Summary: Looking into 2011 year as a banner year for NRBC, this message is the common ground upon which every member can rally around--increase, improvement, impact
Text: Acts 15:28-29, Title: New Riverlutions: Common Ground, Date/Place: NRBC, 1/9/11, AM
A. Opening illustration: Rocky theme, tell about eating breakfast at Two Trails with Jim, Will, John
B. Background to passage: people stirring up trouble in Antioch, church on fire, division, etc. Exp the issue. Then they decide not to split, hold grudges, or sulk, but to hammer out the truth. So they went to the Apostles. Apostles and elders in Jerusalem considered the matter, and decided that Gentile believers didn’t have to follow the law. But in the interest of not allowing liberty to become a stumbling block, they gave four things that gentile believers should observe so as not to cause their sensitive Jewish brethren to stumble. In essence they gave a helpful, practical compromise to refocus quell the problem. And they all went back to Antioch, rejoiced together (b/c the Jews were really seeking truth), then got back to work.
C. Main thought: whether in turmoil, decline, crisis, or stagnation, the church must come together on the things that everyone agrees are the core goals of the church. I am not saying that there is trouble, or that we are on the brink of disaster or death, but simply that after a tough year, we must get refocused on what we all want to see happen for the year 2011.
A. Increase (growth)
1. Neither party involved in this controversy wanted to see the decline of their church in Antioch. It was one of the fastest growing churches in the whole world. It was one that had begun to send missionaries all over the known world, a flagship church in world evangelism. It was working in the compassion ministry of famine relief. It had a full quiver of godly elders teaching it, and it was adding to its number regularly. And they were the first to bear the name Christians. Whatever theological controversy or other distraction had come, nobody wanted to see the growth stop, but they did want to get it right and grow in the right way. And more than likely, until the issues were resolved, growth suffered. How many weeks, months?
2. Acts 11:21, 24,
3. Illustration: Southside Baptist Church in San Antonio, TX had 9 members in 1998 when a bi-vocational pastor named Al Byron took over, after six years of hard work their worship attendance reached 744, Wadsworth Alliance Church in Ohio, Scott Brooks’ testimony, pp. 76-78 Comeback Churches,
4. I would dare say that there are only a few believers in this county that don’t want their churches to increase. And knowing New River, I very seriously doubt anyone in this room would say that they didn’t want to see growth. “Anybody for decline?” The question is whether or not we are willing to allow our actions be consistent with that desire. Think with me…sanctuary holds 225 (go thru the calculations), what if we just got up to 180 (80%), at that point we would have to think about a second service or building on. You were there 20 years ago in 1992, Journey is past there now, just to say that the people are out there. Of course we would have to have more SS space before then. But let’s say we started a second service, 90 in each, and worked our way up to 150 in each one. What would it be like to have to double our education space, double our children’s workers, double our leaders, get smaller chairs for the choir to fit them all in! What if the ripples in our baptistery waters didn’t even subside before the next baptisms came in. What if we had to teach a membership class and receive members monthly! It could happen, right? What if in 2011 we added 50 people by baptism or statement/transfer? We have got to come together to make this happen! And of course, it is not all about worship attendance. Our desire for increase is in making disciples, strengthening marriages, empowering people, etc. And most of these things you can’t quantify.
B. Improvement (health)
1. Again, not a member at Antioch wanted to see the church regress in doctrine or in ministry. Teaching was going on, disciples were being made. People were using their gifts in ministry. They got a prophesy from a member about a famine in Jerusalem, so they began a benevolence ministry to aid the members and every member gave to it. The Holy Spirit was leading people into ministry and training leaders. No telling how many other great things were being done in the church—miracles, tending to the needy, the orphans, and widows, etc. The body of Christ was doing an excellent job at being the body.
2. Eph 4:13, Col 1:28, 1 Cor 12:16-20
3. Illustration: “The key for churches in the 21st Century will be church health, not growth. When a congregation is healthy, it will grow spiritually and enjoy the benefits of a live, vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ. Because when a congregation is healthy it will grow. God wants his church to grow, and to the extent that we are healthy, to that extent we will grow naturally.” Top four areas that were improved in churches that experienced a dramatic growth after a season of struggle were: 1. prayer, 2. children’ min, 3. evangelism, 4. youth ministry,