Summary: This is a call to hear what God is doing and calling our particular church to be and do. I submit it as a sample of how one might go about communicating God’s vision to the congregation.
2003 State of the Church Address
I. God Is Doing a New Thing
II. Based on His Eternal Plan
III. To Move Us Toward Embracing Our True Identity
IV. So, Where Do We Go from Here?
A. A commitment to a corporate lifestyle of dependency
B. A commitment to becoming healthy
C. A commitment to true disciplemaking
D. A commitment to complete some essential matters
I may have missed the announcement, but I would imagine that some time this week we will be informed as to when President Bush will stand before Congress and deliver his annual State of the Union Address. I don’t know how familiar you are with the history behind this yearly speech, but it has become a part of our American fabric because of a phrase contained within our U.S. Constitution which reads, “The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient” (Article II, Section 3). Commenting on its relative importance, ABCNews.com states, “At times filled with controversy, it is the means by which a commander-in-chief sets forth a legislative agenda, rallies his own party, and reaches out to opponents—while also reaching out beyond the Congress to influence public opinion.” I’m certain that, with all of the turmoil in the world today and given the condition of our economy, President Bush will seize this opportunity to try to clarify what he sees as the direction that our country should take in the coming days. I encourage you to be in prayer for him in this matter.
Obviously, what I have to say this morning will not be televised across the nation or even make the local “Penny Saver,” but don’t let that lull you into thinking that it isn’t very important. And while it’s true that I haven’t been given a mandate from this congregation to “from time to time give information of the State of the Church and recommend to your consideration such measures as I shall judge necessary and expedient,” I have sensed a call from God to do such. So this morning I bring to you my first State of the Church Address. In all likelihood, it will become an annual event. My purpose this morning is to take this opportunity to do some vision-casting and to give you some exposure to what I see the Lord doing and about to do in our midst.
The outline for this message is actually one big thought broken into three parts and a crucial question which I will attempt to answer. I will highlight the main points so it will be easy for you to follow along.
God Is Doing a New Thing…
“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19, p. 543).
Those of you who were in attendance two weeks ago will recall that I delivered a message that was very unplanned, but very much led by the Spirit. During our Saturday Night Revive prayer meeting, there was a dominant theme that kept recurring and seemed to be intertwined in everything we prayed about. God kept impressing upon us the absolute necessity of letting go of the pains of the past—ALL the disagreements, disappointments, hurts, failures, misunderstandings, etc.—because they are a hindrance to our progress in the present and our ultimate movement into the future. Holding on to the past will keep us from realizing our destiny! The time to let go (forget the former things) is now—not when we fee like it—God is doing something new NOW!
I’m sure that when Isaiah delivered this message to the people of his day, they were not too keen on the idea of forgetting the past. The international scene was one of a power struggle between Assyria and Babylon. The northern kingdom of Israel had already been conquered and taken into exile. Judah was looking for help to rescue them from the threat that was upon them, and they placed their trust in the past: “This is how it happened before when we were in trouble, surely this is how it will happen again!” Because they held onto the past, they were doomed to live in the past and miss out on all the good things that God was doing among them in the present. He said to them, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” He tried to get them to see that the new thing was not in the future, it was NOW! But their focus was on the past, so they couldn’t see what God was doing.