When the Fire Flickers

Conversations with students and young preachers frequently reveal discouragement with what they find in many churches. "These people couldn't care less-they are not on fire for the Lord's work."

My first thought is "How long have you cared - when did you catch fire?" The newly enthused likely fall into three groups: (1) new converts (perhaps starry-eyed, but we need their freshness as much as they need our experience); (2) new preachers, elders, deacons, teachers, etc., where new responsibility has awakened eyes to see brethren in a different light; and, (3) brethren shaken out of complacency by the influence of the faithful few who plug on regardless of what others do.

The new converts may "burn out" or line up with the majority, as many of them do; the new teacher may quit in frustration and the young preacher "move on" looking for Utopia. But none will have served his Lord with honor. The cause of Christ depends on those who stay on fire, lighting others; whose flame is not the flaring rocket of a celebration, but the glow and warmth of the home hearth-feeding the family, welcoming strangers. They make the converts and shake the complacent-and with their help continue the work others quit in disgust.

One can be realistic without being a pessimist: can work with the status quo without accepting it as final. We must recognize our problems in order to work on them. Saying the church consists of imperfect people is another way of saying we have a job to do on ourselves, and others.

The teacher must not quit because the pupils lack interest. It is his job to create interest in the subject matter. The zealous young preacher, with maturity enough to control himself and put his talents to work, is just what that dead church needs. By example, we can teach those new converts that all of us are striving for perfection. There are yet "seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (Rom. 11:4); and the Lord is counting on us to find them and join hands with them, to salt and light the world in which we live.