Church Survival; June 25, 2018

Luke 12:32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.”

This verse is not in the largely parallel passage in Matthew 6 that we had on May 3. Jesus indeed repeated some of His content at times, probably depending on who happened to be gathered, since they didn’t have social media to tweet every word He said. However, this little gem is here alone. This verse has been a comfort to small churches down through the centuries. I don’t think it says that small churches are better than large churches. After all, even the largest “mega-churches” pale in comparison to “a great multitude that no one could count.” (Revelation 7:9) However, it is saying that small churches have nothing to be afraid of, because they are in God’s hands. Individual congregations do disappear, for various reasons. The saddest of those is simple lack of vision. We are all too prone to focus on ourselves and our own little circle, when God calls us to reach out to the whole world. (Matthew 28:18-20) It is ironically true that the more we worry about immediate problems and focus on them, the more danger we are in for our long-term survival. If we fail to make disciples, any church can die in one generation. The focus of any church should be on loving God enough to be obedient to Him, and He says to love our neighbors and make them His disciples. And it is demonstrably true that the broader a church defines “neighbors,” the more vitality they have. We are to think not in terms of our own survival, but in terms of God’s kingdom.

This is certainly applicable to this church at this time. Our current Sunday morning attendance is less than 10, and a major reason for the departure of various people has been their failure to catch the vision God has for us. Every Sunday we declare that our vision is “To know Christ and make Him known, changing Japan one person at a time, that the City of Omura would again be the foremost Christian city in Japan, actively advancing the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth.” However, people have focused on bean counting and the like, failing to recognize that they are Christ’s representatives to extend His kingdom in their family and neighborhood. That has been tragic, but God’s not through with us yet. There are problems with each individual, certainly including the pastor, but God is far bigger than all those problems put together. Luke quotes Jesus as saying this verse right after He tells us to seek God’s kingdom. Just because God delights to give it to us doesn’t mean we aren’t to seek it! I am to seek the anointing of the Holy Spirit to get this across to each believer so that they will believe God can use even them to bring others into His kingdom, His family. We have perhaps focused on family to the exclusion of kingdom, when our image of family is far more limited than God’s kingdom. It is true, certainly, that we are God’s children, but we are also His ambassadors, (2 Corinthians 5:20) and we need to act like it.

Father, thank You for this reminder. At the welcoming dinner last night for a new pastor in town we were all talking about obstacles to evangelism in Japanese society. Help us all, pastors on down, believe that You are indeed greater than all those obstacles, so that we may be available to You for the mighty harvest that You desire, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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