Either/or; no middle ground

There is an either/or proposition regarding a church.  It cannot be both and there is no middle ground because the middle ground is actually the first step for “or” option.

Here it is: a church is either growing or it’s dying.

If a church isn’t intentionally seeking to grow, then it is, by default, choosing to die.  Trying to maintain a status quo is actually the first step on the trail that leads to death of the church because it demonstrates the attitude that growth is unnecessary.

It’s like trying to roll a boulder up hill.  As long as the boulder continues to move up, even in small ways, it doesn’t take as much energy to keep it moving.  Once the forward motion stops, it takes much more energy to getting the boulder moving forward again.  What is very easy and the very common occurrence, though, is for the boulder to begin to roll back down the hill.

It’s the same for a church.  Once forward progress, even small movements, ceases, trying to maintain the status quo most commonly ends up in decline of the church, a path that ultimately leads to the death of the church.

The next step on that trail to death is an attitude of protection.  This is the attitude that the church must protect what it possesses from those who might damage or take away from what it has.  Outreach is eliminated because something might be damaged or even stolen.  Outreach is eliminated because the church has its own way of doing things and anyone coming in must conform to those ways of doing things.  New ideas, ideas that do not conform, are not welcome.

And the trail becomes a death spiral, some faster, some slower, but all ending at the same place – the church ceasing to exist, which is death.

There are many churches each year which end up at the final destination of that trail, but the starting point was often the choice, whether intentional or by being unintentional about growth, to maintain the status quo.

The difficulty that I know some in churches have is that ministry, mission, and outreach are nice and neat, at least until people are added!  Obviously, then, ministry, mission, and outreach are messy by definition and character.  And if a church isn’t willing to intentionally choose to walk in the “messiness” and the “muck,” then that is a choice to take the first step on the trail that ends in death.

If a church doesn’t intentionally choose to grow through reaching out, then that is a choice to die.  Some may not like it, but it is reality and the truth.

Either or, it’s a church’s only two options; no middle ground.

Remembering the prophetic word spoken over me

I was reminded of something this morning by the Holy Spirit through something posted on Facebook, in which I was tagged.  My favorite song by Steve Camp, “Run to the Battle,” was posted.  In the beginning of that song is my favorite line which is based on a quote from C.T. Studd: “Some people want to live within the sound of chapel bells, but I want to run a mission a yard from the gates of hell.”

What the Spirit reminded me of was a prophetic word that was spoken over me as a teenager.  It can be far too easy to forget or not actively shape one’s life around a prophetic word from God when that’s exactly what God wants to do.  The Spirit, through this post, is calling me back to that prophetic word.

I received my call from God into ministry in February 1985.  I won’t go into the details, but this calling was immediately confirmed in a very unexpected way.  Sometime after that, before I headed off to college, in a youth group meeting, my youth pastor was teaching us about meaning and importance of a person’s names.  He then went around to each one present, gave to us the meaning of our names, and the put them together in a deeper way.  Here’s what he spoke over me from the meanings of my names, James Herbert: “Jim, you will be a warrior for God who steals souls from the very grasp of Satan.”  I was floored and excited all at the same time!  To have this word spoken over me on top of my call from God was incredible.

And this is why this line from this song has always resonated with me.  A warrior runs into the battle, not away from it.  A warrior is primarily concerned with carrying out the mission given.  I have not been running to and into the battle as much as I should be.  I have not been as actively as a warrior should seeking ways and opportunities to steal those souls from the grasp of the enemy.  Well, it might be early for this, but there is my commitment for the year 2016.  The focus will be on carrying out that prophetic word spoken over me some 30 years ago.

I’ll even be fair by giving my enemy a warning, not that it will do him any good since I serve the almighty God.  Here it is: “Satan, this warrior of God is coming.  I will be at the gates of your kingdom, running operations for my Master, the King of all.”

Let’s get it on.

A Call to Prayer

I love Fort Dodge, Iowa.  Being about as large as a community can be and still be considered a “small town” (it’s between 25,000 – 26,000 in population), it is large enough to have many and varied opportunities for things to do, yet small enough that you’re bound to run across people you know, and know you, when you are out in the community, like going grocery shopping.  Even though we’ve only been in town for six years, my kids say my wife is somehow connected to half the town and I am to the other half, because of the many and varied connections and networks each of us has.

But Fort Dodge has its share of problems and issues.  It’s not unique in that regard.  Over the past weeks, I have often thought about our community.  If God lived in physical form in the 50501 zip code, what kingdom quality would He first seek to impact?  What character issue, for any trait of our community that does not fall in line with kingdom traits is an issue, would He first seek to transform?

It is in meditation upon those two questions where direction from God through His Spirit will come for 2016.  And that’s why I will be calling the community of First Baptist of Fort Dodge to corporate prayer for the first quarter of 2016.  We need to come together as a corporate body to first seek what God’s will is for us and then begin uniformly and fervently praying that very prayer.

I will not presume what that will be nor how it looks.  I have learned that when I do that, I often miss out on what God truly wants to do.  I do not want that to happen.  So, we will listen first and then bring together what we hear from the Spirit and coalesce that into a prayer because we believe it is what God desires and wills for us to do in 2016.

And then we will pray that very prayer until God tells us to stop.  Until He does so, we will pray believing, being single-minded for, as Jesus says in Matthew 21:22, “And all that you ask in prayer believing, you will receive.”  And when we pray God’s will because He has revealed it to us by His Spirit, that’s when we truly believe what we are praying and, as 1 John 5:14-15 says, we can have confidence that He hears us (because we are praying His will) and, if we know He hears us, we also know that we will have the requests which we ask of Him.