TEN UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS OF PASTORS’ WIVES

TEN UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS OF PASTORS’ WIVES

By Thom Rainer

The pastor’s wife in many churches carries heavy burdens.

Sometimes they are impossible expectations.

To be fair, this post could refer to any church staff person, male or female, so it could be called ministers’ spouses. For simplicity, and because I primarily hear from this group of people, I refer to them as pastors’ wives.

So what are some of these unfair expectations? Here are the top ten expectations imposed upon these ladies.

  1. “I am expected to attend every function at the church.” One wife told us that church members resent it when she is seen doing anything outside the church.
  2. “Many church members expect me to know everything that is happening in the church.” In other words, they should know everything their pastor/husband knows.
  3. “We have several church members who feel free to complain to me about my husband.” So her church has several members who are lacking in emotional intelligence.
  4. “Church members utilize me as a de facto assistant to my husband, giving me messages for him.” One wife shared with us that she received eleven messages to give to her husband after a specific worship service.
  5. “I am still amazed how many church members expect me to function as an employee of the church.” Some are expected to lead music or play piano. Others are expected to act in a specific ministry employee role such as student or children’s director.
  6. “Some of the members expect our children to be perfect and act perfect.” One wife explained that she and her husband were new to a church when a church member confronted them about their misbehaving children. Their outlandish sin was running in the church after a worship service.
  7. “I am always supposed to be perfectly made up and dressed when I leave the house.” A church member expressed her dismay to a pastor’s wife who ran into a grocery store without makeup. You can’t make this stuff up.
  8. “I have no freedom at our church to be anything but perfectly emotionally composed.” This story really got to me. A deacon chastised a pastor’s wife for shedding tears at church four days after her dad died.
  9. “I think some of our church members expect my family to take a vow of poverty.”She was specifically referring to the criticism she received for purchasing a six-year-old minivan after her third child was born.
  10. “So many church members expect me to be their best friend.” And obviously a pastor’s wife can’t be the best friend to everyone, so she disappoints or angers others.

These are some of the comments we have received at this blog over the years from pastors’ wives. And it seems as though these trials are more gender biased. For example, the husband of a children’s minister commented that he rarely has the pressure and expectations that he sees imposed upon female spouses.

But more than other staff positions, the pastor is naturally the focus of attention and, often, criticism.

And the pastor’s family, by extension, becomes the focus of unfair and unreasonable expectations.

 

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 4, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

5 comments

  • sharon

    Spot on with these expectations; somedays the pressure is overwhelming.

  • Major Ellis

    If you think these are something you should interview the wife of a Salvation Army officer . Yes, he is a minister / ????Pastor as well.

    I enjoyed this article. I have recently retired as a minister and you would be surprised at the comments that come about you even in retirement.
    God Bless!

  • Brian Scott

    Perhaps another demand is being doing and achieving the exact role responsibility and attitude of the most successful friendly and best spuse who has left the church community. The demands are never clear at the start of a ministry perhaps this is a question that should be asked. Whay is expected of Us? If the responsability is achievable then those whom answer for the church are the ones who should then explain to the community whay is expected and achievable. There seems to be a lot of church life run by a few when all are called to participate.

  • Emma

    As an Evangelist and Pastor’s wife of 39 years, one is expected to serve on the same level and with the same perfection and anointing as in earlier years. Otherwise, one’s worth & value is diminished in the eyes of the people, howbeit that God allows a time when His servant is being tried and tested. God’s faithful servant, Job, was allowed by God to be greatly attacked by the enemy, satin, and suffered devastating loss. Never the less, Job declared, “…but He knoweth the way that I take:when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10 KJV). God has spoken and, like Job, my latter will be greater!

  • Monica Anyango Akoro

    Our expectations of pastor’s wives are very high. We thought they should be our role model

The Church of Unbridled Orthodoxy

The Church of Unbridled Orthodoxy

unbridledBy Barry L. Davis

[Excerpted from Barry’s book God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles] All Scripture quoted from the English Standard Version.


 

Let’s begin by examining what Jesus said to the church at Ephesus:

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’ – Revelation 2:1-7

From this text we learn several things about truth in the church:

THE NECESSITY OF TRUTH

Like her television show, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” actress Sarah Michelle Gellar’s personal spirituality borrows from a hodgepodge of religions. She said, “I consider myself a spiritual person. I believe in an idea of God, although it’s my own personal ideal. I find most religions interesting, and I’ve been to every kind of denomination: Catholic, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist. I’ve taken bits from everything and customized it.”

The fact that Sarah doesn’t know the difference between Buddhism and Christianity gives us some idea of her knowledge in this area, but the sad fact is that what she states is common in this day and age. There is a disregard for any one truth — any absolute — anything that says, “this is the way that it is and there are no other options.” But absolute truth is a necessity, especially when it comes to our faith in God.

Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:32

There is a power to truth itself, finding its foundation in the God who is always true, that liberates us to be the people we were created to be. And there are certain truths that we must believe as a church and as individuals if we are going to function in such a way that is pleasing to God.

Truth Drives Us

“I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance…” – Revelation 2:2a

Like the church in Ephesus, we have many people across Christendom who work long and hard on behalf of the church. Many people give up personal time, time when they could be doing other things, to come to worship rehearsal, to come to classes, to prepare to teach, to serve on ministry teams, and to witness to others about Christ.

Why do so many people do that? They do it because they believe in the truth of Jesus Christ and this drives them to sacrifice of themselves to fulfill His mission. This is something Jesus commends them for.

As church leaders we are driven by this same truth. It is what makes us move forward, even when we don’t feel like it. It is what causes us to continue in ministry when sometimes a secular field seems more appealing.

Truth Inspires Us

The truth of Christ not only drives us to work for the kingdom, but gives us the inspiration necessary to endure and triumph in a world that opposes us. We are not just working for a sterile, generic type of truth, but one that we believe will change the lives of those who surrender to it. We’re not here wasting our breath, or spinning in circles — we have a mandate from Christ Himself to share the most significant truths that have ever existed in the history of the world.

Truth Alerts Us

This is a function of the truth of Christ that I think has been lax in the churches for several decades. It is using the standard of truth, not just to lead people to Christ, but also to filter out those who distort the truth, yet who still claim to be a part of Christ’s kingdom. While most of us don’t want to be accused of being on a witch hunt, and we all know of some in the “discernment ministry” that find wrongdoing under every bush, we also cannot ignore that there are those, perhaps even within our own church, who are teaching things and living in such a way that distorts the truth, rather than promoting it.

“I know…you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.” – Revelation 2:2-3

The church has the responsibility to discern between truth and error. The Ephesian church was faced with people claiming to be apostles but they really weren’t. Amazingly, we now have a current crop of people claiming to be Apostles in our own day who come nowhere close to meeting the biblical qualifications . How could the Ephesians (and how can we) know who lives up to the biblical standard if they aren’t champions of truth? In our day and age when we have charlatans claiming the authority of Christ who deny the basic truths of Christianity – what do we do with them? We must decide that we will not tolerate them at all.

Yet this you have: you hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. – Revelation 2:6

We see this group, the Nicolaitans, come up several times as we look at the seven churches of Revelation. We will meet them again when we look at Pergamum where we read about those who follow Balaam, and then again in Thyatira with those following Jezebel. I am confident that all of these accounts are talking about the same people. What we really need to notice is that this is a threat against the truth of Christ from within the church, not outside of it. These people are trying to infiltrate the church, and Jesus commends the Ephesians for opposing them. In this day and age, when so many are calling for unity, even when we disagree on fundamental issues of the faith, this should be a wake-up call.

The standard of truth is the Word of God, and if anyone opposes the Word of God by trying to distort it or by denying it is in reality working in opposition to the church of Jesus Christ. And Jesus says, we are commended if we do not allow that to happen.

THE POTENTIAL DANGER OF TRUTH

After what I just said, this point might sound a little off in left field, but let me explain. Sometimes we can take the truth Christ has given us and actually begin worshiping the truth rather than the one who has given us the truth. In other words, we become so zealous in our understanding that Jesus gets lost somewhere in the process. This is what I mean by the title of this article, “Unbridled Orthodoxy” — it is taking truth — Orthodoxy — and using it in a way it was not intended.

But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. – Revelation 2:4-5

There are two potential dangers here:

Legalism

Legalism is when we take God’s truth and use it as a club to beat other people over the head with it. It is when we begin to come up with a system of dos and don’ts that are never found in the Scripture and use that system to decide who is and who isn’t a real Christian. For instance, Jesus commends us for using discernment when someone denies He is God in the flesh, or when they speak against a foundational truth of Christianity. But legalism is setting up rules of fellowship and acceptance based on other criteria.

For example, a legalist might decide that you couldn’t possibly be a Christian because you have a worship style they don’t like, or use a translation of the Bible different from theirs, or because your women wear pants and make-up, or some other criteria the Bible never uses. In reality, this is not following the truth of Christ at all, but instead following a counterfeit truth disguised as conservative Christianity.

Loss of Love

Jesus said this type of church has lost both their love for Him and for each other. And that is exactly what happens to every church that misuses truth. They become so focused on what everyone looks like, and whether they agree with them on every little issue to the nth degree that they forget all about their purpose for being a Christian. And in the quest for doctrinal purity, they forget about the need to love, even those who disagree and who do things differently than they do. Worst of all, they lose their capacity to love Christ as they once did.

Jesus told them if they didn’t get their act together He would “come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.” He is saying that He will remove their light-giving capability, their testimony, and their ability to reach out to a lost world. And if you know any churches like this you also know that is exactly what happens to them over time when they misuse the truth of Christ.

THE BALANCE OF TRUTH

Obviously there has to be some balance here — we want to live by the truth, we want to have truth as our standard, and we do not want to compromise where the truth is concerned. So what do we do?

KEY: TRUTH DEMONSTRATED THROUGH LOVE

There is a truth that supersedes all other truth — it is the commandment to love.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. – Matthew 22:37-39

Truth, in its purest form, is a balance between the facts Christ has given to us and the expression of those truths through love for God and our fellow man. In fact, I would go so far as to say that if I am not loving God and those around me, I don’t really understand what truth is — the two go hand in hand.

In our text Jesus is speaking to a church that had allowed this balance to get all out of whack — and so He tells them how to pull it back together. Now I honestly don’t know if this is an area where your church has a problem. It is important for you to sit down before God in prayer and examine the situation you find yourself in. If you are in the same or a similar situation as the church at Ephesus, Jesus gives three basic instructions that must be followed to turn this thing around.

Remember

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen…” – Revelation 2:5a

He’s saying, “Look back to how it used to be. Remember how it was when you were first called to ministry. Regain that feeling of love that you once had.” Unless you are the founding minister of the church you serve, you probably don’t know a lot about its history. Look back into the records, or talk to members who were there at the start, and find out what the drive of the church was at its founding. Get out all of the Board Meeting Minutes that are available and read them from the oldest to the most recent entry. Most likely you will find that, at least at the beginning, there was a heart-felt need and desire to evangelize, grow, and disciple.

Do you remember that time when you first came into a relationship with Christ? Do you remember the excitement, the joy, and the expressions of love you felt for Christ and all those around you. We need to remember and focus on that time to turn things around. The excitement and other feelings you felt at conversion are the same types of feelings that should be emanating from your church.

Repent

“…repent, and do the works you did at first…” – Revelation 2:5b

It’s interesting that Jesus ties this behavior together with a turning away from Him. Misusing truth and our love for Christ isn’t just some small problem we can ignore. It is in reality turning away from Jesus Himself and setting out on our own path. Whenever we turn away from Christ there is a need to turn back to Him — the Bible calls this “repentance” — it is doing a U-Turn with your life and following God’s ways instead of your own. But repentance is not just for the individual; the Church is called to repent when it finds itself drifting away from its first love.

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? – 1 Peter 4:17

Return

“…repent, and do the works you did at first…” – Revelation 2:5c

Here is the same verse with a different point of emphasis. When we remember and repent, it is with the purpose in mind of returning to a place in our spiritual lives and in our church where Christ is placed first. “Go back to work” Jesus says. “Go back to loving and being loved. Go back to following truth.” “Go back to being the kind of Christ Follower and Church Fellowship you were created to be.”

At the end of His message to each of the seven churches Jesus gives a promise —it’s a promise that can be applied to all of us. Here is His promise to the Church at Ephesus as well as to your church today:

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. – Revelation 2:7

Have you been listening to what the Spirit has been saying to you in this article? If so, the time is coming when you have been promised victory in paradise. May you and your church strive to be the Church Jesus is calling you to be!

Barry L. Davis

 

Having been a pastor for two decades, Barry knows what it is like to be on the front lines of ministry, in the pulpit, out in the community, in board meetings, doing evangelism, and all the rest that comes with an active church ministry. Bringing that experience to the Pastor’s Helper, he is in a unique position to lead other pastors to be successful in God’s calling upon their lives.

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One Key Reason Most Churches Do Not Exceed 350 in Average Attendance

One Key Reason Most Churches Do Not Exceed 350 in Average Attendance

By Thom Rainer

Nine out of ten.

That’s a lot.

Nine out of ten churches in America have an average worship attendance of less than 350. And that percentage has not changed significantly for many years. Yet the unchurched pool of persons is increasing in most communities. There are people yet to be reached.

But most churches will never exceed 350 in attendance. Why?

A Few Caveats

Allow me to preface my analysis. First, big is not necessarily better. A church with more people in attendance is not necessarily more faithful than a smaller church. Second, some churches are in very sparsely populated areas. There may not be 350 people in a five-mile radius (though every community still has people who need to be reached).

My third caveat is key. I believe leadership is indeed a biblical and theological issue. It’s really a matter of healthy stewardship. I offer this third caveat because I will be addressing the issue of leadership in this post.

Attendance Levels of Churches in America

We are a nation and continent of smaller churches. And though we have far more small churches than large churches, there is a big migration of people from smaller to larger churches. In other words, many of the smaller churches are getting smaller, and many of the larger churches are getting larger.

Here is a simple depiction of the number of churches at three different levels:

  • 50% of all churches in America average less than 100 in worship attendance.
  • 40% of all churches in America average between 100 and 350 in attendance.
  • 10% of all churches in America average more than 350 in attendance.

Keep in mind that the upper 10% tend to include more of the growing churches, while the lower 90% tend to include more of the declining churches.

One of the Key Reasons

There is no single reason to explain the apparent ceiling of 350 in attendance of most churches. I do believe, however, that there is a major reason for this barrier. Such is the thesis of this post:

One of the key reasons most churches do not move beyond 350 in average worship attendance is they do not have sufficient leadership and structures in place.

Many smart people have provided analyses of what is commonly known as the 200 barrier. I believe that the 200 barrier is highly elastic. In other words, the barrier is really somewhere between 150 and 350, depending on a number of circumstances. Again, I believe that the key reason stated above is among the greatest inhibitors of growth.

Increasing Organizational Complexity

Moses was an unintended victim of organizational complexity. He was trying the Lone Ranger approach to the leadership of Israel. The nation would implode and he would lose his leadership authority if he kept doing what he was doing.

His father-in-law, Jethro, saw the flaws of his leadership and said:

“What you’re doing is not good . . . You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18, HCSB).

So, following Jethro’s advice and wisdom, Moses became a different kind of leader with a different kind of organization.

Here are the five major levels of organizational complexity in churches according to average worship attendance:

  1. Under 100: Family and friends
  2. 100 to 250: Basic
  3. 251 to 350: Challenging
  4. 351 to 750: Complex
  5. Above 750: Highly complex

Most churches cannot or are not willing to make the types of changes that are necessary in complex organizations. In future resources, I will share what many leaders and churches are doing to move beyond the 100, 250, and 350 ceilings. In the meantime, let me hear from you.


Note from Barry: I highly recommend Thom’s new book, “Who Moved My Pulpit: Leading Change in the Church.” It deals with these specific issues in depth. Just click on the book cover below to preview and order.

 

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 25, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

The Top Ten Most Fiercely Defended Traditions in Churches

The Top Ten Most Fiercely Defended Traditions in Churches

barbed-wire-border-fence-348-830x550By Thom Rainer

I recently embarked on a major research project for a new resource I will soon be offering. Part of my research included a long review of thousands of comments made on this site over the past few years. Though my research had another purpose, I became intrigued by the comments related to church traditions.

Of course, by “traditions,” I am referring to those extra-biblical customs that become a way of life for many congregations. A tradition is neither inherently good nor bad. Its value or its distraction in a given church really depends on how members treat the traditions.

With that in mind, I began noting the most frequently defended traditions in churches. As a corollary, these traditions can also be a potential source of divisiveness. They are ranked here according to the frequency of the comments.

  1. Worship and music style. Though I have noted elsewhere that this issue is not as pervasive as it once was, it is still number one.
  2. Order of worship service. Thou shalt not change any items in the order of worship.
  3. Times of worship service(s). The first three most frequently defended traditions are related to worship services.
  4. Role of the pastor. The pastor is to be omnipresent and omniscient. Many church members have clear expectations of what “their” pastor should do.
  5. Committee structure. Many congregations continue committee structures long after their usefulness has waned.
  6. Specific ministries and programs. The healthy church constantly evaluates the effectiveness of its ministries and programs. That’s good stewardship. Other churches continue their ministries and programs because that’s the way they’ve always done it.
  7. Location of church facility. A church relocation can be an issue of fierce debate, even contention, in many congregations.
  8. Use of specific rooms. Some of the more frequently named rooms are the worship center, the parlor, the gym, and the kitchen/fellowship hall.
  9. Business meetings. Traditions include the frequency of business meetings, the scope of authority of business meetings, and the items covered in business meetings.
  10. Staff ministry descriptions. Some churches insist on having the same staff positions with the same titles with the same ministry descriptions even though the needs in the congregations may have changed dramatically.

My purpose in writing this article is twofold. First, I thought it might be of interest to church leaders. Second, I hope it can provide a cautionary note for those who are leading change.

Let me hear from you. Do these fiercely defended traditions seem familiar in your church? What would you add?

 

ThomRainerThis article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on February , 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Eight Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980s

Eight Reasons Many Churches Are Living in the 1980s

the80s

By Thom Rainer

Nine out of ten churches in America are either declining, or they are growing so slowly they are not keeping up with the growth rate of the community in which they are located.

It’s a long sentence. Read it again carefully. Soak it in. Across America 90 percent of the churches are losing ground in their respective communities. Most of them are declining. Many of them will close.

As I have worked with thousands of churches over the past three decades, I have noticed something fascinating, yet disturbing, about many of these churches. They are still acting like it’s the 1980s. The world has passed them by. They are deemed irrelevant by members of their communities. They are frozen in a time warp.

Why has this tragedy fallen on so many churches? Though I don’t want to oversimplify the issue, I see at least eight reasons for this crisis.

  1. They are trying to shelter themselves from culture. In the 1980s, congregations were typically part of the mainstream culture. They were accepted in most places, and embraced in some. That is not the culture of today. Many church members use their churches as a getaway from the realities they don’t want to face.
  2. Programs were easy answers. The vast majority of churches in the 1980s were program-driven. If there was a perceived need, they would order a resource that best solved that need. Many churches today still think they can get quick fixes from programs.
  3. Churches largely catered to the needs of church members in the 1980s. We thus created a culture of membership that is me-driven. Many church members do not want to make the sacrifices necessary to reach our communities and culture today. They are demanding their own needs and preferences to be the priority of their churches.
  4. Change was more incremental. If your church is stuck in the 1980s, it does not have to worry about the rapid pace of change today. Members can pretend like their church does not need to change despite the massive upheavals of change in the world.
  5. Church growth was easier. In the 1980s, a number of people would visit our churches without much effort on the members’ part. One church member told me recently, “If lost people want to come to our church, they know where we are.” Sigh.
  6. Denominations provided solutions. Not all churches in the 1980s belonged to a denomination, but many did. And many members expected the denominational organizations to guide them and resource them. Denominations work best today in partnership with churches, but too many church members want to return to the paradigm of the 1980s.
  7. Others did evangelism for the members in the 1980s. Evangelism was the responsibility of the pastor or the denomination or a few people in a program. Church members paid others to do the work they were supposed to do. Some church members today are more concerned about their worship style preference than lost people who need to hear the gospel.
  8. Some churches would rather die than to get out of the comfort of their 1980’s paradigm. I feel certain they will do just that.

What do you think of these issues of time-warp churches? Let me hear from you.

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on October 5, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Why Some Churches Choose to Die

Why Some Churches Choose to Die

Why-Some-Churches-Choose-to-Die

By Thom Rainer

The conversation surprised me.

I was recently meeting with about a dozen members of a church that was on the precipice of closing. During their perceived “good old days,” the average worship attendance was in the 40s and 50s. Now the church attendance was in the teens. The church was on metaphorical life support.

I shared with them some items of urgency that might give them some glimmer of hope. So I was surprised when one of the members asked me a question that seemed to come from nowhere: “Will we have to sing from screens instead of hymnals?” she asked with a tinge of anger.

I never responded directly to the question. It was too late. The few members were of one mind about an issue so peripheral I had never anticipated it. I left saddened.

The church had chosen to die.

The Need and the Passion

It is my life and ministry passion to help churches, particularly struggling churches, to revitalize. One of the greatest needs of churches today is to choose to live and to thrive.

Unfortunately, many congregations are choosing to die. For certain, they are not calling a business meeting and making a motion to die. Their choices are more subtle and, often, more incremental. But the end result is the same.

Churches are choosing to die.

Five Deadly Choices

So what are churches doing specifically that leads to their demise? Here are five of the more common choices.

  1. They refuse to face reality. I was in a dying church recently. The congregational average attendance was 425 seven years ago. Today it is 185. I could find no one in the church who thought the trends were bad. They were in a state of delusion and denial.
  2. They are more concerned about greater comfort than the Great Commission.Church membership has become self-serving. The church is more like a country club than the body of Christ. People are “paying dues” to get what they want in the church. It’s all about their preferences and desires.
  3. They are unwilling to accept responsibility. It’s the fault of culture. All the new churches in town are to blame. If someone wants to come to our church, they know where we are. People just don’t want to come to church anymore. Excuses and more excuses. I have never been in a community that is nearly fully churched. There are many people to reach. Excuses preclude obedience.
  4. They are too busy fighting and criticizing. If we could take the energy of church critics and antagonists into reaching people with the gospel, our churches would become evangelistic forces. Unfortunately in many churches, members expend most of their energies criticizing leadership and others, and fighting over trivial issues.
  5. They are confusing non-negotiables with negotiables. Almost ten years ago, a couple of men who live near me asked to visit with me in my home. They wanted me to consider visiting their church. One of the men told me their church was one of the few in the area defending the faith. I asked him what he meant by that. He explained that the faith was one particular Bible translation and traditional hymns. I wasn’t sure what happened to the bodily resurrection and substitutionary atonement. The church died within seven years.

Choosing to Live Rather Than Die

Most churches have choices to live or die. We use the word “revitalize” because it means to live again. I hope you will join me in this passion to see unhealthy churches become healthy, to see churches choose to live.

As one way of being a part of this movement of revitalization, I have teamed up with Revitalized Churches in Florida to offer the best resources we can to help in this cause. They are once again offering the resource that has helped hundreds of churches move toward revitalization.

Those churches have chosen to live.

Such is my prayer for your church.

 

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on November 4, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

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Broken Symbols

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[Feel free to edit and use this Easter/Lenten Season]

Bible_and_Lord's_Cup_and_Bread

Whenever we refer to something as symbolic, we are saying that it is representative of something else – generally of something much greater than the symbol itself. For instance, on my left hand I wear a symbol, a ring that represents the covenant I made with my wife many years ago. In our church auditorium as I stand at the pulpit, to my right and to my left are two other symbols – one a flag representing the Christian faith and the other flag representing the United States of America. On the table in front of the pulpit are more symbols, quite simple ones, really, just some pieces of bread and cups of juice. But these simple elements are representative of something much greater. Most of you are familiar with these symbols, but it is quite probable that many of us have become overly familiar with them.

Paul records for us what Jesus had to say about them:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:23-25, NKJV).

One item that many overlook in Jesus’ words is one of the most important – it is the word “broken.” The symbols that Jesus used to describe the great reality of His impending crucifixion were symbols that were broken, broken to represent four significant truths that should have a tremendous impact on each one of us reading this today.

1. A BROKEN WORLD

God created this world perfect in every way. The earth itself was devoid of any pollution and any corrosion. In the original created order there were no earthquakes, or hurricanes, or tornadoes. There was only rich soil, clean air and water, flawless vegetation and an absolutely perfect atmosphere. In the human realm there was no disease, no sickness and no death. God created humankind to be perfectly healthy in every respect. Morally, there was no animosity, or rebellion, or racism or division in any way.

But when the first human couple rebelled against God by sinning, God’s perfect creation was broken, every part of it, the natural, human, animal, and moral realms of creation were all affected negatively by sin.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned (Romans 5:12, NLT).

Adam’s sin broke the world. It caused division between the created order and man, man and man, and man and God. God had given Adam dominion over the entire creation; one was connected to the other, so when sin entered into Adam it also entered the natural world. God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you(Genesis 3:17).

It was like the proverbial house of cards that came crashing down. Not only does Genesis record for us the fall of man, but also the fall of the world in every single respect. Jesus’ celebration of the Lord’s Supper was looking forward to the day when God’s broken world would be reconciled with God.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21, NIV).

Our time of Communion is a time of looking into the future, when God’s new order becomes a present reality, when the shackles that bind the hands of the world are loosed and God’s original design is reinstated.

…we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13, NIV).

The broken symbols that we partake of are a reminder of the broken world in which we live, and which Jesus came to heal. They are a picture of the certain hope of a world that will be fully restored and within which we will dwell for eternity.

2. A BROKEN LIFE

As Jesus broke the bread and distributed it to His disciples, He had in the mind the broken lives of every man, woman, and child that would ever live. He could look at all of us, from Adam down through all of His descendants, and His heart was stirred with a desire for reconciliation and restoration.

God’s deepest desire is that the broken lives of today become the restored lives of tomorrow. When Jesus sees the brokenness of our souls and bodies He is moved to compassion.

As they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry (Luke 20:41, NLT).

Why did Jesus weep? Because He was looking out upon a city of people with broken lives that would not accept His offer of reconciliation. Jesus was looking at people just like us and He saw lives broken because of sin; he saw broken bodies, broken marriages, and broken souls in need of redemption. He saw disease that needed to be healed. He saw relationships that needed to be restored. Jesus saw tears that need to be wiped away, and sin that needed forgiven. Concerning His ministry, Jesus stated:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”(Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

            Jesus’ anointing was directed toward the broken lives of his culture and ours. The good news of God’s gifting is for those whose lives are dominated by poverty, for the imprisoned seeking liberation, the afflicted in search of healing, and the oppressed who so badly need their burdens to be lifted.

            A number of years ago I was a member of a church where a man who had been afflicted for many years by polio also attended each week with his mother. This man had full mental faculties but his body had been so ravaged by this dread disease that he could not walk or even speak. Men from the church would drive out to his house early Sunday morning, lift him onto a sheet of plywood, and then place him in the back of a station wagon to drive him and his elderly mother to the worship service. When they arrived at church they would place him on a flat cart and push him to the very front pew. Each week, when the ushers passed out communion, they would go to this man’s side where his mother would take the bread and the cup and place it in his mouth. One day I was asked to assist in passing out the elements for communion. It just so happened that I was the one who would take the cup and bread to this man. As I handed the elements to his mother, I watched as she lovingly placed the bread in his mouth, and then the juice. As he swallowed I looked into his eyes and saw the tears begin to well up. And from the look in his eyes I could tell that he knew a better day was coming!

            As Jesus broke the bread that day so many years ago, He saw the face of this man and He saw your face and mine. Jesus came to restore us and make us whole again. The Lord’s Supper distinctly represents the fullness of a life that has been cleansed and renewed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The elements are a constant reminder that He has come to restore our broken lives and make us whole again.

3. A BROKEN BODY

            Near the Cross, Fanny Crosby wrote, Jesus keep me near the cross, and multiplied thousands have sung it as a prayer. Those near the cross could hear the dripping of His blood and see it form a dirty pool on the ground. They saw it trickle down His naked side and drip off His toes. They saw it oozing from the spikes through His wrists and ankles. They saw it gush in a sacrificial fountain when the spear was thrust into His side. Those near the cross heard the sighs, the groans of the Savior. They saw the agony on His face when God the Father would not listen to Him anymore, but let Him die all alone. They heard His voice when He prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” They saw His lips, feverish and parched, when He begged for water and was given vinegar to drink. They were there to see Jesus’ head drop to His chest as He breathed His last.

            The Lord’s Supper represents the broken body of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It represents the agony and the pain – Yes! But more than that, it represents the length to which God is willing to go to restore the broken world and the broken lives that dwell there. The only way that God could heal the broken world and our broken lives was by coming to earth Himself and taking the punishment for our sins in our place. Because of His great love for us, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth to offer Himself as a sacrifice of substitution.

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Heb. 9:28, NIV).

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Col. 1:19-22, NIV).

            It is through the broken body of God hanging on a Cross that our brokenness is healed, our sorrows diminished, and our souls reconciled to our Creator. Peter wrote, (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet. 2:24, NIV). The broken symbols of the Lord’s Supper are a reminder that our healing was purchased with the price of Christ’s death.

4. A BROKEN HEART

            Does your heart break when you learn what Jesus has done for you, and when you recognize how you have run away from Him? The symbols on the table represent your heart if it is willing to be broken. The old spiritual asks the question, Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Why should we tremble at the memory of Jesus’ crucifixion? Because it shocks our system to come to the realization that this God of the Universe, the Creator of the World, would love us so much as to choose not to punish us for our rebellion, but embrace us with His love and an offer of reconciliation.

            When I see my own life, when I consider the times when I have rejected God, when I think of the many sins that I have committed against Him – and to know that He loves me so much that He is willing to die in my place – my heart is broken. It is broken because I have come to the realization that I was there when they crucified my Lord! It was my sin and my rejection of God and my foolish ways that drove the spikes into His wrists and ankles. It was my deliberate “in your face God” kind of attitude that thrust the spear into His side. It was my hate that ignited His love, my complacency that moved Him to action, my cruelty that fueled His compassion, and my sin that brought His grace.

            My heart becomes broken when I fully see that I have broken the heart of God. To have a broken heart, and to see it represented on the communion table, is a good and honorable thing, because it is only when our hearts are broken that they become pliable. It is only when we come in shame for our sin that we are able to see and accept God’s outstretched hand. Martin Luther said, “God creates out of nothing. Therefore until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.” And what does God make of us and our broken hearts? When we come in faith, accepting what Jesus has done for us, He takes our broken heart and replaces it with one that is brand new.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)

            Through Jesus’ broken body, the broken world, our broken lives, and our broken hearts are reunited with God for all of eternity. I hope your heart is broken for God today.

            The world is filled with broken things. A child weeps over a broken toy. An archaeologist rejoices over a broken jar. A broken atom powers a city. Before us each Sunday are two broken symbols: let us partake of these symbols, fully aware of what they represent, and let it be a time for both reflection and rejoicing.

In Christ,

Barry L. Davis

 

 

 

Barry

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Communion

Category Archives: Communion

Broken Symbols

[button link=”/BrokenSymbols.doc” type=”big” newwindow=”yes”] Click Here to download in Word Format[/button]

[Feel free to edit and use this Easter/Lenten Season]

Bible_and_Lord's_Cup_and_Bread

Whenever we refer to something as symbolic, we are saying that it is representative of something else – generally of something much greater than the symbol itself. For instance, on my left hand I wear a symbol, a ring that represents the covenant I made with my wife many years ago. In our church auditorium as I stand at the pulpit, to my right and to my left are two other symbols – one a flag representing the Christian faith and the other flag representing the United States of America. On the table in front of the pulpit are more symbols, quite simple ones, really, just some pieces of bread and cups of juice. But these simple elements are representative of something much greater. Most of you are familiar with these symbols, but it is quite probable that many of us have become overly familiar with them.

Paul records for us what Jesus had to say about them:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:23-25, NKJV).

One item that many overlook in Jesus’ words is one of the most important – it is the word “broken.” The symbols that Jesus used to describe the great reality of His impending crucifixion were symbols that were broken, broken to represent four significant truths that should have a tremendous impact on each one of us reading this today.

1. A BROKEN WORLD

God created this world perfect in every way. The earth itself was devoid of any pollution and any corrosion. In the original created order there were no earthquakes, or hurricanes, or tornadoes. There was only rich soil, clean air and water, flawless vegetation and an absolutely perfect atmosphere. In the human realm there was no disease, no sickness and no death. God created humankind to be perfectly healthy in every respect. Morally, there was no animosity, or rebellion, or racism or division in any way.

But when the first human couple rebelled against God by sinning, God’s perfect creation was broken, every part of it, the natural, human, animal, and moral realms of creation were all affected negatively by sin.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned (Romans 5:12, NLT).

Adam’s sin broke the world. It caused division between the created order and man, man and man, and man and God. God had given Adam dominion over the entire creation; one was connected to the other, so when sin entered into Adam it also entered the natural world. God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you(Genesis 3:17).

It was like the proverbial house of cards that came crashing down. Not only does Genesis record for us the fall of man, but also the fall of the world in every single respect. Jesus’ celebration of the Lord’s Supper was looking forward to the day when God’s broken world would be reconciled with God.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21, NIV).

Our time of Communion is a time of looking into the future, when God’s new order becomes a present reality, when the shackles that bind the hands of the world are loosed and God’s original design is reinstated.

…we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13, NIV).

The broken symbols that we partake of are a reminder of the broken world in which we live, and which Jesus came to heal. They are a picture of the certain hope of a world that will be fully restored and within which we will dwell for eternity.

2. A BROKEN LIFE

As Jesus broke the bread and distributed it to His disciples, He had in the mind the broken lives of every man, woman, and child that would ever live. He could look at all of us, from Adam down through all of His descendants, and His heart was stirred with a desire for reconciliation and restoration.

God’s deepest desire is that the broken lives of today become the restored lives of tomorrow. When Jesus sees the brokenness of our souls and bodies He is moved to compassion.

As they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry (Luke 20:41, NLT).

Why did Jesus weep? Because He was looking out upon a city of people with broken lives that would not accept His offer of reconciliation. Jesus was looking at people just like us and He saw lives broken because of sin; he saw broken bodies, broken marriages, and broken souls in need of redemption. He saw disease that needed to be healed. He saw relationships that needed to be restored. Jesus saw tears that need to be wiped away, and sin that needed forgiven. Concerning His ministry, Jesus stated:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”(Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

            Jesus’ anointing was directed toward the broken lives of his culture and ours. The good news of God’s gifting is for those whose lives are dominated by poverty, for the imprisoned seeking liberation, the afflicted in search of healing, and the oppressed who so badly need their burdens to be lifted.

            A number of years ago I was a member of a church where a man who had been afflicted for many years by polio also attended each week with his mother. This man had full mental faculties but his body had been so ravaged by this dread disease that he could not walk or even speak. Men from the church would drive out to his house early Sunday morning, lift him onto a sheet of plywood, and then place him in the back of a station wagon to drive him and his elderly mother to the worship service. When they arrived at church they would place him on a flat cart and push him to the very front pew. Each week, when the ushers passed out communion, they would go to this man’s side where his mother would take the bread and the cup and place it in his mouth. One day I was asked to assist in passing out the elements for communion. It just so happened that I was the one who would take the cup and bread to this man. As I handed the elements to his mother, I watched as she lovingly placed the bread in his mouth, and then the juice. As he swallowed I looked into his eyes and saw the tears begin to well up. And from the look in his eyes I could tell that he knew a better day was coming!

            As Jesus broke the bread that day so many years ago, He saw the face of this man and He saw your face and mine. Jesus came to restore us and make us whole again. The Lord’s Supper distinctly represents the fullness of a life that has been cleansed and renewed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The elements are a constant reminder that He has come to restore our broken lives and make us whole again.

3. A BROKEN BODY

            Near the Cross, Fanny Crosby wrote, Jesus keep me near the cross, and multiplied thousands have sung it as a prayer. Those near the cross could hear the dripping of His blood and see it form a dirty pool on the ground. They saw it trickle down His naked side and drip off His toes. They saw it oozing from the spikes through His wrists and ankles. They saw it gush in a sacrificial fountain when the spear was thrust into His side. Those near the cross heard the sighs, the groans of the Savior. They saw the agony on His face when God the Father would not listen to Him anymore, but let Him die all alone. They heard His voice when He prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” They saw His lips, feverish and parched, when He begged for water and was given vinegar to drink. They were there to see Jesus’ head drop to His chest as He breathed His last.

            The Lord’s Supper represents the broken body of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It represents the agony and the pain – Yes! But more than that, it represents the length to which God is willing to go to restore the broken world and the broken lives that dwell there. The only way that God could heal the broken world and our broken lives was by coming to earth Himself and taking the punishment for our sins in our place. Because of His great love for us, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth to offer Himself as a sacrifice of substitution.

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Heb. 9:28, NIV).

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Col. 1:19-22, NIV).

            It is through the broken body of God hanging on a Cross that our brokenness is healed, our sorrows diminished, and our souls reconciled to our Creator. Peter wrote, (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet. 2:24, NIV). The broken symbols of the Lord’s Supper are a reminder that our healing was purchased with the price of Christ’s death.

4. A BROKEN HEART

            Does your heart break when you learn what Jesus has done for you, and when you recognize how you have run away from Him? The symbols on the table represent your heart if it is willing to be broken. The old spiritual asks the question, Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Why should we tremble at the memory of Jesus’ crucifixion? Because it shocks our system to come to the realization that this God of the Universe, the Creator of the World, would love us so much as to choose not to punish us for our rebellion, but embrace us with His love and an offer of reconciliation.

            When I see my own life, when I consider the times when I have rejected God, when I think of the many sins that I have committed against Him – and to know that He loves me so much that He is willing to die in my place – my heart is broken. It is broken because I have come to the realization that I was there when they crucified my Lord! It was my sin and my rejection of God and my foolish ways that drove the spikes into His wrists and ankles. It was my deliberate “in your face God” kind of attitude that thrust the spear into His side. It was my hate that ignited His love, my complacency that moved Him to action, my cruelty that fueled His compassion, and my sin that brought His grace.

            My heart becomes broken when I fully see that I have broken the heart of God. To have a broken heart, and to see it represented on the communion table, is a good and honorable thing, because it is only when our hearts are broken that they become pliable. It is only when we come in shame for our sin that we are able to see and accept God’s outstretched hand. Martin Luther said, “God creates out of nothing. Therefore until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.” And what does God make of us and our broken hearts? When we come in faith, accepting what Jesus has done for us, He takes our broken heart and replaces it with one that is brand new.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)

            Through Jesus’ broken body, the broken world, our broken lives, and our broken hearts are reunited with God for all of eternity. I hope your heart is broken for God today.

            The world is filled with broken things. A child weeps over a broken toy. An archaeologist rejoices over a broken jar. A broken atom powers a city. Before us each Sunday are two broken symbols: let us partake of these symbols, fully aware of what they represent, and let it be a time for both reflection and rejoicing.

In Christ,

Barry L. Davis

 

 

 

Barry

Have You Visited SermonWorld.com?

  • Full Manuscript Sermons — 5+ Pages Each
  • Fully Editable to fit your style
  • PowerPoint Slides for each message

Broken Symbols

Broken Symbols

[button link=”/BrokenSymbols.doc” type=”big” newwindow=”yes”] Click Here to download in Word Format[/button]

[Feel free to edit and use this Easter/Lenten Season]

Bible_and_Lord's_Cup_and_Bread

Whenever we refer to something as symbolic, we are saying that it is representative of something else – generally of something much greater than the symbol itself. For instance, on my left hand I wear a symbol, a ring that represents the covenant I made with my wife many years ago. In our church auditorium as I stand at the pulpit, to my right and to my left are two other symbols – one a flag representing the Christian faith and the other flag representing the United States of America. On the table in front of the pulpit are more symbols, quite simple ones, really, just some pieces of bread and cups of juice. But these simple elements are representative of something much greater. Most of you are familiar with these symbols, but it is quite probable that many of us have become overly familiar with them.

Paul records for us what Jesus had to say about them:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:23-25, NKJV).

One item that many overlook in Jesus’ words is one of the most important – it is the word “broken.” The symbols that Jesus used to describe the great reality of His impending crucifixion were symbols that were broken, broken to represent four significant truths that should have a tremendous impact on each one of us reading this today.

1. A BROKEN WORLD

God created this world perfect in every way. The earth itself was devoid of any pollution and any corrosion. In the original created order there were no earthquakes, or hurricanes, or tornadoes. There was only rich soil, clean air and water, flawless vegetation and an absolutely perfect atmosphere. In the human realm there was no disease, no sickness and no death. God created humankind to be perfectly healthy in every respect. Morally, there was no animosity, or rebellion, or racism or division in any way.

But when the first human couple rebelled against God by sinning, God’s perfect creation was broken, every part of it, the natural, human, animal, and moral realms of creation were all affected negatively by sin.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned (Romans 5:12, NLT).

Adam’s sin broke the world. It caused division between the created order and man, man and man, and man and God. God had given Adam dominion over the entire creation; one was connected to the other, so when sin entered into Adam it also entered the natural world. God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you(Genesis 3:17).

It was like the proverbial house of cards that came crashing down. Not only does Genesis record for us the fall of man, but also the fall of the world in every single respect. Jesus’ celebration of the Lord’s Supper was looking forward to the day when God’s broken world would be reconciled with God.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21, NIV).

Our time of Communion is a time of looking into the future, when God’s new order becomes a present reality, when the shackles that bind the hands of the world are loosed and God’s original design is reinstated.

…we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13, NIV).

The broken symbols that we partake of are a reminder of the broken world in which we live, and which Jesus came to heal. They are a picture of the certain hope of a world that will be fully restored and within which we will dwell for eternity.

2. A BROKEN LIFE

As Jesus broke the bread and distributed it to His disciples, He had in the mind the broken lives of every man, woman, and child that would ever live. He could look at all of us, from Adam down through all of His descendants, and His heart was stirred with a desire for reconciliation and restoration.

God’s deepest desire is that the broken lives of today become the restored lives of tomorrow. When Jesus sees the brokenness of our souls and bodies He is moved to compassion.

As they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry (Luke 20:41, NLT).

Why did Jesus weep? Because He was looking out upon a city of people with broken lives that would not accept His offer of reconciliation. Jesus was looking at people just like us and He saw lives broken because of sin; he saw broken bodies, broken marriages, and broken souls in need of redemption. He saw disease that needed to be healed. He saw relationships that needed to be restored. Jesus saw tears that need to be wiped away, and sin that needed forgiven. Concerning His ministry, Jesus stated:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”(Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

            Jesus’ anointing was directed toward the broken lives of his culture and ours. The good news of God’s gifting is for those whose lives are dominated by poverty, for the imprisoned seeking liberation, the afflicted in search of healing, and the oppressed who so badly need their burdens to be lifted.

            A number of years ago I was a member of a church where a man who had been afflicted for many years by polio also attended each week with his mother. This man had full mental faculties but his body had been so ravaged by this dread disease that he could not walk or even speak. Men from the church would drive out to his house early Sunday morning, lift him onto a sheet of plywood, and then place him in the back of a station wagon to drive him and his elderly mother to the worship service. When they arrived at church they would place him on a flat cart and push him to the very front pew. Each week, when the ushers passed out communion, they would go to this man’s side where his mother would take the bread and the cup and place it in his mouth. One day I was asked to assist in passing out the elements for communion. It just so happened that I was the one who would take the cup and bread to this man. As I handed the elements to his mother, I watched as she lovingly placed the bread in his mouth, and then the juice. As he swallowed I looked into his eyes and saw the tears begin to well up. And from the look in his eyes I could tell that he knew a better day was coming!

            As Jesus broke the bread that day so many years ago, He saw the face of this man and He saw your face and mine. Jesus came to restore us and make us whole again. The Lord’s Supper distinctly represents the fullness of a life that has been cleansed and renewed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The elements are a constant reminder that He has come to restore our broken lives and make us whole again.

3. A BROKEN BODY

            Near the Cross, Fanny Crosby wrote, Jesus keep me near the cross, and multiplied thousands have sung it as a prayer. Those near the cross could hear the dripping of His blood and see it form a dirty pool on the ground. They saw it trickle down His naked side and drip off His toes. They saw it oozing from the spikes through His wrists and ankles. They saw it gush in a sacrificial fountain when the spear was thrust into His side. Those near the cross heard the sighs, the groans of the Savior. They saw the agony on His face when God the Father would not listen to Him anymore, but let Him die all alone. They heard His voice when He prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” They saw His lips, feverish and parched, when He begged for water and was given vinegar to drink. They were there to see Jesus’ head drop to His chest as He breathed His last.

            The Lord’s Supper represents the broken body of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It represents the agony and the pain – Yes! But more than that, it represents the length to which God is willing to go to restore the broken world and the broken lives that dwell there. The only way that God could heal the broken world and our broken lives was by coming to earth Himself and taking the punishment for our sins in our place. Because of His great love for us, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth to offer Himself as a sacrifice of substitution.

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Heb. 9:28, NIV).

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Col. 1:19-22, NIV).

            It is through the broken body of God hanging on a Cross that our brokenness is healed, our sorrows diminished, and our souls reconciled to our Creator. Peter wrote, (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet. 2:24, NIV). The broken symbols of the Lord’s Supper are a reminder that our healing was purchased with the price of Christ’s death.

4. A BROKEN HEART

            Does your heart break when you learn what Jesus has done for you, and when you recognize how you have run away from Him? The symbols on the table represent your heart if it is willing to be broken. The old spiritual asks the question, Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Why should we tremble at the memory of Jesus’ crucifixion? Because it shocks our system to come to the realization that this God of the Universe, the Creator of the World, would love us so much as to choose not to punish us for our rebellion, but embrace us with His love and an offer of reconciliation.

            When I see my own life, when I consider the times when I have rejected God, when I think of the many sins that I have committed against Him – and to know that He loves me so much that He is willing to die in my place – my heart is broken. It is broken because I have come to the realization that I was there when they crucified my Lord! It was my sin and my rejection of God and my foolish ways that drove the spikes into His wrists and ankles. It was my deliberate “in your face God” kind of attitude that thrust the spear into His side. It was my hate that ignited His love, my complacency that moved Him to action, my cruelty that fueled His compassion, and my sin that brought His grace.

            My heart becomes broken when I fully see that I have broken the heart of God. To have a broken heart, and to see it represented on the communion table, is a good and honorable thing, because it is only when our hearts are broken that they become pliable. It is only when we come in shame for our sin that we are able to see and accept God’s outstretched hand. Martin Luther said, “God creates out of nothing. Therefore until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.” And what does God make of us and our broken hearts? When we come in faith, accepting what Jesus has done for us, He takes our broken heart and replaces it with one that is brand new.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)

            Through Jesus’ broken body, the broken world, our broken lives, and our broken hearts are reunited with God for all of eternity. I hope your heart is broken for God today.

            The world is filled with broken things. A child weeps over a broken toy. An archaeologist rejoices over a broken jar. A broken atom powers a city. Before us each Sunday are two broken symbols: let us partake of these symbols, fully aware of what they represent, and let it be a time for both reflection and rejoicing.

In Christ,

Barry L. Davis

 

 

 

Barry

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3 comments

  • josh zamora

    Good message Barry. A year ago on our mission trip to Costa Rica a pastor talked about praying bold prayers. Not just panic moment or sense of emergency prayers but deep, heartfelt, make me break me, send me, prayers. Broken may be negative in context but is often positive in practice. Lord, Break my heart for what breaks yours…

    • Barry L. Davis

      Yes, that is true. Too often we do the opposite of that. R.A. Torrey has a great little book on prayer that deals with this.

  • Sonia Castle

    Thank you so much for this sermon. I will certainly be using it during the Lenten period. we need to think about the symbols and their meanings and especially what they mean to us. It’s so easy when we repeat this week after week for us to partake of the bread and the wine automatically. Thank you. Yours in Christ. Sonia

Good Friday

Tag Archives: Good Friday

Broken Symbols

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[Feel free to edit and use this Easter/Lenten Season]

Bible_and_Lord's_Cup_and_Bread

Whenever we refer to something as symbolic, we are saying that it is representative of something else – generally of something much greater than the symbol itself. For instance, on my left hand I wear a symbol, a ring that represents the covenant I made with my wife many years ago. In our church auditorium as I stand at the pulpit, to my right and to my left are two other symbols – one a flag representing the Christian faith and the other flag representing the United States of America. On the table in front of the pulpit are more symbols, quite simple ones, really, just some pieces of bread and cups of juice. But these simple elements are representative of something much greater. Most of you are familiar with these symbols, but it is quite probable that many of us have become overly familiar with them.

Paul records for us what Jesus had to say about them:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me” (1 Cor. 11:23-25, NKJV).

One item that many overlook in Jesus’ words is one of the most important – it is the word “broken.” The symbols that Jesus used to describe the great reality of His impending crucifixion were symbols that were broken, broken to represent four significant truths that should have a tremendous impact on each one of us reading this today.

1. A BROKEN WORLD

God created this world perfect in every way. The earth itself was devoid of any pollution and any corrosion. In the original created order there were no earthquakes, or hurricanes, or tornadoes. There was only rich soil, clean air and water, flawless vegetation and an absolutely perfect atmosphere. In the human realm there was no disease, no sickness and no death. God created humankind to be perfectly healthy in every respect. Morally, there was no animosity, or rebellion, or racism or division in any way.

But when the first human couple rebelled against God by sinning, God’s perfect creation was broken, every part of it, the natural, human, animal, and moral realms of creation were all affected negatively by sin.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned (Romans 5:12, NLT).

Adam’s sin broke the world. It caused division between the created order and man, man and man, and man and God. God had given Adam dominion over the entire creation; one was connected to the other, so when sin entered into Adam it also entered the natural world. God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you(Genesis 3:17).

It was like the proverbial house of cards that came crashing down. Not only does Genesis record for us the fall of man, but also the fall of the world in every single respect. Jesus’ celebration of the Lord’s Supper was looking forward to the day when God’s broken world would be reconciled with God.

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God (Romans 8:19-21, NIV).

Our time of Communion is a time of looking into the future, when God’s new order becomes a present reality, when the shackles that bind the hands of the world are loosed and God’s original design is reinstated.

…we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Peter 3:13, NIV).

The broken symbols that we partake of are a reminder of the broken world in which we live, and which Jesus came to heal. They are a picture of the certain hope of a world that will be fully restored and within which we will dwell for eternity.

2. A BROKEN LIFE

As Jesus broke the bread and distributed it to His disciples, He had in the mind the broken lives of every man, woman, and child that would ever live. He could look at all of us, from Adam down through all of His descendants, and His heart was stirred with a desire for reconciliation and restoration.

God’s deepest desire is that the broken lives of today become the restored lives of tomorrow. When Jesus sees the brokenness of our souls and bodies He is moved to compassion.

As they came closer to Jerusalem and Jesus saw the city ahead, he began to cry (Luke 20:41, NLT).

Why did Jesus weep? Because He was looking out upon a city of people with broken lives that would not accept His offer of reconciliation. Jesus was looking at people just like us and He saw lives broken because of sin; he saw broken bodies, broken marriages, and broken souls in need of redemption. He saw disease that needed to be healed. He saw relationships that needed to be restored. Jesus saw tears that need to be wiped away, and sin that needed forgiven. Concerning His ministry, Jesus stated:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”(Luke 4:18-19, NIV).

            Jesus’ anointing was directed toward the broken lives of his culture and ours. The good news of God’s gifting is for those whose lives are dominated by poverty, for the imprisoned seeking liberation, the afflicted in search of healing, and the oppressed who so badly need their burdens to be lifted.

            A number of years ago I was a member of a church where a man who had been afflicted for many years by polio also attended each week with his mother. This man had full mental faculties but his body had been so ravaged by this dread disease that he could not walk or even speak. Men from the church would drive out to his house early Sunday morning, lift him onto a sheet of plywood, and then place him in the back of a station wagon to drive him and his elderly mother to the worship service. When they arrived at church they would place him on a flat cart and push him to the very front pew. Each week, when the ushers passed out communion, they would go to this man’s side where his mother would take the bread and the cup and place it in his mouth. One day I was asked to assist in passing out the elements for communion. It just so happened that I was the one who would take the cup and bread to this man. As I handed the elements to his mother, I watched as she lovingly placed the bread in his mouth, and then the juice. As he swallowed I looked into his eyes and saw the tears begin to well up. And from the look in his eyes I could tell that he knew a better day was coming!

            As Jesus broke the bread that day so many years ago, He saw the face of this man and He saw your face and mine. Jesus came to restore us and make us whole again. The Lord’s Supper distinctly represents the fullness of a life that has been cleansed and renewed by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The elements are a constant reminder that He has come to restore our broken lives and make us whole again.

3. A BROKEN BODY

            Near the Cross, Fanny Crosby wrote, Jesus keep me near the cross, and multiplied thousands have sung it as a prayer. Those near the cross could hear the dripping of His blood and see it form a dirty pool on the ground. They saw it trickle down His naked side and drip off His toes. They saw it oozing from the spikes through His wrists and ankles. They saw it gush in a sacrificial fountain when the spear was thrust into His side. Those near the cross heard the sighs, the groans of the Savior. They saw the agony on His face when God the Father would not listen to Him anymore, but let Him die all alone. They heard His voice when He prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” They saw His lips, feverish and parched, when He begged for water and was given vinegar to drink. They were there to see Jesus’ head drop to His chest as He breathed His last.

            The Lord’s Supper represents the broken body of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It represents the agony and the pain – Yes! But more than that, it represents the length to which God is willing to go to restore the broken world and the broken lives that dwell there. The only way that God could heal the broken world and our broken lives was by coming to earth Himself and taking the punishment for our sins in our place. Because of His great love for us, Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth to offer Himself as a sacrifice of substitution.

Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him (Heb. 9:28, NIV).

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Col. 1:19-22, NIV).

            It is through the broken body of God hanging on a Cross that our brokenness is healed, our sorrows diminished, and our souls reconciled to our Creator. Peter wrote, (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed (1 Pet. 2:24, NIV). The broken symbols of the Lord’s Supper are a reminder that our healing was purchased with the price of Christ’s death.

4. A BROKEN HEART

            Does your heart break when you learn what Jesus has done for you, and when you recognize how you have run away from Him? The symbols on the table represent your heart if it is willing to be broken. The old spiritual asks the question, Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Were you there when they crucified my Lord? O! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble! Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Why should we tremble at the memory of Jesus’ crucifixion? Because it shocks our system to come to the realization that this God of the Universe, the Creator of the World, would love us so much as to choose not to punish us for our rebellion, but embrace us with His love and an offer of reconciliation.

            When I see my own life, when I consider the times when I have rejected God, when I think of the many sins that I have committed against Him – and to know that He loves me so much that He is willing to die in my place – my heart is broken. It is broken because I have come to the realization that I was there when they crucified my Lord! It was my sin and my rejection of God and my foolish ways that drove the spikes into His wrists and ankles. It was my deliberate “in your face God” kind of attitude that thrust the spear into His side. It was my hate that ignited His love, my complacency that moved Him to action, my cruelty that fueled His compassion, and my sin that brought His grace.

            My heart becomes broken when I fully see that I have broken the heart of God. To have a broken heart, and to see it represented on the communion table, is a good and honorable thing, because it is only when our hearts are broken that they become pliable. It is only when we come in shame for our sin that we are able to see and accept God’s outstretched hand. Martin Luther said, “God creates out of nothing. Therefore until a man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.” And what does God make of us and our broken hearts? When we come in faith, accepting what Jesus has done for us, He takes our broken heart and replaces it with one that is brand new.

If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)

            Through Jesus’ broken body, the broken world, our broken lives, and our broken hearts are reunited with God for all of eternity. I hope your heart is broken for God today.

            The world is filled with broken things. A child weeps over a broken toy. An archaeologist rejoices over a broken jar. A broken atom powers a city. Before us each Sunday are two broken symbols: let us partake of these symbols, fully aware of what they represent, and let it be a time for both reflection and rejoicing.

In Christ,

Barry L. Davis

 

 

 

Barry

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