The Dwindling Church
“We simply must DO something to increase our membership,” Angie said.
Sylvia shrugged. “Or get more of our inactive members to show up for church–“
“–With an offering.” Angie broke in.
Fred was peeling an orange as he entered the living room from the kitchen. “What’s wrong with belonging to a small church?” he said. Angie jumped up and handed him a towel.
Sylvia said, “I don’t think anything’s wrong with that unless the church is small because it doesn’t have anything to offer.”
“We have a lot to offer,” Angie said.
“We’re in a small community a hundred miles from the next Adventist church,” Fred said. “We’re not exactly the center of attention.”
“The center of attention is that big church across from the shopping center in town,” Sylvia said. “Join that one if you want a big church.”
Fred and Angie groaned.
“Why do you think the church of the apostles grew from a handful to hundreds and thousands to millions and millions?” Fred asked.
“That’s simple,” Sylvia said. “They were drawn to Jesus first and then to the church.”
“And may that be our single all-important goal,” Fred said, tapping his fingers on his knees. “The closer we are to Jesus, the better able we are to draw others to the church because the Holy Spirit will lead us to do what we should to to win friends for God.”
And it was so.
[Thought Questions for The Apostolic Example August 1, 2012]
1. Boldness in suffering. Have you ever prayed for the privilege of suffering for your faith? Have you ever known someone who was teased, ridiculed, bullied or even mauled physically because of his or her faith in Jesus? If word spread around town that the church you belong to is a collection of people who lie and distort the truth, would you look for ways to disassociate yourself from them? If persecution and suffering work to purify the church and its message, should we be praying for harsh circumstances?
2. Character of the apostles. Paul assured the believers that he and the other apostles never used flattery. Why not? Isn’t flattery the best way to win favor? Why not a little dancing and drumming and shrieking? And cozying up to the richest and the most alluring ones in the crowd? Were Paul and Silas bold and brave in Thessalonica? Did they display their superior knowledge? Weren’t their motives and hearts miles above those of the Thessalonicans? Why not make the most of that situation?
3. Pleasing God. Have you ever in your life tricked yourself? And by so doing tricked others? What do you say to a fellow believer who complains continually about the faults of the church or its leaders? Have you ever made yourself a study? Have you tried to examine yourself and correct all of your deficiencies? What if anything is wrong with that approach? Do you have a strong sense of self worth? Is that a good characteristic or not? Does Jesus want each of us to have a healthy sense of self worth? Are you amazed to think that Jesus cares about you as much as if you were the only being in the universe? What can you do about that?
4. Caring deeply. You can watch a TV show about American greed and other programs glorifying money, sex, and power. Do you enjoy doing so? Why or why not? In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, Paul talks about the “pathos” he had enjoyed with the people of Thessalonica. Why did Paul seem to like the Thessalonicans so much? Do the families within your local church show pathos to your pastor and other church leaders? How do you do that?
4. To not be a burden. “I just don’t want to be a burden.” How many times have you heard an older person, one who perhaps had worked hard for years to raise a family, express the fear of having to depend on others for his or her livelihood? Is it possible to make decisions now so that won’t happen to you? If it does happen, it is your fault? Even if it’s your fault, can you accept the kindness of others? Can God show you ways to return at least some of that kindness from those who befriend you? What did Paul want from the households he visited? What did he do for them? Can you imagine being a follower of Paul without getting to know Jesus better?
5. Believing without acting. Have you ever known a Christian who claimed to be a follower of Jesus but did not act like one? Have you ever lost your temper? Made up a story about where you’ve been? Pilfered money from your spouse without permission? What happens to God’s love when you act or think in an un-Christian way? Does He have reason to stop loving you? Does He? How many reasons does God have to keep you from eternal life? What happens to those reasons when you accept His forgiveness? Is the Holy Spirit available to us “end-time” Christians as much as he was to Paul and Silas and the apostolic churches?