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Challenges a congregation must meet: four practical challenges to congregational life

11 Jul

(Revelation 3:11-13)  “I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. {12} Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. {13} He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”Isaiah 26:4 (66 kb)

If he can, the devil would like to hinder the gospel from being spread. He is intelligent enough to be very subtle and shrewd in his attempt to obstruct our progress in the Lord’s work.

(Genesis 3:1)  “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?””

(2 Corinthians 11:3)  “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”

The result is that we may attend to certain of the devil’s “diversionary tactics” — all the while overlooking some of the things that are really holding us back.  There are some challenges that any congregation of Christians must meet in order to serve the Lord faithfully.

I. A CONGREGATION MUST REMEMBER WHAT ITS WORK IS: SOWING THE SEED

It requires constant discipline to stick to our work and let the Lord do His.

(Jeremiah 7:27)  “”When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.”

 (Ezekiel 2:7)  “You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious.”

It is our work to “plant” and “water”; it is the Lord’s work to give the “increase”

(1 Corinthians 3:1-6)  “Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ. {2} I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. {3} You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? {4} For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? {5} What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. {6} I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”

Ultimately, the Lord will want to know not how many people we baptized, but how many people were left in our community that we never confronted with the gospel.  We are constantly tempted to bypass the work of seed-sowing or to believe that we are doing “enough” — we must resist both of these temptations.

FaithAtHome bookmark WEBII. A CONGREGATION MUST LIVE ABOVE PETTINESS

It requires constant discipline to keep away from “itsy-bitsy thinking.”  Selfishness, gossip, and factionalism are the bane of the Lord’s work in many places.

(Philippians 2:3-4)  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. {4} Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

 (Philippians 4:2)  “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.”

 We need a sense of proportion and priorities. It is disastrous to “major in minors.” We must be able to see the largeness and importance of the work we are doing in comparison to our own personal concerns.

(Philippians 1:12-18)  “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. {13} As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. {14} Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. {15} It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. {16} The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. {17} The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. {18} But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,”

What the Lord’s work is about is co-operation

(Philippians 1:27)  “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel”

The emphasis on “together” in: (Ephesians 2:19-22)  “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, {20} built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. {21} In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. {22} And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

 (Ephesians 4:16)  “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

III. A CONGREGATION MUST BELIEVE IT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN ITS COMMUNITY

It requires constant discipline to be confident we can bring about significant changes for good where we live.  Without some hope (desire + expectation), our work will cease altogether. When Christ sets before us an “open door” (Revelation 3:8)  “I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.” ), no one can shut it.

We simply must keep in mind that He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world

(1 John 4:4)  “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

IV. A CONGREGATION MUST MAINTAIN GRATITUDE FOR ITS BLESSINGS

It requires constant discipline to emphasize the positive rather than the negative aspects of our congregational situation.  Few congregations have had more problems than Corinth — yet there were still things to be thankful for:

(1 Corinthians 1:4-9)  “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. {5} For in him you have been enriched in every way–in all your speaking and in all your knowledge– {6} because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. {7} Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. {8} He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. {9} God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”

Conclusion

We must determine to meet these challenges successfully.  It is true, congregationally as well as individually, that with every temptation there is a “way of escape” (1 Cor. 10:13).

But we must have the honesty to see temptation for what it is and arm ourselves against it – (Ephesians 6:10-11)  “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. {11} Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”

Our salvation is nearer than when we first believed –

(Romans 13:11-12)  “And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. {12} The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

(Hebrews 4:1)  “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.”

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2019 in Church

 

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