by J. Randal Matheny, editor
Not long ago, I wrote the article, “What I Love About the Church.” I mention it because I write now about what I’d like to see more of in the church, as one who believes in the church of our Lord and has worked for decades as a part of the body of Christ.
I’m no church basher, no change agent, and these are no cheap shots I’m taking.
I harbor hopes that my wishes expressed here represent a desire to draw closer to that pattern expressed in the New Testament of what the church should be. We always have room for improvement, and these seven things point toward areas where we might be able to grow.
In our most recent trip to the U.S., we spoke to or visited some 15 congregations in a seven-week period. Some of the points below were inspired by the positive things we saw in them and a desire to see more of the same; others are weak points observed in some places.
#1. More Shepherds Given Double Honor.
Churches first think of hiring a preacher; perhaps a congregation might first consider supporting an elder.
The “double honor” for elders, mentioned in 1 Timothy 5:17, means giving them financial help as they go about their task. The New Testament seems to point toward elders as a key to a church’s spiritual health.
#2. More Shepherding and Less Decision-Making.
Some shepherding can be done through decision-making, of course, but teaching and exhortation, both personal and public, are needed.
I’d like to see more elders teaching Bible classes to all age groups, leading the congregation in prayer, publicly exhorting the saints. “If a man desires to be an overseer, he desires a good work” (1 Timothy 3:1 PEB).
#3. More Time Spent Among Christians in Homes.
Americans seem to be showing less hospitality in their homes than they use to do. Hospitality is still present, but it’s often shown in restaurants or church buildings.
These days, visiting preachers are put up in motels. When I was a kid, we kept them in our home, and what a blessing it was!
In the home so much can be done for Christ. Our Lord went into people’s homes, often inviting himself, to great effect. “I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5 NET).
#4. More Emphasis on Prayer, and More Careful Selection of Men Qualified to Lead Public Prayers.
Perhaps a return of the Wednesday night prayer meeting is in order. Christians sometimes get together and never give a nod to prayer. Public prayers are seen as a place for new worship leaders to get their start. As a result, prayers are often shallow, murmured, or inexpressive.
Prayer is not the place to skimp! Jesus’ prayers weren’t a ritual, but a vibrant, often intense expression of his heart. “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
#5. More Focus on the Single Mission of The Church to Save Souls.
Churches are calling all sorts of activities missions, have so diversified that they lack God’s objective. Many need to return to the direct proclamation of the gospel.
Evangelism needs to be the hub of all that’s done. Where are the one-on-one studies being done?
The order to evangelize still stands, “according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26 NET).
#6. More Service and Less Talk of Leadership.
Please don’t talk to me about “servant leadership.” I still haven’t found that phrase in my Bible. I do read about towels, washbasins, and crosses.
Churches often use business leadership principles as a guide, strained through evangelical books. Time to get back to Jesus’ pattern of serving. “[T]hrough love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13 NET).
#7. More Holy Kissing.
Well, hugging or however you want to show your love and appreciation for the brethren. The Allenhurst, Ga., church has this one down.
Our politically correct world shies away from touching. We’re afraid to demonstrate our affections. Acts 20:37 would embarrass most of our people. “Greet one another with a loving kiss” (1 Peter 5:14 NET).
Being All God Wants Us to Be
I deeply love the church of our Lord. That’s why I mention these seven items. Surely, we need to work in other areas as well, but these are some that appeared to me. May the family of God become in every place all our heavenly Father meant for it to be.
I understand that these changes start with me. I’m working on them, within my sphere of action. Join with me to make a difference.