"Decently and in Order"
by Ken Gardner

For the past few years the City of Dallas has been trying hard to get Raymond Bailey to serve as a juror. They've sent him at least five summons, but he hasn't answered a single one. He hasn't answered any of the summons because he's dead! He died in 1983! Mr. Bailey's son has been trying to tell the city that his father has been dead for 14 years, but the city doesn't seem to understand. Surely the city's attitude is not "He can't be dead--he's in our files. Did he ask us if it's OK to die?"

We laugh at the city, but sometimes local congregations conduct the Lord's work in the same haphazard and reckless way. We act as if we think that if we have "faith" then we don't have to be too concerned about details, we don't have to plan very much, we don't have to be very organized. If the building gets cleaned, if the lawn gets mowed, if bills are paid on time, if a realistic and workable budget is prepared (and followed), if business meetings and committee meetings are well-attended, then, well and good. But if not everything gets done (or gets done well), so what? It's no big deal. God will pick up the slack. Surely that's not our attitude.

God has always done things decently and in order. He have detailed instructions for the construction of the ark and the tabernacle. He didn't say, "Noah, build a big boat--anything will do." The arrangement of the tribes around the tabernacle were laid out. Minute directions were given for the assault on Jericho. And what about the temple? How much planning do you think went into the construction of the temple? Years of planning, not only by Solomon, but even by David. When Jesus fed the multitudes, the people were told what to do, to sit down, and to sit down in a certain arrangement. If some of our brethren today had been there, they would have simply said, "Come and get it," and would have been surprised when they were mobbed. When the Holy Spirit told Paul and Barnabas to do mission work, they obviously made some plans--they didn't just grab their Bibles and head out of town (Acts 13:1-3; 15:36-41). Paul made plans and obviously didn't like for people to change his plans. He planned on John Mark helping out on the first missionary journey, and when John Mark decided he needed to go home early, Paul was more than a little bit upset! (Acts 13:13; 15:36-41). When Paul collected money from churches on the third missionary journey, to give the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem, he took great pains to insure that the money was handled in a responsible way, that everything was "above-board," that there was no hint of impropriety (II Corinthians 8). When Christians were worshipping, partaking of the Lord's Supper, and exercising spiritual gifts in a haphazard way, Paul set them straight and told them to do all things "decently and in order" (I Corinthians 14:40).

The work of the local congregation must be done decently and in order. Decisions have to be made, and work has to be done. When men of the congregation do not attend business meetings, then something is wrong. When men are asked to lead in the worship, and then do not show up, or show up late, something is wrong. When a congregation does not plan how to spend the Lord's money, then something is wrong. Unfortunately, many members do not seem to understand the need for a scriptural, realistic, and workable budget. Preparing a budget is nothing more than planning how to spend the Lord's money, money Christians sacrifice to give, money Christians give to the Lord! What could be more scriptural and reasonable than Christians giving serious consideration to which of an infinite number of needs the local congregation can and should meet? But instead of doing things decently and in order, here's what we usually do. A need will arise and we will ask, "Is there money in the checking account to meet this need?" If there is, then we spend it, never giving a second thought to other needs, some of which we've already committed ourselves to! Yes, there may be money in the bank, but that money has already been allocated to meet other needs. If money is going to be spent on new needs, fine, but the budget needs to be increased, or modified, and the congregation must be kept informed of what's going on!

Believe you me, the work of the Lord is far more important than selecting jurors! By all means, let's do things decently and in order!