The church died. The building was nice. The preacher was educated. The bank account was full. The location was great. Even with all of these pluses, the congregation dwindled down, died out, and closed the doors. What makes a good congregation dry up? As one looks at an event in the life of Elijah from I Kings 19, parallels are seen. Very important lessons are also seen when one notices three attitudes that cripple God’s people.
First, FEAR cripples God’s people (I Kings 19:3). It is almost unbelievable that the same man who challenged all of Israel, who stood up to Baal’s prophets, and who defied the King is this same guy. The queen makes a threat, and now he is afraid. Too many times, a great idea for spreading the gospel is shot down in elders’ meetings because someone is afraid of finances, failing, or what others will say. Good judgment must be used, but fear is not what should guide the work of the church.
Second, FORFEIT cripples God’s people (I Kings 19:4). Elijah sat down. He gave up. He quit trying. He lost the desire to move forward and keep working. When congregations just quit, they are doing the same. Whether it is the “grass is greener” complex, or the “I am tired” excuse, or the “It’s time for the younger ones to…” defense, the result is the same. One finds an excuse to just not do “it” anymore. It is not enough for us to just sit in the pew, put the dollar in the plate, say, “amen,” and go home. The church must keep on keeping on.
Third, FORTUNE cripples God’s people (I Kings 19:10, 14). Elijah got to thinking too much about what he had done. He begins to tell the Lord (as if the Lord did not know) what the prophet had accomplished. He lamented that conditions were not as positive as he might hope (as if they were at one time ideal). Too often, congregations that experience growth and success in the work of the Lord will become complacent. They become satisfied with what has been accomplished. They then face one hiccup or distraction, and suddenly decide that it is just too tough! The church must “man up” and keep pressing forward!
Be it fear, forfeit, fortune, or a combination, The Lord and His Kingdom do not need any more good congregations closing up their doors, nor good Christians walking away. What is needed is good congregations, good memberships, and good leadership. What is needed is for the Lord’s church to be strong and courageous, ever pressing towards the prize awaiting!