How Uncommitted, Unfaithful Christians Make Me Feel
by Victor M. Eskew
It has been a challenge since I first began preaching. It has been one of the difficulties that must be faced in every congregation wherein I have preached. It is not unique to me and my experiences. Every preacher has had to face this problem. In every church, there are Christians who are not committed to the Lord and to His cause. They have not learned priorities. They have not learned sacrifice. They have not learned involvement. They have not learned how to labor in the vineyard of the Lord. They have not learned their role as a member of the body. They have not learned the importance of worship. They have not learned to submit to the elders. They have not learned that God wants them to be abundantly fruitful as His children. They have not learned the lesson of the Parable of the Talents. They have not come to realize the meaning of the words: “Be thou faithful unto death…” (Revelation 2:10). They have a “do as I please mentality.” They have a “do as little as possible mentality.” They have an “I don’t care what the Bible says” mentality. They have a “leave me alone mentality.”
These individuals cause the preacher to have many feelings. First, the preacher experiences shock. How can these Christians be so negligent? How could they fail to be faithful? How could they be so unconcerned about their spiritual lives? Do they not love the Lord? Are they not concerned about their souls? Paul felt shocked when the churches of Galatia began to depart from the gospel he had taught them. His words to them were: “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel” (Galatians 1:6). The word “marvel” means “to wonder at.” His shock was again expressed in Galatians 5:7. He asked: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” It is just hard to fathom individuals turning from the most important thing that will ever influence their lives here and in the world to come.
Second, he is disappointed. Disappointment involves sadness. The preacher is sad because these Christians have not lived up to the expectations the Lord has set for them. They are not all new Christians. Some of them have been children of God for years and years. At this stage in their lives, they should have developed into very mature men and women of God. Instead, they have either remained children or have gone backward in their maturity. They are like children who have to be begged to brush their teeth and to eat the food on their plates. Paul dealt with some Christians who were like this at Corinth. He wrote: “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able” (I Corinthians 3:1-2). Yes, when brethren fail to live up to their potential, there is a great deal of disappointment that is experienced.
Third, the preacher is deeply concerned. Turning away from the truth is not a minor thing. Failing to be faithful is a “big deal.” The Bible teaches us that these individuals need to be warned. They need to be rebuked. They need to be recovered. They need to be snatched from the fire. They need to be restored. If they do not turn back, they will be lost. The Hebrew writer was deeply concerned for his readers who were turning away from the faith. He warned them in Hebrews 10:38, saying: “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” Peter knew Christians can be entangled in the world again. He warns that “the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (II Pet. 2:20-21).
Fourth, the preacher is confused. One definition of “confused” is “exhibiting an inability to understand.” The confusion comes from the positions these Christians hold and the actions they display while in those positions. They say they are “children of God,” but they are disobedient children. They refer to themselves as “servants of God,” but they are negligent in their duties. They say they are “Christians” but they are not following the footsteps of Christ. They say they are “workers for the Lord,” but they do not show up to work. They say they are “priests of God,” but they are slothful in their temple duties. They say they are “members of the body of Christ, “but are not a functioning members. They say they are “soldiers in the Lord’s army,” but they are seldom around when the battle rages. Yes, the preacher is confused.
Fifth, the preacher is aggravated. He is aggravated because most of these members know better. They have heard sermons about faithfulness and steadfastness. They have heard lessons about growth and fruitfulness. They have been warned time and again about unfaithfulness. These lessons seem to be like water on a duck’s back. The words of the messages go in one ear and out the other. Apparently, the seed of God’s Word is not falling on good ground. The minister wonders: “Why aren’t they listening? Why aren’t they responding? Why aren’t they changing their lives?” Jesus was faced with this difficulty when He preached to the Jews. Listen to a conversation He had with them. “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do: he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not” (John 8:43-34). Jesus summed it up perfectly. Hear His words again: “Ye are of your father the devil.”
When a minister expresses his concerns about those who are not faithful and not committed in the body of Christ, he is often met with these words: “Preacher that is your problem, not ours.” In a sense this is true. The preacher must deal with his own personal feelings about these individuals. It is hard not to be consumed with them. The preacher loves them dearly and truly desires their best. But there is also a sense in which the problem is not the preacher’s, but is theirs. These individuals are the ones who are out of step with God. They are the ones who are not faithful. They are the ones who will have to give an account unto God for their actions. It seems that having the preacher’s problem is much more preferable than having their problem.