WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR CHURCH? PART 2 by Narita Roady

There is a story about a man that loved books and was quite knowledgeable about them.  He was visiting with a friend who told of throwing away a Bible that had been in His family for many generations.   He had found it in the attic of the old family home.  The friend explained, “I just couldn’t read it, somebody name Guten-something or another had printed it.” The lover of books gasped, “Not a Gutenberg!  Why a copy recently sold for over two million dollars!!!”

His friend just shrugged his shoulders and replied, “Nah, mine wouldn’t have sold for even a dollar.   Some guy name Martin Luther had scribbled all over it in German!”

At this point I am assuming the booklover passed out!   I do not know if this story is true but there are some similar ones from modern day that are.   In 1989, a man bought a picture frame for $4.00 at a yard sale.   Inside was a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence which he sold for over two million dollars!   In 2006, Rick Norsigian purchased two boxes of glass photograph negatives for $45.00 at a garage sale.  They were negatives of famed photographer Ansel Adams recognized as the father of modern American nature photography!  Mr. Norsigian’s checkbook will be $2,000,000 heavier!  Obviously the people that sold these items so cheaply are regretting it.   They didn’t realize their value and took them for granted!   Last month we were considering the question, “What would you do if your church closed its doors this year.”   Unconsconciouly, many take for granted their precious church homes.  Unlike these unknowing sellers, we can make sure we are not a part of our church’s demise.  Out of the  “8 major “Assasins” of the church we had looked at 3.  Here are the other 5.

4. Not supporting your pastor.   There is a very important fact many members overlook concerning their pastor and that is, “He is God’s man serving as God’s ‘under shepherd’ the office God created.”  This is not to be taken lightly.  I am not talking about a pastor that is preaching untruths or heresy. If that’s the case you need to be talking TO him, not ABOUT him.   Your pastor is a person just like you with faults and limitations, but he has been called to a huge responsibility.  98% of the time the problems someone has with their pastor has to do with personal preference rather that doctrine.  Did you know 50% of preachers starting out will quit the ministry within 5 years?  In 2011, 1,700 pastors left the ministry for good.   We should refuse to speak badly of our pastor or listen to negative gossip.  If we have a problem we need to go to him and encourage others to do the same.  Murmuring against God’s man will harm us, our family, spread discontent between others, and sow seeds of discord.  This destroys a church and certainly doesn’t entice others to come and join.

Our pastor deserves the same respect we show our doctor, lawyer or any dignitary.   In fact, a pastor’s role is more important than that of professionals because God has called him to spiritually lead and teach our families. His position carries a very heavy load of responsibility.  He will answer to God when he meets Him on how he cared for the Lord’s sheep. It isn’t about “who he is”, but “what he does.”   Remember to encourage him in word and deed.  I Thess. 5:12-13 speaks of our duty to God concerning this.  “And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.”  Your pastor is God’s man, don’t hinder his work.

5. Discord with other members.   Last year in all the churches across our country, over 3,500 people left the church DAILY.  The majority of these departures were due to misunderstandings, disagreements, and contentiousness of fellow members.  Not all the time are these folks purposely being unkind.  Quite often it is simply their immaturity as people and Christians in getting along with others. Sometimes they are unhappy with themselves and their lives so they take it out on those around them.  Whatever the cause, the bottom line is that they have not let the Lord do a work in their life, either through salvation or spiritual growth.” Proverbs 6:16-19, covers it all“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”

We must purpose to be peacemakers not troublemakers in our church family.  Pray and think before we speak or respond to something that we find offensive.  “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:”  James 1:19
If we are offended the best thing to do is go to that person in love, but even better grow up and learn to forgive and let things go by truly learning to love each other. “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.”  Proverbs 10:12   How sad it would be that a petty spirit or selfish outburst caused weaker or spiritually younger Christian to leave the church.  Many never return to any church. What about those outside the church?  People have enough fighting, arguing, and bickering in their jobs and homes.  They certainly don’t want to come to what is supposed to be a place of refuge from the world and have more. “Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgaven you.”  Ephesians 4:32  Being a part of your family is to follow Christ, don’t act like one of the Devil’s kids.

6. Not witnessing or visiting or inviting.  Did you know that half of all churches last year did not add one new member through salvation?  80 percent of those who attend church believe it is a personal responsibility to share their Christ, but 61 percent confess they have not told another person about how to become a Christian in the past six months.  We just celebrated Christmas and I can guarantee you one of the main subjects being discussed is what gifts were received.  A new car, a new job, a new house, a raise, a new pet, you name it if we think it has benefited us and we are rejoicing over it we share the news with others!   After all, it is good news to us!  That is all fine and good but what about us sharing the “Good News” of Jesus Christ?  Does this mean it isn’t something that has benefited us or we rejoice over?   Once we are saved we are COMMANDED to share the Gospel with others! “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” Matthew 28:19

We aren’t just to witness but also invite!   It isn’t just the pastor’s job!  Not proselyting, but inviting those that don’t have a church home.   A survey showed that 48 % of church members have not invited anyone to church in 6 months!  We invite people to games, dinner, parties, etc., so why don’t we invite them to church?  We live in a free country where inviting folks to church won’t cost us our life, our home, or our family, so what’s the hindrance?  Your church cannot grow without fulfilling its purpose, winning the lost and disciplining.  The only other option is for it to die.  This isn’t about increasing numbers but changing lives! Again, visiting and inviting is a command, not an option.  “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” Luke 14:23

We will be sharing the Greatest Message, to solve mankind’s Biggest Problem, so that everyone might have the opportunity to receive the Perfect Solution, so they can be a part of the Greatest Purpose that brings glory to the Greatest King.  Now isn’t that the Greatest Work ever?  To witness and visit is a command, don’t disobey it.

7. Indifference to the needs and struggles of your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Being loved and cared for by others is universal.  We live in frantically busy times where it is easy to become focused on the little pond of our life we live in.  Most of us are so overwhelmed with just the basics of life we fall into the trap of not seeing the emotional, physical, and spiritual needs of those around us.  As with marriages and parents and children, when one feels neglected, the relationship is weakened.  It becomes hard for that couple or family to grow into all they can be.  The same thing applies to the church.  For most this is not intentional, but if we loved others as we love ourselves it wouldn’t happen. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:31

We need to be sensitive to the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Pray the Lord will open your eyes to what they are facing.  He sees everything they face.   Next we must purpose to be empathetic, considerate, compassionate, supportive, and understanding.  Respond to them as we would want others to respond to us.  This requires stepping out of our comfort zone.  When you reach out God will provide you with the resources and time to make a difference.  “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2   Caring for others is vital, don’t take it lightly.

8. Not staying where God has planted you, looking for greener pastures.  I hope before each of you joined your church you prayed about where He would want you to serve.   Wherever He leads us this is where we need to stay.  Not church hopping when something doesn’t suit us; we get mad or offended; or we grow tired of being there and want a change.  Don’t go in search of “greener pastures”, and more or better programs.   Put down roots and bloom where you are planted.  Tumble weeds have no roots they just go wherever the wind blows, much like many church members.  We must reject the idea of attending church solely for what the church can do for us.  It isn’t about us, it’s about others and Christ!  The only time to leave your church home is if God leads you or they stop preaching and teaching scriptural truth.   Countless church “transfers” have less to do with God’s will and more to do with backsliding.  When one quits focusing on Christ and working for the Lord, they grow discontented and critical.  Serving where God has placed you is a calling, don’t reject it

The pathway to a new year stands before us, unknown and untraveled. I ask you again,   “What would you do if your church closed its doors this year.”   You hold the keys. What will you do?

WHAT IF IT WAS YOUR CHURCH? Part 1 by Narita Roady

The pathway to a new year stands before us, unknown and untraveled.   We will all experience adventure, joy, sadness, and loss.    Sometimes that loss will involve regrets concerning those things we have taken for granted.  Ingratitude fueled by busyness and the lack of correct priorities will allow precious things to slip away.  The saddest part is we will not realize their value nor how important they are to us until they are gone.  Then it will be too late.  Children grow up, loved ones and friends pass away.   Even sadder is in some cases, our neglect was a major part of their demise.  Disregard  for our health and use of the finances God gave us can play a major role in losing what we thought would always be there.   Along that line of thought, let me ask you, “What would you do if your church closed its doors this year.”   After all, isn’t a strong, truth preaching, loving, biblical church something most people take for granted.   Yes, your church may have been here for 20, 30, 50 years or more but if neglected by her members she cannot remain open.

Right now in America up to 7,000 churches close their doors each year.  Many of those shouldn’t have had to die.  That may not sound like a lot but what if it was YOUR church.  Some members would be sad, some wouldn’t care, some would just find a new church home,  and some would simply look at it as an inconvenience rather than a loss.  Others would just drop out of church completely.

We are undeniably in the last days, therefore God’s work is being attacked on every side.  Our religious freedoms are being challenged and attempts made to take them away.  Even our freedom to worship is gradually dwindling.   Not all these are in our control, but how grievous when Satan is enabled to destroy a church from within.  There are 8 major “ Assassins” of the church.

1. Sporadic Attendance. Being a Christian is not a hobby, it is a relationship with Christ.  Being a church member is not optional, it is a commitment to obey the Lord and also to His church that He died for “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”   Hebrews 10:25

Where do people ever get the idea that attending services is based on mood, convenience, or if there is something else they would rather do?  The church is a family and you are important and of value whether you recognize it or not.  As members of a local body of Christ (your church) scripture compares us to the physical body. So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5

Yes we might be able to function without certain body parts, but certainly not effectively.  Over a period of time this loss will cause the health and efficiency of the body to drastically decline.  This applies to churches also.  If a school is not supported by the faithful attendance of pupils, it will have to close. If a library does not have regular patrons to check books, it will have to close.  Do you get the picture?

When members decide to lay out of service I assume they are looking at themselves as only one member.  What happens when 2 or 5 or even 10 members decide to do the same?  In a large church this might not have an impact but in a medium to small church the effect can be devastating.  Churches lose an estimated 2,765,000 people each year to secularism. Members that begin skipping 1 or 2 services are in danger of eventually leaving the church and being absorbed back into the world.  The habit develops so gradually that you don’t realize how much or how long you have missed.  Church attendance dropped from 1,606,000 in 1968 to 881,000 in 2005. I am sure it is safe to say the numbers are even greater now.   If you want your church to exist,  support it by your presence to all services.  The blessing of having a church home and the freedom to attend is a gift.  Don’t take it lightly.

2. Not supporting the church financially.  Yes this is the one everyone hates, everyone shys away from, and many get angry about.  (Well at least the ones who aren’t doing it.)  Tithing.  The word “tithe” means 10 %.  Everything we have belongs to God.  Every chair, every alarm clock, every dust bunny and every penny we own belongs to God.   All of it is on loan to us. Unfortunately many Christians look at their money according  to one of the “Toddler’s Rules of  Possession”: “If it’s in my hand it’s MINE!”   All He ask for is 10% and that adds up to only 10 cents from every dollar we earn. You have to admit that is a  pretty fair trade!  You keep 90% and He gets 10% of what is all rightfully His!   No family, business or institution can remain open without financial support.  It’s just impossible. If every customer that frequents your local grocery store began only spending $5.00 to $25.00 a week or even a month, how long would the doors stay open?   How long could you provide for your family if your boss decided to pay you what he felt like each paycheck.  “Ralph, this week your paycheck will just be $20.  I know you’ll understand, me and the wife have had some unexpected expenses and Junior wants a new X-Box.”  How long could you support your family and keep a roof over their head this way?  Does your church have heat for the winter and air-conditioning for the summer?  Is there toilet paper, hand towels, soap and running water in the bathrooms?   Is lighting provided for night services?  Who then pays for all these comforts we enjoy?  This doesn’t include many other expenses, not to mention the pastor’s salary and his need to provide for his family.  Our giving is more than just putting money in the offering plate.  Giving is another way we show the Lord we love Him. It is also an act of  obedience to God.  This obedience opens the door for Him to bless us. Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”   Luke 6:38   

No I don’t mean we will turn into Donald Trump or Bill Gates, but we will ensure the opportunity for God to provide for our needs in miraculous ways.  Countless Christians have not experienced such blessings because they are afraid to step out in faith and take God up on His offer.   Non-giving members are good, loving, moral, Bible believing born again believers who would never dream of doing something unlawful, especially agianst God.  But the Bible says they are thieves. “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.Malachi 3:8   Definitely a severe accusation, but it shows us how serious God views giving Him His part.    No, the Lord didn’t instigate giving to take from us or hinder us from meeting our financial obligations.  He began it to make us an intimate part of His work here on earth.  Giving is just one of His tools to help us grow in faith and learn to trust our Heavenly Father for all our needs. The opportunity to give to God is an honor, don’t neglect it.

3. Lack of involvement.   When there is little participation in any type of group, it becomes impossible for just a few to carry the responsibilities long term.  With no help the basic needs cannot be maintained, little alone the major purposes be fulfilled.  We have all experienced this at home and in the workplace.  The co-worker that doesn’t do his job so it falls on others to do his work and theirs.  What about child that refuses to do chores around the house, leaving it all to mom and dad?  Eventually everything falls apart.   The problem arises when members come and act as “guests” to be cared for rather than doing their part as a church family member.  Being involved in your church home can be accomplished in many ways.

Of course there are the ministries of the church such as teaching and serving in church offices, but we all can’t do that.   You might consider offering to be a last minute fill-in for watching nursery or teaching a class.  Volunteer nursery workers are needed all the time.   If your church does not pay someone to clean workers are always needed to help here.

It is important to be spiritually involved too.  Studying your Bible, praying for church ministries, fellow members, prayer requests and the pastor and his family.  Simply ask God to show you where He needs you to serve. I promise He will.  The chance to be involved in your church in anyway isn’t a burden, it is privilege.  Don’t waste it.

. . . . to be continued

Published in the Oklahoma Baptist Newspaper, January 2013