OceanSide church of Christ
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KEEP THE FIRES BURNING BRIGHTER
Victor M. Eskew
There is an old saying that goes: “We of this generation are warming by the fires built by others.” In other words, the present resources and opportunities that we have were prepared and provided by those of the previous generation. Because of their blood, sweat, and tears, we are fortunate to have the things that we have. This is true in our society. It is also true within the church.
The OceanSide church of Christ has a rich history. Others who have died and gone on to their reward took risks, worked diligently, and made sacrifices so the church can be in the position that it is today. We are the benefactors of their efforts. We are warming by the fires that they built for us.
There are many reactions that we can have to these wonderful fires. First, we can completely neglect them. We can act as if they have long ago served their purposes. When this attitude exists, the fires soon die down. Soon, there are only a few smoldering embers left. Eventually, the fires go out. There are many churches today that have only a few elderly members filling the pews. There are churches that have dwindling attendance figures and contribution numbers. There are churches that have shut their doors completely. These churches are a result of members neglecting to keep the fires burning. The empty, dilapidated, and ghostly buildings of today would cause those of the past to weep.
Second, we can react by merely warming by the fires of the past. We may be thankful for the sacrifices of our forefathers. We may also enjoy coming to the fires and partaking of their warmth from time to time. Occasionally, we may be willing to put another log on the fire in order to keep it burning for a while longer. Mostly, however, we are just satisfied with what we have. The fires seem to serve their purposes. We may be convinced that the fires will never go out. Many churches have this kind of members in them. These individuals attend regularly. They often have a rich heritage of relatives who were members of the church. Every now and then they are willing to go beyond the call of duty. This might involve teaching a class or giving to a special contribution. But, for the most part, they are satisfied. They fail to see that the fires are not as big as they once were. Their fires bring them warmth. Yes, they are satisfied.
Third, we can deeply appreciate the labors of those of by-gone years, but we are not content. We not only want the fires to continue to burn, but we want them to burn even brighter. These individuals are not, and will never be, satisfied. They see the labor of their forefathers as an opportunity to do something even better. These members of the church are willing to roll up their sleeves and work. They are willing to sacrifice. They were willing to give of their means. They were willing to do whatever it takes to make the church larger and stronger for coming generations.
The questions that we need to ask ourselves are twofold: 1) In which group do we presently reside? 2) In which group does God want us to be? It is this writer’s opinion that God wants all members of the church to be in that last group. He wants each generation fully dedicated to keeping the fires built by others burning even brighter for the coming generations. When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he said that he had planted and Apollos watered. Planting alone was not enough. Someone had to continue the efforts that Paul had begun (I Cor. 3:6). Paul wrote to Timothy about promulgating the message of the gospel. He said: “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2). Timothy was expected to do at least as much Paul did. In like manner also, those taught by Timothy were expected to teach others.
When our generation passes from existence, how will we leave the fires to others? Will they be burning like a wildfire out of control? Will it be a fire a little smaller than the fire of the past, but still one providing some warmth? Or, will it merely be a smoldering campfire? Or, even worse, will we leave behind a few burnt coals that evidence that a fire used to be in existence?
If we were speaking of a physical fire, the answers to the above questions might not matter much. We, however, are speaking of the church, the bride of Christ (Rev. 21:4). We are talking about the blood bought institution of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28). We are talking about the institution that houses all of the saved (Acts 2:47; Eph. 5:23). This divine institution should never be allowed to diminish, much less die, in any generation. Its calling is too high. Its purposes are too lofty. Its destiny is too heavenly to allow it just smolder and die. Please, brethren, let’s keep the fires of the OceanSide church burning brighter for the next generation.