One way we can do this is by reading the Bible. As Christians, we believe that the Bible is God's word to man. As such, we believe that the things contained in the Bible are the very things which God not only wants us to know, but also what He wants us to do. In fact, one of Christianity's fundamental core beliefs is that the Bible is the complete word of God. By that they mean, all that God has to say to us has already been written down in the Bible. As such, almost all Christian churches teach that there is no more need for God to speak to man through the use of prophets as He did during biblical times. Because of this belief in the completeness of God's word, Christianity teaches that the Bible holds the key for every one of life's problems. No matter what difficulties we may encounter, if we study the Bible, we can find somewhere in its pages the answer to any dilemma we may face.
But do Christians actually behave according to their stated beliefs? Let's take a look at the way in which churches struggle to cope with some of the problems of life.
One of the greatest concerns churches have today is how to interest people in accepting the teachings of Christ. Almost all churches have some sort of an outreach program, where they go into their local communities in an effort to bring new souls to Christ. However, the challenge is more than just preaching the gospel. It also involves keeping converts coming to church once they have accepted Christ. This is most especially true of young people.
In an effort to reach and hold the hearts and minds of the people they teach, more and more churches are discarding the traditional, conservative forms of worship. As such, a growing number of churches are becoming more informal in their dress and in the way they present their services. Instead of the Pastor wearing robes or even a suit, they now preach in jeans and sweatshirts. Instead of having an organist playing the long established hymns, newer, "progressive" churches have bands, complete with drums, electric guitars, tambourines, and perhaps brass instruments who play up-tempo, toe-tapping, hand-clapping contemporary songs. The purpose of this kind of worship is to teach the gospel in a way that relates and appeals to the modern generation. It is thought that if the church fits the style of the people they teach, those people will be more interested in coming and listening to the message of Christ.
However, the larger churches who have an elderly population among their congregation, are apt to lose these older members who can't relate or appreciate the "new wave" music. Therefore, in an effort to accommodate both groups of people, some churches have two services each Sunday - one for the older generation and one for the newer generation.
Another church, in an effort to reach out to their local community, is offering a Vacation Bible School during the summer that's meant for both children and adults. The idea behind this is that the parents don't just send their kids to church, but come with them as well. There are "activities" for the parents to participate in as they learn about God's plan of salvation.
One church, in an effort to make it easier and more comfortable for people to hear the word of God, has rented an out-door movie theater. Under this system, people can drives their cars next to a speaker and watch the preacher give his Sunday sermon on the silver screen. The members of this congregation can come dressed any way they want and can be taught the word of God without ever getting out of their car. Of course, there are those churches who broadcast their services over radio or television, thereby allowing people to remain at home while receiving the message of salvation.
Another community outreach program centers on a clowning ministry where the youth dress up in clown costumes and visit nursing homes, libraries or other places of gathering where they put on plays which have a moral theme to them. Another church sends their people out to do community service, such as painting or fixing homes of the elderly or the needy.
In addition to spreading the gospel, many churches also try to address the social problems of their community. The most prevalent of these is poverty. In an effort to help the poor, some churches have a "soup kitchen" where the poor and hungry can come and at least have a warm meal once a day. Some churches operate a shelter where the homeless have a place to sleep as well as eat. A few pastors seek to meet both the physical and spiritual needs of the poor by spending most of their time working on the streets in an effort to provide individual hands-on help.
Closely associated with poverty is youth crimes. To help combat both of these evils, some pastors operate community centers or other programs where they work with disadvantaged youth, trying to give them proper guidance that will help them get out of the poverty they were born into and avoid the crime they are surrounded with.
However, most Christian churches have no program at all for helping the poor. Instead, they may express their concern in the form of stated "principles" or "affirmations." For example, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, comprising forty-two denomination, has put forth a "Statement of Legislative Principles" covering a wide variety of social problems. Under the heading of "Economic Justice" they affirm "We support the empowerment of all people to obtain employment that provides economic self-sufficiency and to enjoy economic opportunity.... We believe the General Assembly [of Pennsylvania] should support legislation that will lead to a living wage... We strongly support legislation designed to guarantee that those who work full time receive an income sufficient for at least a basic standard of living... We affirm the need to eliminate poverty as a destructive and dehumanizing force in people's lives. We also affirm the goal of self-sufficiency for those caught in a cycle of poverty and welfare dependency... We strongly support the availability of 24-hour a day child-care. Child-care should be provided through a partnership of private and public sectors... We believe all persons deserve food security. We support expansion of the state food programs...."
By setting forth these "principles" in writing, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches seeks to help fight poverty through the use of government legislation rather than by becoming personally involved on a one-to-one basis.
Teen pregnancy is another problem that afflicts our society today. However, there are a few churches who have a program which can provide practical assistance in helping young women deal with the trauma of being pregnant without a father. Unfortunately, the vast majority of churches have no program designed for addressing this problem, except to give pastoral counseling when it is asked for.
Child and spouse abuse is another social ill that is becoming increasingly more common. Yet, even fewer churches have programs to help provide real relief for such victims. But those that do, often don't have the funds or the means to provide help to the poor or to care for unwed mothers. The same is true of those who help the poor. They aren't able to provide any help to battered women or unwed teenagers.
Then there is the need to provide assistance for those devastated by floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. As we look at all the needs there are throughout the world, it become obvious that the local, independent churches are extremely limited in the good they can hope to accomplish. Furthermore, through a hodge-podge system of individual, ad-hoc programs, the assistance they do provide is very limited and helps only a relatively small number of people.
Nevertheless, the pastors of these programs quite often say that God is behind the work they do. They may say they felt "led" or that God "inspired" them, or that God "revealed" the program to them. But whatever term they use, the meaning is always the same. The credit goes to God, not the pastor, for providing the idea and the means for bringing forth and moving forward the programs which the pastor is involved with.
If that is true, then we need to ask ourselves two very important questions. The first is, if the Bible is complete and God doesn't need to speak to us any more through living men as He once did, then how can God reveal new programs to man which are not specifically found in the Bible? For example, nowhere in the Bible does it talk about setting up a soup kitchen, or providing shelter for pregnant teens, or operating a community center for troubled youth. Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us that we should seek legislative means to affect the problems of our society.
Even though each of these programs may be based on Christian principles or teachings found in the Bible, that still doesn't explain how a person comes to understand the specific details of operating their program or how they came to know what God wanted them to do. Each of these programs represents a new or innovative way to help people which is not specifically found in the Bible. Either we have to believe that each pastor came up with these ideas on their own, or that God has revealed more of His word to them beyond that which is found in the Bible. Since they all claim that God is the source of their inspiration, then, by their own admission, they are all acknowledging that God still speaks to man today despite their claim that the Bible contains the complete words of God.
The second question we need to ask is, Why does God tell one pastor to help the needy a certain way, then tells another pastor to help the needy in a different way? In other words, if a program is good enough to help people in one city or part of town, why doesn't God inspire all pastors every where to follow that same program?
Since God's ways are perfect, why doesn't He reveal the same perfect program to every pastor, instead of inspiring a hundred different, ad-hoc, uncoordinated methods that only helps a relatively small number of people? Wouldn't it be much better if everyone was working the same program? That way the Christian churches could combine their efforts and greatly increase the amount of people being helped.
Let's look at this question from a different perspective. All Christians agree that there is only one way to be saved, not hundreds of different ways. It doesn't matter if someone lives in America, Canada, Mexico, France, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Thailand, Kenya, or the Congo. There is only one way to obtain salvation. It is universal because it is the perfect solution to the problem of removing sin. And because it is perfect, it works the same for everyone, regardless of their location, race, schooling, income, or position.
In the same way, why shouldn't God design a program for the poor that works just as well in Richmond, Virginia, as it would in Richmond, California, or Richmond, Kansas, or Richmond, Kentucky, or Richmond, Maine, or Richmond, Australia, or Richmond, Canada, or Richmond, New Zealand? Why can't God reveal to us a perfect community out-reach program that works just as well in Rome, Italy as it does in Rome, Oregon, or in Paris, France as well as it does in Paris, Texas, or in Athens, Greece as well as it does in Athens, Michigan? What sense is there in having thousands of different little programs designed for different groups of people when all of us have the same basic needs?
To say that God inspires a hundred different men to tackle the same problem a hundred different ways is to say that God doesn't have the ability to give us a perfect program that will effectively work the same for everyone. And if these programs truly are inspired by God, they why don't all pastors see them as the revealed word of the Lord, and feel prompted by the Holy Spirit to adopt the same programs themselves?
Instead, Christians justify their various differences of methodology by likening it to a mosaic work of art. Each individual piece in and of itself is insignificant and fairly meaningless, but when everyone's ideas come together, the overall picture we get is one of incomparable beauty. It has been said that by God working His will in each of these independent, individual churches, He is accomplishing His purposes in a way that no one church could possibly do.
Yet Paul told the Corinthians that "God is not the author of confusion," and that all things should "be done decently and in order" (I Corinthians 14:33, 40). Today, with so many different churches doing so many different things so many different ways, there is no order or harmony among the efforts of Christians as a whole.
Although Christians say they base their entire belief system on the Bible, yet, throughout the Bible, we always see God acting in a united and orderly way. Under Moses there was one set of laws for the entire nation, not a different program designed for each individual tribe or class of people. There was one system of judges for the entire Israelite nation, not twelve different forms of government. Each prophet taught the same message to all twelve tribes, irrespective of their social or religious condition (which tended to change quite frequently.) They didn't teach one thing when the Israelites were a free nation and then proclaim a different program of help when they were in captivity. As Christians, one of the most fundamental beliefs we hold is that God is unchanging, and that He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8). It would seem logical and reasonable that His methods would likewise remain the same.
We also find this same concept of unity among the believers of God in the New Testament. There were many poor people and widows in the days of the early Christian church, and the apostles sought to provide them with help. However, instead of allowing each local congregation to devise their own program, the Bible tells us that the apostles chose seven men to oversee the collecting and distributing of food to the needy (Acts 6:1-3). During one meeting in Jerusalem, the apostles and elders of the church gave Paul and Barnabas instructions that as they went about preaching they were to remember the poor (Galatians 2:9,10). In several of his letters, Paul made mention of the need for the saints in each of the churches to collect food and gifts for the poor, which he, Paul, would pick up and take with him on his way back to Jerusalem (1 Corinthians. 16:1-2, 2 Corinthians 8:1-4).
Even before Paul became converted to Jesus, the New Testament tells us, "And all that believed were together, and had all things common. And sold their possession and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.... And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common" (Acts 2:44,45, 4:32). In many of Paul's letters, he stressed the importance for unity and oneness among Christians. This not only included having one faith, but everyone doing things the same way, and having "all things" in common. The fact is that nowhere in the scriptures can we find any justification for Christians following many individually different programs.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes that God still speaks to man through the use of mortal men known as prophets. As such, they believe that the person who presides over their entire church is indeed God's mouthpiece, or spokesman to the world. Through him God reveals His perfect programs for dealing with the current problems which beset us. However, instead of seeing hundreds of different ways for resolving the same issue, what we find is a church who successfully employs the same system throughout the world.
To reach out to the community and spread the gospel, the LDS church sends missionaries to knock on people's doors, talk with people on the street, and perform service for both members and non-members alike. As they seek to attract people to Christ, they don't use flashy showmanship, or rely on the current fad to hold people's interest. Although they may use the latest technology in communication, such as videos, the simple technique they use to spread their message is the same in Bern, Switzerland as it is in Bern, Kansas. And it is through this manner of reaching out to people that the LDS church has become the fastest growing Christian church in the world. There are many other denominations who belittle this kind of approach, but despite the multitude of inventive ways that they've attempted, none of them come close to having the kind of success which the LDS church has achieved.
To help the poor, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attacks the problem on several levels. First, through divine revelation, they have encouraged people to stock up a two year supply of food. This is similar to what God told the Pharaoh in a dream and which Joseph, the son of Israel (Jacob) interpreted for him. During the fat years we are to save up to help us through the lean years. The LDS church operates canneries and other facilities available to all people to help them in their food storage program.
The LDS church also stresses the need for education as a means of helping people become more employable. To help assist in this effort, the Church operates several colleges. But regardless of where people get their education, the church preaches the importance of education and excellence in all of life's endeavors. In fact, this concept is part of their religious belief associated with salvation. Because of this effort, Latter-day Saints as a whole are more prosperous than people of other Christian denominations. This has especially been of great value to those living in poorer countries such as in many South American nations. Often, within one or two generations after becoming converted to the LDS church, many of these converts have seen a marked increase in their standard of living by following this counsel.
These kinds of programs can be classified as "preventative" in nature. However, there are those who are already poor and need immediate help. To provide assistance to these people, the LDS Church has their own welfare program. But unlike government handout programs, the LDS Church helps people become self-sufficient while providing for their immediate needs. To fund this program, the members of the church fast once each month and donate the money to the Church that they would have spent on food. With this money, the Church operates farms and orchards for growing food which they package through volunteer labor. Clothing and other necessary items are also available. Through the local bishop (minister) the needs of each individual family is assessed and provided. Under his direction, the president of the Relief Society (the local woman's organization) and the Elder's Quorum (the local men's organization) becomes involved in helping the impoverished family meet their needs. This system is the same in London, England as it is in London, West Virginia.
To help provide relief for unwed mothers, battered women, and domestic problems, the LDS Church has its own Social Services. They are staffed with qualified therapists who are also members of the Church. In that way they not only can give emotional support and physical help, but spiritual guidance as well. Whether the need is for adoption services, family counseling, or temporary shelter, the LDS Social Service program has the resources to help those who seek its services. Often, these cases are coordinated with the local bishop, who can then assess and further assist their spiritual and physical needs. And this service is the same in Madrid, Spain as it is in Madrid, Nebraska.
In addition to all of this, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints provides an enormous amount of supplies to assist people all over the world who have been devastated by earthquakes, floods, tornados and other natural disasters. They not only have the warehouse and packaging resources to handle the large quantity of needed items, but they also have the organizational structure and transportation means to insure that the supplies reach those who need it the most.
None of these programs are designed according to the way other organizations operate. Although there may be some similarities to comparable programs, they all have a unique feature which sets them distinctly apart. And that is because they are not patterned after man's wisdom. They come as divine revelation from God to man through a living prophet.
Those who believe in the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints don't accept the premise that God has ceased talking to man and that all we need to know from God can be found in the Bible. Although other religions might say that such a doctrine is heresy, yet no other Christian denomination has the unity of faith, nor the uniformity of programs which is the hallmark of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Jesus said it best when He stated, "by their fruits ye shall know them."
Return to main menu