Reversing the Trend

Donald Norbie

" Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent." (Rev. 3:3).

Perhaps you are in an assembly where gradual changes have been occurring. The Lordís Supper is no longer viewed as very important. Attendance was down and the decision was made to appoint one man to orchestrate the service. It was also suggested that women be free to participate vocally. Now they seem to be more vocal than the men.

Since the elders were not doing their work of shepherding it was decided to hire a full-time worker. A seminary graduate was contacted and a contract signed. Unfortunately after a few years he was offered a greater salary by another church, far more than you were able to pay him, and as a result he felt led to move on to a bigger and better field of service.

To attract larger crowds to the preaching service older hymns were eliminated and contemporary music was substituted. The preaching was shortened and drama was introduced. Preaching was made "relevant," dealing with the "needs" of the congregation. Expositional preaching was discouraged.

Perhaps some are wondering and remembering earlier days when things were simpler. They realize they have become just another fundamental church which does not practice New Testament principles of gathering. Is it possible to reverse the trend?

Yes, it is, but only if the leadership can become united on how a New Testament assembly should function. Then they will need to spell out to the those in fellowship the changes which need to be implemented and the pattern the assembly needs to follow.

The importance and nature of the Lordís supper must be explained and men encouraged to lead (I Cor. 14:26, 34). The Holy Spirit must again be given freedom to move upon His people to utilize the spiritual gifts present (I Cor. 12:7-8). Teaching on the roles of the men and women in the assembly must be done.

The purpose of music is to praise God and to edify believers (I Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19). Be slow to throw out hymns which have passed the test of centuries. Be slow to adopt any current Christian music that has little spiritual content and appeals largely because of the beat and rhythm. Singing imprints truth upon the soul as nothing else. Martin Luther believed the most important book next to the Bible for the believer is his hymnal. Choose your hymns carefully.

Study again the role of the full-time worker and the local church. Did apostles appoint a full-time worker for every church or only elders (Acts 14:23)? Were elders expected to shepherd the flock or to hire a worker (Acts 20:28)?

Were full-time workers ever hired or salaried by a local church? Or did they live a life of faith, supported by the gifts of individuals and churches (Phil. 4:15-17)? In this they followed the teaching of their Lord (Mt. 10:8-11). This enabled them to avoid pleasing men in their preaching (Gal. 4:16; Acts 20:20). They were free of financial pressure.

Refuse then to enter into a contract, verbal or written, with a worker. Be exercised in heart to give generously but guarantee him nothing. Let him be free to be the Lordís servant (Gal. 1:10).

Is it possible to reverse the trend and to go back to the simplicity of the early church? Indeed it is! But it will require men of conviction who are committed to studying the Scripture and to following the Scriptural pattern of the first century church.

To take such a step will involve a sifting of the church. Some will oppose, not having convictions, feeling the Scriptural pattern is irrelevant for this modern age. They may leave and join a another church. While you may regret their leaving, it is better to be of one mind as an assembly.

Take your stand once again in obedience to your Lord and make the necessary changes. (1 Sam. 15:22) Be loving toward all Christians but stand for truth. And through vigorous witnessing see the Lord add to His church (Acts 2:47). Your assembly can flourish again!

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