Each year on the first Sunday in January, our pastor Brother Don Chandler gives us a “State of the Church” message. We all look forward to it because it not only gives us an overview of where we have been but some optimistic projections of where we are going.
Of course, those of us who know Jesus already know where we are going: we are going to Heaven when we die. It is a wonderful feeling to be part of a vibrant growing church, where the pastor is truly preaching the Word of God and people are being saved almost every week.
When I heard his message on this particular Sunday, I was reminded of a famous quote by a French nobleman by the name of Alexis de Tocqueville, who came to America in the 18th century in an attempt to learn why America was achieving so much success in the short time since having been founded. Here is that quote: “I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there … in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there … in her rich mines and vast world commerce, and it was not there … in her democratic congress and her matchless constitution, and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
Of course, there are many other churches in our community who are also preaching the Word of God, and they are growing as well. Brother Don reported that we had added 109 new members this past year and had more than 100 additions each of the past five years. To this I can only say “Praise the Lord.” Many churches in our community are not growing. They are just treading water, which is to say, they are having about as many members die each year as they have babies born to members.
Here, let me quickly add, a church is not just about numbers but rather reaching lost people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Most Christians know these verses but just for review, Matthew 28:19-20 is known as the Great Commission. It says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” You know, churches and restaurants have at least one thing in common. People go to each to be fed, as we need spiritual food as well as physical food.
Now please allow me to talk with you from my heart. As I write this column I know there are thousands of my readers, here in my own community and in markets across the nation, who are not Christians and do not believe as I do. I certainly respect their right to think and believe as they choose and I hope they will respect my right to do this as well.
One reason I feel so strongly is due to a ministry here in our community called Renewal Ranch, a residential treatment program for men addicted to drugs and alcohol. Their total focus is on changing lives through Jesus Christ. If you could hear the testimonies of the men about how they were saved, returned to their families and jobs, and are now living productive lives, you too would be a believer. I guess you might say that seeing is believing, and that certainly works for me. My very best wishes, Jim.