Summary: This sermon is the first in a series of five on The Church Health Review which attempts to make members aware that there is a health cycle of the congregation of God’s people.
Robert Dale in his book “To Dream Again: How To Help Your Church Come Alive,” says that there are four ways to revitalize a church. The strategies would be: change policies, change personnel, change programs or clarify purpose. The fourth way to revitalize a church is to define and act on its fundamental purpose. A new dream awakes a congregation. And re-dreaming is generally a more appropriate organizational health strategy than reprogramming or restructuring.
However, it was the prophet Joel who pointed to the true way of creating congregational health. Joel suggested that God would create congregational health by pouring out His Spirit upon all flesh so that His people would speak forth the truth for their day and the older men would dream dreams and the younger men would see visions. In other words, all God’s people would be filled with the Spirit and would share what the Spirit is saying to the Church.
My desire is to see God in this day create some congregational health at First Baptist Church. I believe God wants to pour out His Spirit upon His people so that they all share God’s vision and dream for this church and its ministry. I want God to create come congregational health as we move towards dreaming again and see FBC come alive! To encourage you to receive the Spirit and share God’s vision, I want to talk with you about “Creating Congregational Health.” Let’s begin by describing:
I. THE CONGREGATIONAL HEALTH CYCLE
A healthy church is born out of a dream. A group of persons dream of a redemptive ministry in a community. They sense and share what they feel God wants from them in their unique setting at that particular moment. Then they take ownership of their vision, they band together and church life begins.
The reality is, persons as well as churches go through a life cycle of birth, growth, maturity, decline and if they don’t take action toward renewal, death occurs. So, once a church is born they clarify their beliefs by Bible Study, doctrinal statements and the hymns they repeatedly sing. Then they set goals and priorities. They develop programs, policies and procedures, budgets as well as other structures. Finally, they minister out of the focused dream and the trust that has developed in the congregation.
Then, if the congregation doesn’t take steps to open itself to revitalization, a plateau occurs. Decline begins. First, people doubt the structures. “It isn’t working as well as it used to, is it?” they ask nostalgically. Next, they doubt the goals and begin questioning, “Is this the right way to work and minister?” Then they doubt the church’s basic beliefs and assert, “This idea is wrong!” And the church becomes polarized. Finally, they become completely alienated and drop out in total disillusionment. This is absolute doubt and marks the death of the kingdom dream in those persons.
So, the question for us is: “Where are we along this congregational health cycle?” Perhaps our dream has died. And maybe it’s time to dream again. This decision is a life or death choice and through our Church Health Review we will have an opportunity to assess where we are and entertain the possibility of dreaming again. Therefore we need to look further into the:
II. CONTENTS OF CONGREGAITONAL HEALTH
A healthy dream is a necessary foundation for a healthy church. And nothing less than a kingdom dream will turn a church toward healthy and aggressive ministry. So to move towards dreaming again we need to first understand the kind of organization we are at FBC. We must understand the contents of our congregation. We must clarify our purpose before we begin to dream.
1. The Church is a mission-oriented organization.
We need to ask and to know, “What is our mission?” Jesus inaugurated the kingdom of God. He spoke of this kingdom of God ruling over persons and their institutions more than any other issue. Our mission is to extend His kingdom, to carry out the will of God in this world and to proclaim and apply His gospel. We are on a redemptive mission with God to this world and all we do and dream should be founded on this purpose.
2. The Church is a service organization.
We must assume a servant role as Jesus did and said in Mark 10:45, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many.” There needs to be more balance in service and “serve-us.” There needs to be more balance in internal ministry and external ministry. The church is literally to give itself away through concrete ministry and sacrificial service. Our calling as a church is to service. A part of our purpose is to serve and minister with God to people.