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Faithful Words

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Faithful Words

By Dr. Kenneth Faught

 

Considering the state of the church   “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). The Apostle Paul, in addressing the congregation at Corinth, both praises and rebukes them. He recognizes that they are a gifted and diverse congregation – one capable of doing many things “right.” He also knows that they are very carnal, self-centered, and divisive. They are tolerating immorality, taking one another to court, and even guilty of gross heresy, like denying the resurrection of Jesus! Paul warns them to consider their plight and make corrections. Saint Luke, in his early history of the Christian community, pauses no less than seven times in the Book of Acts to give an “update” on how the church is doing. The first account, found in Acts 2:41-47, indicates that the Christian community got off to a good, strong start. But like Paul, Luke warns of dangers and insists that some self-examination is essential. What about our congregations? What is the state of our local churches as we enter 2010? There may be negatives. Perhaps we perceive a loss of interest in Bible study and worship. Giving is not generous or consistent, and so ministries struggle. Mistakes are made. Commitments go unfulfilled. Biblical teaching is ignored. “Heretical” thinking leads us into apathy, lethargy, and ineffectiveness. I believe that if we look around we will discover that there are always some “positives” we can build upon. Perhaps God has blessed the congregation with some wonderful Christian disciples . . . with resources that can be utilized for the kingdom’s work . . . with opportunities that are real, but perhaps unrecognized. We should never wring our hands in despair over the state of the church – God is waiting, as one elderly church member reminded me years ago, to “do His part – if we will do our part”. Many churches today are in transition. Church growth experts sometimes talk about churches that are stuck on a “plateau,” but we must be careful of embracing such imagery. All churches are either growing or dying. We don’t have the luxury of coasting or treading water. Our task is to evaluate God’s calling in light of His Spirit and His Word, and then obediently follow – even if this meets with opposition from some who are afraid of where God might lead. Where will be in 2020 if things continue to go as they are going? What will happen if God has His way? It’s a conversation every church must have. (Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.)