Summary: Without a doubt this was and is the most difficult message which I have ever had to prepare and deliver. It’s speaks of change, confrontation, call, an challenge.
State of the Church 2008
Turn with me to Hebrews 12. Before we read the first two verses of Hebrews 12, we need to be reminded that Hebrews 11 gives us what has been referred to as “Faith’s Hall of Fame.” Here are some great men and women of faith listed with the 2 words “by faith” preceding their name. We read such names as Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Rahab, and Isaac. Additionally, the writer conveys that he doesn’t have time to tell us about everybody and then lists half dozen others while making reference to the “prophets” as a catch all thought.
Here is the point. We are to be a people of faith. Our faith is in Father God. Our faith in Father God causes us to believe that He loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, Jesus, and that “if” we believe in Jesus, we will have eternal life. Our faith in the Father and the Son demands that we are obedient to them in all things while here on earth.
This State of the Church message has been the most difficult message which I have prepared in many years. And there are many reasons for this. So if I stumble or seem to lose my words for a moment, just know that it is my desire to give God’s prophetic message in a manner which is honoring to His call and not so harsh that it is offensive.
For you see, mine is a unique perspective. Allow me to Illustrate; Were I to randomly choose 25 people from our congregation today and asked what they think the “State of this Church” really is, there would be a myriad of responses. These would probably range from “terrific to terrible.” Some are asking, “Terrible? Who would think this church is terrible?” How about the long time member who was wounded in their spirit last week by unkind and demeaning words of another long time member? How about the long time member who in 2007 experience difficulty settling into a new Sunday school class? How about a new member who cannot break through the barrier of simply, being new? How about a person serving being criticized?
That is enough about the “terrible”, how about the “great?” You know the old song, “I sure could use a little good news today.” Admittedly, we are above average on many things, my desire is to raise the bar this morning. Begin above average is not enough; our desire must be to “be all God wants us to be.” How does this happen? Let’s Read our Scripture. (Read text)
Overwhelmed does not do justice to Deb and my feelings on that November night in 2005 when, after voting to call us as your new Pastor and wife, you gave a standing ovation as we entered the room to accept this call and responsibility. I can not even tell you the myriad of things which were going through our hearts and minds as we journeyed back to Mississippi to make our preparations to move to Hueytown with the prospect of God’s powerful hand on us. As we prayed and looked forward to our days of ministry together, God birthed in me a dream for this congregation. During this past two years, I have done my best to convey to you my vision or dream for this congregation. For us, there were many unanswered questions, some of which still linger today. Yet, it always serves us well to revisit, evaluate, and even revise a vision as time goes by.
I have a dream for HBC. Without reservation or hesitation, I believe it is a God given dream. And it is so much more than what we are doing or even have ever done. What ‘is now’ evident to me, as your leader, is that while we have made some progress to becoming the church God wants us to be, there remains much to be done & which simply must be changed if we are to fulfill God’s purpose for us in this place. Isaiah begins his prophecy with this call, “Come, let’s discuss this” or as the KJV says, ‘let’s reason together’.
The concept of change, while un-nerving to many of us, is an ongoing theme in life as well as in the Bible. The lives of those normal men whom Jesus called as disciples never stopped changing from the day they were called until the day they died. For Saul of Tarsus, life would never be the same after His Damascus road experience. After Pentecost, the church had Jerusalem and all the believers continued to go through change after change to make sure there ministry and mission stayed on point.
Never forget this; that our divine task is to make disciples of all people, you know, the “changing lives for time and eternity” purpose statement of this body. A form of the word “change” even appears in our statement. Keeping the principle of making disciples in front of us and then making every philosophy susceptible to accomplishing that purpose will do much to bring us into line with God’s will.