1 Samuel 8:1-9 (Part 2) – When We Stop Going, We Start Dying…

Posted: December 14, 2017 in 09-1 Samuel
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1 Samuel 8:1-9
Israel Requests a King

Last night I finished one of the books I have to read for my next semester (my third semester) in my doctoral program. I am not the fastest reader in the world so I began reading the first of 10 books I have to read before the end of the third week in February on Monday night. This first book was probably the shortest (and smallest) of the books I have to read. It was entitled Autopsy of a Deceased Church. In this short 100-page book, Thomas Rainer had done research on the deaths of 14 different churches and from that research developed the common themes of why churches decline and die. To add to what Rainer states in his book I found that in a recent sermon, Pastor James McDonald from Walking in the Word Ministries revealed these shocking numbers about Christianity in America:

• Of the 250,000 Protestant churches in America, 200,000 are either stagnant (with no growth) or declining. That is 80% of the churches in America and maybe the one you attend, if you attend at all.

• 4,000 churches close their doors every single year.

• There is less than half of the number of churches today than there were only 100 years ago.

• 3,500 people leave the church every single day.

• Since 1950, there are 1/3 fewer churches in the U.S.

Thomas Rainer bolsters the above statistics by saying that only 10% of churches in America are truly healthy, 40% of churches are showing signs of sickness, 40% of churches are sick and dying, and 10% of churches are about to die. The main troubles of sick and/or dying churches, according to Rainer? His research of these 14 churches, these “autopsies” of churches that died, revealed some interesting facts. They became increasingly inward focused over the years. They became resistant to change. Their budgets became less and less focused on outreach and more and more focused on programs to serve the needs of the people within the church. They became more like the old Janet Jackson song from 1986, “What Have You Done for ME Lately?” As funds dwindled due to the slow decline of membership, the first things that were cut was the very thing that they needed to be spending their money on – reaching out into their communities. They became fearful of the world around them and had defeatist attitudes about reaching their town with evangelistic efforts. And most of all, they quit praying fervently in a corporate fashion. Sure, they would pray before church meals and during services but there was no longer is passion corporately to pray for the lost and for ways to reach them. There was little if any discipleship. Church became about traditions and resistance to change. Church became a social club. Often these churches that died, clamored for more people and often switched pastors often when that did not happen. However, pastors who came in and wanted to make sweeping changes to “stop the bleeding” were often rebuffed because people did not ultimately want to give up leadership to new people, did not want to give up traditions. Did not want “that kind” of change. They wanted to continue doing what they were doing but get a different result.

They lost sight of what the church was for. The church is not for them. The church is there for the lost, to draw them unto Christ, and then to develop them into fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We must be obedient in this effort as a church or your church, my church, any church will die. What does this have to do with today’s passage where Israel is clamoring to have a king? Everything as we will see. Let us read the passage, 1 Samuel 8:1-9, once again together:

8 As Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons to be judges over Israel. 2 Joel and Abijah, his oldest sons, held court in Beersheba. 3 But they were not like their father, for they were greedy for money. They accepted bribes and perverted justice.

4 Finally, all the elders of Israel met at Ramah to discuss the matter with Samuel. 5 “Look,” they told him, “you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”

6 Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the Lord for guidance. 7 “Do everything they say to you,” the Lord replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. 8 Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 9 Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”

In this passage, we see that the people clamored for a king, thinking that a new system of government would bring about a change in the nation. However, their basic problem was disobedience to God. Their other problems would only continue under the new form of administration. What they needed was a unified faith in God not a unified form of governance. Had the Israelites submitted to God’s leadership, they would have thrived beyond their expectations (see Deuteronomy 28:1). Our obedience to God’s commands as his newest expression of “His people”, the church, is crucial to our ability to thrive as instruments of God.

Jesus commanded his church to go. Jesus commanded his church to make disciples of all peoples. Jesus commanded them to baptize people in the name of the three expressions of the Trinity (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). Jesus commanded us to teach them everything that He taught us. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) is what we are here for – nothing else. We are not here to build buildings with our names on them. We are not here to use church to build a power base. We are not here for me to have a professional network so that I make all the right contacts “because we go to the same church”. We are not here to have a place to entertain our kids. We are not here to be babysitters for your kids. We are not here to have our names on pews, windows, or classrooms. We are not here to make ourselves feel good. Even in modern church, we are not here to have the cool church. We are not here to have field trips for our teenagers. We are not here to have the most expensive lighting and sound system in town. We are not here to have the loudest band and the band with the most albums out there on Christian radio. Sure, we can have those things but they cannot be the things that we are here. They must be byproducts of a church that is obedient to its calling from Jesus Christ.

We must go. We must focus our money and our people on sharing the gospel in their day to day lives. We must urge them to see the urgency of what is at stake – the eternal destination of our friends, neighbors, co-workers, extended families, all those in our individual spheres of influence. We must remind our people that their a members of a priestly order. They are ministers themselves. They can touch more people themselves than our pastors can ever dream of reaching by themselves. We are the church. Let us go. Let us get out there and share the gospel. Let us share the gospel not in just how we act and carry ourselves but actually sharing the gospel. Let us teach our people to think with a kingdom mindset – to think of every situation as an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. We must “Go” if we are “to make disciples. We must go if we are to baptize. We must go if we are to teach. We cannot do any of the last three subcommands of the Great Commission if we are not obedient in the going.

When we quit going, we start dying. When we are disobedient in the going, we quit thriving and a church begins its slow death march to the closing of the doors of a church. Just as Israel clamored for a king, thinking a change would make them thrive again, we often clamor for change as our churches decline. However, just as Israel did not change its ways and continued in its disobedience to the Lord and it began its slow death march toward the end of what we knew as ancient Israel, we too as churches cannot expect renewal unless we are obedient to the commands of the Lord. We must change our ways or more churches will close. We must move away from church becoming self-serving. We must never forget the passion for the lost. We must not lose our love for the going. We must not lose our love for baptizing and teaching. We must not lose our love for making disciples.

The commands are simple. That is what we are here for. That is what we must be obedient toward. Nothing else. It’s all very simple. It is about going. It is about making disciples. It is about baptizing. It is about teaching. If your church or my church becomes about anything other than being obedient to this commands, then, we too like many other churches every year and like the nation of ancient Israel, we will die. God does not bless disobedience. He blesses obedience. Everything we do as a church must be measured by whether it represents:

1. Going
2. Baptizing
3. Teaching
4. Making Disciples

Everything. Everything must be measured by our obedience to these four simple commands. Anything else is not worthy of doing. Anything else is disobedience.

Amen and Amen.

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