Synopsis: Many churches are facing decline and discouragement. Casey declares that dedication and devotion required for spiritual growth, and also provides an update on a new work/merger in Beallsville, Ohio.
I remember growing up after becoming a Christian and getting my driver's license. This allowed me to travel to gospel meetings far and wide. The smell of spring meant that meetings would be taking place. I was very excited to be a Christian and began attending services, meetings, and growing spiritually. In reflection, I am also reminded of how far some individuals and congregations have fallen. Much can change in just a short amount of time.
One spring evening, while I was still in high school, I attended a meeting at a small country congregation. Upon my arrival, they asked me to lead the song service that night. The building was filled. I still recall sitting down to pick out my songs for the night, and turning open the songbook, Sacred Selections for the Church, to number 442. An older gentleman sitting beside me said, "That is a good one, lead it!" The sound of the voices blending as they were "Singing Redemption's Song" still echoes in my mind
I know most from that congregation have passed on from this world. I drove by the meeting place of that congregation recently and noticed it did not look the same. It was run down and looked to be in disrepair. One preacher assigned to this location on a Sunday not too long ago ended up at the local church where I was speaking that morning. He told me he left because nobody showed up for services at that congregation that particular morning.
Decline and Discouragement
The decline experienced in that location has been felt in many other places. Some who are my age and younger do not seem interested in carrying on the work of the Lord.
Thankfully, this is not true for everybody! Yet, it seems true that many local churches have dwindled in size. This is not the first time that this has occurred. As Jesus reminds us, the saved have always been few:
Then one said to Him, "Lord, are there few who are saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:23-24, NKJV).
Many grow discouraged and quit teaching/preaching when this happens. Discouragement is a great tool that Satan can use when we focus solely on numbers (1 Pet. 5:8). It is easy to blame society, others, etc. Even so, it seems that many are uninterested in doing the work that is required to keep a church active in a local community.
Dedication and Devotion
Whenever I get discouraged, I am reminded that this is Christ's church and that I am working for Him. Christ is still the head of His church (Eph. 1:22-23). While many act as if they do not need the church, Jesus saves those who obey Him, and He adds them to His church (Acts 2:47). His church will always exist (Matt. 16:18). Therefore, may we never grow discouraged in our spiritual labors. Each of us can do more! We have a great work to do!
God will give the increase if we continue to plant and water. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7 says, "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase." While laborers have always been few, the harvest is plentiful (Matt. 9:37). The ratio of workers to the harvest has not changed with time. We must keep preaching and proclaiming the gospel to the lost (Mark 16:15-16). The Lord will give the increase, but we must do our part.
While we face many issues in the church today, the truth will always prevail! We must believe, practice, preach, and obey the truth (1 Pet. 1:22).
The work we do is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58). Every soul matters to God! In a society where many are giving up and giving in, let us continue working for the Lord until He calls us home (Rev. 2:10). He will give the increase if we continue to grow spiritually, proclaim His message, and practice the truth in all that we say and do. Souls depend on us, and so does the local church.
I know not what the future holds, but I know where to put my trust (John 14:1). I am thankful that we have experienced growth in our local congregation both spiritually and in reaching others with the gospel. Perhaps we can even fill buildings again, but that will only happen through the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). May we continue to grow, trusting that God will give the increase wherever we are in His service!
1 Corinthians 5:20 says, "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God."