Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 1, 1949

How The Church Can Be Successful

M. F. Manchester, Rising Star, Texas .

The success of the church in its work depends upon the requirements of God, and not upon the schemes that are at times set in motion by overzealous, but unwise members.

Israel, God's people under the Old Testament, furnished us with the best example of success and defeat on record. They were attended by wonderful success when they were faithful to God's law, under which they lived. When Joshua was made the leader of Israel after the death of Moses, God immediately said unto him: "Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous and thou shalt have good success." (Josh. 1:7, 8.)

Thus we see that the success of Joshua and the children of Israel was based upon a strict adherence to the law of God. Joshua, being the leader of Israel, needed great courage. Not courage to think up schemes to help God out, but courage to stay with his word. "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it." (Deut. 4:2.) The mighty Jordan which was overflowing all his banks, stood upon an heap for Israel to pass over on dry ground because they were faithful to God's word. The walls of Jericho fell down when Israel had done what God said. In fact, they went on from conquest to conquest until they had taken all the land that God had promised them. Not one promise failed. All came to pass. (Josh. 23:14.) After Israel's settlement in the promised land, they became dissatisfied with God's plan of government. His plan was to govern them by judges, but they wanted to be like the nations about them; they wanted a king. God gave them a king in his anger and took him away in his wrath. From this first departure from God's government it is easy to trace the defeat and downfall of Israel Paul says: "These things happened unto them for examples, and are written for our admonition." (1 Cor. 10:11.)

Trends In The Church

There are trends among the people of God today that will bear watching with all diligence. First, let us notice the trend to depart from God's plan of church government. His plan of government is by elders and bishops; but the trend in many quarters is toward majority rule, and in some places it has ceased to be a trend and become outright practice. Majority rule was ruled out of the church by the wisdom of God in the appointment of elders to rule and watch over the souls of its members. If a congregation wants to be successful, let it respect the authority of God along this line. Closely associated with the majority rule plan, is the petition method. Here is how it works: A preacher decides he wants to stay longer at a place than the elders think he should stay, so he talks to the members and gets someone to circulate a petition. A majority signs on the dotted line. The elders are ousted and he stays. Easy isn't it?

Second there is a trend toward youth revivals. There is a definite trend in this direction, and unless we stop overemphasizing the work of the young people, we will be having trouble sooner than we think. You may say I am an alarmist; but I ask you to look around and see. Are we not having section-wide "young peoples' meetings," in which the young people of a number of churches are invited to attend? We are just two steps behind the sects' youth revivals. (1) Carry on the young people's meeting more than one night, and (2) have a youth to do the preaching. We hear the cry from almost every quarter, "Our young folks! Our young folks!" I heard the lamented J. D. Tant say one time, that if we had been with Moses in the wilderness we would have demanded that he put up two snakes on poles. One for the older people and one for the "young folks".

Since when have the young members of the church become such a mighty problem? The church in the days of the apostles had young members, but we do not read where they were a special problem, or that special meetings were called for them. Neither do we find where a church employed a preacher to work with them. I do not underestimate the value of our young people who are members of the church, but I do deny that they need any special attention by the church, such as section-wide meetings, etc. Paul said to Timothy: "When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice, and I am persuaded in thee also." (2 Tim. 1:5.) This is the example we as parents need to follow, and our children will love the church and the cause of Christ without any special attention being placed upon them. Timothy had been taught respect for God and his word from his youth up; therefore, he did not have to be hamburgered and hot-dogged to keep him interested in the work of the church.

Third: There is a trend toward large churches taking the oversight, and running the affairs of smaller ones, If a congregation gives of its means as it is prospered, and the amount that is given is just enough to take care of its home work, that is all that God requires of it, If there is more than enough to take care of the home work, they can send it direct to some preacher that they know in another field of labor. The church in Philippi sent once and again to Paul's needs; but nowhere do we read where they sent it through some sponsoring congregation. I am for the spreading of the gospel into all the world, but I believe for it to be successful as God measures success, that it must be carried out according to his plan and example.

If every congregation will stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths of gospel precept and approved example, they will be successful by the Lord's divine standard. They may not be doing anything spectacular or sensational; but it is the safe, sure course for the church to follow.