Summary: In looking backward and forward this message challenge the congregation to put Jesus FIRST, Others Second, and Yourself last.
STATE OF THE CHURCH
2009- “The Year of Joy”
* Welcome to 2009. As most know, today’s message will be a little unique if not unusual. Today’s message has more of a collective than personal message. However, the last part of this message will be highly personal.
* The year 2008 is now history. We cannot amend, change, rewrite, or correct any of the happenings of last year. History is written and that calendar is both filled and closed. Whether we are proud of our actions and activities or not, they are written in stone. The past cannot be changed, it can only be reviewed, remembered, and/or reflect on what we might learn “TO DO” or “NOT TO DO”.
* The year 2008 contained highs and lows, promise and pain, good and bad, as well as wonderful and difficulty. In beginning this New Year as God’s family, let begin by reflecting and reviewing some of the highs and lows of 2008—then let look ahead to the opportunities which lies before us in 2009.
* As a communicator, most of the time I would begin with the positive, good, or the plus and then share the negative or the difficulties; however, today let’s walk the stairway from the lowest to the highest and march into this year expecting God’s best.
1. Let’s consider our “VALLEYS” or “DIFFICULTIES. I begin at a very personal level. Within our congregation and extended friends, I have had more than one family express the difficulty they faced in 2008 and quite honestly, they are scratching their heads in wonder. May I pause to offer these families a word of perspective? As you will hear during the “Blessings” section of this message, I believe that during this past 12 months we have begun raising our desire to serve God to a new level and when you do this, the enemy gets after you (and you may not even realize who’s responsible). This is like a “Job” complex. Staying personal, among us are those who have suffered incredible losses during 2008. We have buried loved ones, others have buried careers, retirement funds, & the list goes on. While some might think this doesn’t affect the church family, anything which impacts any member affects every member.
a. With respect to the church, we must acknowledge that our number of baptism fell sharply as did Sunday school attendance and only a few 1st time visitors. Additionally our LEG ministry, while good in some ways, did not give the “intentional discipleship” which we had longed for. Consistent attendance at all church services are down. This seems to be the same phenomenon which existed in the first century church and was addressed by the writer of Hebrews. He wrote, “Do not forsake the assembling of yourself—as is the manner of some.” In Acts 2, Dr. Luke points out what God expects for HIS BRIDE when he said, “They were ALL TOGETHER and IN ONE ACCORD.” Lack of consistency in attendance & participation dishonors God & His plan. One of the other valleys we have experienced is not to embrace the call to prayer. Before anything of eternal conse-quence will happen in our classes or services, there must be conscious, consistent, and compassionate prayer. Every Sunday morning from 8:25am-8:55am this worship center is set aside as a place of prayer. Today, I am calling for two things. First, please honor this effort by being respectful, quiet and in an attitude of prayer during this 30 minute time slot. If you happen to ease through this room and no one happens to be praying at that time, PLEASE do not take it as a license to break the spirit of the morn-ing. In fact, the second call is for commit to praying for 5 or 10 minutes each Sunday morning. My dream is to have people slip-ping in and our every Sunday morning. Finally, the most heart-wrenching decision a church can have is to change status of a staff position. The church family chose to follow the directions of the church leadership to change status from having a music director to an association pastor & for some, a staff change was required. God has honored our courage and faithfulness. After months of purposeful, patient, and prayerful seeking, we believe God had led us to the man who will join us where we are and assist in leading us to where God wants us to be. These can be exciting days.
b. Having simply stated these valleys, may I suggest we “forget what is behind” except maybe to see how we can improve our faithfulness and commitment, and take a look at the highs.
2. Now let’s consider our “MOUNTAINTOPS” or “BLESSINGS.” This section could be a message unto itself. God has given us or “granted” us so much for which we can be thankful. I begin by reminding us of the Community Revival last February. We saw over 800 people come together every night with many life-changing commitments made. This year we are refining this meeting and are hoping for the week to be even more blessed by God. Some 18 of our men completed the 6 month training called “Men’s Fraternity” plus went as a group and heard Steve Farrar. Additionally, the Men’s ministry gave oversight to the Mississippi Mission trip. The Women’s Ministry refocused their vision and headed up both mission and ministry to people in our community. This includes close to a half-dozen families in the November-December time frame. During the summer time Tina Hamilton came on board to coordinate our Preschool/ Nursery ministry and we are being blessed by a leader such as here. In August our Children’s Team was “refit” with GREAT results. Also this fall we have begun our Junior church for grades 1-5 with great success. (two baptisms today). Also in August, we fed over 750 in our Community Meal effort. It was a great act of faith and work of God that we fed all these people. During December, people offered to our congregation and community Christmas Music which was both entertaining and inspiring. Additionally, not only have we made inroad with our young people but our SALT (Happy Trails) is truly on the rise with over 70 people in attendance at the Christmas party. While all these are great, I have saved my personal favorite for last. During this past year we seemed to have lost some in the family which we NEEDED to lose. It is the family of “THEY.” As a personal word of encouragement, I am hearing “less and less” about what “THEY” say while at the same time, I hear about people who love God standing firm but loving again the loose talk which harms the body, hinders the words, and is hated by God. It is only when God’s people make a conscious decision to become like Him those things happen which can only be explained by Him.