Count the Cost

Wednesday , 20, August 2014 Leave a comment

We received an incredible compliment recently from a visiting Tennessee-born missionary who was home briefly from Africa.  While back in the States to teach at a conference in Nashville, he was told about our church and decided to drive here and see if what he had heard was true.  He shared after his first visit here that this was the only church he had attended in the USA that flows in the Spirit like and feels like the Church in Africa.  No more beautiful, powerful or significant compliment could ever be given us…!

Using data collected by Asbury Seminary, I shared in last week’s Blog that the American Church is sliding toward a crisis.  Literally millions of formerly faithful church-goers are giving up on church altogether, and 40% of young adults gladly claim no faith at all.   The day after I wrote to you, I received a letter from Group Publishing detailing a conference designed to help churches stem the tide of declining attendance.  Church closures are accelerating rapidly.  The American Church is entering a period of steep decline…

All the while, our attendance continues to grow.  Why?  We are intentional in following a different model of church life and church growth than the vast majority of American congregations. While most churches are falling all over themselves to make services shorter, easier, and lighter, we are moving toward longer, more challenging, and more substantial times together—in both Sunday worship and in Life Groups.   While many congregations feel the need to redefine (or pretend there is no) sin, we continue to see people set free from sin as we declare the truth—in love!

We recognize in the third world—in the life of the persecuted church—a model of church life like the New Testament model—and thus far richer, deeper, and more costly—than any substitute.  The persecuted church is growing stronger and deeper in the midst of struggles we do not yet face.  In most of the world God has protected a faithful remnant in the midst of tremendous obstacles to lift up ever-increasing numbers of truly committed disciples.  Often, persecution decreases to at least tolerable levels as the church prevails…

Here in the U.S., we will see something of the opposite unfolding in the next few years.  A remnant will rise (or remain) as opposition and even persecution increases.  Congregations that are deep and wide—full of committed disciples who have “counted the cost” (Luke 14:28) will make up a hearty and healthy remnant capable of withstanding the cultural and governmental pressures.   GOD IS CALLING US TO RISE AS A REMNANT PEOPLE!

Here is my point:  We need to COUNT THE COST.  To model our church life around expectations of real commitment and sacrifice is costly.  To prepare for persecution before it really becomes oppressive will make us look odd—or even fanatical.  Still, we MUST keep growing deeper and wider—loving God and people with an ever-growing passion…  AND, we must connect more tightly with persecuted brethren and churches around the world.  We have MUCH to learn from those who have walked through the fire and have thrived…

While no one in their right mind desires persecution, it is Lord Himself who encourages us to stay awake and be watchful.  It is the Word Himself who warns us about tribulations and who calls us to count the cost.  Have you?  Will You?  Are in in?  Are you ready to stand and remain standing as a remnant people on the Gospel truth?  I hope so.  There are (currently) easier alternatives to churched life than ours.  Not all, I’m afraid, will remain standing.  I am totally convinced that this congregation, together, will.  We’ve counted.  We’re all in.

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