Urgent Church: Nine Changes We Must Make Or Die

The following article was reblogged from https://www.sermoncentral.com

 

Many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

It broke my heart.

Another church closed. This church had unbelievable potential. Indeed, it had its own “glory days,” but only for a season. But, 10 years ago, few would have predicted this church’s closure. Today, it is but another statistic in the ecclesiastical graveyard.

I know. We don’t compromise doctrine. I know. We must never say we will change God’s Word.

But many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.

I call these churches “the urgent church.” Time is of the essence. If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.

What, then, are some of the key changes churches must make? Allow me to give you a fair warning. None of them are easy. Indeed, they are only possible in God’s power. Here are nine of them:

  1. We must stop bemoaning the death of cultural Christianity. Such whining does us no good. Easy growth is simply not a reality for many churches. People no longer come to a church because they believe they must do so to be culturally accepted. The next time a church member says, “They know where we are; they can come here if they want to,” rebuke him. Great Commission Christianity is about going; it’s not “y’all come.”
  2. We must cease seeing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of rapid change. Certainly, God’s truth is unchanging. So we do find comfort and stability in that reality. But don’t look to your church not to change methods, approaches, and human-made traditions. Indeed, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. “We’ve never done it that way before,” is a death declaration.
  3. We must abandon the entitlement mentality. Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges. It is a gospel outpost where you are to put yourself last. Don’t seek to get your way with the music, temperature, and length of sermons. Here is a simple guideline: Be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. That’s the opposite of the entitlement mentality.
  4. We must start doing.  Most of us like the idea of evangelism more than we like doing evangelism. Try a simple prayer and ask God to give you gospel opportunities. You may be surprised how He will use you.
  5. We must stop using biblical words in unbiblical ways. “Discipleship” does not mean caretaking. “Fellowship” does not mean entertainment.
  6. We must stop focusing on minors. Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.
  7. We must stop shooting our own. This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we will go after the pastor, the staff member, or the church member who has a different perspective than our own. We will even go after their families. Don’t let bullies and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own. It’s not friendly fire.
  8. We must stop wasting time in unproductive meetings, committees, and business sessions. Wouldn’t it be nice if every church member could only ask one question or make one comment in a meeting for every time he or she has shared his or her faith the past week?
  9. We must become houses of prayer. Stated simply, we are doing too much in our own power. We are really busy, but we are not doing the business of God.

Around 200 churches will close this week, maybe more. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. The need is urgent.

Hear me well, church leaders and church members. For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die.

Time is running out. Please, for the sake of the gospel, forsake yourself and make the changes in God’s power.

By Thom Rainer on Apr 7, 2017

President, LifeWay Christian Resources

How Big is Your God? pt-5

 

How is your experience of God?  Has it been awhile?  If your finding that God has begun to get smaller and the size of your problems have been growing then maybe it is time for a fresh experience of Him.  Jesus said “It is written,“It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.” Matthew 4:4 MSG.  He also said “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” John 6:51 GNT.  He was comparing himself to the manna that the Jews ate in the wilderness when they were freed from Egypt.  And they had to collect manna each day for the day.  Yesterdays manna would be no good today, and today’s manna would be no good for tomorrow.  There is a principle in there.  Yesterdays experience of God was wonderful, but it wasn’t supposed to be an anchor point in your life.  We need to experience God afresh and to grow in our understanding of Him daily, and as we experience and know Him more we can begin to see Him and know Him as He is.

But it takes more than just an experiences.  We also need to get outside out comfort zones.  One thing I have learned over the years is the size of your God is proportional to the size of your comfort zone.  Israel had a comfort zone which allowed them to see God as able to defeat an army, but Goliath was outside their comfort zone and therefore outside the ability of their God.  David’s comfort zone was God, and so it didn’t matter what he encountered or what difficulty he faced.  He knew his God well enough to rest completely in Him and face whatever came at him.

How big is your God?

God calls us to step outside our limitations into the limitlessness of Him.  If all we are hanging on to is what we know and are comfortable with then we are only experiencing a little bit of God, and then like Israel our God is very small.  Every person used by God through time has experienced Him and His greatness to the degree they yielded to His hand in their life, And stepped out into the life God had for them.  Our experience of God is dependent upon our willingness to let go of what we know and are comfortable with.  With God there can be no comfort zone.  God is our comfort zone, and as we let go of ourselves and step out into Him we can be ones who turn the world upside down.

We also need to give God opportunities to do something.  If we refuse to get involved then we will not see God move.  Israel had the same opportunity to see God move powerfully against Goliath as David did.  David was the only one who was willing to step out and give God an opportunity to move.  How many situations do we encounter in a day where God could do something?  How many lives do you know that could be forever changed if God touched them?  How many opportunities do we have to see God move every day of our lives?

  • The elderly gentleman on the bus with the oxygen tank
  • The coworker struggling with family problems
  • The friend overcome by debt
  • The person beside us in the hospital
  • The person we meet in the grocery line who simply needs to know that they matter

We live in a time where God is ready to move powerfully if we are willing.  Will we give God the opportunity to move or will we hide in our self-imposed comfort zones.  If we will experience God and get outside ourselves and allow God to move we can see God do great things in our lives and in the lives of the people we meet.

The question we have to answer is how big is your God?

God is moving in our world today.  Stories abound of the hand of God touching people and transforming lives.  And it is always with people who are simply following Him, allowing Him to touch their lives and doing the things He says to do.  All God needs to move powerfully is people who will come to know Him, step outside themselves and their comfort zone and follow where He leads

God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him –Hudson Taylor

What’s Going On God? – pt. 4

A life pull of purpose is available to all of us.  Each one of us is created for a purpose and not a single life born is a mistake.  We have a part to play in accomplishing our purpose and God is actively involved in our lives calling us towards a deeper relationship with Him and a life spent living out the purpose we were created for.  And many of the situations we face every day are simply training and proving areas where God shows us ourselves so that He can change us.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me,

So that things can happen THROUGH me.

Both Saul and David had opportunities to be powerfully used by God in their generation.  Both were hand selected by God with a purpose.  Both men encountered hardships and testings that God used to show them who they really were and to show them their character.  Both men made mistakes and messes, but only one responded to the dealing of God in his life, and only one fulfilled the purpose of God for him. 

Paul as another man in scripture called by God with a purpose.   Now Paul had a little different start than David and Saul.  He was a man of prominence and power.  He was part of the Jewish council, and a staunch advocate for the Jewish faith.  He was a man of principle and extremely devout and fervent.  He went so far as to exterminate everyone he thought was a threat to the Jewish faith.  And yet God chose him.

Unlike Saul and David, Paul had a difficult past to overcome.  Daily Paul had to face the people he had tried to exterminate.  Paul had to forgive himself, and move forward.  Paul refused to allow his past to hold him back.  Paul understood what God said in Isaiah 43:18

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul completely focused his life on the purpose God gave him to fulfill.  Paul chose to run forward, and not look back.  He chose to learn from his mistakes and to move on.  Paul’s life can give us hope as well because he shows us the possibility.  We can achieve all that God destines us for.  It is a matter of focus.  Will we accept our reality or deny it.  Will we accept the truth about ourselves, or make excuses.  Only when we see ourselves as God sees us can we move forward to the next stage.

The first stage is Revelation – God reveals to us what His purpose for us is.  Revelation always brings us to the second stage.  Confrontation – Every time God reveals a part of His heart, or His purpose for us He always confronts us with who we are.  We all like to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are really good people.  So God shows us what is in our hearts and the behaviors and attitudes that need to be dealt with and overcome.  So God uses situations we face every day to show us who we are.  Jesus said “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45  All of the situations we face draw out of us what is really in us.  All of the things we don’t want to see.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me,

So that things can happen THROUGH me.

The next stage God brings us to is Transformation.  At this stage we have a choice to make as well. Will we allow God to change us.  Because transformation is not an easy task.  Confrontation causes us to face ourselves and our giants.  Transformation enables us to overcome them.  Transformation is the stage where God helps us to overcome the parts of ourselves that are holding us back.  This means that transformation can be a painful process.

  • This is the stage of surgery, where God cuts away the disease and cancers in our character and places them on the cross.
  • This is also the stage where the flesh fights the hardest against the spirit.

Because our flesh desires comfort and this stage can be anything but comfortable.  The good news is God usually combines this stage with confrontation.  He doesn’t confront us with a list and then expect them all to change.  God will bring something to the surface, causing us to realize it, and then have us face it and overcome it one step at a time.  David and Paul and many others in scripture and in history are proof that God is able to carry us through this into all that He purposes us for if we allow Him to.  The stages of Confrontation and Transformation are not easy stages to go through in our lives, but they are necessary, and God never leaves us to walk through them alone.

Are we willing to allow Him to see us through?

Connected pt 2

cowboy-sunset Togetherness.  It is something that goes against the grain at least here in North America.  We have an ideological concept of ourselves steeped in rugged individualism, where we ride in, become the great hero and ride off into the sunset again.  We see little need for others and usually people are the reason we feel the need to be alone.  People can be extremely cruel and harsh  and all of us have been on the receiving end of some form of ridicule and abuse which just seems to reinforce the stereotype.
Add to that all the busy bodies and gossips who seem to feel it is their God given mission to know all that is going on in your life and share it with everyone they know as well as their opinions of what you are doing and it is no wonder people don’t want to invest heavily in relationship.  Even the source of basic foundational relationships we were all born into has broken down into a deep source of pain for many.  Family isn’t even something you can count on any more.
Enter the church and the people who are supposed to be ones you can begin to turn to and count on as Jesus demonstrated and we have a group of people obsessed with what is wrong with you instead of helping bring out what is right.  There is a lot wrong with our world today and it just reinforces our desire to stand alone.
Unfortunately we were not created to be alone but to be in relationship.  And our level of connection to God is dependent on our level of connection with others around us.  One always will lead to the other.  When we come to know relationship with God through Jesus we are restored to a life-giving relationship with God and He instantly begins to network us to others around us.  And if we resist building relationship with others, our relationship with God begins to die as well.  We cannot have one without the other.  We need to change our view of relationships with others to become who we were meant to be.  Our growth personally and in our relationship with God is dependent on it.
“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.” –  Martin Luther King, Jr –
Paul wrote in Ephesians 4 that Christ gave gifts to the body of Christ so that we would become mature and complete measuring up completely to Christ who is our head.  And because of that maturity we would stand firm in our faith and we would …Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”  Ephesians 4:15-16 NLT   What I found interesting the first time I read this and I began to understand our need for one another wconnectedas that we grow together.  There is no alone in Christianity.  No room for individualism.  He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”   
We can never become who God wants us to be by spending time with God alone.  We also need to be in ever-deepening relationship with the people God begins to place around us.  One whole complete body of Christ around the world together becoming who God wants us to be.  “We must depart from a self-centered view of our life in Christ. We cannot independently remain apart from others. We are formed by the Spirit to be joined into community with others, forming a body indwelled by Christ.’  Ralph. W. Neighbour Jr.. Christ’s Basic Bodies 

Stay Connected

unpluggedWe have all heard the saying “it’s not about what you know but who you know.”  There is more that happens in and around us based on the connections that we have with others.  The idea of being “an island unto myself” is something that none of us were meant to be.  Who we are comes from what is allowed to be encouraged within us by the relationships we have around us.  It was Paul who wrote Do not let anyone fool you. Bad people can make those who want to live good become bad. I Corinthians 15:33 NLV  We actually become like the people we hang around with.

“Relationships are all there is. Everything in the universe only exists because it is in relationship to everything else. Nothing exists in isolation. We have to stop pretending we are individuals that can go it alone. ” – Margaret J. Wheatley

So when it comes to our walk with God why is that so many of us try to do it ourselves.  It is something we are all guilty of.  Statistics released by George Barna show that the average American pastor spends 7 min a day in prayer and the average Christian about 1 min per day.  And we wonder why we struggle so hard to become what we know we are supposed to be becoming and the world around us thinks we are just a bunch of hypocrites who spout off rules for life that we don’t even follow ourselves.

All this work invested into becoming and Jesus stated that we would become if we follow Him.  Matthew 4:19 AMP And He said to them, “Follow Me [as My disciples, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk], and I will make you fishers of men.”  We strive and struggle and work and miss out on the most important connection we have with our Father in heaven.  There was a reason Jesus spent so many hours in communion with His Father.  It was because He knew that His source for all He was to become was that connection.

It’s like we have a power cord attached to us, and that cord needs to be plugged in to a power source.  And when we desire to follow our path and do what we desire, or do what God wants but in our way and on our schedule we come unplugged.  And we instantly lose our ability to become what God designed and desires us to be.  Jesus said to stay connected to Him and the fruit would take care of itself.  Fruit is a result of being connected, not of us striving and struggling to be something.

John 15:5-6 MSG “I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing.  It is up to us to decide whether we will bear fruit or not.  If we maintain the connection a harvest is a sure thing.  Or we can continue to fight it out on our own convinced that we can do it ourselves.  The truth is we become because of relationship.  Will we plug in?

get plugged in

Transformed? pt.3

good evilOne day Jesus and His disciples were traveling and after a long day of travel and ministry they began to look for a place to rest.  It was getting close to the time where He was going to be betrayed and crucified and He was on His way to Jerusalem.  So He sent some people on ahead to the next town to find a place to stay.  The town was in Samaria and when the Samaritans heard He was traveling to Jerusalem they refused to let Him stay.  James and John, two of Jesus disciples were outraged at being treated this way and responded by asking Jesus James and John, His followers, saw this. They said, “Lord, do You want us to speak so fire will come down from heaven and burn them up as Elijah did?”  Jesus turned and spoke sharp words to them. (*He said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you have.  The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives. He came to save them from the punishment of sin.” They went on their way to another town.)”  Luke 9:54-56 NLV

You do not know what kind of spirit you have.   It is something that we as Christians need to ask ourselves.  There are three kinds of spirit at work on us.  We have the will to choose to do things our own way and follow ourselves.  God is constantly calling to us and we have the choice to follow Him.  And there is the devil who as long as we are not following God doesn’t have to do much with us.  We need to choose which one we follow.

Most of us as Christians follow ourselves and we don’t see transformation in our lives.  It is up to us whom we follow.  Paul wrote a lot on this topic, but specifically in Galatians 5.  He wrote similar to Jesus and said we have to decide which spirit we will have or follow.  And the one we chose to follow would be evidenced by our lives.  And this isn’t a choice we can make passively, because both sides are battling each other.  I say this to you: Let the Holy Spirit lead you in each step. Then you will not please your sinful old selves.  The things our old selves want to do are against what the Holy Spirit wants. The Holy Spirit does not agree with what our sinful old selves want. These two are against each other. So you cannot do what you want to do. ”  Galatians 5:16-17 NLV   By default we follow ourselves and do what we want to do.  If we don’t choose to follow God we choose to follow ourselves.  We need to decide and act on that decision.

Paul wrote that the evidence of following ourselves is The things your sinful old self wants to do are: sex sins, sinful desires, wild living,  worshiping false gods, witchcraft, hating, fighting, being jealous, being angry, arguing, dividing into little groups and thinking the other groups are wrong, false teaching,  wanting something someone else has, killing other people, using strong drink, wild parties, and all things like these.”  and the result of them is I told you before and I am telling you again that those who do these things will have no place in the holy nation of God.”  Galatians 5:19-21 NLV  This sounds just like the world we all live in, and unfortunately most of the churches we attend.

But transformed lives can be ours to live.  We don’t have to live life like everyone else.  And a transformed life is the best message we can offer the world around us.  One of the best times for evangelism is in the first few months after someone chooses to follow Christ and their friends can actually see the transformations happening.  And life with God isn’t supposed to be simply about talking to people,  it was meant to be about flowing with God and in His power.  For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power1 Corinthians 4:20 NLT

When we choose to let God lead our lives can be transformed because the evidence of our choice is transformation.  Paul continued to tell us But the fruit that comes from having the Holy Spirit in our lives is: love, joy, peace, not giving up, being kind, being good, having faith, 23 being gentle, and being the boss over our own desires.Galatians 5:22-23 NLV  This is a great contrast to living life our way.  Jesus demonstrated this life for us and invites us to do the same.  We need to evaluate the fruit in our lives and decide which spirit we will be of.  The choice is up to us, but the rewards can be huge.

who-you-follow-makes-a-differenceIf the Holy Spirit is living in us, let us be led by Him in all things.” Galatians 5:25 NLV

Do You Believe?

What we say we believe matters little. We can say a lot without anything being demonstrated in our lives. Our actions actually say more about what we believe than our words. Our beliefs always come out in our actions.  Science has demonstrated that we cannot even be hypnotised to act differently then we belief.

James states ”  Removing action from faith is like removing breath from a body. All you have left is a corpse.”  What do your actions say about what you believe?  Peter walked on water because he believed Jesus was who He said He was.  When we truly believe it will always drive us to action.

Do You Believe?