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About a week ago I set out several crape myrtles. This time of year, the stock of crape myrtles begins to dwindle and what remains have been picked over for weeks. But bargains can be had. I was able to pick up some good sized plants at low prices, but they were definitely stressed out and in need of lots of TLC. Before setting them out, I put them in a protected place and kept them in their buckets and nursed them back to health. When I did set them out, I dug large holes, put in soil amendments, fertilizer, and root stimulator. After planting them, I staked them, added mulch and plenty of water. They have put out lots of new growth and showed every sign of thriving.

Then Monday evening I noticed something shiny on the leaves. It was the “honeydew” slime that indicates aphids. Sure enough, the undersides of the leaves were swarming with the little critters. So it was back to the store to pick up a dedicated sprayer for insecticides and the proper insecticide. I’ve spent about as much for fertilizer, mulch, and insecticides as I did on the plants. But having bought the plants, it makes no sense to simply put them in the ground without giving them everything they need to thrive.

The Lord’s church, planted in a community such as ours, can thrive, but is also subject to any number of problems that can leave it stressed and vulnerable. For instance…

Nonattendance weakens the entire congregation. When a person chooses not to be in attendance, he weakens himself, but it doesn’t stop there. As individuals make the choice not to attend, the entire family is handicapped by their absence. If a leaf falls from a tree, it hurts the leaf; but when more and more leaves begin to fall from the tree, it’s harmful to the tree as well. We need to learn to stimulate one another to love and good deeds and not forsake our assembling together (Heb. 10:24,25). Do I really need to miss the assembly? Am I missing but still remaining strong in my faith and in my love for the Lord? Really?

Indifference weakens the entire church. Indifference describes the generation of Elijah’s day that assembled as required at Mt. Carmel, but refused to commit themselves to serving God – nor the gods of the nations around them (1 Kings 18:19-21). Indifference is not as easily detectable as nonattendance, but it soon becomes apparent. Indifference will allow the parking lot to be full and the pews to be occupied, but hearts will not be touched. Spirits will not be renewed. Christians will not say, “I will do …” and a community will not say, “That’s the church I want to be a part of.”

Murmuring and gossip are insidious diseases that are by nature hard to detect, yet they leave scars and destruction wherever they strike. Murmuring was a problem in the Jerusalem church (Acts 6:1). Gossip was one of many sins that Paul feared he would discover at the church at Corinth (2 Cor. 12:20). No one could successfully argue that the church at Corinth was a healthy congregation. According to Paul’s instruction to Timothy, gossip is a learned sin that consumes not only the person who spreads it, but also the church at large (1 Tim. 5:13).

Ignorance of God’s word, and specifically His will for us, will destroy the people of God every time (Hosea 4:6). Paul warned the elders of the Ephesian church that unless they adhered to those things that are profitable (Acts 20:20), to the whole counsel of God (v. 27), and be faithful to the word of Grace to which they were commended (v. 32), they were destined to be the weak and defenseless prey of wolves that would not spare the flock (v. 29).

Fortunately, everything that weakens and sickens the local church can be remedied by turning to the word and letting His loving discipline and instruction keep us firmly rooted, built up in Him and established in our faith (Col. 2:7).

Keep studying!   DC Brown ©2012