Ok I know this is maybe the strangest title for a blog post that one could give; especially on a blog all about earnestly contending for the faith. I only ask you to bear with me. I promise I will get us there.
I love my wife. I really do. She is the greatest earthly treasure that I have. Nothing I possess on earth means as much to me as my wife does; and don’t worry I know she isn’t my possession, but you know what I mean. If I had the time to tell you about all of the ways I love my wife I would. I spend massive amounts of time telling other people about her. In fact, every chance I get I try and express my love for her to others. I praise her to others for her gentle spirit and her wisdom and her wise counsel. I praise her to others for the time she spends ministering to my needs; feeding me, clothing me, making sure that our home is clean and comfortable so that when I come home after a long hard shift on duty I can sleep well and rest with a full and satiated stomach. When I hear others in the world complain about nagging wives and their inability to understand their wives and the conflicts they have I truly do have a hard time relating; and I tell them that. God gifted me with the perfect helpmeet.
Oh we have our spats and our moments of sheer frustration with one another; more-often-than-not brought about by my own sinful selfishness. But I just do not have it in me to complain about her in public or in private. Sometime I even feel horribly guilty when I pick on her good-naturedly. She takes it well, but I know that it can cut her anyway, and I really shouldn’t do it at all. All of this to say that I just can’t say enough good things about my wife to anyone that will listen. And sometimes even to people who won’t.
Here is the issue, I don’t know if my wife knows all of this. Between work and other commitments and telling everyone else about how much I love my wife and why I love her, I just don’t have enough time to tell her these things or really even to demonstrate it to her. Sure she sees me go off to work; she sees me when I come home. But normally I am too preoccupied with other things to see what she is really in need of. I have to see to the kids, make calls, plan how I am going to tell others about how much I love her; and even to tell others to love their spouses as best as they can. I just don’t have time to tell her or demonstrate my love to for her to her. But I am sure she knows. Why? Well because she’s my wife and I come home when I am supposed to.
Sure there are things that need to be done at home. There are projects around the house that need to be done; things that need to be fixed; updated or replaced. Groceries need to be purchased and bills need to be paid; but I am just too busy telling everyone how much I love my wife to stop and take care of those things. Besides, she knows I love her; I married her and I come home when I am supposed to.
What’s that? You look confused. What do you mean it doesn’t sound like I love my wife? You have to be some kind of idiot to think I don’t love her after I just got done telling you how much I do. In fact I will prove it to you now. I want you to come home with me when you are done reading this and I will introduce you to her and then you will know I love her. Ignore the messy yard, the dilapidated house, the empty pantry and the children in need of discipline. The fact that I have told you I love her and am now willing to bring you home with me should be all you need to see.
This sounds absolutely ludicrous doesn’t it? You wouldn’t believe me for a minute if all of this was true. So what is my point in all of this?
Well here it is. In my first entry for Earnestly Contending I took to task those who are running around disparaging the Bride of Christ and the structure of local church membership. Yet there is an equally dangerous trend in the Visible Church today; that trend is the neglect of the local body and her meeting place. There are so many out there today telling everyone they can get to listen to them about how much they love their congregation. They rant and rave about how great the people are, how wonderful the teaching is and how glad they are to finally have place to call home. A place they can trust to invite others to safely. And they show up on Sundays just like they are supposed to.
Why would this be a problem you ask; because so many out there are neglecting to demonstrate their love for their local congregation in substantial and quantitative ways. No financial support. No meeting of the physical needs of the meeting house. No genuine meeting of the physical needs of the members. Simply put; there is much lip service but little actual service.
I am no fan of the mega-church movement (but keep in mind that to me a mega-church can be just about anything 300 and over, tongue planted firmly in cheek). These organisms are dangerous and fraught with disease. They have a mentality of come and serve us, instead of come to be fed. I hate this model with a passion. But at least the physical and substantive needs are being met, sadly it is often times by coercion, but they can never be accused of giving lip service to their love for their local churches.
In the book of Acts we are shown how even then this need was felt in a powerful way as the Gentile factions began to accuse the believing Jews of failing to love God and their local congregations well because they were neglecting the needs of the widows. This was so serious that the elders were inspired by God to establish deacons who became responsible for the day-to-day ministry and operations of the local church. They over saw the feeding of the poor and the up keep of the widows. And while this was not an office that carried with it the esteem of being a renowned theologian or a powerful evangelists; it was vitally important for the sake of the reputation of the Church. In short it was ministry and it was every bit as spiritual as being and elder or an apostle.
Brethren I am beseeching all of us to think about this. I do not care where you are or how big your congregation is. I do not care if everything seems to be under control and working well. Are you seeking out your deacons and seeking to learn what it is that you can do to demonstrate to the world how much you truly love your local body? Are you so busy telling others how much you love your church family that you are neglecting to meet her needs? Are you failing to support her financially; even if all you can afford to give seems like a drop in the ocean to you? Are you ministering to the needs of the shut-ins and the widows? Do you even know who they are? Do you even care to help?
There is more to living this life together than small groups and bible studies and accountability. There are genuine acts of compassion and works of love that say more about where you are with God and how much the Gospel has impacted you than all of the prayers and encouraging will ever do. Christ tells us that there is no greater love than when a man lays down his life for his friends. And while this was His way of pointing to His coming death on the behalf of the elect it has application for us in our local bodies today. Are we setting aside our own desires and even those things we are passionate about to display a passionate love for our church families? Are we living our lives in light of the command in Ephesians 5 where we are told to submit ourselves to one another? Are we genuinely considering others as more important than ourselves?
See I used to be this guy; the one who talked about loving the local church, but never had time for her. I could make plans to study with others, do prayer groups, witness in public, but I was rarely ever available for the day to day grind of what it meant to be part of the church family. I still fail at it in embarrassing quantities to this day. And what I am saying to all of us is that I don’t want this to be the case for any of us anymore. Stop telling others how much your local church means to you and start to display that love by actively loving that local body. Meet her needs. Visit her shut-ins and her widows. Get involved in the nitty gritty dirty aspects of church life.
If you actively pursue this I can make you a promise that I have witnessed a multitude of times in my own life. Your passion for the deeper things of God will be fulfilled. You will find that as you work and minister the Gospel will pour out of you. As you are digging into the dirty projects of lawn care and cleaning you will find yourself engaged in prayer and supplication for those who need it the most. As you visit the shut-ins and the widows to help them they will share with you the most amazing biblical truths because they have years of experience and maturity to pour out on you. As you visit the young couple who has financial needs and just can’t seem to make ends meet and you come bearing food; you may find that they have never truly repented and believed the Gospel and this one small act of kindness is what finally penetrates their dead hearts as God uses you to be His voice.
Brethren it is time we stopped talking about how much we love the Bride of Christ and started showing it instead. Consider me duly convicted.
Soli Deo Gloria!