Thursday, September 27, 2007
A Tale of Two Churches
To take a little liberty with Dickens, "It was the worst of times, it was the best of times." At least that's how it seems in some ways when I consider this situation I am writing about in this article. Recently, I have become acquainted with two churches in two different cities that present a sobering lesson simply by their contrast. Also, this coming Lord's Day, September 30, is an important milestone for them both, as one ends and another celebrates a new beginning. I will not refer to their names or locations, but simply call them "church x" and "church y" here. Church x is disbanding. Their final service is this weekend. The work began a few decades ago. It is a doctrinally sound ministry with a faithful pastor who has labored 20 years among a congregation that has dwindled to a handful. They did not reach their decision overnight. They sought the Lord about this and their concerns were shared with others for prayer. It is a day in which they still wish to rejoice in the Lord, although in the midst of sorrow. Church y is dedicating its new building. This congregation has a history of about a century. Their historic meeting house was burned by arsonists some time back. They met in a community center in the interim time. They have been without a pastor for some time, although they are looking and praying. They are grateful to be in their new facilities and for God's provision in this matter. This church desires to exalt the Lord and be faithful to the Bible. They want to be a light to their community and reach people with the Gospel. Why does church x disband and church y dedicate a new building? Why cannot they both continue and go forward for the Gospel? We do not know all the answers. We sorrow with the one (church x) and rejoice with the other (church y). Yet for another reason we rejoice with both - and it is a reason that transcends us and the people we know in our time. Our reason for joy is a promise. The Son of God, the Messiah, the promised one of God who is the Word and our Sovereign King, the One who destroyed the work of the devil by dying on the cross for our sins and rising from the dead, guaranteed that He would build His church and the gates of hades would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18). This is true even when a local church disbands. God's purpose still stands. We hate to see a lighthouse removed from a community. But we should rejoice in regard to church x that it has not brought reproach on the name of Christ through false doctrine or moral scandal. We should rejoice at the years of faithful labor. We should rejoice at what has been evidence of God's work and we should rejoice that there is work that has been done there that we will only know about in eternity. We should pray for the members that they will be quickly joined to another local assembly where they can faithfully serve and hear the Word faithfully preached. We should pray for the pastor that the Lord will encourage his heart and continue to use him. His labor has not been in vain. For church y, let us pray that God will bless them and that they will remain faithful to Him. May He bless them with a faithful undershepherd. May they grow much in His grace. In all these things, praise God that whatever happens with any local church, Christ will continue to build His church, the one He purchased with His own blood, and nothing will stop our omnipotent Lord. Things seem to be uncertain to us in times like these - times that seem the worst for some and the best for others - but the promise of Christ is guaranteed.