How do you measure a year?
The words of this popular Broadway song provide an interesting way of measuring a year. I usually think of 12 months, but when I am working on a budget, I think of 52 weeks. The number of days in a year I learned in the second grade, and I used to keep track of the days till my birthday at the end of July.
The ending of another year always brings me a blend of happy and wistful memories. After 56 years of college teaching, I mark the end of a fall term and the beginning of the spring term perhaps even more than the ending and beginning of a year. I know that churches spend the last weeks of the year planning budgets for the next year.
Through the years of watching churches grow and then decline, I have consistently urged elders to strategize to ensure that their congregations have strong leadership for the future. Sadly, many elderships grow old and stubbornly refuse to seek out and train new leaders for a time when the seasoned elders no longer have the vision or energy to make sure the church is being taught the important principles of evangelism and discipleship. Elders seldom retire, but sometimes elders stop functioning except to attend meetings.
Although it took me a very long time to acknowledge it, preachers are the heartbeat of the church. When I was 13 years old, my family moved to Tulsa, Okla., where my mother and I began attending the East Side congregation.
The preacher was Delmar Owen, a man devoted to his personal growth. His preaching drew people because they were learning the Word and being inspired to study the Bible seriously. The church grew and had to build new facilities regularly. Eventually Owen left for reasons I have never known, but the church began a sharp decline in membership. Good, godly elders were taking care of the people, but the heartbeat was gone. It took years for the church to realize that great preaching is absolutely necessary for the life and growth of the local congregation.
Equally sad is the fact that preachers often fail to realize that they need to work with a younger man to pave the way for a smooth transition. It can be done, and I have seen it done by two good men with strong egos.
There is an old axiom suggesting that when an organization or family completes its dream home or facility, paralysis sets in within five years. I believe it more nearly true of families, but building projects always generate energy and enthusiasm. Church leadership has to find alternate ways of fostering enthusiasm and dedication.
Many churches know that missions can arouse much enthusiasm. Having a location where the church regularly sends members for short-term missions creates a sense of ownership and devotion to a work.
Making missions a centerpiece of all church efforts will prompt an enduring love for the work of the church. During the last 20 years, many growing churches have put little emphasis on missions and generated a focus on only what we need and what we are doing.
Years ago, most churches had a strong focus on personal evangelism. In many congregations, members were expected to give one evening a week to some activity to reach and teach the Gospel to others. Churches had training programs to prepare members to lead evangelistic Bible studies for friends and neighbors.
Since we have become a society that discourages any contact with neighbors, I am frankly afraid to contemplate a renewal of that focus. I attend a church where many members are involved in a tutoring program in a nearby apartment complex for low-income families. These members have become good friends with the children and parents. Tutoring is usually done on one afternoon, and it is a festive time for the apartment families and the tutors. Such important service leads to friendship and opportunities to teach Jesus.
Despite a lot of pessimism about the future of the church, I believe God will strengthen his people to stand firm for the next 525,600 minutes. May God bless 2013.
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FeedbackI mean this with all the love I have and respect. the gospel is the heart of the church (Rom. 1:16).we have the gospel if all preachers stop preaching.I don’t believe in placing a preacher in a position where God has not placed him. A congregation that have faithful elders and biblically sound members the congregation will continue as it was. The bible has more warning about false teachers(preachers) than it does the devilrobert brooksforset pk coCatlanta , ga
usaDecember, 10 2012Thanks Bailey
I respectfully disagree with you that ‘preachers are the heartbeat of the church.’Faithful members are the heartbeat of the church.robert brooksforest pk coCatalanta, ga
usaDecember, 10 2012