2 Kings 11:4-16 – Moving Away From the “Field of Dreams” Approach

Posted: July 13, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

2 Kings 11:4-16

Revolt Against Athaliah & Her Death

I was reading an article on Thursday that stated 67% of all American churches have 125 people or less in attendance for Sunday worship. It is the standard not the exception. Although the megachurch gets all the headlines, the standard size church in America has 125 or less in attendance on Sundays. It is true that it is the megachurch segment that is the growing segment of Christianity and it is there that all the unique strategies for growth are taking place. However, it is the norm in America for us to attend smaller churches, but it is the smaller churches that are the ones that are stagnant or declining in attendance. Here are the stats for American church sizes and their weekly worship attendance:

Smaller Standard 0 to 49 40% of churches in America
Larger Standard 50 to 124 27% of churches in America
Mid 125 to 249 18% of churches in America
Large 250 to 499 8% of churches in America
Very Large 500 to 999 4% of churches in America
Mid Mega 1,000 to 1,999 2% of churches in America
Mega 2,000+ in worship attendance Less than ½ of 1%

Where does your church fall in this graph? The church that I just became the pastor of about 3 weeks ago falls in the Larger Standard category. One of the issues that I and the leadership team must deal with at our church is the aging of our church. I will tell you that, although I have been here only about two and a half weeks, I already know that our church is one of the most loving churches that I have encountered. They have made us feel loved from the moment that we, my wife and I, set foot on the soil of this town. So, it is not that the people of our church are trying to keep people out of their church. It is quite the opposite. They see the “graying of their church”! We, our church, is getting older. We see it. Everybody knows it. However, no one knows what to do. And that is the state of many standard-sized churches today.

The first thing that standard-sized churches must do is recognize that the church will not survive unless we first recognize that there is a problem. The problem is most standard-sized churches today is that there is a distinct lack of families with small children. That is, a distinct lack of couples whose average age is 40 years old or less. And we are not alone in this issue. Every church our size or smaller is dealing with this very same issue. We see the lack of children in our churches, but its root cause is the lack of families with small children. How do we attract Generation X parents will younger Millennial children, and older Millennials who are now parents of Generation Z children? My new church sees the graying of it rank and file members. The thing that will determine our success or failure, the survival of our church or its death at some point in the next 25-50 years, is what we do about it.

It is strange to think that the Holy Spirit brought this issue to mind when I read this passage, 2 Kings 11:4-16, but that’s what happened. The fact that the rightful king was kept under wraps for 6 years while the evil queen had her murderous reign made me think, the Holy Spirit made me think, of the state of standard-sized churches in America. Let’s read the passage now and then we will jump into the reasons why the passage is connected to the problem that we see in standard-sized churches in America:

4 In the seventh year of Athaliah’s reign, Jehoiada the priest summoned the commanders, the Carite mercenaries, and the palace guards to come to the Temple of the Lord. He made a solemn pact with them and made them swear an oath of loyalty there in the Lord’s Temple; then he showed them the king’s son.

5 Jehoiada told them, “This is what you must do. A third of you who are on duty on the Sabbath are to guard the royal palace itself. 6 Another third of you are to stand guard at the Sur Gate. And the final third must stand guard behind the palace guard. These three groups will all guard the palace. 7 The other two units who are off duty on the Sabbath must stand guard for the king at the Lord’s Temple. 8 Form a bodyguard around the king and keep your weapons in hand. Kill anyone who tries to break through. Stay with the king wherever he goes.”

9 So the commanders did everything as Jehoiada the priest ordered. The commanders took charge of the men reporting for duty that Sabbath, as well as those who were going off duty. They brought them all to Jehoiada the priest, 10 and he supplied them with the spears and small shields that had once belonged to King David and were stored in the Temple of the Lord. 11 The palace guards stationed themselves around the king, with their weapons ready. They formed a line from the south side of the Temple around to the north side and all around the altar.

12 Then Jehoiada brought out Joash, the king’s son, placed the crown on his head, and presented him with a copy of God’s laws.[a] They anointed him and proclaimed him king, and everyone clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”

13 When Athaliah heard the noise made by the palace guards and the people, she hurried to the Lord’s Temple to see what was happening. 14 When she arrived, she saw the newly crowned king standing in his place of authority by the pillar, as was the custom at times of coronation. The commanders and trumpeters were surrounding him, and people from all over the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets. When Athaliah saw all this, she tore her clothes in despair and shouted, “Treason! Treason!”

15 Then Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders who were in charge of the troops, “Take her to the soldiers in front of the Temple,[a] and kill anyone who tries to rescue her.” For the priest had said, “She must not be killed in the Temple of the Lord.” 16 So they seized her and led her out to the gate where horses enter the palace grounds, and she was killed there.

In this passage, we see that the rightful heir to the throne was kept under wraps in the Temple by the priests. He was kept in the Temple for fear that he would be killed by the evil queen, Athaliah. She had killed all other potential heirs to the throne and almost brought the lineage of Davidic kings in Judah to an end. One reason Athaliah was able to reign for six years was that no one knew any alternative. Many people live under the reign of Satan because they don’t really know there is a legitimate king ready to take reign in their lives. The second thing you notice about this passage is that the rightful heir to the throne, Joash, had to come with the Word of God. Joash appeared before the people holding the scrolls of God’s Word. He had to come out of the Temple for them to know that He was king.

That’s the thing that struck a chord with me this morning through the Holy Spirit’s guidance of how this passage relates to my life and the lives of Christ followers in the 21st century. The tie-in to my intro to the text is this: We have kept the message of Christ under wraps in our churches for far too long. The reason we see no young couples in the 40 and under age range is that we have kept the Good News under wraps inside the Temple. We have kept Jesus under wraps. We have kept Jesus inside the temple. No longer do we live in society that is actively Christian. We can no longer afford to take the Field of Dreams approach, “Build it and he will come!” We are now into 2nd and 3rd generations of families who have never darkened the door of a church, do not know anyone who goes to church, and have any real concept of what Jesus is really all about. There are children in our communities whose parents and grandparents never mention the word Jesus, ever. That’s the world in which we live now. We can no longer take the Field of Dreams approach and wait for them to come to us.

One of the movies that I have to admit is a chick-flick, The American President, starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. It’s a really good movie that deserved greater attention than it got when it was released in 1995. It is in an overarching sense a romantic movie featuring the troubles of Michael Douglas’ and Annette Bening’s characters to have a romantic relationship while he is President and she is a political lobbyist. However, it has a real feel to it about what it is like inside the White House – about the President’s personal life in the White House but also an amazingly accurate look at the work of being President, the wheeling and dealing, the prioritization of initiatives, international diplomacy, and the insanity of the volume of things a President has to deal with on a daily basis. Awesome movie. One movie that Elena and I both agree on and will watch together every time it is on.

The reason that I bring it up is there are quotes aplenty in this movie that are timeless and useful elsewhere. I dip into that well now when we speak of why our Field of Dreams approach in churches is no longer valid. Here’s the quote,

They don’t have a choice! Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone.

We can no longer keep Jesus under wraps in the temple and expect people to come to us. We are not stepping up to the microphone – we are not going out into the world and engaging the unchurched. In the absence of that, they will listen to any philosophies and man-made pseudo religions that are making the most noise. We can no longer afford to stay inside the temple and wish that they will come. 2nd and 3rd generation unchurched folk do not feel compelled to come to us.

Another connection between the passage and the current day is that Athaliah was allowed to reign for 6 years because the people knew no other alternatives. They did not know that there was a rightful king hiding in the temple. It was only when the rightful king came outside the temple with the scrolls of God’s Word in his hands that the Judeans knew he was alive and knew that he was king. That’s the challenge for us as standard-sized churches. We must get outside the walls of the church and meet the unchurched where they are at. All of us at one time or another were far from God and somebody met us where we were at, outside the church, and cared enough about our eternity to share the gospel with us. That’s the approach we have to take as churches. We must let the world know that we are alive. We must come out of the temple and let them know we are alive and why God’s Word is meaningful to their lives. They will not come to the temple unless we go outside the temple and engage them in uniquely loving ways that will draw them to the Word of God. We have to engage them, get to know them, meet them where they are at, so that they know who and what Jesus is and why they really do need Him.

Let us be that church that not just survives but one that thrives. I think my church can do it. There is a willingness there. We just need to focus our willingness on the actions we want to take that are unique to our locale and our situation. We can do this! So can your church! We must shed the Field of Dreams approach and take the gospel outside the temple so that they know there is an alternative to what the evil queen is offering.

Amen and Amen.

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