Summary: Sermon delivered at the Mell Baptist Assn Annual Meeting 2010 regarding the decline of our churches, associations, and conventions
Text: Rev 3:1-6, Title: Clear and Present Danger, Date/Place: Mell Assn Annual Mtg, 10/14/10
A. Opening illustration: Dying Churches video, tell about the shock and broken heartedness that I felt when I did the OMC in Screven Co. read the Finding New Life for Struggling Churches, Stetzer about our “crazy aunt”
B. Background to passage: Sardis was built on a little finger of rock that jutted out from a mountain range. On three sides it was guarded by sheer rock cliffs of several hundred feet. The only approach to the city was from the south, and that was uphill, and dangerous. So the city was impregnable. In fact, the saying, “to take the acropolis of Sardis” meant to do the impossible. Only twice in it’s 1500 year history had the city ever been taken by invaders. Both times the overconfidence and comfort in the unassailability of their city had caused the people of Sardis to be lulled to sleep while the enemy scaled the 400 foot walls of rock, and let themselves in at night. And thus the church in the Bible belt may be comfortably asleep as our life fleets away in a culture that used to be friendly, but has subtly become our poison. Jesus said (without commendations or comments of persecution), you have a name, you look alive, but you are not. I know that I will probably offend some of you tonight (may have already done that), but what I ask of you is that you look into the possibility that at least some of the things I mention could have an element of truth.
C. Main thought: four things that we must do as individuals, churches, and as an association the poison of nominal, apathetic Christianity that will cause our light to dim, and possibly candles to be removed
A. Wake Up (v. 2)
1. Jesus says to “be watchful,” another trans says “wake up,” word means to arise, refrain from sleep, and be alert to what is going on. This is Jesus’ theme throughout the discussions on the end times. This admonition surely had to do with the city’s history, but also with the fact that the church there at that time was spiritually lethargic, unconcerned, apathetic, and ignorant of the dangers that lied ahead. We must heed the warning…look at us!
3. Illustration: 8000 SBC churches last year baptized no one, SBC baptisms been on a constant decline for the last 10 years reaching their lowest level since 1977, in Tift Co pop has almost doubled in last 40 years to 43K, in ’72 MBA churches had almost 30% of Tift Co pop, now we have less than 20%, baptisms in ’72 were over 400, last year they were 240, and we saw a low of 156 in 2006, now we are only reaching 65% of our seniors, 35% of our middle aged, 15% of young families/college students, and 4% of our students, percentage of lost ppl in GA is climbing upwards of 70%, 85% of our young people are dropping out of church by their freshman year in college,
4. WAKE UP! We are a denomination in decline, an association in decline, and churches in decline. And if we don’t wake up now, we will wake up one day and wonder where it all went! We don’t even realize how bad it really is. And we are massively out of touch with our society. They don’t come to our churches because they have been, and they are not interested in politicking and squabbling over budget line items and other minor issues. One writer said they do not come, not because they are scared that they would change, but because they are scared that they won’t.
5. We are the only organization on the planet that uses 400 year old furniture and decorations, sings 400 year old music, with books with 400 year old language, and does things just like they did 60 years ago, and expects to reach people. Social Networking video. 83% of Americans have cell phones, 86% have internet access, 91% have email, 42% have a Facebook account. WAKE UP! Our culture has left us behind, and we are losing ground fast, and nobody seems to know or care. In the ‘50s we determined the culture. In the ‘60’s-‘70’s we began to divert, ’80’s-‘90’s we were in two worlds, and now we are comfortable having our place, and giving them theirs.
Lifeway’s research consultant Ed Stetzer commenting on dying churches and necessary changes says, “change sounds good, until you start to experience it.” Later he remembered one of his Dad’s favorite sayings, “He was right. Since 3500 to 4000 churches close their doors each year, it is obvious that most churches will not make the turn around. There are two main reasons for this. First, most churches will not admit how bad it is. Second, most churches will not make the needed changes.”