This past Monday I set out to arrange and organize my study at the church. My books and furniture were already there, I had hung pictures on the wall, but the room seemed cramped when the square footage said it shouldn’t be. The problem was the arrangement. For two hours I moved furniture and compared, but nothing seemed to work. Then it dawned on me. The problem I was having was that I was trying to arrange the furniture around the pictures already hung. So, I took every picture down, placed them in the hallway and in 15 minutes I knew where everything needed to be—then I hung the pictures.
As I was finishing up, I realized this very problem had been a restraint in some of my previous ministries. You see, the pictures represent the things the church has been doing for years upon years. Those “pictures” are the things we arranged everything else around and as the churches declined, more and more energy was invested in trying to maintain what we’ve been doing for so long , and less and less energy in discovering what God wants to be done now. That is usually the mode churches find themselves in when they finally die.
Wallace Baptist Tabernacle was once a thriving church in Wallace, NC. By the 1990’s it had declined from 350 in attendance to less than 40. Mr. Smith was the deacon chair. He and I met through a mutual friend and began to discuss what needed to be done if the church was going to have a future. My first suggestion was to repaint the church a different color and give the church a new name. Mr. Smith, a good man, and still a good friend responded, “We started with that name, and we are not going to change it” and they didn’t. Today if you drive down Hwy 117 from Wallace to Rose Hill on the right-hand side of the road you will see a large church building with a tattered roof, peeling paint, and a faded church sign still emblazoned Wallace Baptist Tabernacle. They preserved the name and lost the church.
I’m not saying a name change would have saved it. I am saying the unwillingness to change the name, the pining to resurrect a bygone time, and the struggle to preserve something the Word of God never mandated is what killed the church. Many church business meeting victories preserving the historical and negotiable church practices have often paved the path to ultimate death.
As your pastor I want you to know that I’m not reading a book trying to reproduce somebody else’s successful ministry. I’m not trying to preserve or resurrect the past. I just want to start with a blank wall. I’m trying to hear and discern the voice of God through prayer and the Word to see what HE wants so that we can have HIS blessings. I’m telling the Lord our desire is not to see 1990 come back. “O Lord you are the only non-negotiable. We desire to see YOU glorified in YOUR house.” Here is what I know to be undeniably true: Change will not bring revival but unwillingness to change will absolutely prevent it.
"Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past. "Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” (Isa 43:18-19)