Having friends with local retail shops feeling the pinch from the big “on-line” retail giants, I’m very sensitive to the fact that the ways of the modern consumer will soon leave the local community without the benefits of the local retailer. It happens in all kinds of businesses actually; from retailers to insurance agencies, to jewelers, even to lawyers and funeral services. Stop and think about the number of ads you receive via email that pull you away from the personal touch of the local business to the flash of the quick but impersonal response from the big on-line business.
It’s interesting how my friend with a local running store who gives endlessly to the community as well as providing not only a place to purchase running shoes but gives hours of time listening to runners, coaching, and encouraging local athletes to only then find a growing number of people who come in to be fitted for the best shoe possible only to leave and buy the shoe on-line, where as they say they can get it at a better price. Or the local bicycle shop upon whom a multitude of cyclists rely for repairs and replacement parts that are needed in a rush, only to find that most of the local cyclists boast of the deals they get on-line and never give the local retailer a chance. The problem with these scenarios is that the lack of loyalty to the local retailer is a vote for their failure and will result in one day not having them at all.
This problem is not only common to local businesses, it’s a problem felt by the local church. People don’t realize how seemingly good national ministries take away from the local church as people compare their pastor to the “big preachers” they hear via the internet, or the neglect of local teaching in the church because the quality is not up to what they find elsewhere, or worse yet when there is total neglect of worshipping with the local body because they feel they can get what they want by listening or watching recorded messages. But still there is another problem facing the local church and that is the dividing of the funds that should be going to the building up of the local church taken and applied to national ministries.
Please understand that I am not opposed to national ministries or well-known speakers. I have gleaned much from many in that category. When the national ministry, however, becomes a substitute for the local ministry rather than a supplement, there is a problem. It’s interesting how I’ve heard many a well-known ministry say that they are for supporting the local church but never admonish their followers to give preference in time, loyalty, and financial support to the local church and the local pastor.
Just stop and think what happens as a result of placing the big well-known ministry above the ministry in the local congregation:
- The pastor of the local church becomes discouraged by the comments of people he knows are listening to well-known preachers as they make comparisons, with the local pastor coming up short.
1 Timothy 5:17–18 (ESV) — 17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
- There is a lack of gifts developed in the local church as a failure to support Bible studies and other teaching opportunities leaves what could be gifted preachers never seeking to develop the gift that God has given for lack of opportunity.
Ephesians 4:11–16 (ESV) — 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
2 Timothy 1:6 (ESV) — 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands,
Think about the lack of people who attend church services who portray the fact that they are mature Christians but feel comfortable about staying home or doing something else on the Lord’s Day because they are well fed by other teachers through the week.
Hebrews 10:25 (ESV) — 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
- Finally, when funds that should be designated to the local church body become divided among other ministries and when appeals to year end giving and other occasions draw the attention so that the local church is neglected, you’ll soon find the local church body lacking in funds. The final outcome for the local church in this scenario is set to be exactly like the local business that slowly dries up and the local community wonders what happened when they are gone.
1 Corinthians 16:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Now concerning the collection for the saints: as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you also are to do. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put something aside and store it up, as he may prosper, so that there will be no collecting when I come.
Malachi 3:10 (ESV) — 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.
What can you do to help put a stop to this madness?
- Concerning local businesses – buy local whenever possible. Give the local store a chance by going there first before you buy on-line. Get to know the local establishments and build a relationship with the owner and management. That, by the way, will help you think of being loyal and do your part to keep them in business.
- Concerning the local church – encourage and support your pastor, make it a point to be present whenever there is teaching – encouraging those who teach, making sure you look at outside ministries as supplements and not substitutes, even seek recommendations from the pastor and church leaders as to what outside ministries they would recommend, and above all support the local church first. Anything you give elsewhere should be over and above your regular giving to the local church.
As you head into the coming year think of being part of community, the community in which you live and the community of believers of which you are a part and as a part be mindful to do your part to make the community a better place – through your encouragement, loyalty, and support. Otherwise you may wake up one day and wonder what happened.