Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 12, 1957
NUMBER 32, PAGE 1,15b

Church Problems

Charles A. Holt, Florence, Alabama

That the church of the Lord has had problems in every generation since her beginning is admitted by all who are familiar with her history. The problems have not been the same in each generation, but they were all real and disturbing. There were some that were purely local in nature, affecting only the one congregation. Then there were problems of a general nature which to a degree disturbed and affected the whole brotherhood. Sometimes these problems came from within and at other times from without the membership of the body of Christ.

In the divine record of the early church we can read about various difficulties that arose and how they were settled. The church was but a few days old when a problem "arose" because the Grecian "widows were neglected in the daily ministration." (Acts 6:1.) This matter was dealt with at once and as far as we know was settled fully. There was the problem of persecution against the church. (Acts 8-9.) One of the most universal and widespread problems in the early church had to do with the acceptance of Gentiles as gospel subjects, and then whether or not they had to be circumcised and keep the law. This was a very disturbing matter. It caused endless discussion and study. It came to the point of debate — yes, debates among and between brethren! No doubt division threatened and feelings were very strained. This problem was also settled and the church survived. No doubt such was true because the matter was settled by appealing to the right source (divine revelation) and all accepting this as the final word. It seems certain that there were some in the church then who refused to accept and abide by this divinely-guided decision, and they kept advocating their own ideas. We read of many encounters that the apostle Paul had with the Judiazing teachers. To them he would give place not even for an hour. With their human appendages to the gospel system, they were preachers of "another gospel." Paul said of them: "But there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." (Gal. 1:6-9.)

Paul was very conscious of "church problems" and dangers. He believed it to be his obligation to help meet all such as they arose. The church at Corinth was "full of troubles and problems" — such as: division as a resultof following men; fornication; going to law with each other; perverting the Lord's Supper; spiritual gifts; the resurrection and others. Some of these were purely local and others were more wide-spread. The apostle did not ignore these things nor treat them as of little concern. They were BIG and VITAL! He dealt with them.

I have always been glad that the church at Corinth lived and that it was such as it was. It is so much like so many congregation with which I am acquainted, though hardly any of these have quite so many serious problems as did the Corinthian church. In spite of all the sins, Paul addressed them as "the church of God" and offered hope to them IF they would correct their lives at once. There is always hope for any congregation and for the church universally so long as we are willing to face-up to and deal rightly with any and all of our problems.

We need to remember in a study of this kind that the church is PERFECT ONLY AS FAR AS WHAT DIVINITY HAS DONE. As far as the divine side — the planning, arrangement, rule-book, organization, mission — is concerned, it is perfect and can not be improved upon by man. Many of our problems come as a result of man seeking to alter or amend the DIVINE side! The church is made up of HUMAN BEINGS — you and me! This is where the trouble comes and the problems arise. Whenever such comes, let us recognize that the fault is with us and not with God! We have failed someway or some place, either knowingly or unknowingly, when problems arise. Many are the reasons on our part for such. Again do we see the absolute need of growing "in grace and in knowledge" (2 Pet. 3:18), in order that we may reach "full age" and by "reason of use have our senses exercised to discern good and evil." (Heb. 5:14.)

The church today has its problems. Only the uninformed would deny this. These problems are sometimes general, though they may be "local" in many places! For example, such sins as fornication and personal troubles between and among brethren are local — occurring at definite places — and need not affect any other church anywhere. Then there are always problems or issues that confront the whole brotherhood in the form of some teaching or practice that has grown up. These more or disturb the church universally.

Before looking briefly at some of our problems today, let us inquire more fully into the

Proper Attitude Toward Problems

The proper attitude toward anything is important. No doubt it is because of an improper attitude that many problems reach the awful proportions which they sometimes do. While the right attitude is not all that one needs to properly deal with church problems, there is no doubt but that the proper attitude is not possible without the other necessary things. For the present purpose all the other essentials are being summed up in the proper attitude toward them. Involved in this are the following things:

  1. Must not ignore church problems. This settles nothing and may result in our being destroyed. (1 Cor. 5:6.) Many try to do this. Like the ostrich they "stick their heads in the sand" and act like nothing is going on. This will not do and is a shirking of responsibility. Anyway, problems cannot really be ignored. Eventually they must be dealt with.
  2. Should not try to hide them. This cannot be done successfully, and what good would this do if it could be done ? Certainly such can not be hidden from God. In most instances problems can not be kept a secret from those in the world, and neither should they be IF we have to lie and otherwise practice deception to do so. Of course, anyone of good sense knows that such should not be told or advertised needlessly and to the hurt of the church.
  3. Should not try to minimize them. Face them squarely for what they are and seek the proper solution. If minimized, then the treatment may not be sufficient and no real cure accomplished.
  4. Do not allow them to unduly discourage or upset us. We can not "throw up our hands and quit" just because of difficulties or problems. We need patience. Such may be a means of strengthening us. (James 1:1-3.) The trying of our faith will work patience. Be vitally concerned about any and all issues confronting the Lord's Cause or affecting the welfare of souls, but not discouraged that such things come.
  5. We should not allow any problem to disrupt the church any more than we can help. Problems naturally do this to some extent anyway, but we should be careful lest we aggravate the condition by our own blunders. All of us, even in troublesome times, must work for unity and peace. Of course, it must be unity in righteousness and the peace that is first pure. Peace and harmony at the expense of truth is not worth the time.
  6. Realizing that problems and troubles will come, we should bend every effort to avoid them and insure against them. Elders have a grave responsibility here. They should watch for false teachers and guard the flock from error of all kinds. The church must be taught the truth. By knowing and following the Lord's teaching all problems could be avoided. Members of the church must be "rooted and grounded" in the faith that "we henceforth be no more children." We need to be able to "discern good and evil," and on the alert for any departure or deviation from the "old paths" however small and insignificant it may seem to be. In order to do this we must be informed — keep abreast of what is going on within our ranks. The principles of Christianity touching our personal dealings one with another in all relationships of life need to be understood and followed.

With a consuming desire for the truth on all issues regardless of what our former practice or thinking had been, with a burning love for the Lord and His Cause, and by seeking "first and kingdom of God and his righteousness." we can meet and settle properly any issue which may confront the church.

In the next installment I will present a brief study of some of the current problems before the church.