Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Oak tree churches

Due to the past few articles I've posted here some people may wonder if I am suggesting that we abandon small existing churches. Not at all. While some are probably so far down their life cycles that they cannot survive, there are many others that are strong, healthy churches. I worshiped in one this past Sunday.

This small, rural church still has an attendance board in the front of the church. It showed there were 12 people there for Sunday school. About 35 attended the worship service. I had not been at this church for a couple of years, but the people greeted me like a long-time member.

The worship service was very traditional with everyone singing familiar hymns from the hymn book. There are no screens or projectors here. They have an excellent pianist who really brings the hymns to life. The singing was loud and energetic. There is no mumbling songs like I hear in some churches. The choir had a great anthem just before the sermon. I've known the pastor for a number of years, and he has served as the bivocational pastor of this church for many of those years. His sermon was on target and engaged the congregation.

Within a five-mile radius of this church I have several other smaller churches that are barely hanging on. One is likely to close its doors soon. Another one is struggling to pay its bills. The others struggle with one issue or another. The contrast between these churches and the one I visited this past Sunday is stunning. What makes the difference?

The church I visited this past Sunday has a strong root system that enables it to remain strong and solid. The people are grounded in their faith, and such faith produces joy. That joy is evident in their worship and in their attitudes. Every church experiences problems at times, but those with a strong root system address those problems with confidence.

What allows a church to develop such a strong root system? I can identify several in this church that has contributed to its root system.

  • They have a strong belief in the inspiration and authority of Scripture. They are well grounded in the teachings of the Bible and are not blown away by fads or anything else that sometimes cause people to question their faith.
  • They have a pastor who loves them. His feelings for them has been proven by the years he has served this church. In return, they have returned that love through their generosity towards him and his wife.
  • They are committed to one another. It is obvious that they enjoy being with one another. Every Sunday I've been at this church has seemed like a family reunion.
  • At the same time, they welcome new people. I've never visited this church and not been warmly welcomed by many in the congregation.
  • They are not afraid to be who they are. They are a very traditional church that is not interested in trying to become anything else. While this won't appeal to some unchurched people, it will appeal to others, and these are the ones they want to reach. Too often I've seen churches try to become something they are not and lose themselves in the process.
  • They have a strong tradition of worship. I've been in churches three times the size of this church that did not worship with the enthusiasm and excitement you experience in this congregation. 
  • It is obvious that they have been taught stewardship. This is a blue-collar church with many retired members, but their giving is strong reflecting a belief in being good stewards and a belief that their church is doing something worthwhile with its resources.
What's the root system like in your church? Churches with strong root systems don't have to worry about survival. While some small churches will not survive, those with strong root systems will continue to be used by God to reach and disciple those He brings to these churches.

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