by Pastor Bill Daywalt
Great grandmothers wore black dresses and bonnets to church. Grandmothers wore flower prints, wide brimmed hats, and white gloves. Mothers wore shirts and blouses or suits. Their children wear slacks or pant suits. Greatgrandfathers, Grandfathers, Fathers, and Sons wore variations of shirts, trousers, hats, and more casual attitudues about going to church attire.
Along with their congregations, churches, too, have changed in style and substance. In many ways, churches are reflections of the society where they function. For decades, Protestant churches held Sunday evening and mid-week services, as well as Sunday School and Sunday morning services. Now. most of them don’t. People no longer reserve Sundays strictly for church going. Some people work on Sunday. Many stores stay open on Sunday so people who work during the week can shop.
In past decades, church attendance and membership indicated good citizenship, and community and social standing. Most people took it for granted that you went to church because you believed in God and affirmed that belief by going. Times have changed and so have churches and church attendance.
God’s purpose in establishing churches has not changed.
Everything the Church has been asked to do can be classified under one of three categories; evangelism, edification, and benevolence.
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
This is what Jesus said about the evangelism. Evangelism involves making visible what is otherwise invisible. It is a way that we can fulfill Christ’s calling to be his witnesses. The goal of evangelism is for people to know how to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samarai, and to the ends of the earth.” Acts1:8.
Unfortunately, some may never accept the saving grace of God the creator.
“He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” Hebrews 11:25. Other though will chose to receive the Good News of the Gospel.
In short, evangelism is our human effort to proclaim this message to any audience of believer and nonbelievers. Evangelism is a commitment.
Evangelism may occur in the local community or as missionaries around the world.
The Greek words oikodomeo, “to build,” oikodome, “the act of building,” are translated into the word edification.
“This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.” II Corinthians 13:10.
Edification means coming to a greater understanding of God and learning to walk with Him, living our lives in a way that is pleasing to Him. It is the practice of building up.
Edification involves constructive speech and behavior by Christian disciples and leaders to spiritually strengthen the Church and those whom they interact with outside of the Church.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with yourfaith;if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Romans 12:6-8
Edification is important for Christians leads to spiritual growth. It is what moves us forward in knowledge of and obedience to God.
The Bible emphasizes the work of benevolence. To be benevolent to another is an expression of love.
“Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.” Proverbs 28:27
Benevolence, often referred to as mission, is funding meet people’s basic needs. Examples of these needs can include food, shelter, and medical care. Benevolence and reaching out to the poor are active parts of the life of the church,
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:10
Is God benevolent? The Bible tells us that God is benevolent.
“You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-3
Any role the church tries to play that does not fit under one of those categories Needs to reevaluate its ministry. Every society has its lost that needs to be taught. Every society has its downtrodden that needs to be lifted. Every society has its poor than needs to be helped.
Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you” Matthew 26:11
The expression, “The poor” appears some 135 times in the Bible
The command to love one’s neighbor as oneself comes originally from Leviticus 19:18, which says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
The Jews of Jesus’ day would largely have understood their “neighbor” to be their fellow Israelites. But God has a broader definition in mind. Loving one’s neighbor is more than simply loving those who are like us and who can love us in return.
In fact, Jesus said, “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. Matthew 5:44–48
Our neighbor is more than those in our circle with whom we can share God’s love. We are called not only to love those who are like us or with whom we are comfortable, but all those that God places in our path.
God shows love to all people as His children and we are called to do the same. The answer to the question needs to be addressed in a totally in an inclusive manner. The social responsibility of the church needs to be responsive to every part of society and mankind. Inclusion includes those of different, race, religion, national origin, gender, disability status, veteran status.
Jesus says the love we have for our neighbors should be the same as the love we feel for ourselves. We will not care about someone that deeply unless we treat them as the Lord treats us.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the expert in the law would not have expected Jesus to name the Samaritan as the neighbor. Jesus points out how love should expand over cultural boundaries and ethnic lines. The Samaritan put aside any negative judgments about the man on the side of the road. Because he put the man before himself, he was truly loving him as a neighbor. This teaches us that our neighbors are not those who simply look, act and think like each of us.
The church’s role in society has changed over time. A recent Gallup poll shows that 25% of those surveyed find that religion has little importance in their lives. An additional 22% feel that the church is losing influence over 25 years ago and 37% believe that the church is out of date. The number of people that attend worship weekly has declined by 8% over the last 25 years with 29% never attending.
How does the church overcome this disinterest and lack of participation.? How can the church reshape its inner and outer image and touch the lives of people to make them want to be members? And what are some of the issues that have driven people away? And what can churches do to make them want to become church people again What can it do to improve its interior and exterior images?
Churches and their people believe in one God, but they worship Him in different ways and separately and sometimes they disagree about the beliefs that are supposed to unite them.