Right in the centre - The ‘F’ words


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

In my view, there are four F words. They are Faith, Family, Friends and Finances. And they should be kept in that order.

Many times, I have heard people understandably say that if you have your health, that’s all that counts. It is also often said that if your family is healthy, that’s all that counts. Both statements carry a lot of merit, a lot of weight. They are never  more important than when one’s health fails or when a family member’s health fails.

However, our own health and our family’s health is only part of the equation. Above all else, we need to have faith in God. Our health can change as life goes on, and let’s face it, we are all going to die at some point. As well, family, friends and finances can all come under tremendous pressure, but God never changes. Our relationship with Him may waver, or we may struggle at times with what we think God wants us to do, but God doesn’t change.

So if faith in God is so important, why is it that the main promoters of faith in God, namely the local churches, are often struggling or even shutting down? Many churches, in many communities, both large and small, are disappearing before our very eyes. Why is that happening?

There are many reasons, I guess. One is that there seems to be a reluctance to speak (preach, if you will) the simple gospel message. That message is that God created the world. People can debate all they want about that topic and can explore every avenue of geography, geology and every known science, but it all comes down to God created the world.

God created human beings. How He did it, I have no real idea, but I do know that humans didn’t crawl out of the ocean as some four-legged creature. God created all things.

God created humans with a free will. If we weren’t created with a free will, we would be automatically programmed to do whatever God wanted and that wouldn’t prove anything. God loves us and craves our love in return. True love can’t be programmed or dictated, it has to be a choice.

God created humans in His image. For one example, God is God, the creator, so we shouldn’t be surprised that all humans are creative.

The gospel message includes teaching about Heaven and Hell. As one old friend said many years ago, there is Heaven to be gained and a Hell to shun.

As much as we might struggle with the concept, God is perfect (or sinless, to use an older expression) and Heaven is perfect. We are not perfect and never will be. God knows that.

The simplest, and yet sometimes hardest, part of the gospel message is this: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”John 3:16 NIV. Churches need to preach that message and not stray from it. We are to love God and love one another.

So what should churches do? They need to make sure they stick to the speaking and teaching of God’s word. The Old Testament is largely a historical document that teaches in two ways. Some of the OT tells us what we should do, but much more of it tells us what we shouldn’t do. There’s a lot of stuff in the OT that we should not even consider doing.

The New Testament is the opposite. It tells us much more of what we should do than what we shouldn’t do. The NT is summarized in Jesus’ words, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”

Churches have attached themselves to cultural traditions, to budget draining buildings that could be used for many more activities and to out-dated thinking. They have boxed themselves into one-hour-a-week church services that are all too easy to avoid in a person’s busy life.   

Churches that are growing, and there are some, are vibrant and reach out to people. They meet needs and are willing to break out of old ways. They do low income housing, street outreach and get out of the four walls and into the community. They know that the traditional Sunday morning services that the whole community pauses for are long gone. They are where the people are and when the people are available. But most of all, they preach God’s Word, not a watered down, mushy message that never challenges people.

Yes, there are four F words. Faith is the most important one and the others will follow in due course.

Disclaimer: The writer serves as a volunteer chair of the Manitoba Community Newspaper Association. The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being  the view of the MCNA board or Banner & Press staff.