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Seasons of Change

Seasons of Change

The leaves are falling.  Soon the snow will be flying.  Before long, the grass will shove through the earth and the flowers will blossom.  The heat of summer will emerge, and the fall will be here before we know it.  Seasons make the year interesting.  Just as with the seasons and natural progression of hot and cold that God established, the Christian life and God’s church also goes through changes.

Change is something that human nature is resistant to.  We get comfortable.  We become accustomed.  What is “Normal” is what we have known to this specific point in our lives.  We can arrive at “new normal” when we willingly adjust our expectations.

Change in the Bible is good.  If you are a Christian, the specific moment you trusted Jesus for salvation, a big change took place.  You passed from “death unto life!” In John 5:24 Jesus says, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”

Change for the Christian is good. For example: we are to be “transformed” (Changed from the inside out) by the renewing of our minds in Romans 12:1-2.

The Christian is to be continually changing to look more like Jesus.  In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul teaches, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Change is good.  Individual Christians are changing to look more like Jesus.  Churches also go through changes.  One preacher aptly stated: “Churches are always in transition.”  Very true.

A local church cannot remain stagnant.  A church must strive to be vibrant, meeting the edification needs for its members and the evangelism needs of its community.

Here are three areas a church can benefit from change:

  1. A renewed spirit of unity. We are to strive together to fulfill the Great Commission. We are unified by Christ around the Gospel.  Philippians 1:27, commands, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Perhaps this humorous story will help: “Intending to raise cattle, a family from New York bought a ranch out West. When their friends visited and inquired about the ranch’s name, the would be rancher replied: “I wanted to name it the Bar-J. My wife favored Suzy-Q, one of our sons wanted the Flying-W, and the other liked the Lazy-Y. So we’re calling it the BAr-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y.”

“But where are all your cattle?” the friends asked.

“None survived the branding.””

There are casualties in a church when the members are not united around the main thing. Don’t be distracted in your service to the Lord!  Preferences, nuances, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” And personality issues should not divert your attention.  Keep serving Jesus.  Stay united to the cause of Christ and do not allow side issues to get your eyes off Jesus.

  1. A restored community of trust. Paul’s ministry even encountered seasons of disunity and discouragement.  When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, some of the believers were divided.  Read 1 Corinthians 1 for more details.  Some liked Paul’s preaching, others preferred Apollos (A great orator), and others enjoyed the passion of Peter.  The division was causing problems in the church.

Paul makes a hasty trip to Corinth in between these letters to try to resolve their issues.

Later, in 2 Corinthians, we find Paul sending another letter, not to elevate himself, but to elevate Jesus and help the people start to trust God again.

2 Corinthians 3:1-5 says, “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles (letters) of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? 2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: 3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 4 And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.”

The church belongs to Jesus.  He purchased her with His own blood.  We can trust the church to God.  Jesus can overcome any doctrinal, personal, or preferential problems a church may face.  Paul knew that he was not sufficient to solve the division, but Jesus was (and is) sufficient.   Paul was not boasting in his ability, but in the fact that these Christians had started to yield their sin, personalities, and problems to the Lord and God healed their church.  Jesus said: “I will build my church.”  We can trust Him!

  1. A revived attitude of respect. 1 Thessalonians 5:12 instructs, “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; 13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”

Pastors are not dictators.  If pastors were dictators, then no church member would ever miss a service, and no one would ever not bring their tithe to church, and members would bring Snickers candy bars to every church function. Lol… if you like.  The role of pastor is that of “Servant – Leader.”  It is an accurate and healthy description.

Pastors are to be gentle shepherds leading and feeding the flock.  Sometimes that includes protecting the sheep from wolves (in sheep’s clothing), false doctrine (bad spiritual food to eat), and dangerous pasture fields (emergent church models).

There should be a mutual respect among the members of a congregation for one another.  Church members should be trusting the deacons.  Church members and deacons should have an attitude of trust with the pastoral staff as well.

One service I was preaching through this passage in 1 Thessalonians 5, and suggested that it helps the pastor of the church when the church members are not fighting or bickering and that when a church was at peace, the true work of the ministry can thrive.  It is a true thought.

A thoughtful man, a genuine student of the Bible, suggested to me that the peace among the members was also connected to their respect or lack of respect for the pastor.  Read that verse again please.

“Esteem” means to “deem, consider, or count.”  A faithful church member must be able to count the pastor as respectful and worthy or he will not be able to learn, grow, or develop in that church.  A result of disrespect is that the pastor is not able to lead as effectively as he should.  Why can he not lead effectively?  Because of the lack of peace.  A pastor constantly putting out fires cannot commit the time called for – for the actual work of the ministry.  It could look like this old saying: “Too many chiefs – not enough Indians.”  Let the pastor be the “Servant – Leader” overseeing the overall work of the church.

These are 3 examples where change is good!  If these areas are lacking – Change!  Change to the glory of God.

  • Are you united with your church family in the purpose of the Gospel?
  • Do you have an attitude of trust for the other members, deacons, and pastoral staff?
  • Is there a mutual respect that you have for the church leadership that creates a peaceful environment?

Change is good.  Christians as well as churches go through “Seasons of change.”  Transitions and changes are sometimes difficult and even turbulent because human nature does not like change; but when we see Jesus – it will be worth it all.  When we make the needed adjustments as individuals and as a church, the Lord is glorified.

And. His. Work. Will. Continue.

 

 

 

 

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How to Stay in the Same Church for 30 Years

How to Stay in the Same Church for 30 Years

“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

Ephesians 3:21

Dorsey and Barbara.  Loren and Tammy. Doug and Debbie.  Glen and Norene.  Ray and Nancy.  I have been blessed to witness many individuals and couples remain in the same church for 30, 40 and even 50 years.  How can a regular church member remain in the same church for such a meaningful amount of time?  Great question!

If the members of the Ephesus church were church members one day and not the next, or skipped around from church to church, how would they have been included in the “glory in the church” by honoring the Lord?  They couldn’t.  Something about long-term commitment resonates with the Lord.

Charles Colsen described the church with these words: “Biblically the church is an organism not an organization—a movement, not a monument. It is not a part of the community; it is a whole new community. It is not an orderly gathering; it is a new order with new values, often in sharp conflict with the values of the surrounding society.”

Yes, the church is a local body of believers, the bride of Christ, and His building.  It is comprised of sinful human beings who have been “called out” from being like this world.  Unity, working together, and getting along for any amount of time can be challenging!

Attorney Bryan Likins tweeted: “Most people want extraordinary careers, ministries, marriages, & kids. But they’re only willing to put in ordinary effort!”  Very true.

Here are several Bible truths that help in long-term relationships.

Be a Good Forgiver.

Speaking to the church and relating church life to relationships, Colossians 3:13 instructs, “Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” 

Since Christ forgave us of all our sin, we can forgive others.  The depth of sin, the pain it caused, or the trouble it started can and should be forgiven.  Forgiveness can be granted – even before another person confesses and asks forgiveness.  If the potential of personal harm persists, please get to safety.  Forgiveness does not mean to put yourself in a position to be hurt again, nor does it mean that trust is automatically restored.

Forgiveness is the ability to look at the person and hold no hatred or animosity in your heart over the head of that person.  I like how William Arthur Ward described forgiveness.  He said, “Forgiveness is a funny thing—it warms the heart and cools the sting.”  It certainly does your heart good to not have negative emotions every time you see a fellow church member, family member or neighbor.

Pointing at others and saying “He is why I no longer go to church” is lessened when we choose to be good forgivers.

Fine Tune your Forgetter. 

An old Chinese Proverb speaks truth in saying: “For the sake of one good action a hundred evil ones should be forgotten.”  Speaking of God’s choosing to not remember our sins, Hebrews 8:12 declares, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”  And again, Hebrews 10:17 says, “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.”

The omniscient, all-knowing God chooses to not remember.  When we allow our minds to dwell on hurts, pain, or possible wrongs, it changes our perception of the people around us.  While we may never forget, we can choose to no longer remember.  Life happens.  People will purposefully and accidentally hurt us.  When we say we “forgive” and then continue to think about it, we have not truly forgiven.  Forgetting is choosing not to constantly dwell on the unfulfilled expectations we place on others.

Sometimes the expectations violated are sins in the life of others and are true wrongs that have occurred.  Other times, we have an expectation that we place on another that has nothing to do with sin, but merely our preference for them.  Anytime our real or perceived expectations of others are violated, we have the potential to remember, dwell on it, and let that thought damage our relationship.

This does not have to happen.   While most of us are trying to memorize Scripture and remember applying the Bible to our situations we are also in need of “fine tuning” our forgetter.  Make a decision to forget.

Get with the Program.

Every church has a statement of faith in doctrine and a declarative purpose for its establishment.  Most churches say something to the effect of “exalting the Lord, edifying believers, and evangelizing the lost.  These are great mission purposes.  These are foundational statements upon which the ministry is built.  How these purposes are pursued in practical ways is where many differences are found between churches.

Some people say they want to see people saved.  If that is true, that means new converts will then be baptized, discipled, and become part of the church.  Any church fulfilling the above ministry purpose will grow in attendance.  Numerical growth is a secondary benefit of fulfilling the churches mission statement.

Have you ever heard someone say “The church is getting too big?”  How about this: “I want a smaller church.”?  When Christians say statements like this, they are not only reflecting a selfish motive to either be comfortable or controlling of others (individual influence is lost when a church grows), but they are also demonstrating that they have left the mission purpose of the church and are now following their own mission purpose.

Get with the program and stay with the program of the local church.  There are various methods of evangelism that work well and are acceptable to God.  There are various ways to get together and see new converts grow in discipleship.  Exalting Christ is evident in seeing people saved and those saved becoming more like Jesus, not merely on outside appearances, but also in attitude and affections of the heart.  Utilizing sports, or spoons (for meals), studies, or social media are all ways that the Word can be imparted to people.  It is a matter of preference and style – then of obedience to the purpose statement to get the job done.

Those who refuse to update with fresh ideas as the church updates should still be driving model T’s and reading paper pages in books by candlelight if that is really how they feel.

Pastors come and go.  Church members come and some move away.  “Church is always in transition” one pastor aptly stated.  Adjust expectations.  Embrace opportunity.  Find an old, new, or similar way to get the same thing accomplished: Exalting Jesus, edifying believers, and evangelism of the lost.

Make the Decision to Love.

Love is a choice.  Not to love is also a choice.  Paul said in Colossians 3:14, “And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”  The mark of maturity in relationships with others is the ability to continue to love others.  No. Matter. What. Charity towards others is God’s will for your life. Whenever you find yourself keeping a knit-pick list for other people watch out- your love for others is waining.

As Peter summarizes this teaching in 1 Peter 4:8 he says, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”  Overlooking the faults, sins, and expectations on others is the only way to see long-term spiritual and numerical growth.

Assimilation of new believers is such an important factor in the length of time a long-term member will have in the church.  If a person accepts the newer members, encourages, edifies, and helps the new members feel welcome, the long-term member is then fulfilling part of his purpose in being a church member.  If a long-term member reminisces constantly “about the good old days” when he knew everyone by name, his living in the past is preventing him from making a difference in the present.  Determine to know the new folks and accept them as much as a long term member.  Both parties have made the same commitment to God and each other.

Most churches that have had consistent leadership and faithful members who are good at these 4 principals have grown both in spirit and in numbers.  They have stuck together through good and difficult times.  They have been blessed by God.

Could you stay in the same church for 30 years?  I challenge you to give it a try!  You will not be able to do it without implementing these 4 truths into your life.  With God’s help – you can.  You can remain in the same church for a meaningful amount of time.