Summary: This is the third sermon in a series conducted by our staff; the other sermons in the series were "Rejoice: Church, be Joyful", "Reflect: Church, be Thankful" and "Reconnect: Church, get Energized".
“Restore: Church, Get Right!”
August 19, 2001
In his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”, John Maxwell tells the story of one of the most incredible restorations in American business history. It happened at the Chrysler Corporation in the early 1980’s. Chrysler was in a mess, despite a long history of success. At one point in Chrysler’s history they had captured an incredible 25% of the entire domestic automobile market. By the time the 1970’s rolled around, the Chrysler Corporation was in a steady decline. By 1978 they only had 11% of the market. Things looked bleak. The company was headed toward bankruptcy. In November 1978, Chrysler brought a new leader to take over the company. His name was Lee Iacocca. Iacocca had just left Ford in 1978 after serving as their president. When he left Ford, the company, under his leadership, was earning record profits of 1.8 billion in each of the last two years. The task of turning around Chrysler proved to be enormous. Iacocca described the company as having been run like a small grocery store, despite its size. There were no viable financial systems or controls in place, production and supply methods were a mess, products were built poorly, and nearly all of the divisions were run by turf-minded vice presidents who refused to work as a team. Morale was very low throughout the company, customer loyalty was low, and the company continued to lose money. Iacocca did everything he knew how to turn things around. He replaced 33 of the 35 vice presidents. He brought in the best leaders he could find. He reduced as many expensed as he could. He grudgingly and humbly went before Congress for loan guarantees so that Chrysler would not go bankrupt. Finally, he reduced his own salary to $1.00 a year. Iacocca brought about a total restoration to the Chrysler Corporation. By 1983, Chrysler was able to pay back its loans. Before he retired, Chrysler had gained 16% of the market, double what it was in the first years he took over. The company has fought its way back and been restored to a growing, profitable industry.
Today, I’m the third leg in our 4 R’s sermon series, “Restore: Church, Get Right!”. This sermon has been a difficult one for me to put together. I don’t want to preach a doom and gloom sermon on the state and future of the Church. I believe very strongly in the Church. I love the Church deeply. I’ve committed my life to Christ’s Church. That being said, when I take an honest look at the Church, especially the Church in America, I’m troubled. We don’t look like, act like, or function like the Church I read about in my Bible. One of my favorite passages in Bible is in Acts 2:42-47 describing the early Church right after Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the Day of Pentecost. These verses describe the Church as being devoted to the teaching of God’s Word, to each other, and to prayer. It describes the great love that the Church had for one another and for those who weren’t Christians. It describes how they met everyday, joyfully and genuinely pouring out their hearts to God in praise and enjoying being with each other. And the Lord blessed them.
I want you to listen to the words of George Barna in his book, “The Second Coming of the Church”. Barna writes, “Despite the activity emanating from thousands of congregations, the Church in America is losing influence and adherents faster than any other major institution in the nation.” Barna continues, “At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I believe that the Church in America has no more than five years – perhaps even less- to turn itself around and begin to affect the culture, rather than be affected by it.”
Those are strong words. Those are words that we need to take seriously. If we believe what Barna has written, then it’s obvious that the Church is in need of restoring. The Church needs to get right. The Church must be restored to its original condition in order to be effective and relevant to our world today. This isn’t an impossible task. The Church can be restored. The alarm has been sounded. It’s time to get to work. We turn to the book of James to gain insight on how this Church restoration project can be accomplished. If it is true that the Church needs restoring and the Church needs to get right, then James is the perfect place for us to come to. The subtitle of James should be “Church, Get Right!” James pulls no punches here. He is very straightforward and honest. He is speaking to Christians and telling them that they need to straighten out. If you’re looking for somebody to pat you on the back and be gentle with you, don’t read James. That’s not what you’re going to get from him. We look to James today for the actions necessary to restore the Church and we come to James 4:7-10, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”