Can the ARP Church get stronger in our old age?
Hello, my name is Charles Eugster. When I turned 75 my friends began to pass away. People were getting older around me, but I was just getting ready to retire.
Then at 85 I had a crisis. I looked at myself in the mirror one day, and saw an old man. I was overweight, my posture was terrible and there was skin hanging off me where muscle used to be. I looked like a wreck. I started to consider the fact that I was probably going to die soon.
So in my late-80s I joined a bodybuilding club.
There's no research into bodybuilding for the over-80s, so it's been an experiment. With weight-lifting and protein shakes, my body began to change. It became broader, more v-shaped, and my shoulders and biceps became more defined.
I'm not chasing youthfulness. I'm chasing health. People have been brainwashed to think that after you're 65, you're finished. We're told that old age is a continuous state of decline, and that we should stop working, slow down and prepare to die. I disagree. To me, a 65-year-old is young. I turn 92 this year. It is a frightening prospect – the law of averages is against me, and, yes, one day something will happen and that will be it. But until that day comes, I'm going to carry on working on my abs. Continue reading
I wish I could tell you that most pastors are preaching the Word. I can’t—some are not. Here are five things we may choose to do instead of preach the Word.1. ENTERTAIN: “Music, drama, and video, felt needs, topics, more stories”
2. SHARE: “There are some things I just want to share with you today . . .”
3. WOO: “Careful, careful, don’t offend, always comfortable, never pressured, just a pinch of truth, when they’re ready to handle it.”
4. INTELLECTUALIZE: “I’ve been thinking and researching this in the original languages . . .”
5. ABBREVIATE: “Twenty-minute sermons” Continue reading
by Rev. Ebenezer Erskine
Preached March 15, 1715
Sermon Text: Ezekiel 37:9 Come from the four winds, O breath; and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
The Doctrine of the Sermon: That as the generality of a church and people in covenant with God, may be in a very dead and languishing condition as to their souls; so the breathings and influences of the Holy Spirit of God are absolutely necessary for their revival.
This sermon is reprinted with the hope that God would invigorate the ARP Church with a new Spirit of revival. Continue reading
Something began changing in the 1960s. Liberal churches decided that traditional notions of worship were out of date, even embarrassing. They preferred to emphasize intellect, rationality and understanding.
As the United Church found common cause with auto workers, it became widely known as the NDP at prayer. Social justice was its gospel. Spiritual fulfilment would be achieved through boycotts and recycling. Instead of Youth for Christ, it has a group called Youth for Eco-Justice.
Mardi Tindal, the current moderator, recently undertook a spiritual outreach tour across Canada to urge “the healing of soul, community and creation” by reducing our carbon footprint. Which raises the obvious question: If you really, really care about the environment, why not just join Greenpeace?
According to opinion polls, people’s overall belief in God hasn’t declined. What’s declined is people’s participation in religion. With so little spiritual nourishment to offer, it’s no wonder the liberal churches have collapsed. Continue reading
There is a difference between being famous and being significant. If Jesus was famous, it’s because he was doing something significant. The problem with many pastors is they make decisions, develop personas and define success from the lens of what will make them a celebrity/famous (even if they don’t know it or see that they are doing this). So in American church culture, it’s pretty easy to become a celebrity: Grow a HUGE church. Now all in all, it’s not terribly difficult to grow to be a giant church if you have the right tools at your disposal…but that doesn’t mean the ends justify the means of getting there.
For instance, though Jesus was a celebrity in his day, he was willing to say things that ran people off in droves. In fact, the book of Mark chronicles the way (from about the mid-point of the book on) how people left Jesus to where, at the end, virtually no one was left. No one wants to be associated with him for fear of the consequences. That’s not something you see too often in American churches.
I suspect it’s because riven deeply into the American psyche is the desire to be a celebrity. And American pastors are very susceptible to this. Many subtle things happen in people who desire to this kind of celebrity status . . . Continue reading
There are five major–and painful–confessions that I am ready to own up to: Prayerlessness, Lack of Personal Focus, Lack of Gospel Centeredness, Lack of Honest Critique, Lack of Partnership.
Looking back, any one of these errors was enough to sink the ship. There are dozens of other failures that I could note. These seem to be the most egregious; the ones that had they been dealt with at the time would likely have made the difference between failure and viability.
It’s my hope and prayer that these confessions will help those who are in the throes of leading a plant or those who will lead a plant in the future, not to make the same mistakes I made along the way. It is also my hope that the Lord will continue to raise up an army of men who will, in spite of the odds, take up the banner of church planting for the glory of God! Continue reading
Gospel passions build great organizations, but carelessness let’s them slide into Christian obscurity and Kingdom irrelevance.
Consider the Kingdom Mission of Harvard, Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale. Gospel passion made them grow, but carelessness left them useless for the Kingdom of Christ. The current fight within the ARP over Erskine is a work of sweat and prayer to keep our Denominational College and Seminary off the list of the spiritually irrelevant.
The Church at Sardis was fast becoming irrelevant to Christ’s Kingdom. Evangelistic zeal had dried up. Fervent prayer was marginalized. A commitment to discipleship was replaced with commitments to programs and fruitless busy-ness.
None of these things were concerns for the Church at Sardis. They had become content with previous spiritual victories. They made their boast in their glorious history, not the Lord, and they lost Christ’s vision for their community.
They looked alive, but Jesus said they were dead. They had a reputation for being alive, but they were spiritually dead. They were the church of the living dead. Continue reading
Any healthy church must have some level of inward focus. Those in the church should be discipled. Hurting members need genuine concern and ministry. Healthy fellowship among the members is a good sign for a congregation.
But churches can lose their outward focus and become preoccupied with the perceived needs and desires of the members. The dollars spent and the time expended can quickly become focused on the demands of those inside the congregation. When that takes place the church has become inwardly obsessed. It is no longer a Great Commission congregation.
In my research of churches and consultation with churches, I have kept a checklist of potential signs that a church might be moving toward inward obsession. No church is perfect; indeed most churches will demonstrate one or two of these signs for a season. But the real danger takes place when a church begins to manifest three or more of these warning signs for an extended period of months and even years. Continue reading
It’s sexy among young people — my generation — to talk about ditching institutional religion and starting a revolution of real Christ-followers living in real community without the confines of church.
Besides being unbiblical, such notions of churchless Christianity are unrealistic. It’s immaturity actually, like the newly engaged couple who think romance preserves the marriage, when the couple celebrating their golden anniversary know it’s the institution of marriage that preserves the romance. Without the God-given habit of corporate worship and the God-given mandate of corporate accountability, we will not prove faithful over the long haul.
Don’t give up on the church. The New Testament knows nothing of churchless Christianity. The invisible church is for invisible Christians. The visible church is for you and me. Put away the Che Guevara t-shirts, stop the revolution, and join the rest of the plodders.
Fifty years from now you’ll be glad you did. Continue reading
The PCA will probably continue to decline in the decade to come. Some of the reasons are sociological and demographic; others are theological. Some are intrinsic to our PCA identity, and cannot be changed.
Most of our PCA churches are rural and have less than 100 members. As the rural countryside declines, the rural churches will decline, too.
Ten years ago, because of congregations leaving Liberal denominations for the PCA, we foolishly boasted that the PCA was growing at a rate of five percent per year. Membership grew from 2002 to 2006 by 27,056 which is only 1.1% over four years, or .27% per year.
At our General Assembly in Orlando in June of 2009, it was reported that the PCA had experienced NEGATIVE growth (for the first time) in 2008.
Growth by receiving conservative churches came to an end when the Evangelical Presbyterian Church began, because the EPC, while conservative, also admits churches with women elders and deacons.
In the decades ahead we will probably continue our decline. Continue reading
by Cal Thomas
There have been many “gaps” in modern politics. There is the gender gap, the generation gap and now the God gap, which is the gulf between people who take God’s instructions seriously and those who don’t. Which side of the gap you’re on could influence your vote.
The God gap is growing wider.
I asked Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum about this. In a telephone interview with me, Santorum, whose rhetoric is loaded with religious and cultural language, said, “While (such language) may be upsetting to some, there’s a hunger out there for talking about what’s true.”
How, then, would he explain a recent New York Times story that reported for the first time in our history, that “more than half of births to American women under 30 occur outside marriage.” Santorum acknowledged, “I’m probably talking to Republican audiences, so it’s a little different. I’m not talking to the general audience at this point. Marriage is on the decline. The culture is changing.”
The problem for presidential candidates — and for President Obama, who occasionally appeals to Scripture to justify his policies — is that fewer people are listening to the voice of God, or to voices claiming to speak for Him. Continue reading
by Thom S. Rainer
One of the most significant trends in American churches the past 25 years has been the migration of people from smaller churches to larger churches. We will be providing more information in the future about this movement. The implications are significant and should not be ignored.
In my own denomination of some 46,000 churches and 16 million members, the concentration of people to larger churches is a clear and present reality. Look at some of these statistics that give evidence to this phenomenon.
Less than one-half of one percent of these churches report an average worship attendance of 2,000 or more, but 12.6% of the total attendance of the denomination is now concentrated in these relatively few churches.
Only 1.5% of all these churches have an attendance of 1,000 or more, but 22.2% of the total denominational attendance is in these congregations.
Only 4.4% of the churches have an attendance of 500 or more, but 35.3% of the attendance of 46,000 churches is concentrated in just those few churches.
We expect to see continued migration of people from smaller to larger churches, and that the concentration of these members in larger churches will be even more pronounced with each progressive year.
The first obvious question is "Why?" Continue reading
By Tim Reid
Banks are foreclosing on America's churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities that have defaulted on their mortgages, according to new data.
The surge in church foreclosures represents a new wave of distressed property seizures triggered by the 2008 financial crash, analysts say, with many banks no longer willing to grant struggling religious organizations forbearance.
Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group.
In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating, according to CoStar. That compares to just 24 sales in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before.
The church foreclosures have hit all denominations across America, black and white, but with small to medium size houses of worship the worst. Most of these institutions have ended up being purchased by other churches. Continue reading
“What do we do about our kids?” The group of parents sat together in my office, wiping their eyes. I’m a high school pastor, but for once, they weren’t talking about 16-year-olds drinking and partying. Each had a story to tell about a “good Christian” child, raised in their home and in our church, who had walked away from the faith during the college years. These children had come through our church’s youth program, gone on short-term mission trips, and served in several different ministries during their teenage years. Now they didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. And, somehow, these mothers’ ideas for our church to send college students “care packages” during their freshman year to help them feel connected to the church didn’t strike me as a solution with quite enough depth.
The daunting statistics about churchgoing youth keep rolling in. Panic ensues. What are we doing wrong in our churches? In our youth ministries?
It’s hard to sort through the various reports and find the real story. And there is no one easy solution for bringing all of those “lost” kids back into the church, other than continuing to pray for them and speaking the gospel into their lives. However, we can all look at the 20-somethings in our churches who are engaged and involved in ministry. What is it that sets apart the kids who stay in the church? Here are just a few observations I have made about such kids, with a few applications for those of us serving in youth ministry. Continue reading
by Richard J. Krejcir
Do not be afraid to preach biblical stewardship and how to handle money. If you do not know how, acquire resources to help you. Stewardship and generosity are sure signs of the health of your church. A stifled church, no matter how many are attending, will always have financial problems, where a small, poor church with real conviction and purpose will usually have enough! (Proverbs 3:9-10)
Do you desire to have your church grow?
We all desire to see our churches grow. If they are not, there is something wrong. Your call and profession might need a review. Growing a church is biblical, and an imperative from our Lord. However, we also need to discover what it means to “grow a church.” Most people consider numerical growth, and for good reasons. Most of the time, numbers indicate success, and the more you have, the more to whom you are ministering. Nevertheless, is that the main reason for growth? Well, see for yourself.
Carefully read Matthew 28:18-20. Diligently examine each word. What does it say? The emphasis is on spiritual growth! Discipleship! When we are reaching all we can, all over the world, we need to be teaching them, not just corralling and counting them. Continue reading