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Contributed By:
Michael McCartney
 
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I found a great article which addresses the question “Does God Play Favorites? On page 1562 in the Quest Study Bible: Listen to what it says: The whole Bible teaches that God is fair and just (Psalm 11:7). It also states that God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23), but that he wants all men to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4). Therefore, the idea of God’s purpose in election (v. 11) raises some hard questions, such as “How can God choose some and pass on others?” People have attempted to explain God’s election in several ways. Some hold the view that God elects some to be saved because he knows beforehand that they will choose to accept Christ (8:29). Their election, according to this view, is based on God’s foreknowledge (Arminianism). Others conclude that God, in his wise and sovereign will, chooses some but not others for reasons we cannot understand. His selection may seem unfair, but that is simply because we have limited perspective. Humans, bound in sin. Do not naturally seek God (3:11), but when God’s grace comes to the elect, it frees them to choose God (Calvinism). Still others emphasize that God elected Jesus, his Son, and that all those who are in Christ by faith share in that corporate election. What about Pharaoh (vv. 17-18)? While the Bible clearly states that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (v. 18; see Exodus 9:12), it also records Pharaoh’s own decision to harden his heart (Exodus 8:15). The mystery of how God works in election is not easily resolved. Difficult questions continue to confound us. In the end we may need to confess that our understanding is limited, that we may be missing some key part of God’s plan that would allow us to understand election better (page 1562, Quest Study Bible).

 
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"… we all have adversaries or opponents toward whom we feel animosity.
He may be the owner of a competing business who’s stealing your best customers, and if you’re honest, you’ll admit that you hate him for putting your livelihood in jeopardy. She may be a colleague who’s fighting against you - all too successfully - for bonuses and advancement. He may be a midlevel executive who’s firmly entrenched above you in the corporate structure, and you resent him because he’s blocking your way to the top.
If you’re management, your adversary may be the union, or vice versa. Your enemy might be people who hold opposing views on abortion or homosexuality, and you’ve gone beyond disagreeing with their opinions to despising them as people. It might be a teacher who refuses to cut you any slack. Or the girlfriend who broke your heart. Or the father who stunted your self-esteem. Or a former friend who broke your confidence and spilled your secrets to the world. Ot the ex-spouse who trashed your marriage. Or the recalcitrant employee who just won’t get on board with your policies. Or the classmate whose popularity eclipses yours. Or the colleague who is reaping all the recognition that you deserve."

Lee Strobel, God’s Outrageous Claims, pp. 10-11

 
Contributed By:
Michael McCartney
 
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** IS THE CHURCH ON THE ENDANGERED LIST?

Many Americans are on a spiritual quest. This should be good news
for the church. But, according to researchers, many of them are
choosing noninstitutional forms of religion. A recent poll by Gallup
shows that weekly church attendance is holding steady at about 40
percent of the population - the same rate as in the 1950s. But other
researchers - like Dave T. Olson, director of TheAmericanChurch.org
- claim only 17.7 percent of the population attends a church service
any given weekend.

Olson, who bases his numbers on annual church attendance reported by
individual U.S. congregations, says, "People who only go to church
now and again exaggerate how often they go."

Albert Winseman, religion and social trends editor for the Gallup
Organization, says people are shopping for alternatives to church
and that is one reason 3,000 local churches close their doors
annually.

"Most denominations are either declining or stagnant," says
Winseman.

The Assemblies of God is one of the few Christian groups to show
steady growth in recent years. The Yearbook of American and Canadian
Churches reports the Assemblies of God and Southern Baptists are the
only Protestant faith groups of the largest 25 to report an increase
in membership for 2004.

An April Gallup poll indicated 65 percent of Pentecostals attend
church weekly, second only to Church of Christ (at 68 percent) among
Protestant groups.

VANISHING PROTESTANT MAJORITY

Half a century ago, two-thirds of the population considered
themselves Protestants. Officially, for the first time last year,
self-identified Protestants dipped below half of all Americans,
according to Gallup research.

Evangelical and Pentecostal church attendance looks stable, but
membership isn’t keeping pace with population growth. Olson says
although the same number of people are attending church as 15 years
ago, there are an additional 48 million people living in the
country.

But people are not necessarily flocking to other faiths. J. Gordon
Melton, author of the Encyclopedia of American Religions, says
tabulating all the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and New Agers
accounts for only 7 percent of Americans. Self-professing atheists
comprise another 10 percent of the population.

"In the culture today we don’t have the churchgoing momentum we did
in the 1950s, when ’respectable people’ attended church every week,"
says Earl Creps, director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at
Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.
"There’s no guarantee anymore that people are going to come to
church."

Although only 17 to 40 percent of Americans attend church regularly,
about 80 percent of the population professes Christianity.

Pollster George Barna, who last year wrote the book "Revolution:
Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary," believes a
transformational shift is occurring in how Christians view church.
He claims more than 20 million committed yet disaffected
"revolutionaries" have struck out on their own to form house
churches, family faith communities and cyberchurches.

WHAT CHURCH OFFERS

Creps, author of "Off-Road Disciples," believes these
"revolutionaries" are forfeiting a great deal by not being involved
in a local church. "A great church offers relational connections,
people modeling how to live faith, accountability, the enormous
power of a group worship experience and the operation of the gifts
of the Spirit," he says.

Theologian J.I. Packer says the reality of corporate church life
pervaded first-century Christianity and should today as well.

"Individuality is not correct, according to biblical standards,"
says Packer, author of "Knowing God." "The church is central in
God’s plan. God uses the church to set up His kingdom - the
corporate relational reality where people respond to Christ as King.
We can’t dismiss the structure God has established."

Many observers believe house churches and cyberchurch movements are
short-lived trends that will never amount to more than 5 percent of
Christians.

Melton says such methods don’t represent a new phenomenon. "For
decades people have been saying they can be a good Christian and
never go to church," he says.

Gallup sees a strong link between individual spiritual commitment
and church attendance by measuring factors such as prayer, Bible
study and small group involvement.

"People can say they are a spiritually committed person without
attending church, but it happens only 5 percent of the time,"
Winseman says.

Creps says merely getting people into the sanctuary isn’t the goal.
"The issue really is the need for every person to come to God
through His Son Jesus Christ. That involves a connection with a
community of Christians - which we call church."

"The church is God’s primary vehicle for the proclamation of the
gospel," Winseman says. "The abundant life is found most abundantly
in the community of the local church."

--John W. Kennedy, Today’s Pentecostal Evangel

This article reveals the current condition of the church and some new trends in Christianity but for the church to be the Acts New Testament church we need to continue to explore and discover from acts what it looks like and what it does.

 
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"The true man of God is heartsick, grieved at the worldliness of the Church...grieved at the toleration of sin in the Church, grieved at the prayerlessness in the Church. He is disturbed that the corporate prayer of the Church no ...

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"A corporate crisis can, if not effectively dealt with, materially harm the companys ability to do business now, and in the future."

 
Contributed By:
John King
 
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Mark Morford (columnist at San Francisco Chronicle):” There remains this enormous and wicked socio-cultural myth. It is this:
Hard work is all there is.
a) Work hard and the world respects you.
b)Work hard and you can have anything you want.
c)Work really extra super hard and do nothing else but work and ignore your family
d)Spend 14 hours a day at the office
e)Make 300 grand a year that you never have time to spend,
f)Sublimate your soul to the corporate machine
g)Enjoy a profound drinking problem
h)Own a nice 8 BR mini-mansion you never spend any time in.
You and your shiny BMW 740i will roll right into heaven.
What are you using your talents and skills to accomplish? To get rich or to serve God and others.

 
Contributed By:
Dale  Pilgrim
 
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“The dimensions of personal Christianity cannot develop as they should until they are in proper context of corporate Christianity.” (Gene Getz)

 
Contributed By:
Derrick Tuper
 
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RESPONSIBLE MEMBERSHIP

Author Jerry Bridges comments in an article on commitment, "As I have watched the parade of people through our church, and other churches, I wonder why so few commit themselves to a local body of believers in a significant way. Many sit and soak and do little else, and they flee at the first sign of trouble or pressure. They fail to become involved or to give; the priority for corporate worship falls far down on the list. They criticize all that is wro...

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Contributed By:
Jim Kane
 
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Marjorie Thompson makes an interesting point when she says, ‘As people become hungrier for spiritual nurture, they often become more dissatisfied with their own tradition of corporate worship. Part of the problem is that average person in the pew has little say over how worship is planned, much less over how leaders read, preach, and pray.’
‘How, then, are we to become lively actors in the drama of human worship before God?,’ she asks. ‘How can we become better attuned to God in spite of the foibles of worship leaders, the frailties of worshipping communities, and the inadequacies of our own feelings and judgments?’
She makes several suggestions:
Slide 11
• Revitalize personal worship
• Spend half an hour on Saturday nights or Sunday morning before God assessing our life
Slide 12
• ‘Be prepared to hear God speak’
(Do we believe that God shows up here?)
• Stay focused on the parts of worship that speak to you
• ‘Claim for yourself the freedom to respond to God in worship with the fullness of your heart.’

 
Contributed By:
Dale  Pilgrim
 
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The bottom line: if we are going to have God's blessing. If God is to lavishly pour out his goodness in our personal and corporate lives, it includes our response to our financial resources and our willingness to purify our behaviour in this regard. People that do not take God's instruction seriously and so cripple the church and her ability to be what God needs her to be, and to do what she should be doing.

 
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