Summary: This "State of the Church" is framed in many questions...the conclusion is that the ’State of this Church" is directly related to the "State of the Member’s Hearts."
The State of the Church – 2011
(What is the State of this Church)
* This morning I begin with a true story. A man wakes up about 1am and is having difficulty breathing. He can breathe, but not take a deep breath. In fact, it almost feels Like someone is sitting on his chest. What does he do? Does He Wake up his wife & upset her? Does he turn on the lights? Does he Call 911? The questions abound, yet he chooses not to call 911 for fear of what they ’might discover.’ (After all he hasn’t taken real good care of himself in recent years.) He indulged in eating all the wrong things and now, he afraid of what might be going on in his body. Where does his mind go? Not status, not the world’s loss, not even the job which he pseudo loves, and not how much money he has….This man wonders if he will actually see another sunrise, if he doesn’t get medical help is this the end, and if he is about to face God. This is his most pressing question; ’what have I done with what God has given me?’ However, I suggest that as one’s mortality comes into close view - questions come as natural.
* Today is an interesting time in the life of the local church. Candidly, an honest read of Holy Scripture as well as much extra-biblical literature gives a picture of the average local church finding herself in the same situation as this man. While many may not like the comparison, the proof is in the facts. For years we have read & heard that between 70% & 90% of churches are plateaued or declining, but while true, this is not the complete story. Many inside the church know that some is amiss, but struggle to discover or admit the true problem. The average church can still breathe, but taking a deep breath to stretch out her spiritual wings is seemingly beyond her capabilities.
* Already some are ready to take me to task about what they presume I am about to say about “OUR CHURCH”, yet if this is “OUR CHURCH” – we have discovered the first problem. (Expound on Our, My versus His church)
* Normally on this day, I have taken the road of our governmental leaders who stand before the Legislature and Congress to ‘declare’ the state of things. Today, I am more about questions and will ask many questions.
* We’ll begin by reminding ourselves of our 5 core beliefs; 1)The Bible is our guide book, 2) God loves us & has a plan for us, 3) All people matter to God, 4) We seek to honor God in all we do, and 5) The local church is the hope of the world. Now, let’s begin the questioning. However, if the questioning is going to work, we must be painfully truthful. (Like the Court swearing in)
* With the clear understanding that Jehovah God knows my heart, I will tell the truth, the whole truth & nothing but the truth in my personal answers to the questions now placed before me, so help me God. (PRAYER)
* The way I sense God leading us to take this evaluation is by our beliefs.
1. The Bible is my guide book is a great directive for us to declare, but when the water meets the wheel, what does it mean.
a. The Proof for this can be found in numerous places in God’s word. Let’s look at just a couple. (Heb 4:12, 2 Tim 4:16-17) Many other places in God’s word expose & explain that God’s word is of such complete nature that it serves well as a guide, but today I turn this declaration around to ask, “Is the Bible REALLY my guide book?”
b. The Practical – If the Bible truly is my guide book, how or where in my life does it make a difference? (These are those painful questions to which we will be honest with God about).
* Does the Bible affect my behavior (that is, my actions & reaction?)
* Does it affect my tongue?
* Does it affect my family life?
* Does it affect my schedule?
* Does it affect my faithfulness (in attendance, giving, service)
* Does it affect my relationships?
* In all sports, they have a rule book. The rule book is a guide for playing the game. In God’s Kingdom, we have a rule book (no matter what the positive thinkers and preachers may say) and if we are in fellowship with God, it is because we meet Him on His terms, by His rules, according to His word. Does the Bible truly and honestly control you?
2. God loves us & has a plan for us – While most of us, in principle would say, “I do know that God loves me and has a plan for me”, in practice, our actions might convey a different message. In fact, in today culture, amid all the tragedies (I.E. 911, Katrina, tsunamis, etc) some people ask if a loving God even exist while others cannot imagine God loving someone with as much evil as they know they have committed. “How can God love me?” they cry. (John 3:16, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:35) Modern day people possess a deep misunderstanding about love. This is demonstrated in how we treat our children.