Competition for Numbers

The Light
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Competition for Numbers

The life of free enterprize is competition. Whether products or services, competition most often determines quality, cost and even availability. Today, religion is experiencing the competitive crunch. The mission of the church has been lost in the mad craze for numbers-—a head count instead of genuine converts. Few seem to admit that it is possible to in-crease numbers tenfold, yet convert no one.

Tell me, do you think the work of the church should center around a magnificent building or around Jesus Christ? Is it proper for churches to use entertainment to stimulate church attendance in the place of the gospel message? What's wrong with a "gospel" rock concert? How do you feel about the gimmicks and denominational competition surround-ing the "bus ministry"—free trips to McDonald's, the prize for being the 15th passenger or sitting in the lucky seat? Really, isn't the work of the church above cheap gimmicks and entertainments? Competition for numbers has become the norm, including many of our brethren in the church of Christ.

The propensity to entertain and appease our worldly minds should be repulsive to Christian thinking. What is the mission of the church anyway? Is not our charge to save souls? Jesus said, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Is the Lord's business no longer our business?

Some time ago I read of an elderly lady who was part of a group touring the fa-mous Westminster Abbey in London. There, in all the splendor and magnificence of that edifice, she inquired of no one in particular, "Has anyone been converted in this church lately?" That question shattered things. There it echoed in the embarrassed silence. All the guide could think was: "My dear lady, have you no feeling for history, no appreciation for beautiful architecture? Being converted is for country churches and sweaty tent meetings; this is a cathedral."

But there the question stood. And it still stands. That is the question before every congregation of the Lord's people. How many attending church services have been truly converted? How absurd for religious people to busy themselves with recreation to increase or maintain the churches numbers! Win the sinner with pastries, parties, and ping pong...expect them to leave when the loaves and the fishes are gone. The gospel alone, my friend, will save (Rom. 1:16).

The church of Christ must be interested in everyone's eternal welfare, but we cannot and will not commercialize or embellish Christianity with entertainments to entice people to attend our services. We are not a part of "the competition." We believe in whole-some Christian association and recreation (and practice it), but it is a consequence of brotherhood, not a carnal enticement to draw others to our assemblies.

We must do our best to follow the teachings of the New Testament, to keep the ordinances as did the first century church (1 Cor. 11:2, 2 Tim. 3:14, Matt. 7:12). We must do Bible things in Bible ways. Our worship must be purposefully simple and without ritual. If this appeals to the sinner, the first giant step has been taken toward his conversion.