|Worship Service at the Gladstone church||8:30 AM|
|Worship Service at the Biggsville church||9:45 AM|
|Worship Service at the Oquawka church||11:00 AM|
|Bible Study @ Biggsville||6:30 PM|
BGO UMC Blog
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Suppose you found the remaining churches in your community closed. What would you do then? Drive to Monmouth or Burlington?
In today's economy and with the situation in our churches, it could happen!
How much do you love your church? Do you take it for granted?
I realized I wanted an object that I could look at and have my faith in Jesus and God's Words reenforced. I did not see it as an object to worship but rather a symbol of my faith. After some contemplation, I decided I wanted a cross. It was the perfect tangible symbol of God's love and promise to me and all Christians. The cross symbolizes Jesus' suffering and dying for our sins. The cross symbolizes the resurrection which is at the heart of our faith.
I went to the internet and began searching for a cross that I could hang on my office wall. I found wooden ones, metal ones, ornate ones. But none satisfied me. I wanted something plain but distinquished.
On the way back from the VA hospital in Iowa City, we stopped at the mall in West Burlington. My wife was hoping to find a Christian book store to buy some Hermie and Friends videos for her Sunday school class. As we walked out of the Penney's store, right there was the store. After an inquiry, she was directed to a shelf full of the videos that she was looking for. I looked around and found two commentaries on the book of Acts which I had been wanting to find. Then it dawned on me to ask the clerk if she had just a plain cross. I was relieved when she said she had one. We went to a rack and on the bottom was one wooden cross. It was plain and stained with a dark hue. It was perfect.
Back home, I searched for the perfect place to hang the humble cross. I had a wall picked out behind my desk. Then I realized I would have my back to the cross and I did not like that analogy. So I took down my bulletin board and calendar and hung it on the facing wall. Against the white wall, the dark hued cross stands out and is now ever present before me. A reminder that my Lord sacrificed his life for me and his promise of being with Him some day.
Morbus Sabbaticus is a disease that is affecting hundreds of thousands of church members in the United States. This infectious disease is even present in our own churches today. This insidiouis disease creeps into a congregation and decimates it. No, it does not kill, it does not render its' victims incapcitated. Quite the contrary. It is a self induced disease by an individual member of a church but can spread once it has taken hold. Morbus Sabbaticus is Sunday Sickness.
I started to do a blog on time in relationship to church attendance. In my research, I came across different articles on church attendance, the need to attend a church and the excuses that people use for not attending.. When taken in the context of scriptures and what Jesus taught us, it ends up being a selfish act on our parts. Truth is I have been guilty of it myself.
Years ago, we were active members in a church. I was on the church board, superintendent of Sunday School and devoted attendee of church services. Then we purchased a cabin on the river. Our weekends were the only time we could get away so we began skippiing Sunday morning church services. Then it escalated into more Sundays until we were no longer attending at all. We rationized this behavior to suit our own conscience. We placed our personal life ahead of our spiritual life.
I realize people today have busy lives with work, children and social matters. Time is a precious commodity. People make decisions based family and obviously, making a living for their families. Leisure time is important but sometimes, I think, people look at leisure activities the wrong way. Especially Christians.
We have a wonderful advantage living on the Mississippi River. It provides so many leisure activities for us to enjoy, fishing, boating, jet skiing, or just a nice boat ride observing nature. But the thing I see is people will go to the river and spend hours in these activities and skip church to do them. The question that comes to me is "You can't take just an hour out of your life for the Church?" There is still plenty of time to fish or boat after the Sunday service.
Let me break it down this way. There are 168 hours in a week. We work, sleep and play during these hours. But church attendance is less than 1 per cent of the time you would be giving up. Just 1% to fellowship, worship God and praise his name and the blessings that he has bestowed on His children.
The Church needs you and you need the Church in your lives. Come worship with us next Sunday!
Technology is great! We have personal computers to surf the web, exchange emails, Facebook and Twitter to keep up with family and friends. We have cell phones that make it possible to talk to
anyone no matter where we are. We have lap top computers and tablets that act as portable computers. We can watch movies, listen to music, read ebooks, send and receive emails and play games on these devices. We can even install the Bible on all of these.
I have the Bible on my tablet, cell phone and computer. It is nice to have so I can read it anywhere I might be. I work the late shift doing security and there is not much going on, so I have a lot of time
But one thing I have discovered. There is nothing better than the Bible itself. I find it much more satisfying to actually read from the book. There is something special having the Bible in your hands
and reading directly from it.
So although technology might be great for a large variety of things to do, nothing beats having the actual Bible to read from.
I was readng Luke and kept coming across passages that were confusing me. In Luke there are numerous instances of Jesus healing the sick, cleansing the leper, making whole the paralyzed and raising the dead. These individuals were saved and would enter the kingdom of God and dwell with Jesus at the right hand of the Lord.. I could not see why this was happening. Why were these people being saved simply because Jesus healed them?
Then I read Luke 7:1-10 where Jesus healed the slave a centurion. You have to look at this passage and understand the situation. First, it was a centurion who sent Jewish elders to meet with Jesus ask him to heal his slave. A centurion was a Roman military leader. The Romans were the governors of this area through there campaigns of conquering the world. The centurion was not Jewish and would be considered a Gentile. Someone who was unclean in the eyes of the Jewish leaders. So for him to seek out Jesus and request that he heal is slave is extraordinary in this circumstance.
The other aspect of this story is that the slave was probably a Jew who had been captured in a military campaign. However, as the gospel states, he was well regarded and obviously loved by his master, the centurion, who was distraught that his slave was ill and near death. A remarkable rtelationship in it self.
The Jewish elders praised the centurion who they said "was worhty, loved their nation, and even built a synagogue." High praise to a military occupier. So Jesus followed the elders to the centurion's home. But when they arrived, the centurion implored Jesus to not enter his home because he was not worthy. What humility! The centurion realized who Jesus was and trusted in him to heal his slave. Jesus was overwhelmed at the faith this man had. The slave was healed.
This was a powerful passage for me because of all the dynamics that were at work here. As I have said, there are so many examples in Luke of Jesus performing such miracles. But I was missing something.
Then I read the scriptures of Luke where Jesus is on the cross at cavalry and there are two criminals hanging with him on either side. One rails against Jesus but the other one rebukes him and says to Jesus "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Luke 23:42 And then I read the words of Jesus to the criminal, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." How can this be?
After some comtemplation and prayer, it hit me. I can be dense at times. The key word is FAITH. Over and over in all these instances, the people involved displayed a profound degree of faith. They beleived Jesus could heal, raise the dead, give salavation and eternal life. Faith in Jesus the true Christ is the way to salvation.
Faith is the cornerstone in our salvation. With faith we believe in the power of Jesus and our own salvation. It is a simple fact but too often we try to confuse it with other things. We suspect that there has to be more than just believing. Perhaps, we feel good works or money is required to fulfill our salvation. But faith is all be need. As recorded in the bible, faith can accomplish many things. We see it in our own lives. Faith in Jesus can perform miracles, even today.
Today, it is much harder to have true faith. The people in Jesus' time had it easy. How could you deny the power of salvation through the living Christ when he would people from the dead? Wow! That would be something to behold. Or when Jesus would instantly heal the lepers or heal the lame. But today, we do not have such out right miracles like these. It is with our faith and belief that we must trust.
Luke 5:20 When Jesus saw their faith he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Paul exhorted the people of the church of Corinth “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose.” I Corinthians 1:10
We are one congregation only separated by distance. But never the less, we are one. Do we not believe in the same God, have the same beliefs, follow the same tenets of the United Methodist Church, sing the same hymns, partake in the sacraments, and follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior who died on Calvary’s cross for our sins? A church of believers can meet in a field, under a tent, in a store front, or in a livingroom. The Church is not a building with a steeple but rather the gathering of Christians together to praise and worship God. The building is only a convenience, a center point for us to meet and fellowship.
We are facing challenges everyday in our daily lives. Times are tough. And the same factors are affecting our churches. Decreasing memberships, increasing expenses put a burden on our individual churches. Churches are closing. Just look at the situation in Oquawka. There were four churches, we are down to two active churches now. All over the state and nation, churches are closing their doors. What do the members do? Where do they go? It is critical to the survival of our churches that we face the challenges before us and react. We can not be passive, we have to be proactive to save our Church!
As we all know, the conference is looking hard at the churches not only in Henderson County but throughout the conferences. For now, they have been combined under the ministry of Pastor Jeff and Roberta. A huge undertaking and commitment on their part to minister to three church congregations. In the long run, I do not see this as a viable solution from a financial stand point. Each church will still continue to struggle with financial hardships. One solution to this is to increase memberships in each church to provide a more stable financial base. But to be honest, this plan will not work. Our memberships have been stagnant. It would require an extensive evangelistic push from individuals and our churches. Sad to say, in my opinion, I just don't see this coming from our churches. Also, economic times are tough for us. Henderson county is one of the poorer Illinois counties. We just don't have the financial resources to support our churches as we should or desire.
I believe consolidation is the best solution for our Church survival. It is an unpopular notion to the vast majority. Their identity is to one local church and one congregation.
Change is difficult but in the end, it more times than not becomes beneficial. Look at our modern society and all the changes that have taken place over the last century. Electricity, telephones, air travel, trains, televisions, computers, etc. All met with resistance when first introduced but today are a part of our society. In some ways, we could not live without them and maintain our high standards of living. We fight change but once it comes, we embrace it.
If we combine the United Methodist Churches there is strength in numbers. The opportunities are limitless as to what we can do as a unified congregation. Imagine how it will affect our finances, our spirituality, our ministries. We will have more resources, more talented people, more ideas, and a more meaningful fellowship. Plus, it would reduce the burden on Pastor Jeff and Roberta.
There is no argument that can be countered with a solution. For example, transportation will be one problem that many will site. Solution, car pooling. Or perhaps it is time we look into church buses or vans. Depending on where the final central church will be, unfortunately, our individual churches can not hold the anticipated increase in attendance. So we expand the spaces we have by installing more seating. Perhaps we will need to install audio equipment to cover areas outside the sanctuary. But image how great it would be to have some many souls that seating is a problem.
With consolidation, we could expand on our ministries. A larger and more active United Methodist Women. The creation of a United Methodist Men. We can expand our children's ministries. There are exciting opportunities available to us.
Financially, we only have to support one church instead of three individual churches. The savings are substantial, $340,000 estimated expenses to operate five churches as opposed to $104,000 to maintain one church. The extra savings could be used to expand God's work in missions.
And the big payoff for me is in the area of spirituality. I find an overwhelming joy and satisfaction when the sanctuary is full of like minded people praising and worshiping our God. I have found this wonderful fellowship in the Bible study group that meets on Thursdays. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
“The ministry of the church can be defined in several ways. Firstly, the ministry of the Christian church can be defined as the fulfillment of the Great Commandment of our Lord: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39).
Secondly, Christian ministry can be defined in terms of the Great Commission of our Lord: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20).
Thirdly, the process and objective of Christian ministry can be defined in the apostle Paul’s terms as “the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect person, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, that we...may grow up in all things into Him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:12-15).
Fourthly, ministry can be defined in terms of the model of the early church - viz. teaching the apostles’ doctrine, engaging in fellowship, commemorating the breaking bread, praying together, caring for one another, worshiping God, and actively evangelizing the community (Acts 2:42-47). This continues to be the basis of biblical, balanced ministry today.
From these summary texts and the broad scope of Scripture, it is evident that Christian ministry has as its priority the worship of God, followed by service for God in the proclamation of the gospel (the fruit of which is the baptism of repentant sinners), and the edification of the saints.“ - by - Dr. Roger Pascoe, President, The Institute for Biblical Preaching (Cambridge, ON, Canada)
In summation, I realize that change would not be popular. The challenges are daunting. But as people of God, we need to evaluate the options. Do we want to close the doors of our churches and then have to travel farther to find a new place to worship? Or would it not be better to combine our individual congregations into a mega congregation?
Your comments are welcome!
More than ever evangelism is so important to the survival of our churches today. First, Jesus charged the believers to go forth and witness in His name. It is a responsibility of Christians to bear witness of the Good News of the bible to the unbelievers. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17 (NASB) We are not only in a battle for lost souls but in so doing we can help our congregations grow so that we might be strong in numbers. The churches of Henderson County are facing many new challenges and these challenges are based on financial issues. For the churches to survive individually, we must be able to support the costs of maintaining them. Each week in the bulletin is the statement that it takes $1300 per week to meet the financial obligations of each church. That is $67,000 a year, times 3 (Biggsville, Gladstone and Oquawka) is $202,800. With the addition of Stronghurst and Lomax, the financial burden increases exponentially for all of us. With an average membership of 200 per church, the burden is $335 per member annually. Unfortunately, there are only about 75 active members so the financial burden increases to $893 per member annually. In one of the poorest counties in Illinois, it is a tremendous burden on our families. One way to overcome this situation is to increase our church membership. And this is why evangelism is so important to our churches' survival. I believe evangelism begins in each of our individual churches. If we could increase the participation of those current members, the financial burden is deeply decreased as shown in the example above. $335 per member versus $893 per member. The burden of $17 per member per week as opposed to only $6 per member per week with just increasing our current church member participation. The big payoff, are pews are filled every Sunday. As a congregation, we have to be proactive. If we see that someone has not been to church for a few Sundays, we need to contact them. We have to let them know we missed them and be sure there is nothing wrong. We need to be aware of special needs of our members. Maybe a member needs a ride. With the cost of gas, perhaps car pooling is another solution. But we need to make contact and find out why they are not attending and then meet that challenge. We need to reach out to our neighbors and friends. With the churches established in small communities, we have an excellent opportunity to interact with these people and to invite them to church. I feel, from personal experience, we hear Pastor Jeff preach this but then we do not act for a number of reasons. We have the Good News but we are hesitant to spread it out of fear.
“I am afraid I might do more harm than good.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“I may not be able to give snappy answers to tricky questions.”
“I may seem bigoted.”
“I may invade someone’s privacy.”
“I am afraid I might fail.”
“I am afraid I might be a hypocrite.”
Perhaps the most common fear, however, is that of being rejected.
To evangelize we will have to use both our minds and our hearts to "become all things to all men in order to save some."
We must realize that not all of us have the gift to preach the word to non-believers. Not all of us are evangelists in the true sense. However, we all have the gifts God has given believers. We are all to have faith, give, show mercy, and help others. Some, however, are uniquely able to serve in these capacities above the norm. I think the same applies to the gift of evangelism. People with the gift of evangelism ought to be encouraged and engaged in training others how to witness. This is not only logical, but evangelists are gifted men who are given the role and responsibility of equipping the saints for the work of ministry. “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers.” Ephesians 4:11 (NASB)
Here are some very important principles that I came across to keep in mind if we want to be effective in seeing others come to know Christ through our individual witness.
1. Go to people. The heart of evangelism is Christians taking the initiative to actually go out and "fish for men." Acts 17:17 describes for us how Paul was effective in his day and time: "Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there."
2. Communicate with people. Engage them. Sharing the Gospel involves communication. People must be focused upon and then understand the Gospel to respond to it. It is our responsibility as Christians to make it as clear as possible for all who will listen. "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor. 5:11).
3. Relate to people. Effective witness involves not only the transmission of biblical information; it also includes establishing a relationship with the other person. Hearts, as well as heads, must meet. "So, affectionately longing for you," said Paul to the Thessalonians, "we were well pleased to import to you not only the good news of God, but also our own lives, because you have become dear to us" (1 Thess. 2:8).
4. Remove barriers. Part of our responsibility involves having the skills to eliminate obstacles, real or imagined, which keep an individual from taking the Christian message seriously. When God sent the prophet Jeremiah forth, He said, "Behold, I have put my words in your mouth . . . and I have ordained you to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant." Sometimes our task as well is one of "spiritual demolition," of removing the false so the seeds of truth can take root. Apologetics sometimes serves in that capacity, of preparing a highway for God in someone's life.
5. Explain the gospel to others. We need an army of Christians today who can consistently and clearly present the message to as many people as possible. Luke says of Lydia, "The Lord opened her heart so that she heeded the things which were spoken by Paul" (Acts 16:14).
6. Invite others to receive Christ. We can be clear of presentation, but ineffective because we fail to give someone the opportunity and encouragement to take that first major step of faith. "Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we beg you in Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20).
7. Make every effort by every means to establish them in the faith. Stay with them, ground them in the Scripture, help them gain assurance of their salvation, and get them active in a vital fellowship/church.
8. Above all, use the power of prayer. Invite the Holy Spirit to be present. “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit,” 1 Corinthians 12:8 (NASB)
In preparation for evangelizing, we should be living for the Lord individually—something that will surely impact others. We have the good news of salvation by faith in the shed blood of the risen Christ. Go tell others the Good News.
Praise for Spiritual Blessings in Christ
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
1 Samuel 30:24 (KJV)
For who will hearken unto you in this matter? but as his part [is] that goeth down to the battle, so [shall] his part [be] that tarrieth by the stuff: they shall part alike.
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