by Raymond Elliott
How often we have heard that statement from a brother in Christ? And it is to be admitted that we often fail in fulfilling the many obligations that God has given to us. But there are some pertinent observations that need to be made relative to this broad statement.
First of all, we could say that the brother who makes such an accusation has taken to himself some of the attributes that are considered belonging only to God. In Psalms 139 we learn that God is omnipresent and omniscient. Thus, for a brother to be absolutely correct in saying that “The church ain’t doing nothing” (a double negative that means the church is doing something) he would have to posses all the knowledge of what all the brethren may or may not be doing. Otherwise, where he could not be and what he could not know, some brethren could be doing some work for the Lord. It is humanly impossible for a mortal man to have a complete knowledge of every good deed done by Christians.
One may not know of a marriage saved because an elder or a preacher counseled with the husband and wife in private; a letter of encouragement written to a friend; a family providing transportation to worship for an elderly person; a sister caring for a loved one who is an invalid; members visiting those who are shut-ins and/or sick; a young person carrying a gift to an aged Christian; another young person reading the Bible for one whose eye sight is dimmed; a concerned Christian providing food for indigent parents; a member of the church contributing money for the care of orphans or to the support of a Christian school; a mother teaching her daughter how to become a good homemaker; a Christian encouraging a brother who has become weak in the faith; a father instructing his son in the way of the Lord; parents providing opportunities for a Christian education for their children in the home, in a Christian school and the Bible class at the local congregation; teenagers standing firm on their convictions not to engage in acts of worldliness; prayers to God in secret for the spiritual welfare of loved ones, friends and brethren; quiet meditation on the grace of God and His word; faithful attendance by brethren to the various periods of Bible study and worship; the teaching of the Bible to seekers of truth in the privacy of their homes; and countless other acts of love and loyalty performed by faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
Second, the brother who says that the church is not doing anything may, in fact, be projecting his own lack of involvement in the work of the Lord. William Thackeray, an English novelist, wrote: “The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own.” This is so often true with the critic who beholds the church as being complacent and inactive. The truth of the matter is that the brother who is complaining seldom responds to the various work programs and periods of fellowship afforded by an eldership. On the other hand, inquire of the brother or sister who participates in the suggested areas of service and you will discover a more positive attitude. Jesus condemns the rash judgment of the church by such a hypercritical brother (Matthew 7:1- 5).
Third, what the brother usually means when he says, “The church ain’t doing nothing” is that the church collectively, in a highly organized manner is not doing anything. Most of our larger congregations are geared to organized machinery. Organized work programs can be productive and expedient in a congregation. However, organization for organization’s sake is worthless. This is not to say that some amount of organization should not be had in reference to general visitation and personal evangelism. What we must understand is that each Christian is a living stone and a priest in the house (family) of God (I Peter 2:5). This means that a member does not have to be told when and what to do for the Lord. Furthermore, when individual Christians are faithful and active so is the church collectively.
The Christian life is practical in every respect and consists of living and doing for others (Matthew 25:31-46). Since the Christian is not to shine his light but rather to radiate a glow by one’s life of service, many deeds will go unheeded by the majority of people (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus also taught that when a disciple does a charitable deed in secret that God will bless him (Matthew 6:4). The writer of the book of Hebrews informs us that, “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).
Fourth, we need to cease from comparing one congregation with another congregation. It is common to assume that a congregation is very active when visited one time. A visitor to the church where you attend may be highly impressed with the activities taking place at that particular time. It is often the case that a congregation located near a college campus or in a metropolis have more people to draw from and more opportunities for service. On the other hand, there are small rural congregations that do more, percentage wise, than larger churches in mission work. One congregation should not be condemned for another congregation’s achievement. Each congregation has a distinct personality of its own and varied opportunities to serve others (Galatians 6:10). Zeal is contagious. When we work, it inspires others to do the same. When we are busy, we will have the feeling that the church is active.