Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 15, 1949
NUMBER 19, PAGE 3,4b

The Need Of The Church Today

Thomas Allen Robertson

We are not modern seers or prophets and we do not know all of the needs of the church. One aspect of this subject that makes it a difficult one is that the needs of the church are so varied from one congregation to another. One congregation may be bothered by worldliness, while another may be comparatively free from that problem; one may have a crying need for scriptural elders and deacons, while a sister congregation may have no such problem at all, having an adequate supply of scriptural officers. So, recognizing that we are omitting many of the pressing needs of individual congregations, we mention the following as being some of the outstanding needs of the church generally.

The Need Of Zeal

The proselyting zeal of the early church was one of its chief characteristics. From Jerusalem through Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, on to Caesarea, Damascus, Antioch, and the chief cities of Asia Minor, over into Europe and throughout the bounds of the Roman Empire the gospel was carried by the disciples. Those who were driven from their homes by persecution "went everywhere preaching the word." (Acts 8:4) Churches sent out preachers. When there was no church to send them, those who were capable went forth voluntarily for the spread of the kingdom, "taking nothing of the Gentiles," trusting God and their own hard work to provide for their needs. This great enthusiasm for Christ was the grand secret of the invincible might and matchless victories of the primitive church.

Today we see a vast difference. There seems to be an indifference on the part of many as to whether their neighbor is a Christian or not. Many members seem to have the "Am I my brother's keeper?" attitude. They appear to think that it is no affair of theirs whether their neighbor goes to hell or not. They leave the salvation of men's souls up to the preacher, or the elders and deacons. And sometimes they even take issue with the preacher because they think he offends some friend or neighbor by telling the plain truth concerning faith, repentance, and baptism. Apparently they value their neighbor's friendship more than they value his soul.

In the days of the apostles the church was filled with ministries. There were rulers, teachers, preachers, exhorters, ministers of mercy, and various kinds of "helpers", who were giving time to the work of the Lord. Men and women, old and young, had a work to do. They were not all preachers, and they were not all teachers, but they were all workers. They worked with a feverish sort of compulsion and urgency. Every day precious souls were going to hell, and their master had commanded his servants to "preach the gospel to every creature." They were doing what he said; they were turning the world upside down for Christ. The church today needs that sort of zeal.

The Need Of A Program

Some brethren have an aversion to the word "program" in connection with the work of the church. But, call it what you will, the church needs some kind of intelligent plan under which to function. The Bible says, "Let all things be done decently and in order." (1 Cor. 14: 40) And we don't think that means to just let it happen without any foresight and without any plan. But that is exactly how things are being done in many congregations. No intelligent effort is made to use the talent in the congregation; much power and potential strength is wasted.

The program of the church must be unified. Elements of competition and duplication must be done away with. When several men in one church try to do the same work without any plan or understanding, it means a scattering of forces, a loss of impact, and a ready field for jealous rivalries. When church work is teamwork, God has a chance.

The program must also be simple. Or, perhaps, we should say it should be clarified. Church work has often impressed people as mysterious rather than powerful. This is due, in large part, to our failure to familiarize the members with our tasks and methods. The program of the church should be so arranged as to constantly keep before the members what we are doing, how we are doing it, and why.

The Need Of Faithfulness

Without question, one of the greatest needs of the church today is faithfulness, old-fashioned faithfulness—a fidelity not only to attend the services of the church, but a loyalty to Christ throughout the whole week.

To the church at Smyrna, Christ said, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." (Rev. 2:10) In order to receive that crown of life we must he faithful in all things, both in theory and in practice. To study God's commands is not enough. We must also be faithful in our execution of them. He has ordered that we "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) The only way we can consistently do this is by living the Christian life at all times before the world.

Along about here we usually mention drinking, dancing, mixed bathing, and several other things, all of which are unbecoming in the life of a Christian. But we want to go back behind those things, for they are only outward symptoms of something deeper. They are the outward manifestations of the disease, rather than the disease itself. The outward man is a gauge of the inward man; the outward things we see and hear serve only to reveal the true condition of the heart. Christ said, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceedeth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man." (Matt. 15:18, 19) If the heart of a man is faithful to the Lord, we need not worry too much about "worldliness" in his life; if the heart is not faithful all our efforts to discourage worldliness are useless.

Not only do we need faithfulness in every day life, but we need it also in the observance of the Lord's day. An alarming lack of appreciation of the value of the Lord's Supper seems to prevail among many members of the church. The early disciples "came together upon the first day of the week to break bread." (Acts 20:7) And the writer of Hebrews admonished those to whom he wrote that they should not forsake "the assembling of yourselves together, as the custom of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching." (Heb. 10:25) When we forsake worship services of the church, we are destroying the very foundations of our religion. Voltaire, the French atheist, said, "I despair of destroying religion while millions meet together for worship on the first day of each week."

In reading the book of Revelation, let each one be impressed anew with the fact that the grim procession (those on their way to "the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone" is headed, not by the polluted, the criminal the drunkard, but by the unfaithful. Yes, surely, there is no need more pressing on the church today than this urgent need for faithfulness on the part of all.