Summary: Two very different churches, aren’t they? Both are very busy in what they are trying to do. But one is dying. Why? What is the church supposed to be? And what is the church supposed to do? (*Powerpoint available - #238)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(Powerpoints used with this message are available for free. Just email me at email@example.com and request #238.)
ILL. In one of my sermons 2 years ago I told you about the Broadway Presbyterian Church in Upper Manhattan, New York. Their story was reported in the January 26, 2002, issue of World Magazine.
That article said that in the early 1900’s through the 1960’s the Broadway church was a powerful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with more than a thousand active members. But their number shrank to about 120.
Why? Well, over the years a subtle change crept in as their emphasis switched from presenting the Gospel to helping the homeless. They set up soup kitchens in the church building & began massive feeding programs for those in need.
Now, at first glance we would think that helping those in need is a very worthy & Christian thing to do, & it is! And they should be praised for doing so. But, at Broadway, prayers were never offered in the soup kitchens, nor was the name of Jesus ever mentioned - because they were concerned that someone might resent it.
Turning away from Christ’s command to “… preach the gospel…” they made no effort to communicate the good news of a Savior who forgives sins, changes lives, & frees us from the bondage of our sins.
And the result was that they discovered that the same people were coming through the food lines year after year with no improvement, no change for good taking place in their lives. They were feeding their bodies, but ignoring, starving, their souls. And the church itself there was almost dead.
ILL. Now contrast that with another church that started with just 53 members in 1962. They met first in an Elementary School; then bought an old building & met in its basement. The Lord blessed & 5 years later they dedicated a new 550-seat Sanctuary.
With nearly 300 members now, they added an all-purpose building, & began another worship service. Then on Easter Sunday, 1976, for the very first time their attendance went over 1,000.
Soon they realized that their buildings were no longer adequate. So they bought a large tract of land 2 blocks away, & by 1987 were meeting in new buildings there. Then in 1990 their attendance went over 10,000, & they voted to relocate once again.
The church I’m describing is Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. They moved into their new location in 1998 & is now one of the 3 largest churches in the U.S.
3 years ago during a special weekend emphasizing “reaching the unreached” they welcomed 26,000 to their services, 12,000 of whom had never been to church.
In the last 5 years they have started 2 other extension churches (campuses) in the area, & the combined attendance of all 3 campuses was over 38,000 with 686 people being baptized in one weekend alone.
Time would fail me if I tried to tell you about all their involvement in missions & benevolence. Fifty members of Southeast are now serving as missionaries in 20 different countries. Hundreds more go on mission trips every year.
And thousands of their members are involved in a wide variety of benevolent services at the church & in their local area. It is truly a church that is continually witnessing for Christ Jesus!
Two different churches, & both of them are very busy. But one is dying. Why? What is the church supposed to be? And what is the church supposed to do?
PROP. To help answer those questions, we’re going to look this morning at the church in the 1st Century – its beginning, its nucleus, its mission, & its assurance.
First of all, we must realize that the Church was planned & created by God. Do you remember the question Jesus asked His disciples at Caesarea Philippi?
Matthew 16:15-18 - “‘But what about you? Who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’”
“Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven… and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Did you hear that? “My church” – The Lord’s Church! That was God’s plan from the beginning of time – through Jesus Christ to build His church as “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God…” (1 Peter 2:9)
Jesus came into our world & gave Himself upon the cross “to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14)