Summary: Many churches function on a "survival mode" mentality, rather than a faith based plan. How can you tell the difference?
OPEN: About 100 years ago, Edgar Guest wrote the following poem:
"Somebody said that it couldn’t be done,
But he with a chuckle replied "maybe it couldn’t",
but he would be one who wouldn’t say so till he tried.
So he buckled right in with a trace of a grin on his face.
If he worried he hid it.
He started to sing as he tackled the thing, that couldn’t be done
and he did it.
Somebody scoffed: "Oh, you’ll never do that;
At least no one ever has done it"
But he took off his coat and he took of his hat,
and the first thing we knew he’d begun it.
With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin, without any doubting or quiddit,
He started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done,
and he did it.
APPLY: This is the last in our series about faith
We’ve talked about how important our faith is.
We’ve talked about how we can develop a stronger faith in God
And we’ve discussed how our faith should influence our giving
This week I want to look out how our faith should effect how we “do” church
I. Many churches don’t really function on the basis of faith
They function as a Church:
they sing the songs, collect the offerings, offer communion, preach the sermons and so on… but when it comes to exercising faith as a church, they often stumble because they aren’t geared toward faith.
Many churches are geared toward… survival. All their decisions are based – not upon growth – but upon simply existing.
ILLUS: We had a sister church up north that had a building fund of $40,000. Whenever they made an improvement to their building they would scramble to bring that fund back up to the original $40,000. Now – not only did that reflect a lack of faith in God. It reflected their mind set of desiring to survive
Now - of course - survival isn’t a bad thing. But when a church gets into (what I call) a survival mode it’s not healthy.
ILLUS: A denominational church sent in an annual report that read like this:
Number of members added by baptism 0
Number of members added by letter 0
Number of members dismissed by letter 5
Number of members who have died 3
Amount raised for home missions 0
Amount raised for foreign missions 0
The note at the bottom of the report read: “Pray for us, brethren, that we continue faithful unto the end.”
Now… was that church being faithful? …. No!
They had developed a “survival mode” mentality. They saw faithfulness as simply being able to survive… to exist.
But Jesus doesn’t call that faithfulness. Jesus said: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. John 15:1-2
What Jesus is telling us is this: having a “survival mode” mentality is not pleasing to God.
God’s church is meant to produce fruit. And the prophecy in Isaiah was trying to tell us how God planned for the Church to accomplish that growth.
Look again at Isaiah 54:2 "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.”
Someone might ask… “how do you know this prophecy in Isaiah is referring to the church?”
Well 2 reasons, actually.
First, we know that the previous chapter (Isaiah 53) dealt with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Isaiah 53 is famous for the words we recite every Easter: “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:4-6
The reason Jesus died was to establish the Church. And Isaiah 54 is simply describing what this church would be like.
Secondly, we know Isaiah 54 is talking about the church, because the New Testament tells us so. In Galatians 4:27 Paul quotes the first verse of this chapter and says that it was prophesying the influx of Gentiles into the church.
So the words in Isaiah 54 describe God’s game plan for how the church was to grow:
Enlarge the place of your tent,
stretch your tent curtains wide,
do not hold back;
lengthen your cords,
strengthen your stakes