Activities Mania

Did you ever see a football halfback with a clear field stumble over one of his own teammates? Future historians may well conclude that the modern church itself provided some of its greatest stumbling blocks.

One insidious enemy is too many activities. It is ironic that all too often, programs meant to enhance the primary function of the church become the greatest obstacle. The complexity, multiplicity, and duplication of some church activities may be the stranglerís hold which stifles our effectiveness.

We tend to judge a personís loyalty by the number of hours he spends inside the church building, the number of church jobs he holds, and the number of church activities in which he participates.

The member who takes advantage of every job offered by his church has a better than average chance of ending up physically exhausted and emotionally drained. He is also a good candidate for domestic problems and vocational difficulties.

Some pharisaically justify the endless maze of activities by saying, "If they werenít at church, they would be somewhere else." Well, hallelujah! Maybe they would make a Christian impact in PTA, Chamber of Commerce, Womanís Club, zoning commission or Rotary. Perhaps they could serve in the name of Christ on the school board, or as a precinct committeeman. They might even spend a night at home, or make a soul-winning visit.

Gene Edwards lists some results of the "Activities Orgy":

  • Administrative ministers.
  • Physically exhausted Christians.
  • A terribly neglected spiritual life.
  • No Christian home life.
  • A materialistic society almost void of Christian penetration.
  • A fleshly church and denominational program done by sweat rather than by the Spirit.
  • Constantly being hearers of the Word, and not doers.
  • The Christian and the minister completely out of personal touch with the world and the people about them.
  • A church and evangelistic program carried on totally within the walls of the building.
  • The concept that Christianity and church attendance are one and the same and that church attendance is itself depth.

I am not discouraging church loyalty. But letís not equate such with "Activities Mania". I am not against programs, organizations, or activities. Neither am I against exercise or apple pie. But a disproportionate emphasis on them will harm - or kill you.

- Tom Adams

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The Success Cult

American culture is success oriented. Our society has little tolerance or forgiveness for the failure. Yet it will confer immediate knighthood or sainthood on the person who has "made it".

To add to our blasphemy we often attempt to crown God as "King of the Success Cult". According to the prevailing view, a person who climbs like Horatio Alger up the ladder of success (position, prestige and income) is signally blessed of God. We out-pharisee the Pharisees in saying that such have found special favor from the Almighty, with an inside track on his power and guidance. (And we have out-of-context Scriptures to prove it.)

Even preachers are supposedly "rewarded" with a more prestigious pastorate or a loftier denomination position.

If temporal success is a criterion of divine blessing, then Paul must have been terribly backslidden. He suffered the "loss of all things", which ultimately included his head on Neroís chopping block! Our Lordís total earthly possession at his death was the cross to which he was nailed. John Huss was no Wall Street financier. Polycarp didnít have enough influence to evade the flames of martyrdom!

Neither is statistical success in our churches a fool-proof barometer of divine blessings. Statistics are a rather dubious plumbline even in human factors. In my collegiate debate days I used statistics with equal vigor whether taking the positive or negative side. Since man can look only on the outward appearance, Godís heart-look may not always live with our conclusions.

An auditorium filled with people is not always indicative of Godís blessing. In the days of Amos the houses of worship were packed and the wheels of organized religion moved smoothly. At the same time Israel suffered an unprecedented moral decadence!

Bulging budgets are not guarantee of divine approval. The church at Laodicea said they were rich and increased with goods and needed nothing. However, the Risen Christ told them they were "wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind and naked."

Even visible results cannot always be an accurate gauge. The Bible, history and personal experience verify that many "converts" are stony-ground hearers who have a superficial emotional feeling, but not a genuine commitment to Christ.

Immediate affirmative response to a preacherís message is not a Biblical standard of his spirituality or fidelity. If it were, then such men as Noah, Jeremiah, and Stephen were miserable flops. The Saviorís initial sermon caused him to get tossed out of the synagogue.

I am not decrying statistical success. I have experienced a measure of it in my ministry. I hope it glorified God. (It certainly gratified my ego.) But let us remember this is not Godís criterion. He has not called us to be successful, but to be faithful.

- Tom Adams

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Makes A Difference

Two evangelistic services are described in Acts which ought to arrest the attention of any believer who truly desires revival. These two occasions are alike in many ways. They are unlike in others, especially in the number of visible results.

Acts 2 records the great awakening on the Day of Pentecost. The transformed, Spirit-filled Simon Peter thundered the message with clarity and courage. He pulled no punches. The sermon was not calculated to tickle the fancies of sinful men, but to thrust the claims of Christ upon people who desperately needed Him. There can be no doubt about the results. What the uncouth fisherman lacked in polish and ability, the Holy Spirit more than made up by His anointing. When the invitation was given, 3,000 responded publicly. Thatís a pretty good revival by any measurement. Thatís effective mass evangelism.

Another evangelistic service in Athens, Greece, is described in Acts 17. From a vantage point on Mars Hill, another Spirit-filled apostle stood before a vast multitude. Paul preached essentially the same message and exalted the same Christ as did Simon Peter. If anything, he did a better job.

He was one of the best trained and educated men of his day. He had much more going for him than did the "Big Fisherman". No one would deny that he was every bit as dedicated, zealous and Spirit-filled as peter. Yet when he gave an invitation, the overwhelming majority either mocked the preacher or decided to think it over. Only a handful believed. They were so few that most of their names are listed in one verse.

What made the difference? Obviously more than one factor is involved. However, I venture to mention one of the most important. At Athens, Paul stood virtually alone from the human standpoint. At Jerusalem, Peter was backed up by 120 members of his local congregation. These believers, fresh from a 10-day prayer meeting, undergirded his ministry. These saints, with cleansed hearts, renewed wills and flaming zeal were greatly used to turn the tide.

These Spirit-filled Jews did more than give moral support to the evangelist by their presence. These prayed-up, empowered church members also bore a radiant witness to their risen Savior.

The pulpit empowered by God can make a terrific impact on the citadel of Satan. But when the pulpit and the pew close ranks and join forces under the endowment of the Holy Spirit, hitherto impregnable gates of hell collapse like papier-m‚chť.

- Tom Adams

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