As I studied today, I ran across some startling statics regarding the decline of the church
in our nation. The numbers are startling, and they are heartbreaking. We should pray daily
for the hearts of American churches, for God to give them a passion to let go tradition,
agenda, and the pursuit of comfort and seek simply to follow God's path
into ministry that leaves a mark on the world.
I won't share my discoveries today. Instead, I thought I would share some truths
from Thom Rainer, truths that he shared in a blog post from March 17, 2017.
His blog post is below...
NINE CHANGES WE MUST MAKE OR DIE
It broke my heart…
Another church closed. This church had unbelievable potential. Indeed, it had its own
“glory days,” but only for a season. But, 10 years ago, few would have predicted this church’s closure. Today, it is but another statistic in the ecclesiastical graveyard.
I know. We don’t compromise doctrine. I know. We must never say we will change God’s Word.
But many of our congregations must change. They must change or they will die.
I call these churches “the urgent church.” Time is of the essence. If changes do not happen soon, very soon, these churches will die. The pace of congregational death is accelerating.
What, then, are some of the key changes churches must make? Allow me to give you a fair warning. None of them are easy. Indeed, they are only possible in God’s power. Here are nine of them:
1. We must stop bemoaning the death of cultural Christianity.
Such whining does us no good. Easy growth is simply not a reality for many churches. People no longer come to a church because they believe they must do so to be culturally accepted. The next time a church member says, “They know where we are; they can come here if they want to,” rebuke him. Great Commission Christianity is about going; it’s not “y’all come.”
2. We must cease seeing the church as a place of comfort and stability in the midst of rapid change.
Certainly, God’s truth is unchanging. So we do find comfort and stability in that reality. But don’t look to your church not to change methods, approaches, and human-made traditions. Indeed, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the world if we are to make a difference. “We’ve never done it that way before,” is a death declaration.
3. We must abandon the entitlement mentality.
Your church is not a country club where you pay dues to get your perks and privileges. It is a gospel outpost where you are to put yourself last. Don’t seek to get your way with the music, temperature, and length of sermons. Here is a simple guideline: Be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. That’s the opposite of the entitlement mentality.
4. We must start doing.
Most of us like the idea of evangelism more than we like doing evangelism. Try a simple prayer and ask God to give you gospel opportunities. You may be surprised how He will use you.
5. We must stop using biblical words in unbiblical ways.
“Discipleship” does not mean caretaking. “Fellowship” does not mean entertainment.
6. We must stop focusing on minors.
Satan must delight when a church spends six months wrangling over a bylaw change. That’s six months of gospel negligence.
7. We must stop shooting our own.
This tragedy is related to the entitlement mentality. If we don’t get our way, we will go after the pastor, the staff member, or the church member who has a different perspective than our own. We will even go after their families. Don’t let bullies and perpetual critics control the church. Don’t shoot our own. It’s not friendly fire.
8. We must stop wasting time in unproductive meetings, committees, and business sessions.
Wouldn’t it be nice if every church member could only ask one question or make one comment in a meeting for every time he or she has shared his or her faith the past week?
9. We must become houses of prayer.
Stated simply, we are doing too much in our own power. We are really busy, but we are not doing the business of God.
Around 200 churches will close this week, maybe more. The pace will accelerate unless our congregations make some dramatic changes. The need is urgent.
Hear me well, church leaders and church members. For many of your churches the choice is simple: change or die.
Time is running out. Please, for the sake of the gospel, forsake yourself and make the changes in God’s power.
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period.
Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively. The Rainers have ten grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, Bren, Joshua, Collins, Joel, and James.
He is the author of more than two dozen books, including I Am a Church Member, Breakout Churches, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, Essential Church, and Who Moved My Pulpit?
It's been a while since I've posted anything here, and I appreciate the gentle reminders
from many of you who continue to follow the sporadic posts
of a very busy and often distracted mind. I have determined, at least for
the moment, that 2019 will hold more posts...we'll see!
I hope that each of you had a wonderful Christmas, and I also hope that the entrance
of 2019 into our life brings with it great hope and excitement!
Let me thank you guys for continuing to ask about my father,
his health, and his continued recovery. I promise to update you very soon
on my dad...just know that he's doing great!
Below, I've posted a blog from Meg Bucher. The topic is on Scripture memorization.
Let me encourage you (and myself) to start 2019 off with a mind determined
to "hide God's Word in our heart." There's nothing more important!
7 Effective Ways to Memorize Scripture
Memorizing Scripture alludes a lot of us. Why would the Devil want to make it easy for us to carry around the Living Word of God on the tips of our tongues and the top of our minds? Because it’s powerful!
“I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." – Psalm 119:11
The Hebrew word for “word” in this verse is “promise.” David wanted to hold onto God’s promise, knowing that was the only way he stood a chance of resisting sin. This side of the Gospel, we cling to the promise of Jesus. We no longer have to worry about the impossibility of avoiding the fall into sin; rather, we hold onto the grace of forgiveness that allows us to repent and keep moving towards holiness … and a heart like His. Jesus is the Word.
“In the beginning, the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” – John 1:1-6
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
– Joshua 1:8
Study. The very word requires effort and exudes the dread of the impending work required; however, studying the Word every day is the only way we will be able to benefit from God’s instruction.
I once heard a pastor speak on being obsessed with God’s Word over obsession with self that is pride. How often do we look to ourselves for solutions to our problems? How often are our problems a result of our pride? We can self-create a world full of doubt inside of our minds that plays right into the Devil’s lies and schemes to derail our effectiveness as Christians.
“Keep their words always in your heart. Tie them around your neck. When you walk, their counsel will lead you. When you sleep, they will protect you. When you wake up, they will advise you.”
– Proverbs 6:21-22
Reading God’s Word daily will help us to recall and remember the pieces of wisdom He knows our hearts need to hear the most. Early morning discoveries can make our hearts stop. Jot them down on a sticky note, and remember.
God’s Word has the power to look beyond our circumstances and reach into another life with encouragement. Daily time in the Word will move us to recall a verse when bringing cheer to a friend through a note or a text. There are hearts in need all over this world, and when we are moved by something we read in God’s Word, it’s for a reason.
“So encourage each other with these words.” – I Thessalonians 4:18
A Bible that is highlighted and page-marked with sticky notes can be a road map to encouragement. Christian-authored books consumed with highlights and notes beg to be quoted. Journals kept in an effort to maintain focus may meet everyday needs of reference. God will use a piece of Scripture buried in that Bible to enlighten someone with the hope that it holds.
Sometimes, memorization occurs naturally as we encourage others with the knowledge that God reveals. An earmarked moment helps us to remember.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” – Romans 12:2
Memorization requires repetition. When we start slowly, with one verse at a time, God begins a change in our hearts. Patience and persistence in our quest to internalize His Word allows our Father to speak to us through it.
Recollection of Scripture will transform us, as the verse above promises. The choice to focus on God’s Word reveals His character. Our Father will provide us with insight into our dilemmas, and advice for enduring suffering. God’s Word has the power to put everything into heavenly perspective.
Whether it’s repeating Scripture in the elementary car pick-up line, on our morning walk or jog, instead of playing Candy Crush during our work break, or while we cook dinner—just keep repeating.
It’s important to tune our hearts to God’s song. Although our lives are full of craziness, if we don’t re-route them, they will throw our efforts to retain Scripture at the front of our minds overboard.
“Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.”
– Colossians 3:16
When we find our minds drifting into the abyss, we can tune our earbuds or our satellite radios to Christian music, say a prayer of thanks for God stirring our hearts to spend time with Him, and remember our goal to memorize. If there is a song with remnants or whole versions of the verse we are trying to memorize in the lyrics, that’s even better. After all, we’ve been taught to remember things by song our entire lives, starting with the ABC’s!
Why do our brains sometimes choose to remember exactly what the piece of paper our memory verse is written on looks like, but refuse to connect the visual to audibly spoken words?
“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” – II Timothy 3:16-17
Scripture is most accurately remembered when directly applied. God does not randomly inspire us to memorize just any old verse. Let’s not miss the direct application to the situation God is speaking into. There’s no “coincidence” where God’s living Word is concerned. He speaks directly to our hearts.
God can take one verse and teach many lessons and different times in life. Some people claim a “life verse” because it’s become a sort of anthem to their life and reflection of their relationship with God. We are more likely to remember God’s Word when we seek to continually apply those verses to everyday life.
“But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” – John 14:26
Memorizing Scripture doesn’t have to be something we do alone. God reminds us in His promise in John 14:26 that the Holy Spirit will help us. It literally says that He will “remind” us, and the power of prayer to ask Him for help doesn’t hurt!
Here is an example of a way to prayerfully ask the Holy Spirit’s help in remembering Scripture:
Father, praise You for Your Word! It is alive and active and applicable to our everyday lives. Thank You for equipping us to serve You through it, and for encouraging and teaching us with every phrase and story. Forgive us for failing to focus on Your Word long enough to internalize it. Bless us to be able to memorize Your Word, Father. Send Your Holy Spirit, who lives in us from the moment we accept Christ as our Savior, to allow our minds to apply and recall Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Prayer is powerful! He hears every prayer. Don’t ever hesitate to ask for help from the God of miracles.
The most important purpose in memorizing Scripture is to spread the love of Jesus and to share the Gospel. A point-blank question as to why we believe can shock us. How can we explain something that has become such an automatic part of our existence? It’s our job to know.
“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” – I Peter 3:15
There are always simple truths to fall back on, that we as Christians need to have ready at the tip of our tongues. Even if we can’t quote the chapter and verse, we can repeat the truth of God’s Word just as powerfully.
It’s important to remember, and to tell, of the glory and hope of the love of our great God. The forgiveness that Jesus died to grant us. It needs to be so passionately woven into our conversation by our efforts to remember God’s Word that it practically falls our of our mouths in praise. Remember, God promises that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).
Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, http://sunnyand80.org. “Mom” is the most important calling on her life, next to encouraging others to seek Him first…authentically. A writer, dance mom, substitute teacher, youth worship leader/teacher, and Bible Study leader, she can often be found having some kind of an adventure in the small little lake town where she resides with her husband of ten years, two daughters, and their Golden-doodle.
Keith Beatty is a Worship, Missions and Media Pastor living in North Alabama. He's excited and very humbled to be a follower of Jesus Christ!