Before a church can address where it needs to go, it must first reflect on where it has been and where it currently stands. (I addressed the "where have we been question" on Sunday and the sermon can be listened to at hardinsburgbc.org.) Another way I like to label the "where do we currently stand" question is "what keeps me up at night" because there are certain current challenges at HBC that I believe, if not adequately addressed, will result in less than optimal results for God's Kingdom. Thus, I sometimes lose sleep reflecting on these challenges because I fear our church suffering decline. So, what keeps me up at night when reflecting on HBC?
1. Our Continual Need to Grow Our Volunteer Base
At last year's 2015 State of the Church Address, I declared that HBC had a volunteer crisis; we did not have enough volunteers to perform the ministries needed to adequately reach our city. After a year of emphasizing volunteering, I am thankful to say that we no longer face a volunteer crisis. BUT, we do continue to face a volunteer challenge. I lose sleep when I think about volunteers at HBC because if we do not continue to grow our volunteer base, our ability to do ministry will suffer.
2. A Lack of A Group Life Structure for those Under 40
I might be wrong about this one, but I strongly believe that the traditional Sunday School model does not appeal to the majority of thsos under 40. This is a problem because HBC's primary discipleship and community structure is Sunday School. If those under the age of 40 are not interested in Sunday School, how can we expect this age bracket to be discipled and experience Biblical community? If those within this age bracket are not being discipled and experiencing Biblical community, the likelihood they grow in their faith is drastically decreased. Along with that, there is an increased chance they leave HBC.
3. The Safety of HBC
No person in any small town can no longer say, "That won't happen here." The sad reality is that mass crime can happen anywhere there is a group of people unprepared and not protected. HBC must continue to take steps in order to increase the safety of those attending and participating in the activities of the church.
4. The Continuous Instability of Our Economy
In 2008, churches everywhere saw a significant decrease in giving due to the recession. Our economy continues to be unstable. My hope is that HBC would be financially stable enough to function efficiently through another significant recession. Lack of money results in lack of ministry.
5. Are people meeting Jesus?
The bottom line is that we are failing as a church if people are not meeting Jesus and increasing in their desire and ability to love God, love neighbor, and love self. Numbers one through four on this list are ultimately incomplete if people are not coming to know Jesus through the work and ministry of HBC.
Tomorrow, I will address steps I believe HBC can take in order to address these challenges.
In Ezekiel 37, Israel was in a state of captivity and isolation. They had lost their home, their status as a nation, and most disheartening, their relationship with Yahweh. Words used to describe the nation of Israel at that time were desolate, dark, and according to this passage, dry bones. Israel was but a skeleton of its former self. They had inherited the promised land, but wasted it away. They were called to be a light to the world but instead ended up reflecting the darkness around them. And, they were distant from God, who longed to draw near them.
Yet, God told the prophet to prophesy that the bones would rise to life. God would raise those bones to life through the work of his spirit. "Speak to those bones, Ezekiel, and tell them resurrection will happen." The grave will not win, resurrection will happen. You will not be exiles forever, but will return home.
Why the Valley of Dry bones for a state of the church address? Because the valley of dry bones was able to resurrect only because of God's work through the Holy Spirit. Yesterday, I described to HBC what I believe are smart goals and ideas for HBC to pursue in 2016. But, I must be reminded and we must be reminded that we can accomplish nothing as a church without God's guidance through the Holy Spirit. We must be a church in constant prayer and communion in order to understand God's will for His church. If we do not build this church upon the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the church cannot fulfill its Biblical calling.
More on the blog tomorrow...
I am inspired every time I visit Walt Disney World and learn about the vision and leadership of Walt Disney. Many people leave their time at Disney World feeling hopeful and encouraged, believing the world can be a better place.
I am a big fan of Disney, but I am an even bigger fan of Jesus and the local church; a body the Bible teaches is called to change the world. My prayer is that people walk away from an encounter with HBC or her people with a greater desire to love God, love neighbor, and love self. Disney is great, but the local church, as Jesus in flesh, is the hope of the world.
What is God calling HBC, as a local church, to in 2016? Please join me this Sunday morning, January 3rd for HBC's State of the Church Sermon. Worship will start at 10:30 a.m.
Paul is the husband to Tara, father to Natalie and Isaac, has an average jump shot, and enjoys running. His secret wish is to one day become a Jedi Knight. Paul holds a doctorate in marriage and family counseling from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and currently serves as senior pastor of Hardinsburg Baptist Church. Paul desires to help young couples navigate the early crucibles of marriage, especially when one or both of the spouses are engaged in vocational ministry.