OPIN­ION

Church wealth not al­ways God’s bless­ing

The Covington News - - RELIGION -

A fun­da­men­tal er­ror is be­ing made in our think­ing about the church to­day. There seems to be a grow­ing con­cept that if a church is large and pros­per­ous, it must have God’s bless­ing on it.

Cer­tainly such rea­son­ing makes sense if the grow­ing mes­sage of pros­per­ity is fol­lowed to its log­i­cal con­clu­sion. But don’t let the size of a church fool you. In the book of Reve­la­tion, the Lord writes of two very pros­per­ous churches, Sardis (Reve­la­tion 3:1-6) and Laodicea (Reve­la­tion 3:1422), and while th­ese churches looked great in the world’s eyes, in the eyes of the Lord Sardis was dead (Reve­la­tion 3:2) and Laodicea was des­ti­tute. Now, lest you draw a wrong con­clu­sion at the start, let me state cat­e­gor­i­cally that a church’s size (small or large) has noth­ing to do with its spir­i­tual vi­tal­ity. There are many won­der­ful large churches, but there are also many spir­i­tu­ally dead large churches as well. On the flip side, there are many faith­ful small churches, but there are also many dead small churches as well. The vi­tal­ity of a church can­not be gauged by its size (or lack thereof).

“Why,” you might ask, “are some churches which fail to pro­claim a clear gospel mes­sage grow­ing if it is not the bless­ing of God?” Scrip­ture an­swers that bet­ter than I can. “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doc­trine. In­stead, to suit their own de­sires, they will gather around them a great num­ber of teach­ers to say what their itch­ing ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Ti­mothy 4:3-4, NIV). Do not mis­take size (or lack thereof) for the bless­ing of God.

Study the life of the prophets. I don’t be­lieve any of them would have been con­sid­ered a great suc­cess by mod­ern mea­sures. Now the false prophets on the other hand were the fa­vorite of the peo­ple, but God’s men were per­se­cuted, con­demned, ridiculed and even killed.

One quick ex­am­ple. The prophet Isa­iah was called to preach a very un­pop­u­lar mes­sage (See Isa­iah 6 for back­ground). He is not thrilled about this so he asks the Lord how long he’ll have to do it. The Lord an­swers un­til ev­ery­thing lies in ju­di­cial ruin. Not a task I would rel­ish, but there you have it.

Now if Isa­iah lived to­day, I can imag­ine him com­ing to one of our min­is­te­rial meet­ings. The con­ver­sa­tion might go some­thing like this: “Brother, Isa­iah, how’d it go this week?”

Isa­iah: “Oh, more of the same.”

Min­is­ters (per­haps with know­ing) snick­ers: “What do you mean, ‘the same?’”

Isa­iah: “You know. No one came to church. They didn’t want to hear the dif­fi­cult mes­sage; they don’t like much what I preach.”

Min­is­ters (set­ting the trap): “Well, brother, what did you do?”

Isa­iah: “I did what I do ev­ery week. I went out and started to preach on the street cor­ner. That is, un­til I was run off.”

Min­is­ters: “Brother Isa­iah, we have been dis­cussing you. This has been go­ing on for 10 years now. Have you ever stopped to con­sider that maybe God hasn’t called you to min­istry?”

I am nei­ther a prophet nor the son of a prophet, but I sus­pect that pretty well would sum up the coun­sel of the age. Cer­tainly no rep­utable de­nom­i­na­tion or church would hire such a man. But God did. Was Isa­iah suc­cess­ful? Not for one minute in the worldly sense (even­tu­ally he was killed for his mes­sage), but in God’s eyes he is a shin­ing crown. Why? He was faith­ful in dif­fi­cult times. He stayed faith­ful to the mes­sage and did not wa­ver, some­thing that is true of all God’s faith­ful ser­vants.

There is much more I want to write, but space eludes me. Let me close with a word of en­cour­age­ment to God’s faith­ful peo­ple: hang in there, don’t quit. God sees, and like Isa­iah there is com­ing a day when what may look like hope­less fail­ure will be shown to be glo­ri­ous suc­cess.

John Pear­rell

Colum­nist

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