Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16 NKJV)
It's about time that we "get our shine on" in America. For the past few decades the churches of Christ have experienced something that is tremendously heartbreaking - a decline in our reaching the world with the saving Gospel of Christ. I can only imagine that the feelings of the faithful today are much the same as when the church began to sink into the apostasy from which the church would have to be restored in the early 1800's. Put yourself in the shoes of the Christian meeting in Derbe, for instance, in the late 2nd Century. You are starting to hear and see things happening in the church that ought not be so. Brethren are starting to compromise on the organization of the church of Christ, congregations are becoming at odds because of varying views of the Deity of Christ and all the while, evangelism is suffering! The congregation you attend has ceased reaching out to its community because every second spent together is used in trying to keep the congregation together in a world of spiritual turbulence. Now look at today, it's the same thing! And it's all happening because of one reason, we are ceasing to "get our shine on" and are starting to turn inward simply lighting the area under the basket, to use the analogy used by Jesus (Matthew 5:15), instead of lighting the entire house. The reason for this shift?
We have forgotten the importance of souls!
Doctrine is of the utmost importance to the faithfulness of a congregation (1 Timothy 4:13, Revelation 2:14-15, Revelation 2:20-24) but, as is the case with everything to be called Holy, there is a balance that must be met. The simple phrase "doctrine" is becoming a curse word in todays society! People do not wish to be told that there is but one way to Christ and are outspoken about their hatred to those that do so. And so we have sank into our pews, as it were, and simply tried to keep ourselves pure (cf. James 1:27) all while failing to realize that keeping ourselves pure and following the commands of Christ is directly connected to letting people see the Truth and teaching them to follow it (Matthew 28:19-20).
How can we do both, though? How can we combat the change agents in the church and at the same time teach the world? - The same way they did it way back in the time when the church was a new institution. By following the example and commands of Christ and preaching those same things to the world at large.
Getting Your Shine On Is All About BENEVOLENCE.
Often times, the word "benevolence" conjures up thoughts of checks being written or boxes of food being delivered but what the word means is totally different. Dictionary.com says that it is a "desire to do good to others." Our reputation as New Testament Christians is, in fact, a form of benevolence because it is very obvious that what they see in us they will attribute to Christianity. When people see us teaching the Truth, helping someone in physical need or even sitting and listening when a person just needs to talk (all forms of benevolence) they will see that the focus of the church of Christ is on souls, whether it be the souls' needs of this life or their needs for the life to come after the Judgment.
Getting Your Shine On Is All About BENEFICIARIES.
Let's be totally honest with each other. Even though some of us, myself included, do not currently have children we can see how letting our Christian lights shine will affect "the church of tomorrow," the children not yet old enough to understand and obey the Gospel. How can we honestly say we are doing God's will if we neglect to teach those young minds, through example, the Truth? They may be able to quote the books of the Bible, the Judges of Israel, the names of the Apostles and the fruits of the Spirit but what they are really learning is that someone cared enough for them to teach them those things and, whether we want to believe it or not they will be looking at the person doing the teaching as to whether or not they are "practicing what they preach" and if they don't, why should we not expect them to follow in our own footsteps?
If we really, truly want to safeguard the church from falling into times like it was during the Dark Ages we are going to have to get to work. We're going to have to have balance, we are going to have to be benevolent in all forms and we are going to have to teach our beneficiaries (the ones that will "inherit," for lack of a better term, the church) the Truth in word and deed. Then, and only then, will we be able to say we were the one's that "got our shine on."