Jump Start # 3271
Mark 16:15 “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.’”
In my love of reading Restoration History I ran across something the other day that I had not seen before. And, now that I think about it, I see how true it is. As the second and third generation of restorers were teaching and leading, the thought became prevalent that the large cities were corrupt. This belief was so widely accepted that many didn’t even attempt to evangelize large cities. They were convinced that “city people” would not listen and that their hearts were closed to the gospel message. It was believed to be a waste of time and the Lord’s money to even try to go to the cities. Therefore from the mid-1800s, hundreds and hundreds of rural congregations sprang up. The country people were listening. Especially in places like Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Tennessee, the strength of the church was found in this country congregations. But, as time passed, the small farm could not sustain a family. People moved to the cities to find jobs. Congregations started springing up in the cities and today, many of these rural congregations are barely holding on. The communities are small. And, many are having to face the cold reality that in a few years, the doors of the church house may close for good.
And, today, many of the strongest congregations are in large cities. Those early restorers miscalculated and misunderstood both the Scriptures and the heart of mankind. In our New Testaments, the congregations are in major cities: Jerusalem, Ephesus, Corinth, and even in the capital of the empire, Rome. The apostles took the message to where the people were.
Some lessons for us:
First, we can outthink and out reason what the Bible teaches. Our verse today says go into all the world. All the world includes the city as well as the country. Places like New Orleans, Los Vegas may have the designation of being very sinful and corrupt, but the message has been taken there and God’s people have a foothold there. Our logic and our thinking can keep us from doing what God wants fulfilled.
Second, as times and situations change, brethren must face what’s best for the kingdom. Keeping two or three little congregations, within a stones throw of each other open may not be the best use of resources. We must move beyond our dedication to the church building. We must not allow the past to color what the future really holds. Having two or three small congregations merging together would give more encouragement, more teachers, more finances, more tools to do what God wants.
Third, some do not want to look down the road and see what’s coming. There are places I have been to that, if the Lord allows another dozen years, those places may not be around. What to do? Just wait until that happens or start conversations and start making plans. I knew of a small, small rural congregation, that back in the 1800’s numbered about 200. It was way out in the country and hard to find. People died and people moved away. Finally, it came down to two old men that were left. The building was so moldy and in need of repair, that they met in the entry way. Today, that congregation ceases to exist. But does that mean the kingdom dwindles? The kingdom is not made up of congregations but of individual saints. Shifting from one location to another doesn’t alter the kingdom.
It is healthy for everyone to look down the road. We do that with our personal finances. Unless you want to be working full time when you are 85 years old, you start investing and saving. You are looking down the road. Congregations need to do the same. Who will be leading us in ten years? Who will be stepping up in ten years? What does ten years down the road look like? Those conversations lead to adjusting, planning, developing and training. Forward looking congregations are already thinking about who the next shepherds will be. They are developing and teaching men today to serve tomorrow. Don’t wait until there is an emergency, like a death, and then everyone scrambles to find anyone who will step up and teach or lead. Be working on that now.
A lack of leadership has crippled many congregations. Merely holding on and just doing what has always been done is as far as some places think. Maybe it’s time we changed our thinking. Maybe it’s time we made some plans, put some things into action and looked into how we can make things better for the Lord.
A saying that means so much to me, “Let’s leave this place better than we found it.” That speaks volumes when it comes to the spiritual atmosphere of a congregation.