Alternatives to Indifference
Indifference is unconcern. It is an individual matter, but churches become indifferent to the extent that the people who comprise them are indifferent. It is likely the most common malady among local congregations today. It may be found in every section of the country and in every size congregation. Personally, it pervades the lives of the most spiritually intelligent people just as it does those who have little knowledge of the Scriptures. It is subtle, gradual, and many times, imperceptible. It moves slowly and without fanfare and is thus hard to diagnose, even for the most sagacious person.
The conquering of indifference can be done perhaps more effectively by preventative measures than by diagnostic ones.
The measures for the prevention of indifference are so obvious as to almost seem simplistic. But we must begin with these or we are apt to fool ourselves into thinking we are active when we are, in fact, indifferent. Make no mistake about it, there is no time to lose, for this most pervasive of all spiritual maladies is most assuredly at work.
There must be a stronger tendency toward Bible study. Indifference has a hard time making much progress in a life that is duly influenced by regular exposure to biblical instruction. Bible study is hard, no doubt about it. It takes work, concentration, planning, and perseverance. No wonder Paul calls the one who does it a "workman" (2 Timothy 2:15). He says one must "handle aright" the word of truth; it takes a workman to do that. Handling calls for concentration. "Cutting along a straight line" is the idiom in the original language. Cutting is hard work, no matter if it's cutting meat, cutting material, cutting the grass, or appropriating the word of God to one's life. You have to try hard.
And there is no such thing as "corporate study" (it is not so that because there is studying going on, you have studied); but there is such a thing as "corporate knowledge," or the whole of what each person knows, viewed together. Such corporate education is necessary for strong churches. And to whatever extent it does not exist, to that same extent the local congregation suffers indifference, sometimes even moral decay.
There must be a greater devotion of worship, both public and private. Worship illustrates commitment. It is unthinkable that a person who meditates about God and His word and is seeking to apply it to his life would be derelict in worship. And yet, we see people who affirm their faith in Christ who are indifferent to such opportunities. You may rest assured that when people are sporadic in attending public worship services, there is an amount of indifference in their lives.
Nor does the mere fact that we attend the public assemblies declare how much private worship we do. What seems to be worship may be an empty ritual, one designed to walk through the various exercises in order to keep down some controversy or maintain family tradition. But true worship is a great combatant against indifference.
Notice, I said true worship. Worship, public or private, must have the right elements (see John 4:23-24), or be "in spirit and in truth." No worship can ever be proper without the right attitude; nor can it be proper when truth is not present. Otherwise, the worshipper has no idea if he is pleasing God. The truest worship you can give begins when you present yourself to God (Romans 12:1-2). Both private and public worship depends on first giving yourself. It means nothing if it starts some other place.
We must have a genuine concern for one another. We can do much to combat indifference-both in ourselves and in others-by mutual exhortation. Hebrews 10:23-25 recommends that we exhort one another to greater faithfulness. Sure, there is a risk involved — do it anyhow! If someone were headed toward some sure disaster, you certainly would ignore the risk and warn them, would you not? Hebrews 3:12-14 tells us we should do it "while it is today," indicating that we sense the urgency in the situation. There may be no other opportunity.
Romans 12:4-21 gives an abundance of information which, if implemented, would do much to combat indifference. Among other things, it requires that we not think too highly of ourselves (verse 3); that we each do what we have the gift to do (verses 4-8); that our love be pure, not feigned (9); that we have a "family affection" toward one another (10); not flagging in our energetic pursuit of that which is right (11); keeping hope alive for one another, forbearing one another and urgent in our remembrance of one another in prayer (12); benevolent to those who need us, hospitable to each other (13); involved with one another (15); same-minded, always descending to the level of those lower than we are (16); and handling disagreements with care, considering God in all we do (17-21). If these few things were put into service, indifference would suffer a serious blow.
Let's get going again. Let's get ourselves up and begin again to do what we know is right. Let's rid ourselves of the deterrents to our faithfulness, charge ourselves with our own responsibilities, fuel ourselves with a love for God and for our brothers and sisters in Christ.