Four Essentials Necessary To Keep A Church Alive & Strong
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 3/16/03
A week from Wednesday I will be driving along the Rhine River in Germany headed to the quaint town of Bacharach. We will stay the night there in a 600-year-old hotel. Bacharach is built in the valley and surrounded by mountains. Two blocks from the hotel there is the remains of a church. Last time I was there, it was a Sunday. I climbed up the side of the mountain and took a picture of what was left of the ancient church that stood there. Once it was a beautiful church packed with people. Once the sounds of a choir echoed from the rafters. In time past the Bible was preached, but not today. On this Sunday, all I heard was the sound of the wind whistling through the trees and the ancient window frames. There were no people, no preaching, no music, just ominous silence, punctuated by the blowing of the wind.
So what happened? While I really do not know the history of the church, I do know this: the Glory of the Lord departed! God wrote Ichabod over the church!
The word Ichabod occurs in 1 Samuel 4:20. This is the name given to Phinehasís wife child. The name means no glory or departed glory. Turn to 1 Samuel 4:19-22
"And his daughter in law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered: and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father in law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her. 20 And about the time of her death the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not; for thou hast borne a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. 21 And she named the child Ichabod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father in law and her husband. 22 And she said, The glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken."
So, what is my point? Just as God withdrew his glory and blessing from Israel and the result was death, so God may withdraw his glory and blessing from a church or ministry and ultimately that work will die.
How can we insure that this ministry will not have ICHABOD written over it in the future and will remain alive and strong until our Lord returns? First, it isÖ
A living Church continues day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, decade to decade, and century to century in the Apostles doctrine (Acts 2:42). They do not add to it. They do not subtract from it, they simply abide! Jude, our Lordís brother, adamantly urged the believers of his day to keep the faith given to the apostolic church without change (Jude 1:3). Why? Because, "the foundation of God standeth sureÖ" (2 Timothy 2:19).
Many churches end up with ICHABOD written across them because they have been deceived and carried away from the truth by the different winds of doctrine. Turn to Ephesians 4:14 "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"
A church that will stay alive will be nourished up in good, sound doctrine. Note Paulís words to Timothy, "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." 1 Timothy 4:6 & 16
The second essential for keeping a church alive and strong isÖ
Many churches are moving away from the centrality of preaching. In its place are choreographed stag, dramatic productions and blaring rock music.
Whatís wrong with that? Isnít that what the world wants? Paul gives us the answer in 1 Corinthians 1:21 "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe."
While preaching may seem foolish to some, it is the vehicle that God has chosen to propagate His Word. Paul wrote these words to a young preacher -- 2 Timothy 4:1-5 "I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry."
Further, it is important that a preacher preaches "all the counsel of God" and "feed the church" (Acts 20:27-28). Some preachers ride hobbyhorses, so to speak. Their congregation gets a steady diet of the same thing over and over again. Still other pastors donít spend much time studying; therefore their people are suffering from spiritual malnutrition. When Christians suffer from spiritual malnutrition they are in danger of being deceived, for they canít discern truth from error.
A church that makes it a priority to preach the all the counsel of God and feeds the people is a Church that will be alive.
The third essential for keeping a church alive and strong isÖ
Matthew 4:18-20 "And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. 20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him."
No church can stay alive for long if they are not busy fishing for souls. Churches that are not evangelistic will ultimately have to move to unscriptural means to sustain their membership. As Christians we are called to "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come inÖ" Luke 14:23.
A healthy church is one that fished in many areas, in various ways. What are you doing to assist in the fishing?
The fourth essential for keeping a Church alive and strong isÖ
Acts 2:42 notes, "Ö they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." Fellowship with other believers of like faith strengthens us spiritually and emotionally. How? We encourage and comfort each other (2 Corinthians 7:6; 1:3-4). We bare each otherís burdens (Galatians 6:2). We exhort and admonish (gently reprove) one another (Hebrews 3:13; Romans 15:14). And, we hone each other spiritually (Proverbs 27:17).
When we fellowship with each other, it helps to remember that we are all part of the same body and we need each other.
In summary, we have looked at four things that are essential to keeping a Church, this Church alive and strong.
Are you doing your part?