OKAY, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE CHURCH??
There was once a magician on a cruise ship who performed mainly sleight of hand tricks. He had a regular spot on the ship’s cabaret evening entertainment, and he was actually quite good, but his routines were regularly ruined by the onboard parrot that would fly around squawking and giving away his secrets like:
“It’s up his sleeve, it’s up his sleeve!” or “It’s in his pocket, it’s in his pocket!” or “It’s in his mouth, it’s in his mouth!” The magician was getting pretty sick of this and threatened to kill the parrot if it ruined his act one more time. That evening, right at the climax of his act and just as he was about to disappear in a puff of smoke, the ship hit an iceberg and sank in seconds. Amazingly, the magician and the parrot were the only two survivors. The magician was lying on a piece of driftwood in a daze. As he opened his eyes he could see the parrot staring at him out of its beady little eye. The parrot sat there for hours just staring at him and eventually said, “OK, I give up! What did you do with the ship?”
The story, meant to be a joke, is supposed to bring a smile or a chuckle to your normally mundane day. BUT—when the church begins to disappear, it suddenly becomes very serious and not funny at all. Suppose someone were to ask a congregation, “OK, I give up! What did you do with the church?”
In these days of the church of Laodicea, we hear many answers to that question. Examination of them will help us to see just what HAS happened to the church.
Pastor: Well, it is just hard to get people to commit to God and His church. With all the worldly attractions they just don’t want to follow Christ. They won’t visit, they won’t witness, and they won’t take part in the services or teach classes. The people are killing the church. I can’t do it all, you know.
Deacons and Leaders: The pastor spends too much time in his office when he should be out building the church. He’s just too lazy.
Congregation: Some say the Bible reveals that this is what is going to happen in the last days. We can’t do anything to stop it, so why try? Others say the services are so boring. What is there to get excited about? No one is being saved or joining the church, so why should I bother.
Outsider: They really don’t have a lot for my kids. My kids are easily distracted or bored and the church has no regard for them.
Well, we can easily see what is happening with churches and why they are beginning to disappear. The problem is—ATTITUDE! “Well, it sure isn’t my fault!”
According to God Himself, each person has a job to do, and he or she must do it to the best of his or her ability. Otherwise the church WILL disappear. SO, let’s take a look.
I Corinthians 7:17 tells us, “But as God hath distributed to every man, as the Lord hath called every one, so let him walk, And so ordain I in all churches.” Later, in verse 20, Paul wrote, “Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.”
Pastors have a specific job. The apostles described that job in Acts 6:2-4;
“Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.”
Pastors are to study, pray, and preach the whole counsel of God. Their job is NOT to mow grass, clean buildings, or see to the physical aspects of the grounds. Their purpose is to preach the Word, the whole Word, and nothing but the Word! How many times do pastors get roped into stressful situations that should be handled by deacons or other members of the congregation? For every extra problem that crops up in the church that he is left to handle, that is just more time taken away from his study, prayer, and purpose.
Great! That means the congregation actually has to get up off the pew and do something! This can’t be good. After all, the congregation doesn’t get paid to do this. God forbid that anyone would do something for the Savior who died in their stead without being compensated monetarily. Visitation in the hospital, with the elderly and shut-ins, or to the downtrodden should be put on the shoulders of good members who have loving hearts and willing spirits. Sadly, too many will make no time to do the Lord’s work. Therefore, it falls on the shoulders of the pastor.
The men of the church are to take the lead in the administration of the church. God has plainly stated that women are not to usurp the authority of the men in the church. Therefore, the men must take the leadership role very seriously. After all, it is God’s church, not man’s church, for which we have been given responsibility. God demands our best and the men of the church have the vast responsibility of making sure the inner workings of the church are what God would have them to be. These include finances, maintenance, discipline, exhortation, and instruction. So men, do your duty and lead out. Don’t be afraid of the consequences of making such decisions, and thus allowing them to wind up on the pastor’s already full plate.
Women were, however, very instrumental in Paul’s travels. In Romans 16 he commends Phoebe to the Christians at Rome as a servant (diakonos) of the church at Cenchreae and sends greetings to women who had been of assistance to him. He mentions Priscilla and her husband Aquilla as “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (v. 3), and a certain Mary “who labored much for us” (v.6). And in his letter to the Phillippians he urges the congregation to “help those women who labored with me in the gospel” (4:2). Nor should we forget the many women who ministered to our Lord during His earthly ministry whose names are recorded in the Gospels. Women may, for example, teach Sunday School and Vacation Bible School; serve on committees in an advisory capacity; assist the pastor and elders in calling on the sick, shut-ins, and singles; and also assist in works of charity in the church and in the community.
Titus gives instructions to the older ladies of the church in chapter 2, verses 3-5. “The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
Many good churches have died because men and women get their roles reversed. Each has a job, given by God, to do and those jobs must not be interchanged.
Young people, you also have a role in the church. Paul instructed a young man named Timothy regarding how to act in the house of God. I know you are probably saying to yourself, ―Timothy was a preacher. How could Paul’s instructions apply to me?‖ Every member has the task of spreading the Gospel of Christ. See what Titus had to say to the young men of the church. “Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you. Exhort servants to be obedient unto their own masters, and to please them well in all things not answering again; Not purloining, but shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Titus 2:6-10).
The problem isn’t that modern times are wrecking churches; the problem is that modern people are wrecking churches. People aren’t being taught by pastors, either because the pastor isn’t doing his job, or he is being overwhelmed with tasks meant for members of the church. Youth are being inundated with entertainment. Parents are using that entertainment for babysitting purposes while they work and watch TV or do their ―own thing.
If you desire to see your church flourish, you must get involved! There is much work to be done. Tell others about your church, pray for your pastor, teach a class, sing in the choir, help with maintenance on the buildings, and keep the buildings clean. Do this regularly and with a loving heart! Share the work load of a church both spiritually and physically. Teach your children that God loves them and take them to church every time the doors are open. Teach them to get involved. There is infinitely more to a youth ministry than just trips and parties. The main thing is learning God’s Word.
That apathy is rampant in the Lord’s churches should be no surprise. “Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (II Thessalonians 2:3). There is a great falling away from the truth and into ―feel good services. Hell is still real, people still go there regularly, people still need Jesus, and heaven awaits the saved. Satan is real and we are falling into his clutches and traps every day.
Jesus will soon appear in the clouds and all will be well for the saved and the bride of Christ. God’s wrath will be experienced by everyone else. The church is the vessel by which we deliver the message to the world. So, as we see churches dying and shutting their doors, our hearts are saddened and we ask, “OK, what did you do with the church?” The question we each SHOULD be asking is, “OK, what am I doing for my Lord’s church?”
–Ron Provence, President Oxford Baptist Institute, Sept-Oct, OBI Newsletter