Editor's Note: We have had a huge flood of mail in response to the article "Frustrations with the Church" in our March/April, 1997, issue. The following letter we felt was especially sensitive to the same problems we were reacting to in our article. --John Clayton
June 19, 1997
I am writing in response to your article, "Frustrations with the Church" , in the March/April, 1997, issue of Does God Exist? My heart goes out to you with a hearty "Amen!" to what you said. It has given me a great deal to think about.
I am in my mid-40s and preach for a congregation of over 500. We have a positive eldership and many good things are happening. What distresses me is that it seems as though the vast majority of people who come to church don't give a flip about anything spiritual and anything concerning the Lord's work. "Volunteering" or serving in many ways is becoming a lost art. People fill their lives with work, play, and personal activities, and perhaps a little of the rest of the time is given to God. We have a hard time finding teachers for classes and volunteers to keep the nursery. We have become so worldly that it scares me. Many in the church think that "we are different" because we are the Lord's church, but we are just like so many other groups in many ways (and some groups pass us in dedication and spirituality). What we have done, I'm afraid, is defined down discipleship to be that which we are doing already, so it must be all right.
Then there is the money issue. No, not my salary; I am well-supported and have no complaints. I am referring to all that we spend on ourselves. We just finished a major building addition. It is used a great deal, but we're a long way from using it effectively for outreach. Our auditorium is filled to capacity. Do we build a new $2 million auditorium? I hope not, unless (1) we have the money up front and (2) we dedicate ourselves to using it to reach out and not just please ourselves. When I think of what $2 million could do in communicating the Gospel to people who might actually be interested in hearing it, it boggles my mind. We have settled down in the world and have molded the church to conform to it.
What am I to do about it all? Is there another way of service that might be more rewarding than administrating during the week and preaching sermons on Sunday that seem to have little impact? What can I do that won't be an uphill fight and make me a lonely voice crying in the wilderness? As I wonder, I keep trying.
So, your words struck a chord with me. We can do better. We have not yet restored the "New Testament Church," and we may have slipped on some of what had been restored in earlier years. We don't know the Bible well any more. We know more about Lucado and Dobson than Paul and John. Youth ministry is largely ineffective because families are so fragmented, and what that means for the next generation I can hardly imagine. But the kingdom is a worthy cause. I just wonder sometimes if we are--if I am--going about it in the right way.
I know that my responsibility is clear to live faithfully and to do my best with my own family, to teach faithfully, to reach out regardless of whether others do or don't, and to equip others as best I can for works of service. Nothing is in the way of my doing this and knowing that I am doing God's will when I do. But even as I try to do my best, I believe there are serious failings in the church that one person cannot reverse. We need a sincere rededication to following Jesus with our whole lives, regardless of the cost. As much as I say that and try to model it, it doesn't seem to be happening.
...It is a privilege to count you as a brother in Christ. Thanks for your work. Keep the faith.
--Name withheld by request of the writer of this letter
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