...the churches of Christ salute you! Rom 16:16

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The Rain Barrel

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 Have you ever heard the analogy at likens the church to a leaking rain barrel? As it goes, the rain barrel represents the church, and the water inside represents the Chris­tians that make up the church. As it rains, the barrel's volume increases while the leak continuously causes loss. The premise is that the barrel is leaking faster than it is being filled and we need to do whatever we can to keep the barrel from going dry. Personally I love analogies because they make it easier for me to explain my thoughts. I have some simple observations about this analogy that I would like to share with you.

Is it possible for the barrel to run dry? This analogy insists that the church is in great danger of disap­pearing, but I don't think so. It should be obvious that when the end comes there will be both sheep and goats. "And before him shall be gath­ered all nations: and he shall sepa­rate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left" (Matt 25:32-33). The sheep are the ones in the barrel and the goats are those outside the barrel. The sheep represent those who are in the church, and the goats represent those who are not. Though the barrel is leaking we can be certain that it will never run dry1- This means that the hole in the barrel is somewhere on the side and not on the bottom. The water level may rise or fall but it will never drop below the hole or run dry.

What should we do? First off we need to realize that God is in charge of the water level. We may strategize and plan looking for ways to stem the leak but God has already accounted for all that needs to be done. God has set His plan in motion and He will insure that it comes to completion. We can neither change the plan nor make improvements to it. The only thing we can do to combat this prob­lem is to just do our part of the plan. We can do this by simply being faith­ful, obedient Christians. In this we can both slow down the leak and also help fill the barrel with fresh water.

Those who remain in the barrel are faithful Christians obedient to God's plan. Those who stray from the plan flow out through the hole in the bar­rel. Some suggest that if we in the barrel would get together and unify on our interpretation of God's plan that the leak would be slowed. The problem with that is that God's plan is not open to modification by con­sensus. There is only one way to gain unity and that is to follow God's plan for this is the only way to stay in the barrel. To seek compromise, unity, or consensus with those who are stray­ing from God's plan is the way out of the barrel.

Those who remain in the barrel are faithful Christians obedient to God's plan. Those who stray from the plan flow out through the hole in the bar­rel. Some suggest that to keep the barrel from running dry that we reach through the hole and extend fellow­ship to those who have already leaked out. They propose compro­mise with those who have digressed from God's plan and they seek to pull them back through the hole in the barrel. They are willing to com­promise on God's plan to extend fellowship even to those who prac­tice and preach adultery. They see this as a reasonable and acceptable action to help stop the leak. They fail to realize that the barrel is meant to be filled from the top and that the measure of force needed to pull them back through the hole will only suc­ceed in making it bigger. "All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again " (Ecc 1:7). Part of God's plan defines the natural cycle for water. Once that water has drained out of the barrel and become polluted it must return to where it started. This is the only way the water in the barrel can stay pure.

The church can be likened to a leaking rain barrel but don't forget that God made both the barrel and the rain. God also put a plan in place that controls the water level and we cannot of ourselves change this situa­tion. We cannot put a stopper in the hole nor can we cause the rain to fall. It will make no difference how active or creative we get. It will make no difference how many meetings we have or how inclusive our fellowship becomes. It will make no difference how well we entertain and engage our young folks, nor how many gym­nasiums we propose. If we ignore God's plan it will not do any good. Besides, as my daughter pointed out, "Everyone should know that a gym­nasium won't fit in a rain barrel."

The leak in the barrel is definitely a cause for concern but not for panic. It is a problem that should be on our minds every day but it should not motivate us to drastic or rash behav­ior. Dealing with this leak should be a high priority but should not be used as reason to vary from God's plan.

The simple truth is that the only positive impact we can have on this problem is to make sure that we don't leak out through the hole our­selves. If we live our lives in accor­dance with God's plan we can make sure that the barrel will never go dry. By living as an example we can in­fluence others to stay in the barrel, as well as encouraging those without to enter in.

The barrel will never run dry and this is certain. The real question that should be on our minds is whether we will be in the barrel when the judgment comes. -307N Worley, Blue ~Ridge, TX 75424



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