Word Alive! © 2023 Winter Series Living and Thriving Again! Concord Baptist Church of Boston in Milton Conley Hughes, Jr., Senior Pastor Tuesday, 31 Jan. 2023, Lesson/Chapter 1, Part 1
Thom S. Rainer, Anatomy Of A Revived Church © 2020
Quiet Time: Thom S. Rainer, Chapter 1 (pp. 15-27)
Accepting Responsibility – The first step in Christian growth, whether for the individual Christian, or the body of believers (Church) is accepting responsibility for our failures and needs. What inhibits the vitality of a Christian life is the failure to acknowledge that there are areas in need for real change. Once we feel we’ve settled in our Christian life, we may not feel the need to move beyond our basic profession of faith. In the Epistleto the Hebrews, the early Christians were told it was necessary for them to move on to the next level of faith and Christian maturity. The writer says, “Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” (See, Hebrews 6:1a, NIV; also verses 1b-3). What early Christians were encouraged to do, applies equally to us. We must accept responsibility for growing deeper in our faith, and more secure in our walk with the Lord. The Apostle Paul told the Church at Philippi that our Christian maturity is a “work” in progress. Each of us must take the initiative to experience growth and renewal in our spiritual life (Read, Philippians 2:12-13, NLT). Spiritual maturity cannot be given to us by human forces. We develop spiritually as we engage in study, prayer, being taught or mentored; and yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Paul also taught that accepting responsibility for our growth and spiritual vitality, involved periods of self-examination. One sign of how genuine our faith is, comes as a result of the effort to immerse ourselves in a life that honors God. Evidence of an examined life will be shown through a person’s Christian character (Read, 2 Corinthians 13:5, NLT). We must accept responsibility for cultivating our Christian lives each day. The Apostle Peter said taking initiative for our Christian life, will be a sign and evidence of our maturity in Christ (Read, I Peter 1:10, NLT). Giving priority to our own spiritual development is a responsibility, and not an act of selfish pride. Just as we are to consider the needs of other, Paul said, “Pay careful attention to your own work…” When we are in the place God wants us to be, each of us will be “secure” in our faith and walk with the Lord (Read, Galatians 6:4-5; 9-10, NLT). In his helpful book, Anatomy Of A Revived Church, author Thom S. Rainer, says he discovered many churches have declined and failed because they refused to examine themselves. In every instance of a failed local church, there existed the tendency to “blame” the people and forces outside of them for their problems. In our personal spiritual development, we should avoid the temptation of placing blame on others for our lack of growth; whether inside or outside of the church. We must take responsibility for change.
Accepting Responsibility, Part 2 – Dr. Rainer said he chose the term “anatomy” for his book on churches that thrive, because the term was helpful in “understanding congregational life and the life cycle of a church.” The concept of the term also helped him discern why some congregations failed. We note the Apostle Paul used the human anatomy to describe the operation of the church in the Spirit. over 2000 years ago. (See, I Corinthians 12:1-31, NLT). Paul said, “The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.” (See, I Corinthians 12:12, NLT). Dr. Rainer says churches that failed had one thing in common: a tendency to “blame” someone else for their congregation’s decline. Failure to accept responsibility for our own shortcomings will cause growth and meaningful change to become stymied; or worse, non-existent. Sometimes it is fear and anxiety about change that causes people to blame others for their lack of faith. Moses experienced this from his Israelite-congregation, when they reached the shores of the Red Sea. The people who earlier had hailed Moses for delivering them out of Egypt, blamed him severely when they heard the rumbling sound of Pharoah’s chariots (Read, Exodus 14:10-14, NLT). It was the faith and prayerful intervention of Moses that saved them! What are the rumblings outside around us, that cause us to doubt and blame others. The Apostle James warned Christians when they were being tempted to sin, not to shift blame on God. They were told to take responsibility for their desires and actions (Read, James 1:13-14, NLT). Personal responsibility will help us avoid being accusatory of others, and thinking less of them (Read, Romans 14:10-13, NLT). God is on the side of a renewed life, which strives. However, we must take the initiative to accept God’s “turn-around plan” for our lives (Read, 2 Peter 3:9, NIV). We’re encouraged to look at how the leaders and congregation of the first Christian Church, (the Jerusalem Mission) accepted responsibility for a need in their fellowship as a result of a changing demographics (See. Acts 6:1-7, NLT). What a difference this change made for growth!
________________________KEY IDEA ________________________
What We Believe!
“The church must accept responsibility for its needs and failures.”
We must move from blame to obedience in following Christ.
Obedience and responsibility bring, a healthy, vital growth.
Philippians 2:12-13, NLT
“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.”
2 Corinthians, 13:5, NLT
“Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.”
I Peter 1:10, NLT
“So brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that y0u really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things so you will never fall away.”
Galatians 6:4-5; 9-10, NLT
“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct…So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone–especially to those in the family of faith.”
Exodus 14:10-14, NLT
“As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? Didn’t we tell you this would happen While we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves in Egypt. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!” But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescues you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”
James 1:13-14, NLT
“And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires which entice us and drag us away.”
Romans 14:10-13, NLT
“So why do you condemn another believer? Why do you look down on another believer? Remember, we will all stand Before the judgment seat of God. For the Scriptures say: ‘As surely as I live,” says the Lord, every knee will bend to Me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.’ Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God.”
2 Peter 3:9, NIV
“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”