Written by Robert F. Turner – published in March 1980
A fellow preacher showed me the church building in a community of middle income people — the meeting place for 60/80 brethren. Paint was peeling from the trim, the lawn was filled with weeds and needed mowing, shrubbery needed trimming, and trash was blowing about the parking lot. He asked, “If you were preaching here, how would you go about getting the brethren to clean up this place?”
I told him I would begin by bringing my mower up there and cutting the grass. Then, at our next meeting, I would ask if any of the members had an edger, and if so, would they meet me here on Saturday and edge the walk while I clean up the parking lot. I’d thank that person publicly on Sunday, and ask if someone would volunteer to trim the shrubbery. All this should get their attention!!
Then I would ask the elders, or the next business meeting, if there was any objection to scraping off the old paint, and putting on new, I’d have prices for paint on hand — and if they said the “church” couldn’t afford it, I’d offer to do it myself, with whatever help anyone would give.
But my friend played devil’s advocate. “What if no one offered to help, or even told you that if it took a neat clean building to get people to come to worship they would be coming for the wrong reason.” I would counter that people who looked for a show place weren’t coming to that little place; and that the clean-up was not to attract new comers, but was the fruit of self-respect on the part of those who regularly worshipped there.
I might suggest a Bible reading of Proverbs 24:30-34. “I went by the field of the sluggard, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; and, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, The face thereof was covered with nettles, and the stone wall thereof was broken down…”
In this day of emphasis upon material things this article seems almost archaic. But this was not written to promote clean neat buildings alone. I hoped you would notice that if something needs doing you begin by doing it yourself. Elders and preachers will not increase personal work, contribution, or other desirable traits by “fussing” at the congregation. We should have scriptural authority for our plea, but even this will fail in the absence of example. Most brethren know what is right, but are not motivated to do as well as they know to do. For the bottom line, it is this mutual edification, encouragement, prompting and correcting that gives meaning to congregational fellowship.