"Competition And The Church"
Earth has never seen, and earth will never see, anything else like the church of Jesus Christ. No institution can begin to be compared with the church that Jesus established on this earth to redeem the souls of men. The church is composed of the children of God, who have been washed clean in the blood of the Lamb. The Master established but one church. He is not the Builder of the various sects and denominations that exist on earth today. His New Testament teaches us that there is but one body. (Eph. 4:4) This one body is the church. (Eph. 1:22, 23)
Competition is present on earth today also. What is it? It is "the act of trying to gain something sought by another at the same time; rivalry; the independent endeavor of two or more persons to obtain the business patronage of a third by offering more advantages." Synonyms for the word "competition" are such words as "contest, emulation, opposition, rivalry."
Here we have two simple ideas set forth, concerning competition and the church; yet, there are a few things in regard to these matters that we have not realized as being true. Let us think.
Since the Lord has built but one church, then it stands alone. According to Peter, it is composed of lively stones, making up a spiritual temple. (I Peter 2:5) This same apostle tells us that we are "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood an holy nation, a peculiar people." (I Peter 2:9) All of these things but emphasize that the church is not like anything else on earth.
This being true, the church is not in competition with any of the denominations. They are not in a class with the church. The standard which the Lord's church must follow to be and to remain the Lord's church is the Word of God. The Word is not the standard followed by the denominations. Thus, the church is not in competition with these religious bodies that are not recognized by the will of God, revealed in His Word.
Many of the members of the church today do not realize the singularity of the church of Christ; therefore, they work on the assumption that the church of the Master, in order to attract and to hold the people, must do what the denominations do. In fact, some think that the church must go the denominations one better so as to "get the people."
When some denomination builds a great, fine building for their use, members of the church think that the church must build one as fine and as elaborate, or even better, than that provided by the sect. But the Lord's church is not in this kind of competition with the denominations. The strength of the church does not depend upon our erection of great buildings of elaborate architecture. Spiritual strength lies in true conversion of the church members to the Lord Jesus Christ, and if we have to build larger and finer meeting places just to attract the masses, truly we have worked on the wrong premise. This does not mean that the church cannot and ought not to erect good, substantial buildings to be used for the glory of God, and the salvation of souls, but it does mean that the emphasis should be placed on the spiritual side of the ledger, and not on the material side. The church of Jesus does not have the financial strength of the Catholics, the Methodists, and some others, and for us to try to enter into a church building rivalry with them is rather foolish. Let us build meeting places that will serve the needs of the church in teaching the Word of God, and in preaching the gospel. Let us not go beyond the financial abilities of the members, just to try to make an impression on the worldly minded. The church is not in competition with the denominations in the matter of building places of worship.
Many denominations today have gone into the entertainment business on a full scale. Recreation is the order of the day. For this reason, many denominations are building, and have built, expensive places devoted to and equipped for, the entertainment of the people. Now some of the Lord's people are trying to follow suit. They feel that the church must also go into the entertainment field, and meet this competition of the denominations. However, to entertain the masses is not the business of the Lord's church. Many of the denominations have dances and dance -floors provided for the people. Youth centers and social centers provide various and sundry types of recreation for those who will come. How anyone can read the New Testament and go away from its sacred pages with the idea that the mission of the church of Jesus is to provide recreation is beyond comprehension. The church is not in competition with the denominations in this matter of recreation for men, women, and children. It is true that man has a social nature, and that people do need recreation, but the Lord's church should not be misused for this purpose. Certainly it is right for members of the church to come together in fellowship of a social nature, but for the church as such to be used for this purpose is not in harmony with the Word of God. Surely the money that is contributed by the Lord's people on the Lord's day in the worship of God should never be spent to provide fun and frolic for the church members and their children. The truly converted person would draw back in protest at seeing the Lord's money used in this way. Any congregation of the church that endeavors to enter this field of entertainment will find that the competition of the world is too stiff to be met, and discover as well that a strong, spiritual minded church cannot be built in this manner.
One of the denominations that has tried this matter of endeavoring to provide the social atmosphere and the recreational needs of the members has been the Baptists. A comment on the editorial page of the Baptist Standard, week of Nov. 16, 1950, by Dr. David Gardner, editor and general manager, is rather illuminating at this point. Speaking of the fact that in the past some churches among the Baptists had been held together more by social atmospheres than by doctrinal belief and discipline, Mr. Gardner said, in part: "And what has been the result? The membership of the churches has not been held together; churches have disintegrated, and the members who are attracted by social atmospheric conditions are in other groups where more emphasis is placed upon social ties than scriptural truths." This observation will do to think upon, brethren. If churches begin to make themselves into recreational centers, just how far then will the worldly minded among demand that the church go? It is far better that such seeds as these never be planted among us, for little seeds grow into big plants. Those who have their affections set on the world would find no place to stop, and when a halt was called, then those who love these things more than Jesus would soon find their way into denominations that cater to these things of men. Also, we would have destroyed the purity of the church of our Lord. No, the church cannot enter into competition with the denominations and the world in this matter, either.
The Lord's church is to be different, unique, and a "peculiar people." How can this be if the church tries to compete with the denominations, and if the church tries to keep pace with them in their practices? But some will say: "All the denominations do it, and we must also, or lose the people." If we do that which is wrong, how can good come of it? And if we would walk with the denominations, and ape them in their practices, just what would we have gained? All that we would succeed in doing is to depart from the Lord's way, and to create another denomination. Let us remember that just because a group calls itself the Lord's church does not make it so! We must live according to the Word of God, and our work and worship must be kept in harmony with the blessed Will of the Master, Jesus Christ. And even if we do lose a few who are more concerned in fleshly enjoyment than they are in spiritual living and in purity of doctrine, we shall be much better off without them!
Beloved brethren, let us watch ourselves, and measure our actions by the Word of God, and not by the actions of the world and the denominations about us. Let us preach, pray, and work to the end that men will understand that the Lord's church is here to save men's souls, and not to satisfy their fleshly lusts. Let us emphasize the Word of God, and not material values or entertainment for the physical man. Let us strive to the end that the church of God shall be truly composed of a "peculiar people," sound in doctrine, and pure in life!