Change that Counts
world has certainly changed over the past 100 years, but we seem to
remain the same. The
world has surely changed, but things aren’t much different than when
Christ walked the earth. This is true because human nature hasn’t
changed. We are discovering it is easier to change the dynamics of
our world than it is to actually bring about real change.
Seeking to Change the dynamics is not always recommended. Have you
ever tried to change the dynamics of a person?
Have you tried turning a negative person into a positive person or
changing a person who is habitually late to one whom is always on
time? Have you ever tried to change the dynamic of a person who
comes in late and leaves early? If you have, you know, your energies
can be better directed. The same is true with churches.
preacher thought changing the dynamics of a congregation was what he
needed to do to build the church.
They changed the format of worship, bought new song books that had
new praise type songs, changed the length of the service from an
hour to two hours plus. Sermons are much longer. Although things
have changed, there really hasn't been a big burst of growth. Why?
They have lost as many as they have gained through forcing the
is no substitute for any church, or any person, for beginning where
you are. Many want to
roll time back to twenty years ago, others would like to be twenty
years in the future, but we are right here and nothing will happen
until till we quit dreaming an begin right where we are. Too begin
where you are requires a willingness to grow as a person. Personal
growth is the only valid way to change a church's dynamic. This
begins by first recognizing our need to grow as an individual
member. If you want to grow all you have to do is say one simple
thing: "God I need help!" Help is the hardest word on earth to
utter. Help! What a powerful word.
begins on an individual basis.
It doesn't have to happen congregationally. Think about where you
would like or need to be. Don't ever buy into group thinking. If you
plan on doing it when the group moves in the direction you want to
go, it will probably never happen.
a sound piece of advice! There is no substitute to devoting your
life to know and do God's will.
It begins where you are. This is where real growth begins. That is
where real church growth begins. Don't ever let a group's weakness
blind you to your own need. Don't ever let another's weakness blind
you to your possibilities.
No Substitute for Devotion
our level of devotion, which makes what we do exciting.
A few years ago I took up
golfing. I golfed for a couple of years. I never really devoted
myself to the game. First, I was given a set of clubs and a ragged
bag. I wanted to see if I liked the game before I made an investment
in equipment. A little later I bought a set of used clubs for
$75.00. I never really got into the game. Do you know when the
excitement left the game for me? When I lost interest. Looking back,
I realize I never really had much interest in the game in the first
place. I rarely bought any new balls. I resented losing a $1.50 or
even more every time I came to a water hole. So I played with used
balls. I always played with my worst balls at the water holes.
Looking back, maybe that's why it took 3 balls to get over some of
those water holes. I still have the clubs. I let my relatives use
them when they come to visit, but I never go golfing with them.
Maybe I lost interest because I really never devoted myself to the
game. A used bag and used balls is a pretty good sign of a lack of
devotion. I never really put much into the game.
may be why many fail to find what they are looking for at church.
Lack of devotion and lack of interest. The people who want the most
out of the church are often the least devoted. They have lost
interest. The church is what you make it. It will never become what
you want others to make it for you. If the 3,000 on Pentecost waited
for the entire group to embrace Jesus Christ before they made a
move, there would be no church today. You may think you don't owe
anything to this church, but you do owe something to yourself, but
mostly you owe it to God.
Devoted to the Word (Acts 2:42)
first century church devoted themselves to the apostles teaching.
Our level of devotion
also excites others about the Word of God. They devoted themselves
to the Word of God given through the apostles. However, nothing
excites our friends more about the Word of God than our devotion to
century Christians were devoted to the apostles teaching.
The power received through God's Word made possible the growth of
the church. After all my years of preaching, I am just now, only
beginning to deliver the message as effectively as I have always
wanted to. However, my ability to deliver the Word in the scheme of
church growth is nothing compared to the members' devotion to it. If
you are excited about the Word, you will excite others about the
century Christians were excited about the Word of God.
"They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching." There is no way
you can devote your life to the Word without getting excited.
Devotion and excitement go hand in hand. A few years ago, when we
first moved to the Gulf Coast, Mary and I went walking along the
beach. There were a few mornings when thousands upon thousands of
birds were having a feeding frenzy. A certain kind of fish had come
into the beaches and the birds were going crazy as they dove to
catch the fish. The pictures of the feeding frenzy were published in
the St. Petersburg Times. It was a rare event. The birds were hungry
and excited. I could only stand in awe as I watched God feed
literally thousands of birds.
was the kind of thing happening on Pentecost as Jews from all over
the world flocked to Jerusalem to be fed by God.
They had come from every nation under heaven to feast upon the Word
of God. The distances they traveled tell us all we need to know
about their level of devotion. Especially, when you understand their
mode of travel was donkeys rather Airbuses.
Pentecost there were over a million (some say 3, 000,000) Jews
present for the annual feast.
At least 3,000 were there to feed upon the Word of God. At least
3,000 out of the over 1,000,000 came there to feed upon the Word as
they celebrated the feast. God had been cultivating the Jewish
nation for the coming of the Messiah since the days of Abraham. It
didn't happen overnight. No doubt some were dull and bored, but
there were at least 3 people in every 1,000 who were excited about
the Word proclaimed by the apostles.
personal growth and church growth there is no substitute for being
excited about the Word of God.
The world knows about the level of our excitement better than we do.
It is our level of excitement, which influences them. It is not hard
to teach someone who is excited about the Word. The longer I study
the Word, the more excited I become about what it says. The Word
never grows dull.
Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for
they received the message with great eagerness
and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what
Paul said was true. Many of the Jews believed, as did
also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. (NIV)
church growth there is no substitute for Christians being excited
about personal growth.
Only those desiring personal growth will find excitement in the
Word. The only way to get excited over the Word is to begin
doing what the Word says. It is when I am growing as an
individual that the church has the greatest potential for growth.
Bible stories are exciting because we see God coming to life in the
lives of real people.
Devotion is about the word of the living God coming to life in us.
It is about God changing the world through each of us.
Personal growth goes beyond Bible study and quite times to trusting
in God to change what only he can change.
We work so hard on personal transformation through change of habits,
change of space, changing churches, but real change—the change that
makes a difference comes from God. One mistake we make is that we
convince ourselves that we like change as long as we are left in
control. However, real change comes when we surrender the reins to
have a Hibiscus plant I planted in my yard. It had knarly looking
leaves and twigs. I
fertilized it trying to make it grow. Nothing seemed to work, so I
pruned it down to within two or three inches of the ground. I
thought I will either kill it or else. It has really grown, and the
leaves and twigs look much healthier. I am pleasantly surprised.
pain and difficulty of seeking real change is designed to prune our
lives of the nonessentials to bring us to God.
We must surrender all we have to God
to experience any real change. Never forget real change comes
through the power of God.
Devoted to Fellowship
to envision Jews traveling from all over the world to be at
devoted to God's Word in fellowship with one another. What a
devotion to fellowship. Remember no Airbuses, only sandals, donkeys
and ancient ships. No wonder there was such a response. No wonder a
fire broke out in Acts 2.
was a devoted fellowship.
believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their
possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day
they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke
bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord
added to their number daily those who were being saved. (NIV)
They made every effort to assimilate the members into the body
of Christ. New members are assimilated into the body as the church
meets their needs.
believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his
possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With
great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of
the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no
needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned
lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put
it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had
Most people are not going to ask for help. It would be
much more encouraging to them if you offered your services when you
realize a need. How many times have you gone through personal
troubles all alone? You have asked no one for help. You didn't
really want their help. But after the battle is over, you begin to
wonder why no one offered to assist you, not that you would have
taken it, but it would have been a great source of comfort knowing
Devotion causes a person to give up land and houses for the
benefit of the fellowship.
2 Corinthians 8:1-4
brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the
Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing
joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I
testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond
their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us
for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. (NIV)
Our depth of devotion to the fellowship isn't necessarily
measured by church attendance. There are some that are not
able to attend worship every Sunday, I would not be afraid to ask
them for anything within reason. Regular attendance is not always a
measure of devotion.
Devoted to Worship
century Christians were not only devoted to the Word and fellowship,
they were devoted to worship.
The first century Church began as a result of worship. That was why
they were at Pentecost in the first place. They found God in a
worship service. It is amazing how many times first century
Christians found God's direction for their lives in the middle of a
prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were
all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that
any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they
In the church
at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called
Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod
the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and
fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them." So after they had fasted
and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (NIV)
had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the
jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such
orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the
stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns
to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly
there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the
prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and
everybody's chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw
the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill
himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul
shouted, "Don't harm yourself! We are all here!" The jailer called
for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He
then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved--
you and your household." Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him
and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the
jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and
all his family were baptized. (NIV)
we truly praise God, we find direction for our personal lives.
It can happen right here this morning in the middle of this worship
service for you. It can happen in less than idea circumstances. You
can find God's direction for your life.
growth begins with:
A life of
devoted to the Word
devoted to assimilating others into the body.
devoted to worship of God for the purpose of finding direction for
where all growth really begins.
What is the implication of a changing
world without a change in human nature?
How difficult is it to change
Where does real change begin? What
will happen if you wait on others to grow before you commit
yourself to personal growth?
How easy is it to allow the weaknesses
of others to blind you to your own need?
How important was the devotion of the
apostles to Christ’s instruction? What did the 3,000 on
Pentecost devote themselves to? (Acts 2:42.)
Why were the Bereans searching the
word of God? What were they devoted to?
What makes the Bible stories come
alive to us?
How difficult is it to trust God to
change what is seemingly unchangeable?
What is the purpose of the pain and
difficult in seeking change designed to do for us?
15:1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He
cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch
that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more
fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken
to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear
fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear
fruit unless you remain in me.
5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me
and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do
nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that
is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into
the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in
you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to
my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to
be my disciples. NIV
What part does worship play in our
What part does Christian fellowship
play in our devotion?