WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR CHURCH?
The pathway to a new year stands before us, unknown and untraveled. We will all experience adventure, joy, sadness, and loss. Sometimes that loss will involve regrets concerning those things we have taken for granted. Ingratitude fueled by busyness and the lack of correct priorites will allow precious things to slip away. The saddest part is we will not realize their value nor how important they are to us until they are gone. Then it will be too late. Children grow up, loved ones and friends pass away. Even sadder is in some cases, our neglect was a major part of their demise. Disregard for our health and use of the finances God gave us can play a major role in losing what we thought would always be there. Along that line of thought, let me ask you, “What would you do if your church closed its doors this year.” After all, isn’t a strong, truth preaching, loving, biblical church something most people take for granted. Yes, your church may have been here for 20, 30, 50 years or more but if neglected by her members she cannot remain open.
Right now in America up to 7,000 churches close their doors each year. Many of those shouldn’t have had to die. That may not sound like a lot but what if it was YOUR church. Some members would be sad, some wouldn’t care, some would just find a new church home, and some would simply look at it as an inconvenience rather than a loss. Others would just drop out of church completely.
We are undeniably in the last days, therefore God’s work is being attacked on every side. Our religious freedoms are being challenged and attempts made to take them away. Even our freedom to worship is gradually dwindling. Not all these are in our control, but how grievous when Satan is enabled to destroy a church from within. There are 8 major “Assasins” of the church.
1. Sporadic Attendance. Being a Christian is not a hobby, it is a relationship with Christ. Being a church member is not optional, it is a commitment to obey the Lord and also to His church that He died for “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
Where do people ever get the idea that attending services is based on mood, convenience, or if there is something else they would rather do? The church is a family and you are important and of value whether you recognize it or not. As members of a local body of Christ (your church) scripture compares us to the physical body. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5
Yes we might be able to function without certain body parts, but certainly not effectively. Over a period of time this loss will cause the health and efficiency of the body to drastically decline. This applies to churches also. If a school is not supported by the faithful attendance of pupils, it will have to close. If a library does not have regular patrons to check books, it will have to close. Do you get the picture?
When members decide to lay out of service I assume they are looking at themselves as only one member. What happens when 2 or 5 or even 10 members decide to do the same? In a large church this might not have an impact but in a medium to small church the effect can be devastating. Churches lose an estimated 2,765,000 people each year to secularism. Members that begin skipping 1 or 2 services are in danger of eventually leaving the church and being absorbed back into the world. The habit develops so gradually that you don’t realize how much or how long you have missed. Church attendance dropped from 1,606,000 in 1968 to 881,000 in 2005. I am sure it is safe to say the numbers are even greater now. If you want your church to exist, support it by your presence to all services. The blessing of having a church home and the freedom to attend is a gift. Don’t take it lightly.
2. Not supporting the church financially. Yes this is the one everyone hates, everyone shys away from, and many get angry about. (Well at least the ones who aren’t doing it.) Tithing. The word “tithe” means 10 %. Everything we have belongs to God. Every chair, every alarm clock, every dust bunny and every penny we own belongs to God. All of it is on loan to us. Unfortunately many Christians look at their money according to one of the “Toddler’s Rules of Possession”: “If it’s in my hand it’s MINE!” All He ask for is 10% and that adds up to only 10 cents from every dollar we earn. You have to admit that is a pretty fair trade! You keep 90% and He gets 10% of what is all rightfully His! No family, business or institution can remain open without financial support. It’s just impossible. If every customer that frequents your local grocery store began only spending $5.00 to $25.00 a week or even a month, how long would the doors stay open? How long could you provide for your family if your boss decided to pay you what he felt like each paycheck. “Ralph, this week your paycheck will just be $20. I know you’ll understand, me and the wife have had some unexpected expenses and Junior wants a new X-Box.” How long could you support your family and keep a roof over their head this way? Does your church have heat for the winter and air-conditioning for the summer? Is there toilet paper, hand towels, soap and running water in the bathrooms? Is lighting provided for night services? Who then pays for all these comforts we enjoy? This doesn’t include many other expenses, not to mention the pastor’s salary and his need to provide for his family. Our giving is more than just putting money in the offering plate. Giving is another way we show the Lord we love Him. It is also an act of obedience to God. This obedience opens the door for Him to bless us. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” Luke 6:38
No I don’t mean we will turn into Donald Trump or Bill Gates, but we will ensure the opportunity for God to provide for our needs in miraculous ways. Countless Christians have not experienced such blessings because they are afraid to step out in faith and take God up on His offer. Nongiving members are good, loving, moral, Bible believing born again believers who would never dream of doing something unlawful, especially agianst God. But the Bible says they are thieves. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” Malachi 3:8 Definitely a severe accusation, but it shows us how serious God views giving Him His part. No, the Lord didn’t instigate giving to take from us or hinder us from meeting our financial obligations. He began it to make us an intimate part of His work here on earth. Giving is just one of His tools to help us grow in faith and learn to trust our Heavenly Father for all our needs. The opportunity to give to God is an honor, don’t neglect it.
3. Lack of involvement. When there is little participation in any type of group, it becomes impossible for just a few to carry the responsibilities long term. With no help the basic needs cannot be maintained, little alone the major purposes be fulfilled. We have all experienced this at home and in the workplace. The co-worker that doesn’t do his job so it falls on others to do his work and theirs. What about child that refuses to do chores around the house, leaving it all to mom and dad? Eventually everything falls apart. The problem arises when members come and act as “guests” to be cared for rather than doing their part as a church family member. Being involved in your church home can be accomplished in many ways.
Of course there are the ministries of the church such as teaching and serving in church offices, but we all can’t do that. You might consider offering to be a last minute fill-in for watching nursery or teaching a class. Volunteer nursery workers are needed all the time. If your church does not pay someone to clean workers are always needed to help here.
It is important to be spiritually involved too. Studying your Bible, praying for church ministries, fellow members, prayer requests and the pastor and his family. Simply ask God to show you where He needs you to serve. I promise He will. The chance to be involved in your church in anyway isn’t a burden, it is privilege. Don’t waste it.
. . . . to be continued
Published in the Oklahoma Baptist Newspaper, January 2013