In a recent study, some truths about our denomination were revealed. Even with all the smoke and mirrors we could muster up, the reality is undeniable. Of the 46,000 Southern Baptist churches in North America, 41,600 are plateaued, dying, or near death. If this is true among evangelicals who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, how much more is this true among the mainline denominations?
We have a choice. We can abandon ship, point fingers, or hide our heads in the sand. However, the church that is walking with God will get busy praying, serving, and giving to ensure this doesn’t happen on our watch.
Once great churches in our area are now little more than religious gatherings of old people talking about “the good ole days.” One church in our area averaged 700 in 1973. Today they have 14. I could give you countless examples, but you should already know the truth. Sherwood, like any church, is one generation away from extinction. We can have the nicest buildings, the best programs, and the finest staff, but if we don’t have a biblical purpose and burden, we will eventually die. No, it won’t happen tomorrow…but eventually, churches that lose their purpose and passion end up losing their meaning for living.
If you don’t believe me, check out the churches in the book of Revelation. They were told to “repent or else.” So how do we, now nearly 61 years into our history as a church, not become old, set in our ways, arthritic, and irrelevant?
1) We cry out to the God of heaven. Prayer is not an option; it’s non-negotiable.
2) We use the gifts God has given us to serve others. There is no room for self-centered Christianity. We must be and always remain others-centered.
3) We give generously. Obedience in giving will bring a blessing to you and to the church. It will also allow us to do ministry at the highest level, aggressively pay off our debt, and ultimately, when the debt is paid, free up monies for more church planting and outreach.
4) We protect the unity of the church. Unity is essential if we want the power of the Holy Spirit.
5) We are quick to respond to the invitation. Invitations or altar calls are not for the preacher. They are for the Lord to see that our hearts are not resistant to the prompting of the Spirit.
6) We focus on the gospel – sharing the gospel anywhere and everywhere, anytime and all the time. The church that fails in outreach will ultimately die of a hardened heart.
7) We beseech the Lord for His presence on all that we put our hands to do. We ask that the Holy Spirit will not just be present but preeminent in our services.
I’ve been the pastor of this church for nearly 28 years. I’ve raised my children here. I’ve poured my life into this church. I’ve given sacrificially every year to help us accomplish the will of God. I’ve sought to preach the Word faithfully. I’ve longed to see us be a church known throughout the land for prayer and revival. In other words, I’ve not invested my life, time, energy, and resources to just maintain programs or buildings. I’ve done it to ensure a future for the next generation.
My question is simple: What if every member gave themselves wholeheartedly to ensuring that the gospel and this local church are vital and viable long after we are all gone? Would that be God-glorifying? I think so.