How the Apostles Might Encourage Us to Use a Church Directory
Our List of Those Involved in Light of Their Lessons about Being Involved
Can you imagine a news story from a dig site in what was once ancient Corinth, or Antioch, or Rome, in which archaeologists announce they've discovered what's looks like a First Century church directory? Of course, the ancient parchment or papyrus would not contain phone numbers or e-mail addresses in ancient Greek. But it would contain the names (and maybe addresses—“three doors south of the marketplace”) of those who worshiped, served, and partnered together as Christ's church in that particular city or town.
If such directories did exist, and were made available to every believer in each local church, what might the apostles say in their letters about this kind of resource? As those who have just received a newly updated copy of our own church directory, this question is certainly relevant. And while these directories are a much later development in the history of the church, based on their letters (preserved in the New Testament), I think we can offer some extremely reasonable guesses about how the apostles might encourage us to use one. For example...
In all likelihood, Paul would encourage us to use a directory to regularly remember (with gratitude) each brother and every sister with whom God has placed us in partnership for the gospel—I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3–5)
In all likelihood, Paul would also encourage us to use a directory to regularly meditate on, through the good times and the tough times, both our diversity and unity as the body of Christ—But God has so composed the body... that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together... There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (I Corinthians 12:24–27; Galatians 3:28)
In all likelihood, Paul would also encourage us to use a directory to regularly pray for God's work in and through each member of our faith family—We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers... we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord... (I Thessalonians 1:2; Colossians 1:9-10)
In all likelihood, Peter would encourage us to use a directory to regularly think about specific individuals and specific ways we might love one another through grace-empowered service—Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace... (I Peter 4:8–10)
In all likelihood, James would encourage us to use a directory to regularly identify and reach out to brothers and sisters who might be disconnected or drifting, not only from our life together, but also from the truth—My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19–20)
In all likelihood, John would encourage us to use a directory to regularly consider any practical and pressing needs that exist within, but could also be met by, our fellowship of believers—By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (I John 3:16–18)
Of course, in light of their letters, other encouragements could be added. But as wonderful as all these suggestions are, what about the primary purpose of a church directory, that is, to provide information that enables us to communicate with one another through a call, text, e-mail, or via the mailbox? Even then, whatever the occasion or need that inspires the communication, let's always do so in light of God's word: Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29) Amen!