Can we be a 'Warming Center'?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

 

Baby, it’s cold outside!  Don’t go there… I am not starting a discussion about a song. Leaving the house in order to open the building to the public at 7:00 am as a “Warming Center,” one thing was very obvious – it is COLD outside!  The current temperature is -19F and the windchill is around -46F.


As I sat here pondering just how people might respond to our offer of ‘warmth,’ I realized that we use the word ‘cold’ in many different ways with interesting twists.  For instance, when I was younger it was quite puzzling to hear about the “Cold War.”  Or consider the response you might have heard or used, not in reference to a drink, but someone’s behavior: “That was cold!”


We use ‘cold’ as an adjective, a noun, and an adverb!  As an adjective is can refer to just what we are experiencing today, “a low or relatively low temperature, especially when compared with the human body.”  Or then there is emotional usage: “lacking affection or warmth of feeling.” As a noun the word refers to a low temperature (especially in the atmosphere) and the miserable, but common viral infection in which the nose and throat becomes inflamed, typically causing running at the nose, sneezing, a sore throat, and other similar symptoms.  Though rare, the word is also used informally as an adjective meaning completely or entirely.


So maybe we need to be a bit more precise!


Though I am concerned about the welfare of people when we experience conditions such as those outside this week, I am more concerned about spiritual matters.  Though I want people to know that they are welcome at First Christian Church for a respite from the bitter temperatures, I am more concerned that we become known for our “warmth of feeling.”


We are all too often guilty of not acting and speaking properly to others, displaying a lack of affection. At times, however, we are simply guilty of not knowing how to show are positive concerns… and that also causes pain.  With the bitter temperatures outside and concerns over how other perceive our actions, I am reminded of the words of Proverbs 25:20 – “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.”  


Father, forgive us for the times we have taken those garments both intentionally and inadvertently!


My prayer is that we will be the ‘warming center’ that God wants us to be, providing food and warmth for the physically cold and hungry, as well as a ‘warming center’ for those who have been marginalized, those who are hurting, those who have been battered and bruised by those “lacking affection or warmth of feeling.”

What the church needs today! 

Monday, January 14, 2019

 

“What the Church needs to-day is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use -- men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men -- men of prayer.”

                                                ― E.M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer

When I was sixteen years old (and just beginning to drive) it was hard to imagine what cars might look like in the year 2000.  Many were speculating that by that point they would not even touch the ground, either hovering over the surface or flying through the air.  We are now nineteen years beyond that point and, for the most part, cars are much the same as they were in both 2000 and 1969.  Though ‘electric’ and ‘plug-in Hybrid’ cars are beginning to make a mark, the vast majority of vehicles on the road are still powered by the old internal-combustion engine – with performance improvements and cosmetic changes.


Many are warning of the imminent demise of the church. Several books have appeared over the past few years bearing such titles as The Demise of the Modern Day Church (James E. Martin), The Demise of the Church (Samuel Adullam), and The Vanishing of the gospel and the Demise of the Church (Dr. Bill Bennett & Josh Franklin).


Many are calling for drastic changes in the church, including not only the way church is done (method), but also what is being proclaimed (the message).  These battles go far beyond the choice of music and the clothing worn.  If we need to change our methods, let’s get to work!  However, the message of God’s Word should always set the parameters for the methods we choose.


What is it that is causing the decline in both church attendance and church influence? Few would argue that it is more difficult to lead churches to growth than it was just a few decades ago. In a article titled “Five Reasons Why Churches are Dying and Declining Faster Today” (Sept. 14, 2016), Thom Rainer states that the ‘reality’ is about 15 years in the making. He discusses the following five of those reasons: (1) cultural Christianity is declining rapidly; (2) the exit of the ‘Builder generation’ (those born before 1946); (3) migration from rural areas and small towns to the cities; (4)  people transferring from one church to another who are concentrating in fewer churches; and (5) slow response to change as change accelerates all around us.


I do not disagree with the findings of Rainer.  But I also accept the wisdom of E.M. Bounds, as stated above.  We need to earnestly seek God’s guidance in prayer. We need people who committed to God and to the reading of God’s Word who are willing to submit to the Holy Spirit.


Let me close with something for you to think about.  What if some of the changes for which people are clamoring are not from God?  Listen to the words from one more book concerned about the ‘disappearing church’:

What if our attempts at relevance, at mimicking and outdoing the beautiful world, actually limit our ministry potential? What if our increasing strangeness to Western culture is actually to our advantage? What if the fact that you can no longer be warmly embraced in the contemporary cultural fold if you are an orthodox Christian is actually the best thing that has happened to us? [Mark Sayers, Disappearing Church: From Cultural Relevance to Gospel Resilience]


Now read Philippians 3:12-16.  Let’s make a part of our resolve for the new year to be “Committed to God” in all that we say and do and to join with Paul as he has written, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”