Tag Archives: programs

A Prescription for ‘Dying Church Syndrome’

Many of the mainline denominations are faced with churches that have only a few elderly people whose children left the church. Now they are experiencing the “dying church syndrome.”

Years ago churches were started when a few families in the neighborhood got together to share a mutual interest in spiritual matters or social gatherings. Churches were frequently used a schools during the week. Families were quite large because the family was needed to help raise the crops and livestock necessary to support the family. As the children matured, the young people chose their spouse from a family within the community. They got married and had children.  Churches grew because children were born to the congregation. However, many of the children followed Christ because that is what the family taught. It is what they were expected to do.

Over the years, families became smaller and more mobile. The young people sought jobs outside of the family business, and discovered spouses in other communities. They moved away from the community and frequently away from church. As the families grew and moved away, the churches began to decrease in size.

People began to lose interest in spiritual things. The Bible which was once the main text book in school was removed from the schools. Prayers were no longer welcome in school and at school events. The family structure began to break down. Churches were not receptive to having divorced people in their congregations, so families began leaving the church.

God intended the church to grow externally.

When Jesus gave the Great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28, He said: “Go and make disciples”. He did not say we should entice them to come so we can make them disciples.

Earlier in Jesus ministry, he illustrated to his disciples how they should make disciples. Matthew 9 is one of those illustration of how Jesus attracted church members (workers). Matthew 9:35-38(NIV) says:

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 3Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38(NIV)

While Jesus was going through towns and villages, he saw people that had no hope. They were behaving like sheep that had no shepherd. When he saw the crowds of people, Jesus had compassion on them. Jesus saw people who were sinning and he loved them in spite of their sin. He loved them because they were in need of what Jesus had to offer. Today, people outside of the church are needing what Christians have to offer.

The first steps in prevention of the ‘dying church syndrome’ is go to sinners, and love them regardless of their behavior and location.

The second step in prevention of the ‘dying church syndrome’ is to pray.

Pray for people to send

In Matthew 9:38, Jesus told his disciples to ‘ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers’.  Who are the workers in a church? Where do workers come from?

In this passage, workers are followers of Jesus. They are people who have denied themselves so that God would be glorified. In fact, Jesus frequently called them “fishers of men

People cannot make workers. Programs will not make workers. While the church can provide training and encouragement to the workers, only God can make workers. God is in charge of the harvest. He is the one who provides workers. God is calling us to become workers.

Conclusion

Churches and locker rooms have one thing in common. They are places where people are dressed and prepared to face the opponent. How many games have been won by the team staying in the locker room? None, the only way you can defeat the opponent is to confront them on the playing field. In the same way, Christians need to get out of church and face the opponent on the playing field.

Is God calling you to be a worker or is he calling you to be unconcerned about the harvest? Is God expecting you to leave the locker room and confront our opponent, or is He expecting you to get comfortable in His locker room, the church?

NOTE: Scripture used in this blog were downloaded from: Biblegateway.com.

Whose Battle are You Fighting?

In 2 Chronicles 20:1-30, we have the details of a battle that was fought against the enemies of God’s children. This is how the chapter starts:

After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites  came to wage war against Jehoshaphat.

 Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi).  Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.    2 Chronicles 20:1-4(NIV)

ALARMED

Being alarmed does not mean that you are scared to death. Being alarmed means that God is waking you up for a purpose. Being alarmed is what a person is in the morning when their alarm clock goes off. It is waking you up to do the things you need to do that day.

The Holy Spirit still alarms people. He wakes them in the middle of the night with a burden for someone in need. Or He may alert us to dangers that we are facing. He causes people and ideas to ‘pop’ into our mind so we can minister to them.

When we are ‘alarmed’, the first thing we need to do is pray. We need to ask God what his plan is for that situation that he has called to our attention. This is what Jehoshaphat did, He prayed.

Here is what Jehoshaphat prayed:

“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’

10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”  2 Chronicles 20:6-12 (NIV)

Sixteen times, Jehoshaphat referenced God saying ‘you’ or ‘your’.  When we are alarmed, we need to remember who God is. Jehoshaphat we remembering all the things that God had done for his people in the past. He was remembering God for who he is and what he has done.

When we pray, do with think about what God has done or do we just keep worrying and complaining about our situation? Are we afraid of what will happen or do we really believe God will take care of us?

After Jehoshaphat, remembered who God was, he began to ask God about his situation.  He reminded God that God he had told his people not to destroy the very people who have now come to try to destroy them.

The situation is such that they cannot survive without God’s intervention. They are in a hopeless situation according to man’s thinking. From his hopeless situation he says “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (v. 20)

Jehoshaphat is giving his hopeless situation to God. He is looking for God to protect his children as he had done in the past. Jehoshaphat did not have the power to win this war, but God did. He was trusting God for deliverance.

After Jehoshaphat finished praying, God spoke to him and encouraged him.

He (The Spirit of the Lord) said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel.  You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” 2 Chronicles 20:15-17(NIV)

God reminded Jehoshaphat that the battle they were facing was not their battle. It was God’s battle. He didn’t ask them to come up with a program or plan on how they would do it. But what God told them was:  Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

We need to recognize that we do not have the power to fight our situation, but God does! When we surrender our lives to God, our battles become His battles, not ours! What God wants us to do is to trust Him completely in our situation. He wants us to set back and watch what He is going to do.

Jehoshaphat had the assurance that God was going to fight the battle for them, He told the people to have faith in God and God would see them through.  Then he appointed men to ‘sing to the Lord’.

The songs they were to sing were meant to praise God ‘for the splendor of his holiness.’ They had a praise service! They, in faith,  believed God and gave him thanks for a battle that He was going to be won.

The results was that the people watched God win the battle!

After the battle was won, they returned home joyfully because God had given them victory. And because they gave God the credit, they had peace. The people around them developed a fear for the Lord because of the battle He won.

Today

We have a society today that is without hope. We are facing addictions, poverty, loneliness, persecution, failure, etc. We do not know what to do. We ask God for help but continue trying to win the battles by ourselves.

Do we really believe that God can win the battle for us? Or, Are we so important that God needs us worrying about the future?

When we surrender our hopelessness to God, He will provide hope and peace. When we fully believe that our hopelessness is God’s we can begin to sing praise and trust God for the victory.

As humans, we want to take the credit for God’s success.  We think it is because of our ‘program’, God was successful but he couldn’t do it without us. We brag about all the programs our church has.  We call all of the attention to ourselves or our church. We fail to recognize who God is.

Today, Christians are worried about what is going to happen to God’s children in Israel. The truth of the matter is that the battle is God’s and He is going to win.

Today, God has promised Christians that the battles we face are not ours! God wants us to have faith in Him and to trust those battles to Him. God wants us to praise him and watch him win the battle.

Our salvation is not based on what we do or don’t do, it is based on the fact that God has already won the battle. Jesus Christ became victorious over death! We don’t have to fight that battle again. It has been won! Let us praise God for the victory!

 

Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIVunless otherwise noted.