Word Alive! © 2023
Winter Series Living and Thriving Again! Concord Baptist Church of Boston in Milton Conley Hughes, Jr., Senior Pastor
Tuesday, 17 Jan. 2023, Introduction, Part 1
Thom S. Rainer, Anatomy Of A Revived Church (Introduction)
Quiet Time: Thom S. Rainer, Introduction (pp. 1-13)
Choosing To Live – God’s promise of new life and new vitality, always involve some change. The eternal life Nicodemus yearned for from Jesus involved a spiritual birth, which was radically different from a physical birth. Jesus told Nicodemus that in order for him to obtain what he desired; his new birth had to come literally “from above.” (See, John 3:3-9, NIV). Jesus meant by this, that our spiritual birth is the result of the Holy Spirit birthing us into the family of God through our faith in Him as Lord and Savior. Not only is our “new birth” spiritual; but every aspect of living and thriving as individual believers, and as members of the Body of Christ. Churches often fail to grow and thrive, which results in a congregation that wanes in its witness and effectiveness in discipling and fulfilling the Commission of Christ (See, Mathew 28:16-20, NIV). Sadly, some of these local congregations, as Thom S. Rainer observes, are among some “20 churches that close their doors each day in the United States.” Some Christian fellowships, through mostly apathy and resistance to change, are unwittingly choosing death over life, vitality, and revival. The Scripture teaches us that even in the face of dire circumstances, we should have faith to choose life over death. Such an affirmative choice, gives us a powerful public witness (cf. Psalm 118:16-19, NLT). We should never allow our circumstances to imprison us. We can choose to take another course that promises new health and revival (cf. 2 Kings 7:3-4(a) (b), NIV). In the study guide for this series, Anatomyof A Revived Church, pastor and author Thom Rainer, seeks to help Christians so they “may be willing to put aside personal preferences and desires so that your church may not just survive but thrive.” Many of the failing churches, and Christians, simply need to choose to serve the living God, and put away the idols of self-interest and traditions that no longer edify the Church (cf. Joshua 24: 15; 21-22, NIV). Pastor Rainer stresses the point that we never abandon Biblical principles; but we can change methods and procedures, that have served their usefulness. This series, Living and Thriving Again, will help us focus on “why” people often choose to remain where they are, rather than change. Also, we will look at churches and Christians who chose to turn things around, and what they did to make that happen. Here are some things to ponder at the outset of this series:
a. How can the Word help us move beyond levels of comfort?
b. What can we learn from the failures that cancelled change?
c. What can we learn from change that brought true revival?
Choosing to Live, Part 2 – In his very incisive study book, Anatomy of a Revived Church, author Thom Rainer recalls a conversation he had with a man he called Robert. The man saw Rainer as he was entering a room to conduct a seminar on the life of the church. The man simply said to him, “You’re too late.” Rainer learned that the church the man and is family had been an active part of for over 30 years had shut-down. As Rainer queried the man as to how this happened, The gentleman mentioned many things; such as a changing neighborhood; most of the members had moved out of the neighborhood where the church was located; the congregation’s insistence that they had no interest in changing the way things were being done, etc. Rainer, who had long covered the post-mortem and anatomy of failing churches, knew Robert’ church was part of some 19% of churches in America that are near-death. The fact that Robert and his fellow members didn’t take any initiative to prevent their decline, is what the Scripture addresses. Paul observed the weak areas within the Church at Corinth, so he prescribed a systematic time of self-examination, which would cause each Christian to address their failures, which could impede the life and vitality of the church (Read, I Corinthians 11:28-32, NIV). The self-examination Paul instructed, was a form of personal confession, which could lead to changed behavior. The ending of Psalm 139, is David’s great prayer, where he petitions God to search and remove any aspect of behavior or thinking that hindered his relationship with the Lord (Read, Psalm 139:23-24, NIV). Rather than rolling in self-pity, resistance, or denial, we should ask God to identify those areas in our lives, whether personally or collectively, that hinder life, vitality, and true revival! While it is true some people fear change; the alternative to not embracing change, is much worse! The writer of Hebrews, warns the first-century Christians to “throw off” everything that restricts their ability to effectively complete their faith journey. The writer says what we are asked to do in this life as Christians, is pale in comparison to what Jesus endured for our sakes (Read, Hebrews 12:1b-3, NIV). Life and vitality begins anew within the Church, when we discard many of our rituals and comfort idols!
What We Believe!
“The Church must become healthy to experience change.”
Self-examination and repentance bring revival.
Biblical principles remain, methods can change.
Psalm 118:16-19, NLT
“The strong right arm of the Lord is raised in triumph. The strong right arm of the Lord has done glorious things! I will not die, instead, I will live to tell what the Lord has done. The Lord has punished me severely, but He did not let me die. Open for me the gates where the righteous enter, and I will go in and give thanks to the Lord.”
2 Kings 7:3-4(a) (b), NIV
“Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die?” We’ll go into the city – the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So, let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans…”
Joshua 24:15;21-22 NIV
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then chose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord…” But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.”
I Cor. 11:28-32, NIV
“Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we are more discerning with regards to ourselves, we would not come under judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are bring disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.”
Psalm 139:23-24, NIV
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Hebrews 12:1b-3, NIV
“…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will never grow weary and lose heart.”
I Samuel 7:2b-4, NIV
“Then all the people of Israel turned back to the Lord. So Samuel said to all the Israelites, “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and Ashtoreth’s and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their [gods],and served the Lord only.”