Tag Archives: dying churches

Calm in Chaos

Psalm 46 begins with “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble.”  It goes without much support that our world is absolutely “wacked out” with crime, drugs and politics. The natural disasters and manmade problems and impact on our world have been well documented for years. While many organizations and groups have tried to elevate the significance and create a “sense of urgency” life continues to roll on. What is the answer? It seems that everything is out of control, and common sense has either been ignored or eliminated from human beings being born these days. I could go on and on about the deplorable conditions we find ourselves in today, but I would rather speak of the “stability found in the LORD than to glorify the works of sinful men and Satan. The psalmist knows that the world is volatile and the more things change, the more the stay the same. In the midst of chaos, the believer can find hope and security in the Lord and their faith. Nothing we do takes God by surprise. Just as we have children of our own, and we know they will do some dumb things, even so sometimes we “let them” do the dumb things to teach them life lessons. In Psalm 46, the chaos is a result of earth changes, mountains slipping into the oceans and earthquakes. Typical stuff that we have witnessed during the last few years. I hear many say its the end of the world – but then am reminded that Jesus said these things would happen, but the end it not yet. Psalms 46 repeatedly tells the reader that the Lord God of Jacob is our Stronghold. He is our mighty fortress. What is the believer to do when all the world around him seems to be crashing down? Trust in the Lord and lean not to our own understanding [Proverbs 3:5-7]  The Lord knows the deplorable conditions of this world; He knows that we are but dust in His sight. God knows what we are going through; and is compassionate and merciful – for imagine if God didn’t care or love us how bad it would be.?

So why all the chaos today in our global society? Why the wars, famines, hurricanes, weird weather patterns, economic woes and political angst? I read the book of Revelation and understand that the Seven seals and the seven trumpets are God’s warning to mankind to repent. When we look at each seal and trumpet unfolding in Revelation, we find there is an invitation attached to it. The crisis or chaos is to draw mankind to his knees and understand that God alone is in control. In our nation America we have self-promoted the ideology that we can do everything on our own without God – I would think that this has contributed to the “presence of God leaving” the Churches. Today in our nation – 8-10 thousand Churches will close their door this year. Why did they close – because they were dead – In Revelation 2-3 we find that Jesus warns seven churches and gives them warning that if they don’t heed His admonishment their LAMP WILL GO OUT.

I believe we still live in crisis and chaos because we are not yet ready and willing to humble ourselves under the Strong Arm of God. We still think we can fix us!

Psalm 46 gives us the clear answer – Cease striving, be still and know that I Am God!  Man/nations/churches must come to the end of themselves and realize only by trusting in the Stronghold of Yahweh can we be calm midst the storms of life.

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Awe of the Almighty

I am going to deviate from our Psalms this week. In my church we are preparing for Revival services in a few weeks by walking through a 30-day prayer vigil. This week in one of our reading, Isaiah 64 was used, I was overwhelmed by the reading of this chapter in Isiah, I felt it was better to write on it for anyone who has forgotten how great is our God.

Actually the Psalm 85:4-6; came to my mind – the psalmist cries out for God to revive the people – to Do It Again! Something is wrong with the Church and people in the pulpits and pews; we have lost the Awe for our God. Revival is for the believer not for the unbelieving. Revive is to restore or bring back to life. This can be seen in restoring an old car or piece of furniture – but as it applies to the believer – it indicates a condition of the soul that has grown cold or indifferent.  I know when restoration is needed, there has been some build-up or deterioration to the object. As this relates to the believer, church and even humanity as a whole, it shows an apathy for moral and ethical restraint – this happens as the depraved minds of mankind no longer fear reprisal for their actions. Ultimately this means,  no fear of God. The story in Exodus when God comes down Mount Sinai, He displays great thunder and lightning [Exodus 20:18-19], so much so that the people asked Moses to speak to God for them; and whatever He said they would do. They were terrified of the Holy God of Israel. The problem with this is not 12 chapters later in the absence of   Moses, the rose up to play harlotry with the Golden Calf! If revival is to come again to the Church and believers, we will have to return to the fear and awe of the Lord. God is righteous and holy – as His children He expects no less from us. The Church today I believe is anemic; I know there are pockets of great activity, and many mega-churches that run thousands; but if they Churches were empathic about the things of God – a great revival would be happening. I believe that are a lot of kingdom builders in Christianity – but they are building their own kingdoms. In Isiah 64, the plea is that God would come down again; that there would be great evidence of His presence. The chapter is obviously post-exilic in that it was written after the return from Babylon exile. No one sought God, no one revere His power or right to be sovereign over them. It speaks of the great devastation to Jerusalem and the Temple. While there were warning from numerous prophets – Jeremiah specifically; the people didn’t heed the warning but believed they were exempt from the discipline of God.

In revival, the people of God return to God on His terms – He “gives” revival, we do not pray it down or manufacture it by formulas. The people MUST be broken over their corporate and personal sin. The Church is guilty of “coasting” through the years. In America we have let opulence ruin us. When I think of the barbaric behavior being displayed today from “so-called Christians” it nauseates me, I can’t imagine what it does to the Father!

I want revival, I have tasted of revival before , I want it again – I am praying for it daily, for me, my church, Christianity and the world. God has sent revival numerous times – but conditions had gotten so “gross” with sin and rebellion, people – some [usually a small band] began to pray, really pray, their cries were heard and the Lord God moved in miraculous ways.

We are trying to fix the declining and dying church situation by discipleship and planting more churches. Both absolutely need to be done. But if Revival doesn’t come, if “the Lord doesn’t build the house, the laborers work in vain.” We are the clay, Jesus Christ is the Potter, sometimes the potter has to “break” the clay and rework it to a vessel He can use. It is time for believers, pastors, and  churches to wake up! If we want our world to change, then the change must start with us by quit being “nominal, cultural” Christians! So often all the commentary is our world is so bad; but I recall reading in the Book of Acts how a band of believers turned the world upside down – Oh, Lord Do it Again!

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Broken Jars and Ruined Clay

this blog covers Jeremiah 18-22; there are two references to the potter and clay. The first is when the potter is working the clay into a vessel, the second it when the clay has been fired and fixed, but is deliberately broken. This past weeks reading means a lot more if you have an understanding of ceramics. Behind the Potter and clay is the understanding that God the father is the potter, fashioning Israel the clay into the vessel He wants to make. Israel, the pot is being designed for the intended use of Jehovah. We have heard many times – “will the clay say to the Potter, why have you made me this way?” [Romans 9:20-21] This illustration to Judah is to bring to mind that God is God and that He is in control. The Triune God in the creator of the world. He- Jehovah has ultimate power and authority. The Potter finds the clay/vessel is not fit for use. It obviously hasn’t been fired so The Potter crushes it, puts it back on the wheel. The Clay is remade-Judah reformed by God. When thinking of this and the inability for Israel to be a useful vessel, the thought that the Gentiles becoming the New Vessel that God would make, came to my mind. However, I did have to remember, that at some point the New vessel would become unfit as well and have to be crushed. The problem with both Israel and the Gentile vessels is that they become rigid and unmalleable in the hands of God. Israel was in the hands of God, to do as he wills, as is the vessel – the Church  today. There is a promise in this passage of hope. If . . . .evil nation repents, God will relent the evil. If . . . Evil nation continues evil, I will withhold the good I intended. But herein lies the problem with Judah and the Church we will now allow ourselves to be molded by the Father. So God says – Judah – “I am fashioning calamity against you.” Rather than repent, the reply; It’s HOPELESS;  We will trust in ourselves! We will act according to our own heart [stubborn and evil]. What choice does the Potter [God] have but to crush the vessel? In that Judah could repent – the problem was the said it was “hopeless” – yet the real problem was they didn’t want to change! Depending on how people “turn” will determine blessing or discipline. “My people have forgotten Me” replaced Him. Apostasy has entrenched Judah. Even though Nature will act normal, Judah has “abnormal” behavior [13-17]. The problem with THE CHURCH today is the same problem Judah had then – refusal to obey God. Refusal to be “under the creative power of the Holy Spirit. “We’re fine just the way we are, leave us alone.” Jeremiah 19; The Broken Jar. We find  the Valley of Ben-Hinnom also called –Topheth nor Ben-Hinnom. It will be renamed  Valley of Slaughter. To understand this the background is Topheth was a location in Jerusalem in the Gehinnom where worshipers influenced by the ancient Canaanite religion engaged in the human sacrifice of children to the gods Moloch and Baal by burning them alive. Jesus actually refers to this place when He talks of the Hinnom Valley. Many verses describe the “garbage” that went on in the valley of Hinnom – 2 Kings 23:10; Matt 5:20-22; Mark 9:42-45; unquenchable fire, and the worm never dies. Gehenna or Hinnom are plays on words. Hinnom was a garbage heap, where the fire would smolder and the stench smoke would reek with the putrid smell of burning carcasses. A very graphic picture of the future for Judah, but also for those going to be cast into Gehenna. Yet unrepentant they remain. Jeremiah 21; God is a gracious and merciful God. There is always a caveat in thee passages of punishment where God gives hope of another outcome. Today in our land and nation we find that so much devastation and evil at work. Yet, the Church and the world remain Unrepentant. We must heed the warnings. If there is judgment coming, then what will you do? Will you seek God? Or will you resist God?Was it too late? Verse 10?Was repentance and staving off judgment possible? Is it too late for the Church in America?

 

 

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Elephant and Dinosaur Churches

Elephant and Dinosaur Churches
Within the realm of Church Revitalization the subject of change is ingrained. Revitalization by definition requires change, but the changes must be necessary and vision focused. People do not like to change – I don’t like to change. While this is nothing new, it is an essential ingredient for anyone entertaining church revitalization. I have to be willing to change and as a leader, must be able to create a healthy atmosphere for the needed changes. Whether the revitalization is within a city, community or church; those advocating such must be prepared for conflict and confusion along the way. It has been often said that “unless the pain of staying the same exceeds the pain of change, nothing will be done.” Those who advocate revitalization have to create a “climate” for change, doing so is often a very tedious task. I want to use the illustration of elephants and dinosaurs as a way of identifying both “climate and ministry” changes.
In my office I have a collection of elephants that church members have given me over the last 4 years. Each elephant represents an “elephant in the room” problem that has finally been addressed and dealt with appropriately. Even though many knew the elephant existed, they were not strong enough, nor willing to expose it and deal with it. Many times churches would rather take “The Kings New Clothes” approach to elephants. If you are not familiar with this fable, it means just going along with what everybody else says, until it is so glaringly obvious to all that what was said is in fact untrue.
Characteristics
1. Elephants are warm blooded mammals, which birth off-spring and nurture it to self-sufficiency. Elephant ears are normally 1/6 of their body size.
2. Dinosaurs are cold blooded and largely reptiles, and have many eggs of which they will try to protect until hatching, once hatched they are for the most part on their own for survival.
3. There are some times when an entity has characteristics of both. [They are ministries that are extinct and still eat a lot of church resources; giving only an occasionally “song and dance routine]
Dinosaurs are flesh eaters. They devour their prey; they became extinct when earth had an extreme climate change as a result of Noah’s Flood. There are some dinosaurs that have made the climate change; such as alligators/crocodiles. Most of the dinosaurs are found in museums, and really are not much more than skeletons. But their existence in churches must be self-evident.
Elephants are very large mammals that have a pre-flood ancestor called the mastodon. The mastodon didn’t survive the radical climate change produced by the flood. However, we do have a distant relative, the large pachyderm with us today.
We must agree that these two species exist in some form with in churches. When we look at these two species within the revitalization movement, they become very self-evident in the lives of churches. It must become obvious that dinosaurs and elephants cannot be treated the same way.
The church in America still has dinosaurs in existence. One could put the “Bus Ministry, or “daycare/school” in this category. Years ago every church adopted the Bus ministry because it was the thing to do in churches. It has been clear from recent history [that and the rusting busses in back of churches], that not all churches should have started a bus ministry. In more modern days the necessity to have “hand bells, organ, piano and choirs” could be considered dinosaurs that every church felt it needed.
In a dinosaur climate, everything the church does is for its own self-preservation, particularly outdated programs. These become dinosaurs when the climate has radically changed, and it becomes a “dead/extinct” program. In other words the programs became more important that the ministry they were hoped to be. Before I get into too much trouble, there are some places where these aforementioned programs “appear to be beneficial,” however, they really only have significance for those who are dinosaurs themselves. Many communities and churches find themselves in a climate shift, yet, will not or better yet cannot acclimate to the new environment.
I have been a pastor at a dinosaur church. It is very interesting, how many “historical programs” have ceased to function, yet thousands of dollars are invested to keep them on life support. One such case is opening a daycare or school in the church; in hopes that it will keep the church alive. Day-cares look good on paper, but rarely add to the Kingdom of God. This is similar to the “Bus Ministry” mentioned above, except that the daycare or school devours ministers and laity without giving back. In order for churches to become effective they must rid themselves of the dinosaur syndrome. Caution – the dinosaur will try to eat you if you provoke it! Much like the movie series of “Jurassic Park” the original intention may have been well intended, but in the long run the dinosaurs turned against its masterminds that brought them to life.
Elephants are different however, while they consume a lot of resources, they are not as nearly mean spirited. When churches have elephants the condition is more subtle. Dinosaurs will be loud and boisterous, when elephants are more behind the scene operators. When we address elephants in churches we find that everyone knows they exist, but feel the elephant [area of problem] is too big to mess with, and tend to leave them alone. This seems like a good idea, except, the dynamics of the elephant are such that they aren’t programmatic, but personal relationship oriented. As dinosaurs are more flesh eaters, [destroy people] elephants are more of a hindrance. It is tough to get an elephant to move if it doesn’t want too. The “Elephant in the Room” is a person, group or established order that has become sacred.
Both the elephant and dinosaur have their own way of doing things. Dinosaurs just want to destroy everything, whereas elephants want to just create resistance and blockages of change.
In church revitalization, I think I would rather deal with a dinosaur than an elephant. One has to only change the “climate” to rid themselves of the dinosaur. But the elephant has learned to adapt to the new surroundings and remain still the biggest obstacle to productive and effective ministry.
A church will have to deal with both types of churches; it is imperative that the “change Agent” know which he is dealing with in order to lead a church beyond the position of mediocrity. If the climate of change is not significant enough in the right direction, the “extinct dinosaur will keep the church in the Ice Age.” Too many churches have been held captive to the past climate; partly because the dinosaur has threatened to destroy everyone if any change would cause them to be extinct.
When elephants are allowed to lurk around in services, business meetings and fellowship circles, then the church will lack the courage to confront for fear of conflict. The one thing about allowing elephants in the room or church is they will not leave on their own.
So if you are burdened about the Cultural or Climate you find your ministry currently existing in; you will have to be able to “identify the species” and determine how you will deal with each one in such a way so as not to destroy the church or worse yet be destroyed yourself.

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