By Leow Yew Chong
It was on a Tuesday night in August that I had a good long chat with a brother-in-Christ about our faith vis-à-vis the state of the church, the seemingly stagnant growth of the church, the few workers, its leaders, and why many are no longer attending worship and even worse, became agnostic.
He had seen disputes between brethren and congregations leading to a state where communications became non-existent and greetings when bumped into each other are perfunctory. This leads him (and many others, presumably), to question where is the Christ in our lives? Are we Christians only on Sunday when we are among fellow brethren?
He further reiterates that the church of Christ is lacking on good works and is strong on doctrines. However he questioned even that as brethren don’t seem to have a good grasp of the scriptures unlike in the past. So it seems like the future is bleak.
He observed that the world hungers for the gospel of Christ as evidenced by the large attendance in the various worship service of the mega-churches. Therefore, he concluded that God must be there with these mega-churches since their attendance overflow. Now, he states that we believe for a person to be a Christian, one must confess, repent and be baptized for remission of sin. When our journey on earth comes to a close, heaven is our home. If that is true and correct, then why are our local congregations small in number and evangelistic fervour among the brethren seemingly limited to very few?
When we look into the scripture, we find that the church at Corinth had its fair share of trouble. The churches at Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea in the book of Revelation faced the same situation where the love had gone cold, brethren do not have Christ in their hearts, leadership issues, dead or dying congregation, and divisions among the brethren. Probably the congregations at Thyatira and Laodicea were larger than the rest due to their “relaxed teaching” and wealth among their congregants.
How then did the Christians in that era maintain their faith in light of all those challenges? We read that the church at Ephesus was asked to do the first works (Rev 2:5); Smyrna to remain faithful until death; Pergamos to repent; Thyatira to hold fast; Sardis to remember how they received and hear the Word; Philadelphia to persevere and hold fast; and Laodicea to be zealous, earnest and repent. So, in a similar manner, we are told to do the same:
To remember how we received and
heard the gospel of Christ,
To do the first works of love,
To persevere and hold fast,
To be zealous and earnest,
To be faithful until death,
To repent and hold fast.
From the pulpit, brethren exhort us that the teachings we learn are not the teachings of the “church of Christ” but as expounded by the simplicity of the Bible. The church is the body of Christ for which He purchased with His precious blood on the cross 2,000 years ago. It is not a mid-18th century American product which is so often being repeated to our ears these days. Everything that we do, have a “thus says the Lord” i.e. book, chapter and verse. We respect the silence of the scriptures and do not impose that which God had not imposed (Rev 22:18,19; Deut 4:2).
I was introduced to this body of Christ by bro Quay Chew Soon and taught the simplicity of the gospel by bro Donald Chiam. Throughout these 40 years, those simple precepts that the LORD God made the bible simple for a 15-year-old boy to understand and obey, remained true. His commandments are not burdensome nor do they require a degree in theology or knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew language to understand what He commanded as written down in the bible. And that was the answer I gave when asked why I remained with the church of Christ.
Brethren, there will always be problems within the brotherhood and among ourselves even as we march towards our heavenly rest. If there were no problems among men, Christ need not have died on the cross. God had made it clear that perverse men will arise and draw away the disciples who have itching ears. Therefore it remained imperative that we focus our eyes, our minds, our thoughts, our hearings on Jesus Christ. Not forgetting to sow the seed along the journey, reaping those are that ripe for harvest. Strengthening those whose knees are weak, and allowing the fruit of the Spirit to blossom in us.
Let me end with these words of our Lord Jesus Christ
Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me.” (John 21:22).