State of the Church 2019

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As you know, it is our custom to present a “state of the church” message every year around this time. Sometimes the message addresses the state of the church generally, as in, across the nation. At other times, like today, the message concerns particular issues that pertain to our congregation.

The Texts:

“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6: 9–10).

“But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing” (2 Thess. 3:13).

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).

“Use hospitality one to another without grudging” (1 Pet. 4:9).

Summary of the Texts:

Before highlighting what each of our texts is saying, let me begin with the takeaway point from all of them. If we hear the message here rightly, we will see that there is a fusion of joy and stamina that is a peculiar work of the Holy Spirit. And if we are in the path we ought to be in, if we are walking in the right way, we will be in great need of Him to perform that work in us. We will need that peculiar fusion of joy and stamina.

In Galatians, Paul exhorts us to not give way to weariness, and the way we are to do this is by keeping our eyes on the agricultural metaphor. We will not grow weary if we keep our eyes on the harvest. Good works, done for all men, but especially for the household of faith, are a form of farming. Plowing hard ground can seem like an eternal distance from the ripening grain of autumn, so look ahead. Consider the whole point.

In Thessalonians, the same exhortation is given—do not grow weary in doing good. In this instance, it is an exhortation given to hard-working saints who are surrounded by goof-offs, leaning on their shovels. Not only must we not grow weary in the good work we are doing, we must also not grow weary in the work of disciplining those who do not understand the biblical view of work, or who do not understand it with their hands.

In Corinthians, Paul says that we are to abound in our work. We are to be committed to it, and are to be steadfast and immoveable. This work that we are to abound in is work that is not in vain. This means that God wants us to hustle. And remember that this is in the chapter that is talking about the resurrection of the dead. Our abundant work now is not going to be considered in vain then. Or, as R.C. Sproul put it, right now counts forever. If a cup of cold water given in the name of Christ will not be forgotten in the Lasts Day, then what of the greater words that are assigned to us?

And then Peter tells us to be given to hospitality, and not to be put off by the rudeness or thoughtlessness of others.

What are some particular points of application for us?

As Our Congregation Ages:

I know that a number of you have been taking care of elderly parents. This is good and right and holy. Some of you have moved in together, while others are having to navigate this transition from varying distances. As lifespans increase, one of the things that also increases is the need to take care of the elderly. Something that used to be relatively rare is becoming relatively common. So as a congregation, you are to be commended for being the kind of support network that aging families need and require. And the next generation down needs to be taking notes, because this is a problem that is not likely to shrink. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel” (1 Tim. 5:8). You all are living it out.

Life’s Report Card:

Our congregation is filled with the spirit of entrepreneurship. We have lots of bright ideas. That is all to the good, but you must remember the key role that failure plays in every genuine free market system. There is a strong temptation for many to think that objective standards of excellence only exist for as long as you are in school. There you are evaluated, right out of a grade book—everything clean and tidy. And then, after you graduate, and are out in the world of business, you can start to think that all the standards are somehow subjective now. But frequently it is the other way around. “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; He shall not stand before mean men” (Prov. 22:29).

The Hospitality Dilemma:

There is a reason why Peter says that we are to show hospitality without grumbling. Hospitality is a principal way of showing love for one another, and hospitality can be a principal occasion for thoughtlessness and rudeness. Love, in short, creates opportunities for lack of love. When some people are farming thoughtfulness, this provides an occasion for others to start farming thoughtlessness, taking it for granted somehow. So take care, and beware. You are a hospitable group, and so the temptations that accompany hospitality—temptations for hosts and guests alike—will be plentiful.

Called to Our Work:

Work is not a result of the fall. Adam was given his task of exercising dominion before he disobeyed the commandment. And he was given a helper for the task before he disobeyed the commandment. God has called us to our work.

This is not the same thing as being called to the work that we assumed that we were going to get done today. God often changes up the schedule on us. How many times have we said something like, “I didn’t get anything done today,” when what we meant was that we didn’t get any of our plans accomplished. All we did was what God assigned for us to do. Oh, only that?

I like what the King James says about the household of Stephanas—how they addicted themselves to ministry. The word is tasso, and we could render it as devoted themselves, or bound themselves, or dedicated themselves.

“I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)” (1 Cor. 16:15).

But life in a working community is still angular. There are bumps, misunderstandings, understandings, collisions, rivalries, envies, competencies, incompetencies, honest evaluations, and much, much more.

All of it is life in the body, which is to say, life in Christ.