I am speaking to you as a Christian who was baptized over 60 years ago and has been through the battles of institutionalism and other changes. I now see new problems in the church of our Lord today, and believe we are in for more challenges on the horizon.
There will be four main points to my presentation:
- Proudly confessing Christ
- Teaching our families with special emphasis on our children
- Encouraging evangelistic labor to save souls
- Emphasizing a nationwide effort of work and evangelism
In the congregation in Kerrville, Texas where I worship, we are engaged in a series of lessons on evangelism; and we are setting up a program to get all members involved in spreading the Word. I have talked to our local preacher and to others about an idea to encourage Christians all over the country to realize our great potential–yes, our duty–to reverse the trend of shrinking memberships in local congregations and to start again spreading the word of salvation as the Christians of the first century did when they went everywhere preaching the Gospel.
The Need for a New Awakening
Today the world is becoming more secular, and we are living and working among people who conduct their lives with no thought of Jesus and His sacrifice for mankind. All around us we hear God’s name bantered, not for good, but casually, or worse in blasphemy.
The expression “OMG” is heard and texted almost every day and tears at my soul. Those who even dare to number themselves as Christians are being ridiculed. It is time for us to start boldly letting all around us know that we are proud to be Christians, and that we believe that Jesus is the Savior of the world. It is clear that true Christians are in the minority in the United States and in the world, but we must not be silent any longer. We need to let our lights shine and glorify the Lord.
Unfortunately, the ridicule and the cares of the world are affecting the church of the Lord. Instead of growing in faith and number, the opposite is true in most areas. The preacher where I worship recently discussed an article which was written by Sam Dawson. Dawson stated that in 1955 in the U.S. there were 18,000 churches of Christ with 3 million members. By 2005 the population of the U.S. had doubled, but the number of congregations had shrunk to only 12,900 with 1.3 million members; a rate of decline of 1.2% per year or 58% overall. If this trend continues, by 2055 there will be at most only 500,000 members left. These figures counted all churches who considered themselves churches of Christ, liberal or conservative. In Luke 18:7-8 Christ asks the question, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” I believe that unless Christians of today get to work now spreading the word, there may not be many, or any, Christians left when this generation is gone.
My wife and I like to travel and have visited in almost every state of the Union. We seek out faithful churches in order to attend services, and we are shocked to see most of the congregations being small in number and composed of mainly older members with few, if any, children. What is happening to the children of Christian families?
Have we not taught them as we should? Have we studied their Bible class lessons with them so that they are prepared when they go to class? Are we failing to train up our children in the ways of the Lord, or are they making the wrong choice to follow a life without a spiritual compass? Your congregation may be blessed with members who are working, and you may be blessed with younger families with children being taught about Jesus. If that is so, it is wonderful; but I am afraid you are in the minority as the statistics reveal.
We have heard preachers for years give lessons to encourage us to do the work of evangelism, but it seems most of us have put that effort off till tomorrow, and tomorrow has never come. I know that I have fallen short of my duty in this regard. Since the church is shrinking it appears that many of us are not carrying out the goal of the Great Commission to spread the word to the world, much less to this country. Can we blame the increasingly more secular society in which we live as the sole reason that most lost souls are not coming to believe in God? Before we answer, we must ask ourselves this question: During our life as a Christian, how many times have we personally taken the message of the Gospel to a family member, a friend, or a neighbor? If that answer is not “many times,” then some of the fault lies with us. Do we not care that billions in this world are without God? Certainly we should care, but what are we doing about it?
Recently I have been doing some soul searching and asking, “What could motivate me and others to stop building our houses on the sand?” Christ in the sermon of the mount in Matthew 7:26 said, “Now everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand.” We teach our children this parable and sing a song to help them remember it, but do we realize that by not helping to carry out the Great Commission, we are that foolish man.
So in answer to my question about motivation, I came to the conclusion that if I were to feel part of a general awakening of Christians across this country and the world, and could be caught up in an exciting movement, and be motivated just as the first century Christians who went everywhere preaching the Gospel; I would be emboldened to join in with others letting the world know I am proud to be a Christian and asking others to share the blessings of being in Christ.
Imagine if all over the country we could get members of congregations to unite in a general effort to begin an evangelistic endeavor. What if each congregation independently and on their own began whatever programs they deem to be best for them? What if most of the congregations could do this concurrently? Maybe we wouldn’t feel so alone if we were a part of a great time of spiritual awakening.
The idea of “an awakening” is not new; in fact, it is a biblical subject. In Romans 13:11-14 Paul told the Roman brethren that “…now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent; the day is at hand…let us put on the armor of light and put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” The urgency was there in the first century to wake up. How close is our salvation two thousand years later? In 1 Corinthians 15: 34 Paul continues this theme by declaring, “Awake to righteousness.” Again in Ephesians 5:13-14 Paul gives us a new revelation from the Godhead, “Awake you who sleep, Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Let us face it. If we had been really awake all those years since 1955, would the church be shrinking like it has been? Would we be losing our children to the world in such great numbers? As we are told in James 1:22, are we deceiving ourselves into believing we are doing God’s will when we are only hearers only? Quoting from “Moments with the Master” by George Slover, “After all, we are not saved just to be saved, we are saved to serve.” (Romans 12:1-2) Part of that service to God is to teach the world the Gospel.
I am hoping that the brotherhood can and will awake as one; and recognize our duty and common goal to teach our children, our families, and our neighbors the saving word of the Bible. I am hoping that all over the country the preachers, elders and other leaders of faithful congregations will take us by the hand and show us how to boldly, but kindly, seek and save the lost. Somebody taught us the truth, be it family or friend. What if they had not cared about us or had neglected to teach us? Where would we be today?
After giving this talk to others, it was suggested by the audience that I discuss some ways that members could get started spreading the word. These are meant to be examples and in no way are they meant to interfere with any local work.
Christians can be classified as either introverts (shy when talking to others) or extroverts (bold, willing to tell the story of Jesus). The introverts would be very reluctant to go door knocking or maybe even to go up to someone and broach the subject of Christ. What could they do to get started? One idea we use in Kerrville (which we learned from brethren at the Dowlen Road Church in Beaumont, Texas) is to pass out cards that state—“If you are looking for a church that teaches the truth from God’s Word, I recommend the Junction Highway Church of Christ.” The other side of the card gives the address and times for worship. These cards can be mailed out or handed out to people we encounter in our daily lives, such as the cashier at Wal-Mart or the waiter who picks up our payment at a restaurant. These more introverted souls could also mail flyers about upcoming meetings or copies of the weekly bulletins to those whom they want to reach. I know of a husband and wife who wrote a simple sheet of First Principles and mailed out subsequent ones monthly to their friends and family members. As a result of that mailing, five family members became interested enough to study and were eventually baptized.
The extroverts could directly approach their neighbors with invitations to come to church or to study the Bible. They could go to their neighbors and knock on their doors bringing the Good News to them. What did the first Christians have to work with? They did not even have the New Testament. They just told those they met that the Messiah had come and what a wonderful blessing it was to be a Christian. We can all find a way to spread the word.
Can an exciting movement like that of the first century and that of the Restoration that flourished in the early 1800’s still be achieved today? I believe it can; but in order to be successful, it would really take an ongoing effort of sermons, willing members, and continued encouragement. The immediate goal of the awakening should be that we will be working and doing God’s will. If we continue to do our part, God will give the increase.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians the second chapter, said that he did not come with excellence of speech as he declared the testimony of God, but that he should rely of the power of God in the Word. Like Moses, we may be thinking we are not up to this noble task; but God has given us the power of the Gospel. We are just the lowly messengers– the power is in the message. Paul continued to say that neither he who plants is anything nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. It is the labor we need to do. Wouldn’t it be encouraging to know that all over the country men and women are joining us in this labor? Perhaps it could spread all over the world. Otis Gatewood, a Gospel preacher, once wrote, “The work of preaching the Gospel to “every creature” is a stupendous task, and we cannot succeed if we push all the responsibility to the shoulders of a few. We should be “workers together” with the Lord.”
The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Let us stand united, proud to be Christians, and boldly confess and teach the basis of our faith in our Savior to those who so desperately need it. Saving a lost world is, after all, the work of the Great Commission.
Do you believe with me that we need another general awakening of Christians to realize our duty? Do you believe with me that it is obtainable? What a blessing it would be to wake up the brotherhood to an exciting new spirit of evangelism. Are you ready to be part of this new awakening and help spread the Gospel to a sinful and lost world? Yes?
Then ” LET’S ROLL”!