For the most noble purpose of making known the "manifold wisdom of God" is the glorious church of our Lord in existence (Eph. 3:10). The truth of God's word finds its "pillar and ground" with the church of the Savior (I Tim. 3:15). Lost humanity for which the Master died, though ignorant of the fact, is depending on the Lord's church to proclaim boldly the soul saving gospel. Tragically, some congregations have lost sight of their purpose, their greatest work--the salvation of souls. Consider several "reasons" why so many congregations throughout the brotherhood are failing in their greatest commission. Some congregations have departed from efforts to win souls to major in volleyball, softball, games, parties, and otherwise appeal to the sensual, the mundane, the temporal. "Satisfy carnal needs and draw in the numbers" is the philosophy of some, and so the gospel takes a "back burner." The simple and undisguised appeal to honest hearts is not the "church league playoffs" but the crucified Christ (cf. John 12:32).
Some congregations are much like the slothful one-talent man who was afraid and hid his lord's money in the ground (cf. Matt. 25:25,26). They have a perpetual fear of some future, unknown "catastrophe" so they open bank accounts, deposit the Lord's money, and then enter into the "banking business." Rather than getting on about the urgent work of saving souls they watch dollar signs as interest accumulates. All the while, souls--countless souls--die daily outside of Christ.
A young man wanting to preach in a mission area contacted some sixty congregations only to be often turned away like a common beggar. One congregation, having several thousand dollars sitting idle in a bank account, told him they were "afraid" to get involved in the work lest they need a new roof and lack the money. It is a crying shame, brethren!
Quite a number of congregations are doctrinally sound but evangelistically dead! Do some regard the Great Commission as an option? One elder told me that the congregation with which he labored was "apathetic" and "cold" in regard to lost souls. Truly a sad commentary! Brethren, our work is more than opening the meeting house doors three times a week! It is amazing, in view of the teaching of Christ and the example of the early church, that so many brethren give no serious thought or effort to spreading the gospel in their community or the world. Wake up elders! Get on fire, preaching brethren! Do not leave the truth in the pew, brothers and sisters!
Lastly, some congregations are interested only in what benefits themselves. Brethren that feel like they are in competition with other faithful brethren (or congregations) for "numbers" have some serious growing up to do! We must open our eyes and possess a wider view of the Lord's kingdom. One unlearned brother told a preacher, "Do your writing [for brotherhood publications] on your own time--not the church's." We have heard of short-sighted brethren who complained when the local preacher helped with a gospel meeting or campaign in another location--all because they could not see the benefit to the "home" congregation. From time to time, we conduct Bible studies in cases where we know that if the person obeys the gospel, he will attend at another congregation. The Lord's church extends beyond the four walls of our local church building, yet many times gospel preachers have been told, "That's not gonna help us here," when they wanted to participate in some effort which would benefit the kingdom of Christ. Peter said, "Love the brotherhood" (I Pet. 2:17). Whatever we can do, and wherever we can build up the church, save and edify souls, and spoil Satan's plan, we must realize our obligation to seize the opportunity.
Brethren, we must always keep our spiritual priorities straight. Elders have a most important role in making sure that this emphasis is kept before the membership. Preachers can help set the tone by biblical, challenging sermons that motivate congregations to action on behalf of the lost. Both the shepherds and the preacher must set an example if the congregation is to be zealous in this work of soul winning. The hour is late and the need to set our sights on lost souls is pressing. Let us get on with the real "business" of the church.