If I speak out, friends will disagree.
If I swim against the stream, the stream will ultimately sap my strength.
If I take an unpopular stand, I will hurt myself commercially.
What happens if I do not speak or act or stand on principle?
What happens then?
In all probability, what happens if I do not act is the very fulfillment of what others fear will happen if I do act. Let us see an example.
One of our state conventions of churches in Texas is now frail. It is living to support itself only and now living mightily on reserve funds. I take opportunity from time to time to warn people about its condition, though my level of responsibility for the old horse currently is virtually non-existent.
People who are concerned alternately threaten, bully, intimidate, order me to stop, plead with me to stop. Their rationale is the same; what if something happens to this convention of churches?
My contention is something has happened, is happening and will continue to happen to the convention. To simply ignore its downward spiral does not accomplish anything serious. What happens to the ministries of the convention, to its institutions, when the offerings are even smaller and the reserve is completely diminished?
All the things you fear might happen will then occur. Where will you be then?
What happens if you fail to act, keep quiet, toe the part line? The things you fear are the things that will come.
Leave the plight off the frail state convention. What is happening to your local association of churches? A few are superbly led. I have mentioned them in this space; San Antonio, Union and Austin have excellent leadership. They bear light.
So many others live on the heart beat of the seventy and eighty year olds who remember the days of cooperative missions, when Free Church associations and state conventions had a seeming monopoly on cooperative evangelical missions. This is scarcely so any longer but who seems to care? Today, younger ministers do their work with a cell phone and a search engine, while their elders yearn for what once seemed true.
How many associations will exist in ten years? In twenty?
What you fear most is most likely to occur.
So, one more step and enough for today. What happens to your church if you do not act? Cooperative ministry does mean a lot, Free Church congregations ought to become autonomous again but remain engaged with one another, if simply because the (lost) world cannot begin to grasp why we cannot get along together well.
Free Church ministers need an apparatus to train, police and help its members practice the faith and learn their profession. The old institutions can barely provide for themselves any longer. They were once new and young and strong. Something new and young and strong will have to rise to take their place.
What happens if you do not act?
If you do speak out, your voice will sound tinny in the empty well of your friends' silence. After you have paid for your words with your place or with your life, you will someday be remembered as that fellow "who was right too soon," or right but "at too great a cost."
By then, the things you were told to fear if you acted will have come to pass, but only if you do not speak or if others do not hear and follow.
Tomorrow, Monday, November 2, 2009-The Difference Between Despair and Mere Depression