For A Congregation In Times Of Uncertainty

Note: This is a message I delivered today to a congregation that is struggling. I pray it will be of encouragement to some who may read it.

This time is the highest of honors! There is NOTHING more important, significant, or eternal on this earth than our time together right now. I’ve been asking God to lead, direct, guide, and give me what He wants you to hear today. Here’s why…

Jesus is here (Mt 18:20). I answer to Him for what I say (Heb 13:17). Msg v sermon (Ac 20:17; Ro 1:16). I thank Mr. Adams for asking me to come as I count it an honor. ((T’sition))

Recently I went to a mechanic for a rumble on the front right of my car. My research revealed it was a wheel bearing. He determined it was the transmission OR electrical issue. He replaced the battery, cleared the codes in the car’s computer… & it’s doing fine! Now…

What if when he called me w/ his evaluation I said, “No. That is NOT the problem! It is the right front wheel bearing & THAT is what I want you to fix!” Would I be smart or a fool? Why? He’s the expert… he had the diagnostic tools, I didn’t. Would rejecting his analysis been smart or foolish?

There are “Congregation Mechanics.” People whose life has been congregational dynamics. They have great wisdom because of their training, love for Jesus & YOU, His bride. Listen to them…

(T’sition) I’ve observed the religious climate for 10 yrs. People know what happens here, & they talk! Did you know I grew up for a while with one of your ministers!! (Pause) I’ve observed & heard a lot about many congregations in this area… including you (I don’t believe everything).

This is a message I didn’t deliver where I should have (A church I served previously). I don’t know if what I will say applies to you, but I’m guessing it will. So, Do I know anything about you? Yes. How???

I pastored a similar congregation (REPEAT!). It once was a vibrant fellowship wth wonderful facilities (1,200 attended). Then the community changed. Times changed. Children grew up… went to college… got married & moved away. The congregation aged (Avg 72 yrs. Avg attendance +/- 200). Then members began going home to Jesus. *** Would the result be predictable? Here’s what happened…

Membership dropped monthly. Giving dropped as Saints left for heaven. Then the budget was cut every year. Staff left, had hours reduced, or let go. It became difficult to get or keep staff. SS rooms were closed off for lack of use. Then it got worse. How??

The fellowship began breaking down. People blamed others for their situation. They fought & argued over trivial matters. Meetings were stressful. Some who remained did things their way & any who thought different was silenced. They described themselves as loving, but those who visited sensed a much different climate. Visitors became rare.

They have moved from being sick, to the ER & now the ICU as they continue to decline. They won’t listen to “Congregation Mechanics” or do what it will take to be effective for God in the future…

If they don’t change, they will close. Just like where my wife & I got married, West End Baptist Church. Another is Ruhama Baptist (both in B’ham). Now some thoughts:

** This is GOD’S congregation, NOT YOURS! If HE wants to infuse life here, He can & will! But it MUST be done HIS way. Any other way WILL fail.

** Congregations, like people, have lives. No person lives in this body forever. We all die. No congregation exists indefinitely (175 yrs, FBCO), The demographics of a community effect the life cycle of congregations. It did the church I served & it has affected you. That is reality, but can change!

So given your situation, what now? A few suggestions…

First: Grow as people who pray! You MUST discern GOD’S will. Don’t come up w/ a plan then ask God to bless it. Don’t fear being bold, whatever direction God leads, it WILL require faith. “W/out faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please God” (Heb 11:6).

Second: Work on interpersonal relationships. People matter! Find out what BIBLICAL love is (1 Cor 13:1-8a)! Make The Golden Rule huge here (Mt 7:12). Ask God to grow love in you & others. Then embrace Phil 1:27, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (NIV).

Third: Seek reconciliation w/ all who’ve been offended. This is needed in every congregation. Forgive & ask for forgiveness. Ask God to reveal w/ whom you need to be reconciled. Make Biblical reconciliation regular in your life (2 Cor 7:8-11; Gal 6:1-3).

Fourth: Determine to serve others. Determine to put others before yourself. Determine to look out for others well-being, not just your own. As it is written in Phil 2:1-5

If there is any encouragement in Christ… comfort from love… participation in the Spirit… affection & sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind… the same love, being in full accord & of one mind. 3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ…

Last: Repent. This was JTB’s message (Mt 3:1-2); Jesus’ message (Mk 1:15); Peter’s msg (Ac 2:38) and God’s command (Ac 17:30)! Repentance should be high on our list. Repent of what? Ask God or someone, more wise & godly than you, who’ll tell you the truth. Then repent (2 Cor 7:8-11)!

If ALL congregations did these… not just here… there’d be healing. Renewal. Revival. Reconciliation. Awakening. And God glorified!

I am praying with & for you. You have big decisions ahead. The answers won’t be known quickly… but over weeks and months (God willing). You MUST discern GOD’S direction. HIS will & guidance IS your hope & joy!

Now words of HOPE, beginning with Mt 16:15-19

“Who do you say that I am?” 16 Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh & blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, & on this rock I WILL build My church, & the gates of hell shall NOT prevail against it.

Q: How Big Is Your God? (What can God do?) Eph 3:20

(RE) Now to him who is able to do exceeding & abundantly above all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work in us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church & in Christ throughout all generations, forever & ever! AMEN! (NIV, ESV, KJV)


Listen! God’s resurrection power is HERE! In THIS congregation! IN YOU! Eph 1:19-23

And what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might 20 that He worked in Christ when He raised him from the dead & seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places…

The power of God… that raised Jesus from the dead & defeated Satan IS IN YOU! All congregations (YOU?!) that follow Christ and God’s command in faith will see Him do great things! Do you believe?

So who is willing to follow God… His call… in faith & obedience?

Who is willing to repent?

Who is willing to work toward reconciliation?

Who is willing to become a servant… to forgive… to love… to seek God’s face through prayer??

Who is willing to be the first to say to God, “Here I am, send me!”?

(Picture Credit)