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

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?

What’s Going on God? – pt. 3

A life full of purpose.  It is something we all are called to live.  We don’t always recognize what our purpose is, and we don’t always recognize how we fulfill our purpose.  There are a lot of things that are necessary to happen in us so that we can fulfill the purpose God designed each one of us for.  First God reveals His purpose for us.  It is usually revealed in small pieces, that as you assemble them you get to see a bigger picture.  And the little details bring us forward into the larger picture, as we make the steps necessary.

Secondly God begins to talk to us about the issues in our lives and character.  All the things that we have in us that keep us from being all He called us to become.  God deals with each of us in the unique ways that we need to begin to see ourselves for who we really are, not for who we portray ourselves to be.  So

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me,

So that things can happen THROUGH me.

Three men in particular whose lives were recorded in scripture reveal this process.   Saul, David and Paul all experienced God in this very way.  And the way they responded to God’s involvement in their lives determined if they accomplished the purpose of God for them.

Saul was from the smallest family of the smallest tribe in the nation of Israel.  In other words – He was insignificant. Not a person of prominence or important.  Saul was very insecure. He himself stated that he was insignificant.  Saul was also very proud. Scripture states he was without equal in all of Israel in physical appearance.  Both of these attributes show forth in the decisions that he makes.  He decides to do things not because they are right, but because people are looking at him.  Take the decision that cost him his destiny found in 1 Samuel 13.

Saul was going to fight the Philistines, so he gathered his armies and prepared for battle. Samuel was supposed to come and make the sacrifice and bless the troops. This happened before every battle,  the priest, or prophet would come and seek God’s direction for the battle and pronounce blessing. And the troops wouldn’t fight without a blessing.  And only a member of the priesthood could offer a sacrifice according to God’s law, so they are waiting for Samuel.  And on this day Samuel was late, not minutes but days, and so the troops started to leave and go back home.

When Saul saw what was happening he decided to fulfill the role the priest was to fulfill, because his people were looking at him.  He performed the sacrifice and blamed Samuel for having done so.

“What have you done?” Samuel asked.  Saul answered, “My soldiers were leaving in all directions, and you didn’t come when you were supposed to.

Saul decided once again, as he had done on so many other occasions,  to change the plans of God to suit himself and followed his own plans and as a result he missed out on all that God wanted for him.   Saul disqualified himself from his destiny because he continually chose to ignore the opportunities for change that God offered to him and He focused on himself and missed the confrontation of God and the opportunities to change. 

Now David had a similar start in life.  He was also an insignificant nobody.  He was just a small shepherd boy and even his own family thought little of him.  He had one major difference though, He knew his God.  But that didn’t stop the difficulties from coming.  He, like all of us,  had to overcome;

    • fear
    • insecurity
    • pride
    • selfishness
    • self promotion
    • discouragement
    • despair

Saul was constantly hunting and trying to kill him during his early years in the palace, and David had opportunities for revenge and refused.  David consistently worked at keeping his heart right.

David definitely wasn’t perfect, and many times did decide to do things his way.  His committing adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah was not the first time that David fell.   Nor was it the last.  What made things different for David was when God confronted him, would always repent and refocus his life to fulfill the destiny God had for him.  This was what kept David on track and allowed him to fulfill his destiny.  Scripture states that David did all that God called him to do, and then he died.  Acts 13:36 for after David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors.”

David, despite his mistakes, and despite his missing God’s plan on several occasions, was never disqualified from the destiny of God.  This gives us great hope, because many times we have all missed out on following God’s plan, and we have not always responded to God’s dealings properly.  But we can still obtain His promise, and fulfill His purpose for us.

We all still have the opportunity to fulfill the promise that God gave to us. Our choice is whether we will respond to the hand of God or resist.