"... the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Neh. 8:10)
A. First, keep this Question in mind:
"If our churches do not Pray, if our people do not have an Appetite (Hunger) for God; What Does It Matter How Many Are Attending Our Services?
B. Now, when you attempt to Grow A Church, you Will be faced with Confrontations from some who may be Smarter, Wiser, Stronger and more Influential than you are & they are Proud of it.
1. However, Confrontations must be Met because God Cannot Bless the Mess that is in most of our churches with the Spiritual Power that we so Disparately need.
2. These confrontations are usually Motivated by Jealousy or Fear of Losing Control, Power, etc.
3. In spite of this, God still wants to Grow His Church.
4. As a matter of fact, most of us Would Rather Die than go on preaching about the Power of the Word and the Spirit but Never Seeing It.
So, how do we Overcome these Confrontations and Grow A Church for the Honor and Glory of God?
C. God is Attracted to Weakness.
1. God can not resist those who Humbly and Honestly admit how Desperately they Need Him.
2. In fact, Our Weakness Makes Room For His Power.
3. Jesus called Fishermen, Not Graduates to be His Apostles.
4. 1 Cor. 1:20-29, "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? --- V. 26, "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence."
D. This does Not put a Premium on Ignorance!
E. Also, God wants to use our Natural Personality --- He has always Despised Sham and Pretense.
1. God didnít call us to put on airs and Act Like Someone We Are Not.
2. God Can Use Us The Way We Are --- If We Draw Our Strength From Him.
I. Prayer Is The Only Answer To Our Situation!
A. Prayer is the very thing that Produced Every Revival throughout Church history.
1. All the Modern Trends and New Ideas about Church Growth are Irrelevant.
2. The Prayer Meeting is to be the Barometer of our Church.
a. Some Pastors have said, "I couldnít have a real prayer meeting in my church. Iíd be Embarrassed at the Smallness of the crowd. Unless someoneís teaching or singing, people just wonít come."
b. Preaching itself can easily become just a subtle form of Entertainment.
3. However, our Prayer Meeting will be the Engine that will Drive The Church.
B. Charles Haddon Spurgeon said, "The condition of the Church may be very Accurately Gauged by its Prayer Meetings.
C. Andrew Bonar (1853) said, "God likes to see His people shut up to this, that there is no hope but in prayer. Herein lies the Churchís power against the world.
D. Prayer Cannot Truly Be Taught by Principles and Seminars and Symposiums.
1. It has to be born out of a whole environment of Felt Need.
2. If I say, "I ought to pray," I will soon Run Out of Motivation and Quit ---
The Flesh is too strong --- I have to be Driven To Pray.
3. It does no good to talk to someone in a Comatose State.
a. Teaching is good only where there is Life.
b. Spiritual Life cannot be taught to a person in a Spiritual Coma.
4. Charles Spurgeon said, "The Best Style of prayer is that which cannot be called anything else but a Cry."
Jeremiah 33:3, "Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not."
God Says, "Iíll help you, I really will."
"When you donít know where to turn, then Turn To Me."
"When youíre ready to throw up your hands, Throw Them Up To Me."
E. Listen to the Word of God:
Deut. 4:7, "For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for?"
Psalm 4:3, "But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him."
Psalm 50:15, "And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me."
II. The Lack of Prayer Caused Jesus To Get Angry.
A. Mark 11:15-18, "And they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; 16 And would not suffer that any man should carry any vessel through the temple. 17 And he taught, saying unto them, Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves."
B. What made Jesus, Godís Son, so Agitated?
His House was being Prostituted for Purposes Other Than What Was Intended.
C. God is not only concerned Whether we are doing Godís work but also How we are doing it.
1. If you Sing in the choir, the question is not just if youíre on key --- it is Why are you singing at all.
2. If you Teach a class, are you doing it with a Heart That Radiates Godís Love For The Students, or for some other reason?
D. Our Forefathers use to say after a Camp Meeting --- "If people leave the meeting talking about what a Wonderful Sermon the preacher gave or how Beautifully the Singers Sang, the meeting was a Failure.
1. There Was To Be No Sharing The Stage With The Lord!
2. The Bible Never Says "My House Shall Be Called A House of Preaching --- A House of Music.
E. Why should we strive to get Prayer back in our Public Schools --- We Donít Even Have It In Our Churches.
1. We do all kinds of things to Divert Attention away from the Weak Prayer Life in our own Churches.
2. When the Apostles were threatened or arrested, they Didnít organize a Protest or try to use some Political Leverage --- They Headed For A Prayer Meeting.
F. The early church, having neither money, influence, nor power in the ordinary sense, set out Joyfully and Courageously to Win the pagan world for God Through Christ.
They did not "Say" their prayers --- they "Really Prayed"!
1 Tim. 2:1, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;" --- V. 8, "I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting."
Matt. 7:7, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:"
Jer. 29:13, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."
James 4:2, "Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not."
G. More people are turn to Crack than to Christ --- Only turning Godís House into a House of Fevent Prayer will Reverse the Power of Evil.
1. During the last 30 years More Books have been written about Marriage than in all the preceding 2,000 Years of church history combined.
Yet, there are More Troubled Marriages today than at any time in church history.
2. Yet, they do Not Understand the truth that "Families That Pray Together Stays Together." --- this also holds true for Parenting.
H. Listen to Heb. 4:16, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
"Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
III. In Our Desire For Success And Church Growth, We Have Revised And Distorted The Very Plan and Will of God.
A. Barna in his research says, "More than Three-Fourths of current church growth is merely "Transfer Growth".
1. We have more Mega-Churches than at any time in church history --- Entertainment attracts people.
2. Yet, our Culture is becoming More Promiscuous, more Violent, and more Hateful day by day.
Leonard Ravenhill states: "People say the Church is Growing and Expanding. Yes, Itís Ten Miles Wide now --- and about a Quarter-Inch Deep."
Paul had another name for it --- "Works of The Flesh"
3. We have so institutionalized Laodiceanism that we think Lukewarm is Normal.
a. Rev. 3:17, "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:" --- V. 19, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent."
b. Jesus was Unimpressed with them.
c. The Laodiceans were Saints of God with All The Promises of God --- yet, they were on the verge of being Vomited Out.
B. The Early Christians were Unified, Prayerful, and Dynamic in Power in Overcoming the Gates of Hell.
1. Strong Action Is Required --- We cannot merely sit by and hope the problem will resolve itself.
2. Mere Preaching or Teaching is Never Enough, even if it comes directly from the Word of God.
3. We have too much Polish in the Pulpit and too little Power.
4. Acts 4:13, "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus."
C. The Apostles were Released on the condition that they not speak in the name of Jesus --- How Did They Respond?
1. Acts 4:19, "But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye." --- V. 20, "For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
2. Notice What They Did Not Do:
a. They did Not petition the government.
b. They did Not wring their hands in defeat about how unfair this was.
c. They did Not complain about losing their freedom of speech.
3. In their minds this was Not a Political Problem --- It Was a Spiritual Problem.
So they turned to their primary Source of Power:
Acts 4:23, "And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. 24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is:" --- V. 29, "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,"
a. They did Not pray for God to "Bind The Devil" and stop the government from hindering them in their ministry.
b. They Did pray for Boldness that they would Not Back Down --- Think About That For A While.
D. You say, "But, If We Could Just Bind The Devil, We Would Have The Victory."
1. No Where in the Bible does God portray such a strategy.
2. Did Peter bind the spirit over Joppa, or Caesarea? --- No!
3. Paul spent three years in Ephesus, a center of idol worship, yet there is no mention of "Binding The Spirit of The Goddess Diana."
4. Why is there so much Evil Rampant in the world today if the Devil Has Been Bound so many times by Christians?
5. The Bible does Not speak of us "Binding" the devil" but it Does speak of us "Resisting" the devil and "Drawing Near Unto God".
1 Peter 5:8-9, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world."
James 4:7-8, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded."
6. We see No Need To Repent --- rather we look to the Outside for a Scapegoat.
E. Are you and I seeing the Results that Peter saw? --- If not, we need to get back to Our Power Source.
1. God has Never Lacked The Power to work through Available people to Glorify His Name.
2. We need to Speak the Word of God in Love --- Fearlessly.
IV. What Is The Answer? --- What Should We Do?
A. First --- We Must Pray.
James 4:9-10, "Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."
1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:"
B. Second --- No One Has The Right To Adjust The Gospel or Revise Godís Plan For His Church.
Great Marketing Strategy Is Not God's Plan For His Church.
John 12:32, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
Matt. 16:18, "..... I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
Acts 2:47, "..... the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
1. I am Not Allow to preach what is Not in the Bible --- I Am A Man Under Authority!
2. When you ask a fellow pastor about his church, the subject invariably goes to the New Holy Trinity --- the A-B-C's.
Attendance --- Buildings --- Cash
3. Nowhere do we find Paul saying, "I Hear Your Attendance And Offering Were Down Last Quarter --- What Seems To Be The Problem?"
a. Paul couldn't even Remember Who he baptized, much less the Total Number.
b. If You will take care of the Depth of Your Ministry, God will take care of the Breadth of You Ministry"
C. Third --- Pray For The Courage To Speak The Word of God With Boldness.
Acts 4:29, "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,"
2 Tim. 1:7, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
1. Listen to Peter --- See if he sounds very Seeker-Sensitive or User-Friendly..
Acts 2:23, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:"
Acts 3:14-15, "But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses." --- V. 19, "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;"
Acts 19:28-29, "And when they heard these sayings, they were full of wrath, and cried out, saying, Great is Diana of the Ephesians. 29 And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paulís companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre."
a. The Apostles understood that without a Bold, Aggressive Attitude in proclaiming God's Word, they could never build the Type of Church That Jesus Intended.
b. The Apostles were Not trying to Finesse people into the church.
c. They did Not have the slightest intention of being Seeker-Sensitive or User-Friendly.
d. They never took surveys or monitored How Pleased People Were with the services and ask what else they would like.
e. They had Every Intention of giving the people what They Needed, not what They Wanted.
2. Instead of Bringing Men & Women To Christ, we are Consumed with the Unbiblical concept of Church Growth.
a. Today, we have an Anti-Authority Spirit in America.
b. Nobody can tell me I need to change. God Loves Me Just As I Am.
The Following Is Written By A So-Called "Christian Lesbian" Named Anita.
Jesus Christ is Someone
c. Besides, we are to become "All Things To All Men That By All Means I Might Save Some." --- (1 Cor. 9:22).
But, they fail to read V. 24, "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain."
1 Thess. 2:4, "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts."
d. Bigger is Not Better if it comes at the expense of Truth, or the Grieving of the Holy Spirit.
e. We have Lowered The Standards in a vain attempt to make churches seem more successful than they really are.
User-Friendly can be a cover-up word for Carnality.
3. We are so programmed that God and the Holy Spirit couldn't break in and interrupt if They wanted to.
D. Fourth --- The Gospel Must Be Preached With The Involvement of The Holy Spirit.
1. We must have a Living Faith based, not just on the Cross but also, on the Empty Tomb.
a. In most of our services there is very little dependence on God's power to Make A Difference in the lives of the people.
Without the Power of the Holy Spirit, our Church Services are reduced to little more than a Lecture Series to the Saints.
b. There is little calling upon God to Revolutionize Us in a Supernatural way.
c. It is fine to explain About God, but far too few people today are Experiencing The Living Christ in their lives.
(1) People Pay Attention when they see that God actually changes people and sets them free.
(2) When a new Christian stands up and tells how God revolutionized his or her life, No One Dozes Off.0
2. Many of us stand Strong for the Doctrines of The Faith --- but the Spirit of those doctrines is Missing.
2 Cor. 3:6, "Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
William Law (early 1700's) wrote, "Read whatever chapter of Scripture you will, and be ever so Delighted with it --- yet it will leave you as Poor, as Empty and Unchanged as it found you unless it has turned you wholly and solely to the Spirit of God, and brought you into full Union with and Dependence upon him."
a. Many times we become Haughty and Proud of what we know.
b. We so impressed with our Doctrinal Correctness that we become Intellectually Arrogant.
c. Such an attitude Takes The Heart Out of The Very Words we preach.
3. Granted, Extremists have done Fanatical things in the name of the Holy Spirit that have frightened many sincere Christians away.
a. Chaotic meetings with Senseless, Silly, & Stupid things going on and a Lack of Reverence For God, have driven many to prefer a quiet, orderly lecture.
(1) However, don't allow this tactic of the devil to cause you to "Throw Out The Baby With The Bath Water."
(2) Don't allow the devil to push you toward one extreme or the other --- Deadness or Fanaticism.
b. Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have the Joy Without Reverence, without Awe --- Many main line Evangelical churches have Neither Reverence Nor Joy.
(1) If you have only the Word, you Dry Up.
(2) If you have only the Spirit, you Blow Up.
(3) If you have both, you Grow Up.
c. William Law --- "Just as the Jews refused Jesus and quoted Scripture to prove their point, so church leaders today reject the demonstration and power of the Holy Spirit in the name of sound doctrine."
4. The Holy Spirit will give Us A Love for the Same People That God Loves.
a. I don't live where I live because I like it.
(1) Where I live, we have Pedophiles, Prostitutes, and Pushers almost next door.
(2) When I hear of or meet a guy who has sexually abused a little girl, I'm tempted in my flesh to .......... This isn't an easy place for love to flourish.
Ashley Estell ..... Plano, Tx. ..... Police Officers .....
(3) However, Christ Died For That Man --- Who else could ever Change Him --- Who else could every Replace the lust and violence in his heart?
b. What about those people who are different --- Do We Want God To Clean The Fish Before We Catch Them?
(1) There is a gold ring attached to an unusual body part.
(2) Their skin color is different from ours. --- More Pigmentation ...
(3) They don't smell the best.
c. What if God had said About Us, "You're so different from me, so distasteful, I would really rather not get too close to you."
5. God Will Manifest Himself In Direct Proportion To Our Passion For Him.
Jer. 29:13, "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."
E. Fifth --- We Cannot Make Headway In Seeking God's Power Without First Tearing Down The Accumulated Junk In Our Souls.
1. Rationalizing has to cease.
a. Anytime people get hungry to Truly Know The Lord, The Holy Spirit quickly puts a shovel and broom into their hands.
b. Sin Grieves the Holy Spirit and Quenches His power in our lives.
2. That which Most Easily Destroys churches is Not Crack Cocaine, Government Oppression, Lack of Funds --- rather it is Gossip and Slander that Grieves the Holy Spirit.
What Would Your Church Think if the next time you receive new members, you made the following Statement:
"Now, I charge you, as pastor of this church, that if you ever hear another member speak an unkind word of criticism or slander against anyone --- myself, another pastor, an usher, a choir member, or anyone else --- you have authority to stop that person in mid-sentence and say, 'Excuse me --- who hurt you? Who ignored you? Who slighted you? Was it the pastor? Let's go to his office right now. He will get on his knees and apologize to you, and then we'll pray together, so God can restore peace to this body. But we will not let you talk critically about people who are not present to defend themselves.'
"Please understand that I am entirely serious about this. I want you to help resolve this kind of thing immediately. And meanwhile, know this: If you are ever the one doing the loose talking, we will confront you."
A. When we Seek God, He Will Bless Us --- But when we Stop Seeking Him, All Bets Are Off.
1.2 Chron. 15:2, "... The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you."
2. We are either Drawing Nearer to God or . There is no holding pattern.
(1) People who Stop seeking the Lord tend to get Crusty and Arrogant.
(2) They think they know everything --- a pastoral rebuke only Irritates them.
B. Many times the Spirit of Prayer has been so Absent in a church that a weeknight Prayer Meeting meets with Apathy and Coldness.
2 Chron. 26:5, "... as long as he sought the LORD, God made him to prosper."
Jer. 10:21, "For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the LORD: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered."
There Is No Second Chance After Death!
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