Thriving Church

There are countless articles written on subjects related to the decline of the church in America. These articles often cite research that statistically demonstratethat the church is in decline from the perspective of membership, attendance, offerings and service.  Admittedly, these articles are often informative and even helpful in one way or another. At a minimum, this information has certainly kept me in prayer and on alert. However, I’d rather read articles that help me understand what a healthy, thriving church looks like.  What about you? After all, who wants to spend a lot of time studying a corpse?
 
Over the years, I’ve read numerous books, articles and blogs, attended several seminars and conferences, spoke to various pastors and conversed with denominational leaders concerning church health in one form or another. I’ve also read every study published related to the church that I could get my hands on. And for that matter, I also have a bucket full of my own observations and experiences.  In a few words, I’d say most of the published information on the state of the local church is alarming. Instead of throwing a bunch of information at you at this point to back up my assertion, you can read the following articles as a cursory look.
 
https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/
 
http://thomrainer.com/2015/07/seven-key-reasons-your-church-attendance-may-be-declining/
 
http://www.lifeway.com/pastors/2017/06/13/ten-symptoms-sick-church/
 
https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/factchecker-are-all-christian-denominations-in-decline
 
 In any case, we can’t lie down and take this. We must not take up any partnership with the devil and so be destroyed. In the face of what the statistics say about the local church, we (Heartland) commit to being a thriving church.
 
We assert that the church is significant and relevant for the following reasons:
 
1)      The church is Jesus’ idea (Matthew 13:16-20)
2)      The church is figuratively described as “the bride of Christ” and “the body of Christ.” (Revelations 19:7-9; 1 Corinthians 12)
3)      Jesus is the head of the church (Colossians 1:18)
4)      Jesus is the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:19-22)
5)      Jesus defined the church’s mission (Matthew 28:18-20)
6)      The church is a family of believers in fellowship (Acts 2:41-47)
7)      Jesus is worthy of our worship and service (Revelation 19:16; Philippians 2:10)
 
We claim the promise that comes directly from the lips of Jesus Himself:
 
MT 13:18 “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
 
We disavow any definition of success other than devotion and obedience to Christ.
 
MT 22:36-37 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
 
JN 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
 
1 JN 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
 
JN 8:31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples . . .”
 
We individually and collectively take on the privilege and responsibility of the church:
 
1)      It is every Christians call and responsibility to regularly and consistently take part in the local church as we are interdependent (Acts 2:42-47)
2)      It is incumbent for every Christian to use their God given spiritual gift to build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12:3-8, Ephesians 4:11-12)
3)      It is imperative that every Christian make assembly for worship and fellowship a priority (Hebrews 10:19-25)
 
We rely on the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God and prayer in our daily practice to defeat the enemy:
 
AC 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
 
1 TI 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
 
PHP 4:6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
 
We denounce and repent of any form of idolatry (Exodus 20:3):
 
1)      Our idols distract us from worship and service to the one true God
2)      Our idols steal time away from worship and service to the one true God
3)      Our idols turn our hearts away from God
4)      Our idols draw us away from the fellowship of other Christians
5)      Our idols consume our resources to the detriment of the financial needs of the local church and missions
6)      Our idols are based on false promises
7)      Our idols eventually consume us and become our priority
 
All in all, if you so desire to be part of a thriving church, take a close look in the mirror and ask yourself this question:
 
Am I doing everything possible to help my church thrive to the glory of God?  If not, what has become so important that God and the church get less than my best? Think about it my friends. A thriving church is made up of spiritually thriving individuals. Are you with me?
 
A Work in Progress,
 
Pastor Gene

Gene StocktonComment