[Thought Questions for Keeping the Church Faithful September 26, 2012]
1. Change and growth. Can a church grow without changing? Of course not. By definition, growth requires change. Can a church change without growing? Where does change without growth lead? If you’ve been attending the same church for five years, has the church changed during that time? What about you? Have the past months or years changed your perspective on life in any way? If your church or Sabbath school is not growing, it is because of the pastor? Can you, as a Sabbath school teacher or member of a class or just a member of the Sabbath school, help your church grow?
2. God’s choice. Think about a family member or friend who is a long ways away. Would you rather receive an email or a telephone call from this person? Why? Our friends in Thessalonica didn’t have that choice. How did Paul write his letters to the churches such as Thessolonica? If they had a choice, which would the church members have preferred–to hear Paul speak in person or to receive a letter written by Paul to them? What are some advantages of the spoken word? of the written word? Throughout eternity, how do you think we will learn from God–through His presence or by books He will prepare for us? In what sense were the Thessalonian believers the “first fruits to be saved?” When it comes to communication, what is God’s first choice for you and me? Is it possible for us to have a constant and deep communication with God? How?
3. Scripture and Tradition. When Jesus walked on this earth, how important were the messages from the Old Testament? Do we as Christians regard the New Testament as more inspiring than the Old Testament? Should we? Have you ever wondered why the church follows certain practices? Have you ever been told it was because of tradition? Does the word “tradition” have negative meaning to you? Should it? How did Paul’s messages become transformed into a tradition that Christian churches should follow? Is it ever possible to follow tradition without devotion? Is the Bible a collection of traditions? If not, what is the grander purpose God has in mind for giving us the Holy Bible?
4. Work. Do you enjoy working? Or would you rather live from a stream of income that has no relationship to how much you work? Why did Paul work so hard in ministering to the people of Thessalonica? Have you ever heard of a church inviting a minister to join the pastoral staff with the requirement that he and his family live without any income? Do young people in our church choose the ministry as a career because of the pay and benefits they will receive? Why shouldn’t we all pool the money we earn and put it in a savings account that we would draw from when a minister or church member needs financial help? Is it possible to be lazy and be a Christian at the same time? What work does God have for you to do?
5. Tough Love. Those Thessalonians. Now they’re getting in trouble again. Some of them are lazy. Others keep busy spreading gossip about other members. What has happened to all of their virtues Paul praised them for earlier? Is criticism and fault-finding ever justified within the church? Short of disfellowshipping, do we ever delete certain people from consideration for a church office the person has held before? In such cases, is the person concerned ever informed of what is going on and given an opportunity to correct his or her path? What do you think about the policy that the General Conference does not disfellowship anyone? Does your local church ever participate in disciplining any members? If so, has it gone well?
6. Supporting idleness. Are you looking forward to a time in your life when there is no more work to do? What are you planning to do then? Does our church today ever get involved in supporting an individual or a family that doesn’t work? Does Paul say that is always a bad idea? Does Ellen White? What are the principles at play so that the right decision can be made when we become aware of a person who could work but doesn’t? Now let’s go to church. Are there idle members lurking in the pews? Do some members hardly ever show up for church services, much less support any of the church’s projects? What should we do about such members? Or, more to the point, what should we do with ourselves when we are tempted to be “pew sitters” only?