Summary: Giving the annual sermon on the state of the church
I hope to encourage giving an annual sermon about the local church.
We can easily become like the Samaritans who focused more on worshiping God in a certain place than worshiping God who rules the universe. Denominationalism and provincialism can all be forms of idolatry. Yet, there are times when we need to discuss the local church.
The local church, its administration, annual reporting, future plans, programs, difficulties and finances need to be addressed occasionally in a sermon. This chapter introduces preachers to techniques for preaching on this sometimes delicate and sensitive subject matter by analyzing, reporting or visioning about the church.
This is sometimes called the church program sermon, but there are more reasons to talk about the local church than merely its programs, as we will see.
A modern form of the church sermon is the church analysis. It may take the form of a professional analysis from one of the many groups that do such things for a fee, or it may be something that a church's local leaders or denominational leaders have put together. The following points for congregational input and discussion come from the book Twelve Keys to an Effective Church by Kennon Callahan (1987, Harper and Rowe) and serve as an example. Each topic can be examined for its strengths and one area of improvement, with the congregation asked to fill in a survey, and a church sermon given on the results: -
parking, land and landscaping
space and facilities
This can sometimes be a delicate topic, and so tact and diplomacy are essential. Remember the maxim, to give none offense.
Many churches have an annual general meeting of some kind. Every pastor or priest ought to consider giving an annual "state of the church" sermon. Those churches which do so, often pick either January or July as the time to give this message, or any other time of year that fits their financial year, climate or attendance estimates. This can be similar to a chairman of the board's address and as such can include the elements found in an annual report of any kind, such as: -
Annual Highlights - e.g. evangelism, advertising, church camps, church picnics, conferences.
Pastor's or Priest's Report - e.g. preaching, Sunday school, Bible Studies, counseling, elders, deacons, volunteers, attendance
Ministry Reports - e.g. music & media ministries, children's ministries, youth ministries, family & elderly ministries, small groups, pastoral care & visitation, buildings & grounds
Financial Report - e.g. income, major expenses, salaries, missionary support
Plans: This may be a broad sermon encompassing a variety of corresponding visions, combining them into an overall vision for the local church. This kind of sermon could be very business-like, but may also contain emotional and motivational elements. Church plans may cover evangelism, building projects, developing ministries and a host of other items.
Dreams: A visionary sermon may not necessarily go into great detail. It may be more of a motivational sermon, or a Marin Luther King style "I have a dream" sermon.
Whose Vision: For a church's plans and dreams to be appropriate, they must be in line with Jesus' vision for the Christian Church. If it is just a local pastor or priest building his personal empire, rather than building a small piece of the kingdom of God, then it becomes a glaringly fruitless endeavor, a worthless white elephant. God is not concerned as much about the size of a church as its health. Size does not necessarily mean God's blessing. We could be just building a large congregation which worships the idiotic theories of a mere man, unless we intentionally follow Jesus as the head of the Church and ask for heaven's guidance of our every effort.
Proverbs 29:18 - Many people love to misquote this verse when speaking about vision. The word vision in this verse means something slightly different than hopes and dreams, or having big goals. Yet, that is too often how it is misused. It actually means that without a prophecy or revelation, the people cast off restraint. Now of course, when our dreams for the church match any prophecy or revelation from God, it genuinely is God's vision for the church, not just our human lusts or desires for big things. We usually pray that God would lead us, but then too often just go about doing things our way, acting like our prayers were just a form. God gives us plenty of his vision in the Scriptures and also by direct personal revelation that harmonizes with and does not contradict the Bible.
Title: "Let's Dare to Dream"
Let’s give the church vision for the Gospel.