Calvary Temple At Eighty (8-31-03)

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The history of this local assembly runs deep and is very colorful.  From humble beginnings in storefronts and various gathering places until the building we are in which was built in the l970’s.  

When this congregation was formed in 1923, Ruth Stewart was seven years of age and her little brother, Arthur, was around 5 years of age.  He’s the one we call “Doc.” 

As a congregation, we have witnessed many changes in our history.  Some have been welcome, some not so welcome.  Our growth has been consistent and solid, with some variations over the years.  Our pulpit has hosted many shepherds-pastors.  Each has contributed to who and what we are as a body of Christian believers. 

Where do we go from here?  Where will our future growth come from?  Are we destined to join other movements and churches, which refused to honestly examine their purpose and mission and to adjust their methods for growth?

In the church world, at large, there is a huge paradigm-shift in philosophy, in doctrine.  In many metropolitan cities, expansive, mega-churches have sprouted with 15—even 20, 000 attendees.  One such church has two Saturday evening worship services and five Sunday worship services, each one filled to capacity.

When I was a teenager in the 50’s, the largest Pentecostal churches were around 200 in attendance.  In my lifetime, I have witnessed an explosion of growth in many, non-traditional, non-denominational churches.  It is common for many of our Assembly of God churches to have 2-3000 in attendance.

God has placed Calvary Temple in this exciting period of history.  We will either adapt or catch a vision for what God wants to do, or we could fade off into oblivion like many denominational churches.  Go into many of the major cities of the East and Northeast.  There you will see great edifices, which no longer have services and have been closed or taken over by aggressive, evangelistic churches that are reaching communities that, have long been abandoned by other churches.

    1. In the past;

                                          i.    Our church has witnessed remarkable growth in attendance in the 14 years that Milbre and I have attended here.

1.    Some stayed, others exited out the back door.

2.    My pastoral mission is to try and close those exits.

                                        ii.    There are different measures of growth.

    1. Transfer growth

                                          i.    For Pastors and church leaders, numerical growth is a powerfully, intoxicating justification.

                                        ii.    It can impair sound judgment and make you vulnerable to just about anything that will help you achieve your success.

                                       iii.    Author, William Chadwick, has written a book entitled, “Stealing Sheep, the church’s hidden problems with transfer growth”

1.    He relates the time as a child, he stole a penny piece of bubble gum and after being caught, his mother made him pay restitution by finding bottles he could redeem and pay the store for the gum.

2.    He said the next time he stole; he was an Ordained Christian minister.  His treasure was no longer penny bubblegum, but was “sheep”, active members of the body of Christ in another congregation that were the objects of his attention

3.    Some were spiritually fat sheep, so well fed that they hated the same old meals that had brought them health and prosperity thus far.

4.    They were in search of some new and exciting dimension in church life, an unidentified something more.  Usually bored, these gross underachievers were not often praised and could be easily enticed to transfer their membership by the promise of a new, fulfilling and invigorating experience. 

5.    Others were thin, starving animals—members of a church whose pastor preached the same old message every week and offered no spiritual food to the congregation.  They were easily wooed away by offers to address the most basic of spiritual needs.

6.    Then there were the black sheep: consummate malcontents who were always testing and challenging pastoral decisions, points of theology or any other topic that could elicit controversy.  Perpetually ready to escape form their current shepherd, they lived lives of seeking, church hopping and wanderlust.

7.    Last, there were the dumb sheep, the easily influenced that simply followed the flock.  Many were mesmerized by the opinions and actions of others.   He goes on to say that these, never really having an opinion of their own, they sought security in keeping in line with the latest trends of the majority.  They would leave their church, just because others were doing so.

                                       iv.    Changing Values.

1.    Our culture’s influence on the church has generally been underestimated.  No longer are many people loyal to the church of their historic roots.  He points out that, for many, the church has changed from a place where one serves to where one seeks services.  The important question they ask, “Does this church meet our needs?”

2.    Needs can be confused with wants, and wants can be subjective.  This can lead us to a continuous cycle to church shopping.

3.    The chapter ends with the sad news after years of tremendous growth of this sort, the foundations of his church began to crack, when those same folks continued their quest for the “perfect” church.  And they witnessed a dramatic drop in their attendance. It was a depressing and an awakening experience.

    1. Growth from within.                                           i.    Planned, calculated growth that comes from birth of new Christians in the local assembly that are discipled or trained to reproduce themselves in others.

                                        ii.    This is God’s plan!  He wants us to be evangelistic, passionate about Missions and passionate about this city where he has planted this church.

                                       iii.    To understand this concept, I want to first address the question:

    1. The genius of the body of Christ and the importance of relationships within it.                                           i.    Understanding this genius, we begin to grasp the importance of the role of membership fidelity in maturing and prospering the church.
    2. A building?

                                          i.    “Here’s the church and there’s the steeple, open it up and there’s the people.

                                        ii.    More than perception, rooted in our culture is the idea that the church is a building.  “I’m going to church”.  We call the building where we worship “the church”. 

    1. “The people”?                                           i.    A second common perception is that the church is the people who gather.

                                        ii.    This is closer to Biblical reality—but what people?

                                       iii.    Many view the church as a social club. They join the church in the same way they join a country club, Kiwanis, or Rotary.

                                       iv.    This view downplays the significance of the church’s importance in a person’s life.  It is only there to provide status, programming and services such as weddings and funerals.

                                        v.    Changing churches, then, has to do with keeping up with the Joneses or upholding ethnic and cultural norms rather than being a part of a living reality.

    1. A denomination?                                           i.    Which is the true Christian church, the building or the people—or is it a denomination that holds the right to the title ”the church’?
    2. The Biblical Model                                           i.    In the New Testament the term is ekklesia (church or assembly) literally “the called-out ones”

                                        ii.    It appears 111 times.  73 times it is referring to the gathering of people, but never does it refer to a building.

                                       iii.    It is a gathering of God’s people which Ephesians calls the church or the “Body of Christ.”

                                       iv.    Those that have been born again into a “new and living hope.”

                                        v.    The church as a congregation is first pictured in the Book of Acts 2:42-47 where it tells us that those who responded to Peter’s message of repentance were filled with the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and gathered together, meeting from house to house and followed the apostle’s teaching, had fellowship and prayer.

                                       vi.    Paul describes the “Body” in Corinthians comparing it to the human body, with the Head of the Body, being Christ.

                                      vii.    I Cor 12 14, 18, 25 describes that body has having many different parts and God has “arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.”

    1. If we will follow Him, our future is brighter than our past!                                           i.    “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray, then I will hear from heaven.”

                                        ii.    God wants to bless us with exponential growth!  But he wants it to come from winning new people to Christ!

                                       iii.    Some of us came out of untenable situations in churches to a place of healing and restoration in the place. Calvary Temple is unique in that respect. 

                                       iv.    It is time for us to “stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”  He wants to grow us, not just numerically, but spiritually as well!

    1. Our new Senior Pastor will be here soon.

                                          i.    It is time to move beyond issues over which we have no control and not give Satan a place where he can sow discord and malcontent.

                                        ii.    God’s will is to use this place as a “saving station.”  We need a revival of such proportions that places of sinfulness such as the casino would have to close—and we would need their building.

                                       iii.    Only God can do that—but He can do it!


Eighty years of colorful history.  As we move into the fourth or fifth generation of our existence, what kind of history is this generation going to write?  Should Jesus come in this generation (and He could!), will we be found watching and waiting?  Will we be found doing the “Father’s business?”  Winning souls for His kingdom. “For God so loved Auburn that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him, will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

My belief is that if we are doing what God has called us to do, we will not give Satan a place in our life.  We will be so consumed in prayer and obedience to God’s will, that much of what is thrown at us will bounce off the shield of faith. 

I want to see revival where the blind see, cancers are healed, the deaf hear, but most of all, where a lost, dying generation can find hope, peace and restoration.

If you don’t know Jesus as your Savior, you can make that choice today.  You can be a part of what God is going to do.

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