Celebrating Leads to Success
Our buildings are emptying out. Our programs are dying. “Gospel meetings” have gone the way of the dinosaur. Large congregations are swelling at the numeric expense of many smaller congregations. The results are discouragement and loss of financial resources and human energy in the smaller churches. It gives the appearance that Satan is running the show.
So what do we do? How do we keep these 50-plus-year-old gems (congregations) from becoming extinct? Is there a program out there that will change everything?
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of teaching an adult Monday night class at the Macquarie congregation in Sydney, Australia. As we discussed baptism, I asked, “How many of you believe that baptism is essential for salvation?” They responded that they all thought it important. I did not boost my popularity with my response to their boasts: “I think you’re all liars!” And after they settled down, I explained myself. You see, if you truly believe something … you practice it. James says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (Jas. 1:22). It can’t just be our dogma; it must be our lifestyle.
In addition to our lack of significant activity in this area, I would also suggest that if we truly believe baptism is important, we should be far more excited when a baptism takes place. Luke 15:10 suggests that this activity inspires angelic rejoicing. Yet, it’s amazing how soon we all move past it. How many of us see people acting like this change in our Sunday assembly is inconveniencing them? The timing of a baptism doesn’t fit in with their lunch plans.
Perhaps the conflict is that, many millennia ago, someone convinced us that our God is one of reverence and tranquility. Yet everything he does cries out for celebration! I see that in the doxologies found in Scripture. You can’t effectively read passages like Rom. 8:38-39 and 1 Tim. 6:15-16 without getting joyful and excited. Yet somehow, we still manage to keep a lid on things! Even simple things like a sunrise or sunset make even unbelievers stop and enjoy the moment.
Emotional connections are built into our DNA, both physically and spiritually. The prophecy of our covenant found in Jer. 31:31-33 describes our relationship to be both intellectual and emotional. It appears we have a handle on “book, chapter, and verse” (or at least used to). But the emotional part frightens us. And the byproduct of this imbalance is that we regularly miss out on the things we could be celebrating as a church. While speaking of the body of Christ, Paul writes, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). If we’re held back by our emotional sensitivity, we will clearly miss these opportunities. And again, the byproduct is unhealthy and an imbalance.
What would happen if we learned to celebrate the activity of the church body and the Lord of the church? What if we saw even the baby steps of sacrifice and service as something amazing? What if we made a point of celebrating like heaven does when God wins and Satan loses? It won’t make the sin and fear born of this world go away, but it will help show who we get our marching orders from and our belief that he’s got this!
So, how do we pump new life into our assemblies, our congregations? How do we keep from trending toward extinction? How do we convince people that church life is much more than just a tradition or formality? Simple: celebrate your church family. Celebrate their victories over sin. Rejoice at every chance you can! Live like God has promised that “he wins a so do his people.” And by the way … he does!
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (Eph. 3:20-21).