Summary: A message focusing on the goals and vision for 2018, health, not numbers. If we aim for health first, growth will come.
Text: 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, Title: More Than Resolutions, Date/Place: WHBC, 12/31/17, AM
A. Opening illustration: Jonathan Edwards resolutions, Continuation of growth or health? Quote from the Words to Winners of Souls about pastors who can assess numbers… (p. 20)
B. Background to passage: With my limited time here, and limited knowledge of the community, I have yet to have time to develop a full-orbed, Christ-exalting, Holy Spirit led vision for our church. But Paul gives thanks for a church, and its testimony of Christ, and prays for increase in love and holiness, not in number. He then looks forward to the day that would come that Christ returns, and all genuine believers will be invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb as one bride in shining garments of purity.
C. Main thought: a message focusing on the goals and vision for 2018, health, not numbers. If we aim for health first, growth will come.
1 Thessalonians 3:11–13 (ESV)
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
A. Meaningful Membership (v. 11-13)
1. This is only one component to church health, but a crucial one. We must understand who we are and where we are if we want to be healthy. What separates Baptists from other denominations is ecclesiology. (caveat, don’t have anything against other denominations, but I am baptist by choice for reasons). Regenerate church membership, meaning that only believers are part of the local congregation. Membership is a biblically defensible doctrine, and necessary for growth, mission, and accountability.
3. Illustration: the book/study done by Tom Rainer that shows that churches with high membership standards have the best growth. It is also one of 9 Marks of a Healthy Church book/ministry by Mark Dever and Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC. I would like to lose 15-20 lbs. and keep it off this year, but health is what I am aiming for, not just appearance. Just as you carry out your responsibilities and pay your required funds to organizations that you participate in, how much more so the local manifestation of the body of Christ?
4. Why should you become a member? So, if I asked you, “what does it mean to be a member here at Western Heights?” What would you answer? How do you become a member? What is required of you, if anything? What is the responsibility of the church to you as a member? As a church, how do we know if we value membership? If we value membership, it will be noticed by unbelievers, and unchurched, and visitors. People like clarity of responsibility, and Christ is honored by those that understand the gravity of his bride.
B. Meaningful Mission (v. 11-13)
1. Personal growth in discipleship: Jesus gave us one simple command—to make disciples in the whole world. He further defined that mandate by saying that a disciple is one who learns and does all that Jesus commanded the apostles to do. The fullness of that command is not simple. In order to complete that command as a church we must come together with a communal goal, but also as individuals we must pursue Christ diligently.
i. It is work to grow in Christ. Paul to work out your salvation, not to just sit passively by and be spoon fed by others. The spiritual disciplines like bible-reading/study, prayer, fasting, serving, giving, are called disciplines for a reason. Don’t hear me say that we must can grind it out on our on strength completely, we rely on Christ while we work at knowing Him. Do you look back on 2017 and see that you have grown in grace and Christlikeness? Are you following the commands of Jesus more than you were in Jan? And there may be seasons of darkness, where you fight and fight, but don’t seem to see any light or regain any ground, DON’T STOP FIGHTING. When I Don’t Desire God. Make 2018 a year of growth.
2. Proliferation of the gospel: This one is very self-explanatory. God has a heart for the nations, promising to save men and women from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. God’s plan for reaching the nations is you and me. The way that men are saved is they hear the word of God from born-again believers, and the repent and believe. There is no plan B.
i. We must ensure that we are a herald of the gospel. We cannot allow a casual attitude toward the fate of nations open the door to apathy. The cemeteries in Julcan and Molinos. The quota of indifferent, lethargic, cold-hearted believers toward the nations is full. The question should not be are/if you are involved in missions, but how are you involved in missions. We must examine our budgets and our time to discern our commitment, but also examine our love and passion for those that Christ gave his life for, but now live in condemnation should they pass to eternity having never heard the gospel.