by Raymond Elliott
How often have we heard that statement from a brother in Christ? And it is to be admitted that we often fail in fulfilling the many obligations that God has given us. But there are some pertinent observations that need to be made relative to this broad statement.
First of all, we could say that the brother who makes such an accusation has taken to himself some of the attributes that are considered belonging only to God. In Psalms 139 we learn that God is omnipresent and omniscient. Thus, for a brother to be absolutely correct in saying that "The church ain't doing nothing" (a double negative which means that the church is doing something) he would have to have all the knowledge of what all the brethren may or may not be doing. Otherwise, where he could not be and what he could not know, some brethren could be doing some work for the Lord.
It is completely impossible for a mortal man to have complete knowledge of every good deed done by Christians. One may not know of a marriage saved because an elder or a preacher counseled with a husband and wife in private. A letter of encouragement is written to a friend. A family providing transportation to worship for an elderly person. A sister caring for a loved one who is an invalid. Members visiting those who are shut-ins and/or sick. A young person carrying a gift to an aged Christian. Another young person reading the Bible for one whose eyesight is dimmed. A concerned Christian provides food for someone's parents who are destitute, needy, and poor. A member of the church contributes money for the care of orphans. A mother teaches her daughter to become a good homemaker. A Christian encouraging a brother who has become weak in the faith. A father instructing his son in the way of the Lord. Parents provide opportunities for Christian education for their children in the home and in Bible class. Teenagers stand firm on their convictions not to engage in acts of worldliness. Prayers to God both private and public for the spiritual welfare of loved ones, friends, and brethren. Meditation on the grace of God and His Word. Faithful attendance by brethren to the various periods of Bible study and worship. The teaching of the Bible to seekers of truth in the privacy of their homes, and countless other acts of love and loyalty performed by faithful brothers and sisters in Christ.
Second, the brother who says that the church is not doing anything may, in fact, be projecting his own lack of involvement in the local congregation. William Thackery, an English novelist, wrote, "The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own." But more importantly than what this uninspired man wrote, an inspired man named James wrote in James 1:23 about the "man beholding his natural face in a glass [mirror]." This is so often true with the critic who beholds the church as being complacent and inactive. The truth of the matter is that the brother who is complaining seldom responds to the various work programs and periods of fellowship. On the other hand, inquire of the brother and or sister who participates in the suggested areas of service and you will discover a more positive attitude. Jesus condemns the rash judgment of the church by such a hypocritical brother (Matthew 7:1-5).
Third, what the brother usually means when he says, "The church ain't doing nothing" is that the church collectively, in a highly organized manner is not doing anything. Most of our larger congregations are geared to organized machinery. Organized work programs can be productive and expedient in the local congregation. However, an organization for organizations' sake is worthless. That is not to say that some amount of organization should not be had in reference to general visitation and personal evangelism. What we must understand is that each Christian is a living stone and a priest in the house or family of God (I Peter 2:5). This means that a member does not have to be told when and what to do for the Lord. Furthermore, when individual Christians are faithful and active, so is the church collectively. The Christian life is practical in every respect and consists of living and doing for others (Matthew 25:31-46). Since the Christian is not to shine his light, but rather radiate a glow by one's life of service many deeds will go unheeded by the majority of people (Matthew 5:13-16). Jesus also taught that when a disciple does a charitable deed in secret that God will bless him or her (Matthew 6:4). The writer of the book of Hebrews informs us that "God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister" (Hebrews 6:10).
Fourth, we need to cease comparing one congregation with another congregation. It is common to assume that one local church is very active when visited one time. A visitor to the congregation where you attend may be highly impressed with the activities taking place at that particular time. It is often the case that a congregation located near a college campus or in a metropolis has more people to draw from and more opportunities for service. On the other hand, there are small rural congregations that do more, percentage-wise, than larger congregations in mission work. One congregation should not be condemned because of another congregation's achievement. Each congregation has a distinct personality of its own and varied opportunities to serve (Galatians 6:10). Zeal is contagious. When we work it inspires others to do the same. When we are busy we will have the feeling that the church is active.