Church Problems (III.)
In a former study of this subject, we learned that the church of the Lord has had problems in every generation since her beginning. We need not, therefore, be surprised that even in our day there are various problems facing the church. We must be prepared to recognize and meet them as they arise. In the second article a study was made of the Problem of Ignorance. In this let us turn our attention to other problems.
Lack Of Genuine Conversion
Another problem, or perhaps I should say, another condition that results in problems, is the lack of real conversion. To "convert" means to "change." A converted person is a changed person. Conversion is absolutely essential. (Matt. 18:3) It occurs when one learns and obeys the truth. (1 Pet. 1:22) Too many in the church (supposedly) have simply "changed churches." They were never converted or changed out of error. When people are turned from darkness to light and from Satan unto God, they know it and they know and understand the difference between the two. These will love and appreciate the truth and what salvation means. They will "grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth." In their faith they will supply virtue, knowledge and the other things necessary to "an entrance .... into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord." (2 Pet. 1:5-12) As a result they will be faithful and consecrated. Not everyone who is baptized and whose name appears on some church roll has been genuinely converted.
In order to assure as far as possible that people are truly converted, let our teaching and preaching be such as will actually "open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." (Acts. 26:18) "Preach the word . . . reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine." (2 Tim. 4:2)
Lack Of Qualified Elders
It is an undisputed fact that one of the big problems facing the church is the lack of competent leadership. This is a well-nigh universal situation. The Lord's order for His churches is "elders in every church." (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5) Upon them is the leadership and oversight of each church imposed. The elders, bishops, pastors, over-seers, and presbyters were all the same. There was always a plurality of elders in each church and they were to "tend the flock of God which is among you." (I Pet. 5:2) This was the extent of their work and authority as elders. They were in their work as bishops or pastors, limited to "the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made" them overseers. (Acts 20:28)
The work of elders is vital and demanding. Upon their shoulders rests the primary responsibility for the welfare of the flock. Much is required of them and they shall give an accounting for the flock committed to their care. Therefore, elders must be qualified to do the work required at their hands. These qualifications are detailed for us in 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus 1. In brief they all might be summarized by saying that to be and serve effectively as a bishop a man must be qualified in ability and character. They serve as "examples" to the flock, and they must guard and shepherd the flock. Only qualified men can do this work as it should be done.
We can measure the eldership of any church and at the same time measure the church. No church is likely to rise above its leadership in doing the Lord's work. The spiritual strength of a congregation is largely determined by the eldership. The flock depends upon the shepherds, and they must guide, protect and pastor the sheep. How can they do this if they do not have the ability? How can they do this if they do not know how to do it? Is it possible for one to serve as a leader in such important matters, when his character is not such as will inspire and build confidence in the elders and the cause of righteousness? Surely not. Hence, it takes men who are qualified to serve in this capacity.
Many are the times when congregations select elders (?) for other reasons than these qualifications. If a man is successful in business; a leader in community affairs; a wealthy man; is prominent (as the world views it) in some profession, or if he is a good politician and wants the office, he is likely to be selected as an elder in most congregations. These are certainly no guarantee that such a man is qualified in either ability or character to be an elder of a church. While some of these may be fine accomplishments and must be considered in any selection of elders, they, of themselves, do not constitute a standard for determining a man's qualifications for this work.
Every man in the church should aspire to this work. It is to be "desired.", (1 Tim. 1:3) This certainly does not mean that it is to be sought through political schemes nor for personal or selfish reasons. By applying himself in study and faithful service to the Lord, most men can attain through experience these qualifications. Such is not easy, but the goal is worth striving for. The future of the Lord's cause depends upon men qualifying themselves for this responsible work.