Sunday Sermon – ‘State of the Church 2012’

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It’s that time of the year again for my annual State of the Church message. For the past several years I have endeavored to deliver a message that both recaps the past and projects a vision for the future. Though we may rejoice over what has happened, we must always be pressing on for more. The apostle Paul wrote –

Philippians 3:13 … I am still not all I should be, but I am focusing all my energies on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, 14 I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us up to heaven.  NLT

Like a runner who is stretching out to cross the finish line, Paul was always striving to be more Christ-like and to accomplish God’s will for his life.

I. Statistics

Statistics do not always reveal what has happened. Statistics can’t always tell us what is going on in the lives of people. Yet statistics are important. There is a book in the Bible called Numbers and the very first command given in that book is to take a census of the nation Israel.

The book of Acts begins with a lot of numbers: 120; 3,000; 5,000; etc.

A. Membership

1. Membership

2. New Members

3. Baptisms

4. Deaths

B. Attendance

1. Sunday School

2. Worship Attendance

3. Awana

4. Teens For Christ

5. VBS

6. Wonderful Wednesdays

7. Evangelistic Events

8. Other

C. Media Ministry

1. CD Ministry

2. YouTube

3. Blog

D. Missions

1. Southern Baptist Convention Related

a. Cooperative Program

b. Lottie Moon

c. Annie Armstrong

2. Other

1. Gideons

2. Samaritan’s Purse

E. Financial

1. Current Budget

2. Offerings

3. Debt

4. Building Fund

II. Message –

In my opinion, Twin Oaks is a great church. I count it a privilege to have been the pastor of this church for the past eight years. Though we’re a long ways from being perfect, many churches would love to be where we’re at today. They would love to have the fellowship and community that we experience. They would love to have the music that we enjoy. They would love to hear solid Bible teaching in every area of their ministry. They would love to have a place where they could be built up and encouraged to worship God. They would love to be a part of such a loving and caring family.

This is an exciting time for us as believers. Yet this is also a challenging time. All around us we see a world that is falling apart. Though we are not to be ‘of’ the world, we are ‘in’ the world and therefore much of what is happening in the world affects us as well.

The Apostle Paul wrote that in the last days –  ‘perilous times shall come.’ The word ‘perilous’ means – {hard to bear, troublesome, and dangerous.} Paul wrote that outside of the church – men would become more and more selfish, proud, disobedient and rebellious. They would become ‘lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.’ As time goes on, we see America turning more and more away from God and His Word.

But all of our troubles will not be outside of the church. In the last days there will be trouble within the church as well. Paul said that men will act religious, but in reality many deny the power of God that could change their lives. Many will not endure sound teaching, which may at times involve rebuke and correction, but instead they will seek teachers who will always make them feel good about themselves. Jesus said that the love of many shall grow cold in the last days. In Revelation 3, we read of the church of Laodicea which many believe symbolizes the church of the last days. What was the distinguishing characteristic of that church? It was ‘lukewarm.’ There is an old saying that says – “Familiarity breeds contempt.” What does that mean? It means that it’s easy to take what you have for granted. It means that people who begin to become comfortable often become complacent and those who become complacent can also become critical.

Therefore, even though we have much to rejoice over, we cannot afford to allow ourselves to become content and complacent. We can never think that we have arrived. If we do, we will become like so many other churches that have drifted away from the truth and eventually died.

The text I would like us to turn to for a few moments is found in Galatians 6 –

Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

A simple enough passage of scripture, yet so very powerful.

As Bible believing people – we are swimming against the current. We are trying to counter a culture that is increasingly becoming more and more godless. It will not become easier for a church like Twin Oaks as time goes on; it will become more and more difficult.  Therefore it will require a greater effort and determination on our part to stay on track. To be honest, I am not as much concerned about the adults here today as I am the children. The questions we all need to be asking ourselves are – ‘What kind of example am I setting before my children and grandchildren? What am I teaching them about the Christian life? What kind of church will I be handing down to them?’

Paul exhorts us – “Do not become tired of doing what is right. Do not become discouraged and give up. Do not lose your focus and fade away. We will reap a harvest of blessing – if we remain faithful to the end.” Or, to put it in other terms – FINISH WELL!

A.    Let Us Not Become Weary in Seeking to Reach the Lost

For the most part, the church has become weary of seeking to reach the lost. Most Christians have given up on the world and they’re just biding their time until Jesus comes. Yet we must never lose sight of the fact that the primary duty of the church is to seek to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Lord said –

Mark 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.   

This is often called – THE GREAT COMMISSION. It is the mission statement of the church. It is our marching orders given to us by the Lord and to be faithfully followed until He returns.

During the year of 2011, there were many who were saved, baptized and who became a part of Twin Oaks. Aren’t you glad that Jesus didn’t return in 2010 and you left behind? Many more can be saved in 2012, if we do not become weary in well-doing.  In just a few weeks we will have another Sportsmen’s Banquet. This year we have a special speaker coming who is an evangelist and who is involved numerous Sportsmen’s Banquets each year. He will speak on Saturday night and during both services on Sunday morning. Jesus said – ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in.’ (Lk 14:23) The greatest evangelistic message in the world will do no good if it’s only be preached to those who are already saved.

Many were saved in 2011, but the question we must ask is – ‘How many more could have been saved if only we had sought to reach them?’ During 2012, we must not become weary in seeking to reach those who don’t know Christ. We must keep pressing forward until our Lord comes.

B.  Let Us Not Become Weary in Restoring Brethren Who Have Fallen Away  

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

As believers we have a great enemy who is constantly doing all he can to destroy us. His name is the Devil and scripture describes him as a ‘roaring lion who is roaming about, seeking whom he may devour.’ (1 Peter 5:8) He is constantly plotting and scheming and doing all he can to draw us away from God. It is his New Year’s Resolution to cause you to fall in 2012. Will he succeed?

As fellow believers, we must do all we can to help protect and encourage each other. God does not want our Christian life to be a solo act. His plan involves every believer being an active member of a local church. Thus we read from God’s Word:

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 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 3:12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. 13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

In addition to the Devil, we have our own flesh to deal with. Our fallen nature has an appetite for sin and it is always looking for its next meal. We see from this passage that sin is deceitful and that it has the power to deaden our spiritual senses and to cause us to become hardened and calloused towards the things of God.

Therefore we must be watching over each other ‘daily.’ When we see a brother or sister drifting away or slipping into sin, we must endeavor to restore them as quickly as possible. Paul tells us to do so in the spirit of meekness; taking into consideration our own weaknesses and the fact that we also can be tempted. None of us are immune or invincible. Not even our strongest Christians.

Numerical growth in recent years has forced us to go to two services. That’s both good and bad. It’s good that we’re growing and that two services provide space and opportunity for people to attend. Yet it’s bad in the fact that it can cause us to become fragmented from each other. We lose track of each other and before we know it, someone has fallen away. Therefore I am challenging every member of Twin Oaks, including the pastors, the deacons, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders, ushers, choir members, Awana workers – whoever you are or wherever you serve and are involved – to have your antennas up and to be sensitive to the spiritual needs of others. Don’t just sit back and criticize what is not being done. Don’t wait for someone else to care for others. If the Spirit puts someone on your heart – reach out to them. We’re a body and we need each other. I need you and you need me. That’s God’s plan for our lives.

C.  Let Us Not Become Weary in Caring For Those Who Are Hurting

Life is hard; especially during these days. People are hurting. Therefore Paul writes-

Galatians 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

What is the Law of Christ? Jesus said –

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

The Law of Christ is to love others the way Christ has loved us. Part of that loving is bearing one another’s burdens. It’s helping those who are trodden down.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

We are stewards of the grace of God. As we receive God’s grace – so are we to minister with such grace to others.

D. Let Us Not Become Weary in Encouraging the Faithful  

There are many within the church that needs our care and support, but probably the ones we most often overlook are the faithful. It’s easy to take the faithful for granted and to assume that they will always be here. Forgive me brethren if I have done that. So many of you are so faithful and I appreciate you. Paul tells us to not become weary in encouraging the faithful.

Galatians 6:10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

One of the best ways to understand what it means to be a Christian and a part of the body of Christ, is to study the “One Another’s” found in the New Testament. Friday I had a conversation with a fellow believer who is a part of another strong church. During our conversation I had to smile as I heard them make several references to the “One Another’s” of scripture. I knew that I already had this as a part of my message and therefore I thought to myself – “This has to be of the Holy Spirit.”

What are the “One Another’s” of scripture? Here’s a great example –

John 13:34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

What are some of the other “One Another’s” ? I was both amazed and blessed this week as I began searching for them in scripture.

  • Love one another  Jn 13:34
  • Wash one another’s feet  Jn 13:14
  • Cherish one another  Rm 12:10
  • Honor one another  Rm 12:10
  • Do not judge one another  Rm 14:13
  • Accept one another  Rm 15:17
  • Care for one another  1 Cor 12:25
  • Affectionately greet one another  1 Cor 16:20
  • By love, serve one another  Gal 5:13
  • Do not compete with one another  Gal 5:26
  • Bear one another’s burdens  Gal 6:2
  • Be patient with one another  Eph 4:2
  • Be kind to one another  Eph 4:32
  • Be tenderhearted with one another  Eph 4:32
  • Forgive one another  Eph 4:32
  • Submit yourselves to one another  Eph 5:21
  • Put one another before self  Php 2:3
  • Teach and build up one another  Col 3:16
  • Comfort one another  1 Ths 4:18
  • Live in peace with one another 1 Ths 5:13
  • Warn one another  Heb 3:13
  • Be mindful of one another Heb 10:24
  • Cheer on one another  Heb 10:24
  • Meet regularly with one another Heb 10:25
  • Do not speak against one another  Js 4:11
  • Do not complain against one another  Js 5:9
  • Confess your faults to one another  Js 5:16
  • Pray for one another  Js 5:16
  • Fervently love one another  1 Pet 1:22
  • Be hospitable with one another  1 Pet 5:5

That’s not rocket science. That’s Christianity 101 and we must forget them at Twin Oaks. As we seek to reach the lost with the gospel, we must support one another all along the way.

Conclusion:

Brethren, it’s not about buildings, budgets or bank accounts. It’s not about programs, popularity or power. It’s not about numbers of making a name for yourself. It’s not about rules or regulations.

It’s about relationships. It’s about loving God with all of your heart, soul and strength, and loving one another as we love ourselves. It’s about sharing the gospel with those who don’t know Christ and then teaching them how to live the Christian life. It’s about caring for those in need and cheering each other on for the cause of Christ.

Today is the first day of a brand new year. Many years ago someone wrote – ‘Today is the first day of the rest of your life.’ Today is a day when you can start on a brand new course.

  • Today is the day of salvation.
  • Today is the day of surrender.
  • Today is the day of service.

One of my favorite quotes involves the life of one of my favorite Christians – Dwight L. Moody. It is reported that one day a friend said to Moody – “The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully conse­crated to Him.” As Moody thought over that statement, he concluded – “By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the church that is fully consecrated to Him. I pray that beginning in 2012 and continuing on for the next 20 years, we will strive to be that kind of Christian and that kind of church.

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