The book of Acts is filled with thrilling accounts of early Christians growing and bearing fruit both in terms of evangelism and in good deeds. Repeatedly we read of their positive influence among people and, where that favorable impression was held, the church was also growing numerically.Through the centuries there have been times when the church would again enjoy that degree of phenomenal growth, but there have also been times when the church’s lamp dims to almost nothing.
I once heard brother F. W. Mattox, noted speaker, author, college professor and first president of LCC, speak of a time in Nashville when there were very few Christians. Knowing how prevalent the church is in that city, I assumed I misunderstood him. I had a chance to question him privately after the speech, and he confirmed that I had heard him correctly.
Sometimes the church slowly dies along with the community it serves. That happens in many rural areas, and it isn’t necessarily a reflection of any spiritual deficiency. But when the same thing happens in places where the economy is strong and the community is still thriving, something has gone terribly wrong.
In Great Britain, the Lord’s church is weak, and one might assume that it always was. Not so. The Restoration Movement was not unique to North America. The Glassites, Sandemanians and Haldaneans were early pioneers of restoration thinking within Scotland and England and were acknowledged for their efforts by one who came after them, Alexander Campbell. In 1847 Campbell went on a preaching tour in England, Ireland and Scotland. He often spoke to audiences in venues that reached maximum capacity. It is reported that in the city of Nottingham, he preached to over 2,000 New Testament Christians. According to a brother John Diggle of Ikeston, England (a few miles west of Nottingham), there were no less than six congregations in Nottingham just prior to WWI. Not so today. It seems that after 1920, college and university opportunities for the children of working class families, of which nearly all members of the Lord’s church belonged, were to be had. But when these young people went off to the university, they were belittled by the professors for their fundamentalist faith. As a result, many were swayed to the liberal position of tolerance for denominational teachings. Today only a handful of faithful Christians remain. (Bill McDonough, as quoted in More Biblical Briefs and Lectures, J.A. McNutt, p. 154).
When men are courageous for the truth, the cause of the kingdom always advances. We see that happening in Benin, where dedicated preachers are winning converts to the Lord from a former communist country in staggering numbers. Paul’s great confession in his letter to the church at Rome should be our confession as well: I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom. 1:16).
When we “stand strong in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10) we can “make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (v. 19).
When we are courageous for the truth, we can bring the message that is “destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
When we are afraid to speak, or when we are quick to entertain false doctrine, we set both great cities and great nations on a path towards spiritual darkness.
Keep studying! DC Brown ©2013