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

You’re such a Curmudgeon!

“You’re becoming such a curmudgeon!” one of mcurmudgeon-with-bow-tiey co-workers said to me a couple weeks ago.  I had to admit I didn’t know what he was talking about.  He grinned widely and said it means “a cranky old man.”  It’s a comment meant to be a joke but it has got me thinking.  Because the things we say we believe we don’t often live like we do.  Craig Groeschel wrote “The Christian Atheist”, a book which premise is that Christians today declare that God exists and is involved in their lives, and then live like He isn’t.

We live in a society which says that they are Christian.  For many it is because they go to church, at least at Christmas and Easter.  For others it is cultural, and while we are getting further and further away from a Christian culture many still see themselves as Christians.  And there are others who believe in the Christian message.  But it isn’t what we say we believe that matters.  In fact our lives declare more about what we believe than anything we may say.  And for many of us our lives are not declaring what we hope they may.  It is a fact I have been looking into in my own life.

It is not a bad thing to evaluate your walk with God from time to time.  If you don’t you will quickly become complacent and coast through life.  Paul wrote “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG

Everyone of us needs to look at what our life is saying about our beliefs.  Are we following Jesus or are we saying we are Christian and living like He doesn’t exist?  Craig Groeschel wrote “Who do we believe in more? Ourselves or God? Our actions and decisions will reflect that.”  Our actions declare what we believe.  John Calvin wrote “the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes.”   Rick Warren said something similar when he said You only believe the part of the Bible you do.”

Paul said three times in scripture “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Philippians 1:27 NLT, Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 4:1.  Our conduct says a lot about us and about what we believe, and the world around us is watching.  Are we declaring the majesty of Christ, or the selfish whims of our own hearts.  What is your life saying about what you believe?  Is it agreeing with the words you say?  It is a tough question to ask, but a very important one to answer.

What’s Going On God? – pt. 5

Confrontation and Transformation.  Two extremely important components to God’s plan in our lives.  God always reveals His plans for us to bring us to the place where we are willing to see ourselves for who we are, including all the parts we don’t want to see, so that He can transform us into the image of Jesus and accomplish His purposes through us.   Things happen TO me, So that things can happen IN me, so that things can happen THROUGH me.

Our circumstance that each one of us face are tools which God uses to draw out of us the areas in our lives that need to be shown to us, and so that He can change us.  If we are unwilling to see ourselves as we are, we won’t change because we won’t see the need to.  People all around the world have the same response when confronted with change.  “Well I’m a good person…”  If we don’t see the need for change, we cannot make the changes necessary, and if we don’t make the changes or allow God to make the changes in us we will miss out on the purpose we were created to fulfill.  So God allows circumstances in our lives to draw out of us the things we are often so good at hiding.

There are two things necessary in our lives for this process to accomplish what God desires in us.  We each face different circumstances, and many of them can be extremely difficult to deal with, but we all need two things if God is going to be able to use the circumstances to accomplish His purpose.

The first is a humble heart.  Without humility we will be unwilling to see the areas of our lives that need to be addressed.  Without humility we will be focused completely on getting what we feel we deserve.  Humility allows us to see things differently and be willing to set aside our plans and purposes.  Humility allows us to be willing to see the need for change and to accept the work of God in our lives, even when we are not always able to comprehend or understand what He is doing.   It is a humble heart that will allow God to confront us and change us.  Saul was proud and didn’t respond to the dealings of God, but every time God dealt with David he responded with humility and God was able to do amazing things in and through him.

If you think you know better than God you will won’t respond to His work in your life.  Denying the changes in your life does not make them any less important or necessary to our growth.  Denial is not a river in Egypt. If we insist on denying the reality of our lives we will never see the possibility of our future. 

Humility also releases the hand of God in our lives.  If we want to struggle and fight on our own God is willing to let us, but He would prefer if we allowed Him to mold and form us.  James 4:6 NKJV“God resists the proud,  But gives grace to the humble.”  God offers us His grace if we are willing to be humble.  Grace is “the transforming power of God, doing in you what you cannot do for yourself.”  God’s power working in your life, accomplishing God’s plan.  Without grace we would all be lost.  If we are willing to humble our hearts, God is able to accomplish great things in our lives, and through our lives.

Second we need a close relationship with God.  It is our relationship with Jesus that draws us into God’s plan for our lives, and it is what sustains us as we move forward into God’s purposes.  It is our relationship  with God that allows us to

  • feel and be secure in the love and safety of the hands of God regardless of our circumstances
  • allow God to deal with us knowing He is doing it for our benefit and not His.
  • allow God the freedom to work out the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

     

     

No relationship = No change

Are we keeping our relationship with God current?  Jesus said in John 15:5 NLV I am the Vine and you are the branches. Get your life from Me. Then I will live in you and you will give much fruit. You can do nothing without Me.”  It is our relationship with God that allows His life to flow in us, and it is His life in us that allows the changes to happen. 

Every move and promise of God in our lives always leads us to the cross of Calvary.

We always return to face our reality and our choice is whether we take up our cross and follow or turn away to our own path.

  • God always brings confrontation for a season to bring transformation for a reason.
  • Things happen TO me, So that things can happen IN me, so that things can happen THROUGH me

There is always a divine purpose to the struggles we have.

What will make the difference will be our focus.

Are we looking at our circumstances or the One who will see us through our circumstances.   It is a humble heart and a relationship with God that allows us to focus not on the problem but on the one who will see us past the problems.

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”  Hebrews 12:2 MSG

 

By Chance Moments

chance encounterIt is truly amazing how many people we all interact with every day without thinking about it.  The amount of people we could be impacting is astronomical, depending on the type of job you have, the way you travel to and from work, and the size of the place you live in.    If you life in a large city like New York or Tokyo and you ride the subways you will probably interact with a very large number of people every day.  But if you stay at home, the numbers will be fewer. 
Regardless of the way we live our lives, unless you live on a deserted island, we all intact at some level with a lot of people.  How many of those are you able to influence, or make their lives better somehow?  We all have the opportunities.  The question is do we make use of them?  For the most part we are probably focused completely on what we need to be doing and not at all on the people we meet, unless they get in our way.
Just like the story of the good Samaritan found in Luke 10 we have opportunities to enrich the lives of those we meet.  In the story a man gets severely beaten and robbed, and 4 people meet him on the road.  Two were religious leaders, something like our pastors and priests today.  Men who were supposed to be interested in the welfare of others.  And like us they had a schedule to keep, and were not interested in stopping.  The third man was a lawyer, and the fourth was the Samaritan.  From the story we can all learn to do several things which we can use to open the doors to seeing God do things in our lives and through our lives each and every day.
Like the good Samaritan we need to
1. Pay attention.
We are too often pre-occupied with all that we need to get done and sometimes the unintended result is that we don’t notice the person or the need right in front of us. We go through our day, thinking about what we are doing, how far behind we are, or how difficult our life is right now and we miss out completely on opportunities to impact people.  I am always impressed with how Jesus paid attention and noticed people. And when he was with them, he wasn’t distracted. He was fully present.
So, this week ask God to help you notice people and needs. And, work at paying attention. Look people in the eye. Listen more carefully.  Pay a little more attention to the people around each of us.  You will be amazed at what you may see.
2. Slow down.
If I am going to do a better job of noticing, I must learn to slow down. I can’t always be in a hurry.
 Sometimes this is about my hurried step and sometimes it is about a hurried spirit. It’s just a fact of life that the slower you go the more you can notice.
We all have a schedule that is to full, and life only seems to be getting busier.  But it is a choice we all need to make to be able to push back our time tables and recapture some time in our day so that we aren’t always needing to be pushed to the limits.  A great book on how to do this is “Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives” by

Richard Swenson.  Once we have some margin we can actually breath and see opportunities to reach people
3. Be courageously compassionate.
Slowing down and paying attention is a good start, but it isn’t enough. In the story of the Good Samaritan, the priest noticed the man in need but he didn’t engage his need.  The important thing we need to keep in mind is not whether we noticed the people around us but whether we courageously engage with them with compassion and action.
This is the essence of the Great Commission.  Jesus was instructing His followers to go into their worlds.  And as we go about our daily lives, reach into the lives of those we meet and influence them, and make disciples.  Reach out to the people we meet, and impact them making their lives a little better somehow, and pray for opportunities to share the hope that you have.chance encounters

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