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Sermon Central Staff
A DYING CHURCH
An artist was once asked to put on canvas what he considered to be the picture best symbolizing a decaying and dying church. After several months, he returned and reported that he had finished the task. The hour finally arrived when the painting was to be unveiled. Several people standing around the easel had already given their description of what they thought the church would look like. Some had said it would be a rundown building in great need of repair and paint. Weeds would be growing in the church yard, and there would be some broken window panes. Everyone in the group seemed to have a similar picture in mind.
However, when the cloth was removed, a hush fell over the group. Everyone was stunned. Before their eyes was an absolutely beautiful church building. The grounds were well kept and the exterior of the building was in excellent condition. After a few minutes, one person stepped forward and said to the artist, "I thought we asked you to paint a dying church?"
The artist smiled and invited everyone to step closer to the painting. He pointed through the windows to the empty pews and to the collection plate on the table. There was nothing in the plate but cobwebs.
The church that has cobwebs in its collection plate is a church that is decaying and dying. Without the giver, there is no giving. Without the giving, ministries cannot be conducted by the church. Without ministries being conducted, the mission of the church cannot be carried out. If the mission of the church is not carried out, the church is purposeless and dead.
(From a sermon by Terry Blankenship, Igniting a Lifeless Church Service, 2/7/2011)
RECLAIMING CHURCH DROPOUTS
70% of young adults will leave the church between ages 18 and 22, yet LifeWay Research has found 39% of them will return if gently nudged by their parents or other family members. Another 21% will do so at the gracious urging of friends or acquaintances.
Sermon Central Staff
DECLINE OF CHRISTIANITY IN AMERICA
North America is the only continent on earth where Christianity is not growing.
Only 17.5% of the population of the US attends church on a regular Sunday.
During the 1990’s there was a 19.4% decline in church attendance.
85% of churches in America are plateaued or declining.
Only 12% of children raised in Bible Believing churches stay in the church after age 18.
With our large population of unchurched individuals, we are the 4th largest mission field.
If this is all true, why is it, and what can we do about it?
(From a sermon by Davon Huss, "7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1," 6/7/2010)
ON MARTIN LUTHER
Church history illustrates that if a church quits being renewed and refreshed every day then they slide into apathy -- this leads toward man made religion and deadness. In essence the people of God lose their anointing and their transformational power to see lives changed.
The Protestant Reformation is a case in point. Luther set out to see renewal come to a church which had drifted from the truth. The following is taken from Christian History Vol. XI, No. 2 and Vol. XII, No. 3)
i. His favorite verse: Romans 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
ii. His favorite quotes: To understand Luther's message to the church lets listen to a few of his most famous quotes. In these quotes we can see an individual who was not a man of fear but a man of faith.
1. On the Bible: "The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me."
2. "I'd like all my books to be destroyed so that only the sacred writings in the Bible would be diligently read."
3. On Church Practices: "A simple layman armed with Scripture is to be believed above the pope or a cardinal without it."
4. On human nature: "Nothing is easier than sinning."
5. On music: "The devil should not be allowed to keep all the best tunes for himself."
6. On Prayer: "Oh, if only I could pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise he has no thought, wish, or hope."
7. On Himself: "If I rest, I rust."
8. His three main themes were:
a. Scripture alone
b. Faith alone
c. Grace alone
d. Christ alone
iii. If you look at many Lutherans churches and denominations today you see that they have drifted away from the truths that Martin Luther lived and preached.
Sermon Central Staff
CHURCH ASKS NON-PARTICIPANTS TO LEAVE
Just a few years ago, Larknews.com carried the following fictional piece of satire on its website. In the form of a news release, it reported:
Julie and Bob Clark were stunned to receive a letter from their church in July asking them to "participate in the life of the church" -- or worship elsewhere. "They basically called us freeloaders," says Julie. "We were freeloaders," says Bob.
In a trend that may signal rough times for wallflower Christians, the Faith Community Church of Winston-Salem has asked "non-participating members" to stop attending. "No more Mr. Nice Church," says the executive pastor, newly hired from Cingular Wireless. "Bigger is not always better. Providing free services indefinitely to complacent Christians is not our mission."
"Freeloading" Christians were straining the church's nursery and facility resources and harming the church's ability to reach the lost, says the pastor. "When your bottom line is saving souls, you get impatient with people who interfere with that goal."
Faith Community sent polite but firm letters to families who attend church services and "freebie events," but never volunteer, never give, and do not belong to a small group or other ministry. The church estimates that only half of its regular attendees have volunteered in the past 3 years, and a third have never given to the church.
"Before now, we made people feel comfortable and welcome, and tried to coax them to give a little something in return," says a staff member. "That's changed. We're done being the community nanny."
Surprisingly, the move to dis-invite people has drawn a positive response from men in the community who like the idea of an in-your-face church. "I thought, A church that doesn't allow wussies--that rocks," says Bob Clark, who admires the church more since they told him to get lost.
(Joel Kilpatrick, "Mega-Church Downsizes, Cuts Non-Essential Members," Larknews.com (September, 2006) From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Genuine Servants, 8/5/2010)
KOREAN CELL CHURCHES
Assemblies of God Church in Seoul, Korea: It started in 1958 when Paul Yonggi Cho (later David) held a service in his friend’s home with her three children. Passionate desire to share Christ by inviting other people to their home church soon resulted in exponential growth. This process resulted in a church of 3,000 members by 1964. Because it became too large for him to manage, Cho later divided the city of Seoul into twenty zones, or "cells," as he called them, and began training leaders for each cell, who would hold services for worship and Bible study in their homes during the week. Cell leaders were encouraged to invite non-Christian neighbours to attend, to learn about Christianity (this was their Alpha approach Jeff). Each cell leader was required to train an assistant, and when cell membership reached a certain number, the assistant leader would form a new cell, taking about half of the old cell with him or her. As of 2007 Cho’s Full Gospel Church registered 1,000,000 members.
The Tree of Hippocrates
On the island of Kos, the home of Hippocrates, the great physician from whom we get the “Hippocratic Oath”, there grows a tree that history says Hippocrates himself once gathered his students for class. Although the current tree is only about 500 years old, it is purported that this tree is a shoot of the original tree. Additional legend places the Apostle Paul as once teaching under this tree. Even if the tree is not fully original the site it marks is. Still, 500 years is quite an accomplishment for a tree, however, such a great span of time has seen curious developments.
Close examination shows that although the tree has every appearance of a regular tree from one side, from the other, it is plain that the tree is fully hollow. In fact, the trunk consists of only a semi-circular ring of about 6 inches or so of actual tree with bark both inside and out. The ornate metal railings around the tree are, in fact, supporting some of the branches as there is not enough left of the trunk, or probably the roots either, to support the weight. Still, year after year, the tree somehow, almost inconceivably, manages to sprout a few sparse leaves and fruits.
Tourists gather to the tree mainly because of the legends but some probably visit just to see a tree that old. I would. How often do you get to see a tree still plugging away after half a millennium? You don’t because this tree should have succumb to natural order years ago. This tree long ago ceased to be able to support itself. Only because of its fame has this tree been carefully preserved at great expense. No one goes through this kind of inconvenience for regular trees. If you just want shade, this one should have been removed. Younger trees are hardier, more productive, and far less expensive to maintain. The same can be said about some churches.
Some churches exist as tourist attractions. Only because of fame, legend, or reputation are they still propped up and preserved no matter the cost. They ceased to produce a profitable harvest years ago. Oh, they still sprout the occasional leaf or fruit and each time they do, people gather and marvel that life still reside there after all these years. Meanwhile, just down the road, there is a healthy, vibrant church that with minimal effort and investment produces maximum harvest. But that is where the analogy between the church and the Tree of Hippocrates ends.
It is not necessarily age that defines churches alive only because they are propped up by human effort. It is the spiritual foundation of the church. Even at 500 years of age, the Tree of Hippocrates could be very productive with a strong root system and foundation. Very young churches can easily get to a point where it ceases to make sense to preserve them. Very old churches can be vibrant and productive. Any church that has begun to question its viability should know that rejuvenation starts with the roots. Reestablish on the solid rock and health will return.
TOO GOOD FOR YOUR CHURCH
A good set of clothes makes all the difference. A Methodist church tried to get a man to attend, but he never did. "Why don't you come?" the minister asked, and the man finally admitted it was because he didn't have proper clothes. So a member of the congregation took him to a clothing store and got him a nice suit, shirt, tie and shoes. But on the following Sunday, he still did not show up. So the minister visited him again and asked him why he didn't come. "When I got dressed up in my new suit," the man explained...
The purpose and intent of the church, according to Ezekiel 36:23 is to be used to prove the Lord Holy to the nations. I can only think of two ways which God can use the church to prove the He is Holy to the Community:
1 - When He provides great happiness, peace, and success because of our faithfulness. This proves to the Community that following Christ is THE key to success.
2 - To destroy us in our sins to prove to the Community that their sins have a price.
32% of evangelical Protestant churches are in a strong financial position vs. 13% weak.
(LifeWay Research 7-8/05)