Posts Tagged: Faith

Increasing Our Presence

“There is an urgent need to plant churches if the North American Division (Seventh-day Adventist denomination) churches are to maintain their current presence in North American communities,” says Dr. Joseph Kidder in a recent article entitled “Reflections on the future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America: Trends and challenges (part 1 of 2).” 

It is alarming that there is an “urgent” need to plant churches just to “maintain” our presence in our cities.  But does God call us simply to maintain our presence?  As I read scripture and particularly the great commission the goal from our Lord is always to “GO and make disciples”, to increase presence.  Dr. Kidder states, “Increasing the Adventist presence and visibility in local communities would require even more aggressive church planting efforts.”  To me what this is saying is that we must become multiplying churches!  Viral churches!  Churches that not only plant once, but that plant over and over again, or churches that plant churches, that plant other churches, that plant other churches…

Why does Dr. Kidder make these assertions and why do I agree with them?  In 1913 when our church was growing at one of its greatest rates we had one church for every 52,000 persons, but in 2005 (and I am sure the gap has grown even more in the 6 years since) there was one church for every 65,000 persons in North America. This is one of the factors for the church going from a 3.61% growth rate from 1913-1975 to a 0.06% growth rate from 1976-2005.  If we were to have the same ratio of churches to population as we did in 1913 we would need more than 1,000 new churches. 

What does this mean for my community? 

The current population of Visalia, California is just a little north of 125,000 persons with 2000 professed Adventists, 1.6% of population, but in actuality only 800 active (attending church at least once a month) members, 0.6% of population.  If we are going to reach all these people we are going to need more churches!  I used to think we would just need bigger churches, but after reading Dr. Kidder’s article and doing a fair amount of other research, “New Churches” are better able to reach folk than necessarily “bigger churches.” Which is why I think it is time to begin looking at a model of church multiplication rather than just church growth. 

Three zip codes make up Visalia and in those three zip codes which include some outlying rural areas as well.  The zip’s are 46,000, 38,000, & 56,000 (136,000 total) in population.  Why couldn’t there be an English church of at least 500 active members in each one of those zip codes?  Along with a Spanish church of at least 500 active members in each one of those zip codes? Do you know that would still only be 3000 active Adventists only 2.2% of those zip codes combined? That means there would still be 133,000 persons still to reach in just this one part of the valley.  So why not then dream bigger?  Why not six churches of 1000 or maybe 12 churches of 500?

Here is the great thing though, none of these churches would be competing for members!  The goal would be multiplying churches not just growing “my” church!  The goal would be increasing the presence of Jesus and sharing the Three Angels’ Message not increasing our membership rosters.  Right now what to often happens is a competition over the Adventists that already exist, even church plants are more often church splits that just siphon off members from other already existing Adventist communities. And in reality even our growing churches mine included, is more transfer growth than conversion or Kingdom growth.  We need to stop competing and we need to start planting churches TOGETHER to grow the Kingdom of God and increase His presence and His message in the hearts of all people.  


Memorize Scripture: Exodus 20:4

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.”

–Exodus 20:4

In our current context how do we form images?  To understand this passage I believe we need to look at one of if not the most directly quoted passage in scripture, Habakkuk 2:4 which is then quoted three times in the New Testament, Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38, “The righteous (just) shall live by faith.”  The reason the Israelites “made” idols for worship is because the way God was revealing Himself or not revealing Himself to them wasn’t good enough according to their own perspective.  They couldn’t see Him, They couldn’t hear Him.  He took too long to send Moses back down the mountain. So they reasoned to themselves that they should make something that would encourage them, that would make them “feel” better.  To “feel” more secure.  As you read scripture we see over and over again that many times the people still believed in YHWH (Yahweh) even as they made images.  Idols weren’t always a sign of unbelief, rather idols were a sign of no faith, no faith in what God was doing.  No faith that God would deliver.  No faith that God would protect.  No faith that God would provide. No faith that God heard them.  However more often than not, they still believed!  Well aren’t faith and belief the same thing?  No, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19) Where Satan and the demons fail is not in their unbelief in the ONE God, they fail in their lack of faith in God. Idol worship continues in our current setting not because of a lack of belief in God, but because of a lack of faith in God and more specifically lack of faith in worship of God as we will see tomorrow.  We create idols even if we “make” nothing physical, when we believe in God but fail to “live by faith” in God and therefore try to figure things out and do things our own way.  Every time you or I try to overcome sin on our own we are making an idol.  Every time we try to overcome a conflict in our own life apart from God we are making an idol.  Every time we worry about how we are going to pay for something or we fail to give to God, because we then can’t pay our bills or go on that vacation, we are making an idol.  Idols are not about unbelief they are about a lack of faith and scripture tells us, “And without faith it is impossible to please God..” (Hebrews 11:6). 

So as we memorize this text let us think about the idols we’ve made and humbly ask God to tear them down by teaching us how to “live by faith.”


More Than Words

Seth Godin wrote on his blog the other day,

I have deeds. ”Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offer ed his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” –James 2:17-26

Abraham and Rahab didn’t just give lip service to faith in God, they allowed that faith to turn their world upside down and challenge them in ways they never thought imaginable.  Is your faith all about words?  Or are you allowing that faith to turn your world upside down?  To paraphrase Seth Godin from a church and Christian perspective, “Let us do more than adopt the words of Jesus, let us adopt the change He has for our lives as well!”

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