These dreams push us to reach for something that is better and further than we are right now. They give us hope for the future, and they keep us going. If our hopes and dreams can do that for our personal lives then why can't they do the same for our churches?
So here's a quick recap of the Characteristics of a Growing Church:
1st Love Genuinely
2nd Hate What is Evil
3rd Cling to What is Good
4th Devoted to One Another
The 9th characteristic of a growing Church is Hope.
"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12 NIV
The lack of joyful hope in our churches makes me more than a little heartsick. Without joy and hope our churches die. They stop dreaming and making plans for the future. Without hope you begin to think that things can never be any better than they are right now so why bother. We stop dreaming about creating new programs, reaching new people, and bringing Christ to new areas. We get stagnant.
My wife, Christiana, works at a local baptist children's home. She works in their Public Relations department and works with the churches all the time. One of her main responsibility is managing promotional materials sent to the churches and the mailing list for those supplies. The other day she was telling me how depressing it was that she had just received phone calls from three separate churches who asked to be removed from the mailing list because the churches were closing their doors. What went wrong? Why are our churches dying?
I think it is in part because we have lost hope. We are too stuck in our rut of how we have always done things and we worry so much about our finances that we forget what is really important. We stop focusing on God. We stop reaching people and we start losing hope and getting depressed. Finally, we decide that it's just not worth the trouble anymore and people aren't coming anymore anyway so we close the doors. That's why our churches are dying.
It's time that we stopped worrying and started to hope and dream again! Something new is bound to surface. Something great is on the horizon. God can do anything in our churches! We have hope. We should be joyful in that. But it's a conscious choice that we have to choose to make everday. It isn't easy. It's going to be hard work, but I think it's going to be worth it. Don't you?
- "Love the LORD, all his faithful people! The LORD preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD." Psalm 31:23-24
- "We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name." Psalm 33:20-21
- "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:30-31
- "We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized." Hebrews 6:11