conduct the affairs of their life in an un-Christ like manner and are unfaithful and don’t “practice-what-they-preach,” is it any wonder the church of Christ is not growing as it should? I hope you and I will consider and realize that there is no “passing-the-buck” before our Lord.
These two classes of people – preachers and members – are two of the determining factors in whether the church grows as it should! You and I are one or the other or both! My prayer is that we each realize our individual role in life as God’s child and will conduct ourselves accordingly so the result will be the church growing as it should.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 6, pp. 161, 183
March 17, 1988