Thank you for choosing to be here tonight. Thank you for your interest in our future as a congregation.

Tonight we will make an extremely important decision. Speaking for myself, this decision makes me nervous. Any decision we make, no matter what that decision is, makes me nervous. If we choose not to build or not to renovate, that makes me nervous for our future for very specific reasons. If we choose to build and to renovate, that makes me nervous because of specific elements of the commitment involved.

In the acknowledgment of that nervousness, I ask you to pray with me. [Prayer]

I want you to consider two familiar scriptures.

  1. First, consider this statement made by Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20.
    1. "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
    2. This statement is a charge made by the resurrected Jesus to his apostles. Please take note of these things in the charge:
      1. Jesus has the right to give this charge--they were to listen to him.
      2. He wanted them to do two things:
        1. He wanted them to go among all peoples and make disciples.
        2. He wanted them to teach all who become disciples his commandments.
      3. He noted that two things were to happen.
        1. Those who choose to become disciples were to be baptized.
        2. Those who became disciples were to observe Jesus' teachings.
    3. I think it is also important to note this fact: when Jesus gave this charge, no congregation of Christians existed.
      1. It is a very simple charge.
      2. It does not address the process of spiritually maturing congregations--that need was not a reality at that moment.

  2. Second, consider Ephesians 4:11-13.
    1. "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors, and some as teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ."
    2. Conditions when Paul wrote this were different.
      1. What Jesus charged the apostles to do has been done in the city of Ephesus.
        1. The good news about Christ has been preached there and a number of men and women choose to become disciples.
        2. As disciples, they received teachings about Jesus and his message, teachings which were reaffirmed in Ephesians 1 and 2.
        3. But they still desperately needed to mature spiritually as a congregation.
        4. The church now existed in many places, and this congregation was the product of Jesus' charge to his disciples.
      2. Please take note of these things.
        1. Jesus was in charge of making some disciples apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
        2. Paul declared that the overall objective all of these combined roles was to equip disciples for service.
      3. Equipped disciples who served would build up the body of Christ, build up disciples as a body, build up Christians as a body.
      4. The service of building up had specific objectives.
        1. It was to lead to unity of the faith among disciples.
        2. It was to lead to unity of knowledge of Jesus.
        3. It was to produce spiritually mature disciples who functioned as a spiritually mature body.
        4. It was to produce the kind of maturity that resulted in the Christians measuring themselves by Jesus.
        5. It was to produce the kind of maturity that created the ambition to develop spiritually and be the kind of person Jesus was.
    3. Paul also said in verses 14-16 that the end result would be this:
      1. The disciples at Ephesus would not be spiritually immature children.
      2. They would hold on to truth in love.
      3. They would develop in every spiritual aspect of Christ.
      4. All the disciples would literally come together as a functioning body that built itself up in love.

  3. These are not two contradictory statements that are in competition.
    1. They are two complimentary statements that, together, declare Jesus' complete intentions to do three things.
      1. To give all peoples the opportunity to become disciples.
      2. To give all disciples the responsibility of learning and living by his teachings.
      3. To bring disciples into close knit relationships where they serve and spiritually mature as they learn truth and grow in love.
    2. The New Testament makes it quite clear that these are not competitive, contradictory statements.
      1. Acts makes it clearly evident that the apostles and disciples went about the business of church planting by calling people to Jesus.
      2. Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus specifically addressed church development.

  4. As we approach our choices this evening, each one of us will face two powerful temptations.
    1. The first temptation is to approach the decision solely on the basis of personal preference.
      1. That will be a temptation confronting all of us--both those who feel it is responsible and wise to built and renovate, and those who feel it is responsible and wise not to build and renovate.
      2. Whatever your feeling, it is easy to have that feeling only because it is your personal preference.
    2. The second temptation is to react to the last building experience.
      1. The last building experience left a bitter taste in many members' mouths.
      2. That bitter taste exists for many different reasons in different people.
      3. It would be very easy for the bitter taste to determine your decision.
    3. I am asking you to meet an enormous challenge face to face.
      1. I challenge you, whatever you decide, to decide on this primary basis: "To the best of my understanding, what decision is in Jesus Christ's best interests in this congregation right now and in the future?"
      2. If each of us accept and meet that challenge, we still will not be in agreement.
      3. But doing that will mean that we put Christ first in our considerations.
      4. Whatever our decision, if each of us puts Christ first as we decide, no matter what we decide, this congregation will be blessed.

I make this request of every one of us: Do not trust yourself. Make your decision by trusting God.

Express your trust in God by surrendering yourself to His will for you to be born again into His family. Through baptism have your sins washed away.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 5 April 1998

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