Tag Archives: church attendance

Numerical Church Growth And The Biblical Purposes Of Church Services

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

NUMERICAL CHURCH GROWTH IS IMPORTANT TO CHURCHES. There are practical reasons for this. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually die out as the aging attendees can no longer attend, or they pass away. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually have no substantial reason to exist. If they don’t grow numerically, they will eventually run out of money and will, then, be unable to pay their expenses and will be forced to shut down. Most importantly, if churches don’t grow numerically, it means they have ceased to reach new persons in their communities with the Gospel message, and have failed to get them to attend their services.

ASTRAY FROM THE BIBLICAL PURPOSES OF CHURCH SERVICES. The fact that many churches are in serious numerical decline has caused a lot of them to stray from the Biblical purposes of church services. But what are the Biblical purposes for having church services? According to the New Testament, church services are to be held so that Christians can worship God together, pray together, be taught from the Word of God together, and to have fellowship with one another. But how have Bible-believing churches strayed from these God-ordained purposes? By making their services primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel of Christ. This focus, they hope, will not only win many persons to believe in Jesus Christ, but also become  a means of increasing the number of attendees at their services, and thereby keep the church from going out of existence.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN EVANGELISM BECOMES THE PRIMARY PURPOSE FOR CHURCH SERVICES? It is certainly true that churches can and should be evangelistic. The Gospel can be made known during church services through music, through personal testimonies, through literature,  and through preaching and teaching the Word of God. But when reaching non-Christians with the Gospel displaces the God-ordained purposes for church services, it has serious negative consequences. Even though a church which has made this shift in its purpose for its services might still have a strong emphasis on worshiping God,  it is certain to spend less time teaching and preaching the Word of God to the Christians in attendance. The non-Christians are fed what they need to learn, and the Christians get little of the meat of God’s Word. This is comparable to what would happen if a family is made up of a wide variety of ages, but at meal time everyone is expected to eat what the youngest family members are able to eat. The youngest family members might thrive on such a diet, but not the older ones. But this is not the only negative consequence of church services becoming primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel. Another almost-inevitable negative consequence is that in such church services many truths of the Word of God will be skipped over because of their potential to offend and thus alienate the very ones the church is trying to reach with the Gospel. Preachers in such  churches will very likely not warn about specific false teachers and their falsehoods. Preachers in such churches will not likely specifically identify religious groups that claim to be Christian, but in fact are not. Preachers in such churches will not be likely to forthrightly say certain kinds of behavior are to be avoided because the ones they are trying to win to Christ are involved in those behaviors, and they don’t want to drive them away from the services. Such preachers might forthrightly condemn things that the Bible specifically condemns, and which most persons agree are wrong. But they will be hesitant to speak against things that might be only what could be called questionable, borderline, and known to lead to worse behavior. The moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages and moderate gambling are examples of what I mean. Preachers in such churches will most likely say, “Don’t get drunk.” But they won’t say, “Don’t drink alcoholic beverages at all.” Preachers in such churches will say, “Watch out so you don’t become problem gamblers.” But they won’t say, “Don’t gamble at all.” Another almost-inevitable consequence of making evangelism the focus of church services is that the  music used will be the kind that is more acceptable to non-Christians. This means, it will be more entertaining than is appropriate in church services. And it means it will be more worldly or secular in style than it should be. Another way to put it is, the music will not be appropriate for worshiping  the Holy God revealed in the Bible. Here is an example of that very thing: One preacher told me and a couple other preachers of an experience he had as a guest speaker at church in serious numerical decline, and which was made up of mostly elderly Christians. He said that as he visited with the church folks before a service, someone began to play taped Christian rock music over the loudspeaker. He asked them why they were playing THAT kind of music. He was told it was done to appeal to the younger people. In our day it is common for older Christians to be criticized for objecting to much of the music used in contemporary churches.But those older Christians are justified in saying such music has no place in Bible-believing churches. To summarize the point of this paragraph, let me say that what happens when a church makes evangelism the primary purpose of it services is that it often gives itself over to accommodating the persons it is trying to reach with the Gospel of Christ. This always weakens a church, even if it results in many more attendees. It weakens a church because this kind of accommodation is contrary Biblical teaching, and it, therefore does not develop strong Christians.

BIBLICAL STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE GOD-ORDAINED PURPOSES FOR CHURCH SERVICES. Above, I said the New Testament tells that God has specific purposes for church services. But where we can these be read in the New Testament? I will give some of the chapters and verses to read, and you can look them up yourselves. As you read them, look for the statements indicating that the teaching and preaching of God’s Word to Christians was central to the meetings of the Christians. (We now would call the meetings church services.) Acts 2:41 – 47; Acts 14:21 – 28;  Acts 15:22 – 41; Acts 16:1 – 5; Acts 18:8 – 11 & verse 18, first sentence; Acts 18:24 – 28; Acts 19:7 – 11;  Acts 20:17 – 38; Ephesians 4:11 – 16; Ephesians 5:17 – 20; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:16 & 17; 2 Thessalonians 2:5 & 16; 1 Timothy 4:6 & 13; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17; 2 Timothy 4:1 – 5; 1 Peter 5:1 – 4.

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Numerical Church Growth And Humanity’s Sinfulness

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Most Bible-believing churches want to see their churches grow numerically. Many churches make it a priority. That is a good thing. But it is very important for us to keep in mind the Bible’s teaching concerning the sinfulness of man, which started when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, and which continues to this day. Those who are well-versed in Biblical truth know our inherited sinfulness results in our resistance to Biblical truth. In Genesis 6:5 we read a striking fact about the early years of human history. That verse says, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And that describes humanity all throughout the centuries since then.  God’s Word tells us in Isaiah 53:6 that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” His Word tells us in Romans 3:10 that “there is none righteous; no, not one.” His Word tells us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” His Word tells us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” His Word tells us  in John 8:12 and John 9:5 that the Lord Jesus Christ is “the light of the world”. But we read this in John 3:19, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” In other words, humanity prefers the darkness of sin over Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
      The fact is, the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ does not make us look better than we really are. It confronts us with our sinfulness,  with our need of salvation, and with our need to repent and believe the Gospel in order to receive that salvation. And it confronts us with the reality of eternal punishment in hell for those who die as unsaved persons. The fact is, we sinful human beings are not eager to hear that sobering message. We avoid it like criminals avoid police officers. When we first are exposed to these Biblical truths, we hurry away from them, just like bugs hurry away when the rock under which they are hiding is turned over and they are exposed to the sunlight.
      It was this objection to Biblical truth that got some of the Old Testament prophets imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered. It was this objection to Biblical truth that got John the Baptist beheaded by Herod. It was this objection to Biblical truth that got the Lord Jesus Christ ridiculed, maligned, beaten up, whipped unmercifully, and then nailed to a cross and left to die a slow, painful, shameful death, only to have his death hastened by a soldier who pierced his side with a sword.  It was this objection to Biblical truth that got many of the Lord’s apostles treated much the same way as their Lord.  It was this objection to Biblical truth that led the writers of the New Testament’s letters to warn that there will be an ongoing objection to that truth. Read, for example, the apostle Paul’s two letters to Timothy, the second letter of the apostle Peter, and the first letter of the apostle John.
      In light of the massive amount of evidence from the Bible that men love darkness rather than light, it is utterly foolish for us to think that if we will just follow the advice of church growth experts on how to grow our churches numerically, success is sure to follow. Numerical success might be the direct result of shallow preaching and teaching, and of using unbiblical means to attract attendees. Packed churches mean little, if the attendees are not being taught the great Biblical themes of God’s holiness, our sinfulness, our consequent need of salvation that comes only to those who repent and believe the Gospel, and that God’s Word tells everyone who names the name of Christ to depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19). The New King James Version is quoted in this article.

Walmart And Local Churches

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

WALMART AND LOCAL CHURCHES
Many of you who will read this attend Bible-believing churches. That is a good thing. After all, the Bible alone is God’s Book of truth. Here’s what the Lord said about this in John 17, verse 17,when he was praying to the Heavenly Father: “Father…..your Word is truth.” Every Bible-believing local church, small or large, seeks numerical growth. That, too, is a good thing. But what I have observed over the years is that many of the large Bible-believing churches are not large because they have won a lot of new persons to the Lord and then gotten them into their churches. Instead, many of them are large because they have drawn people away from other Bible-believing churches. This might or might not be intentional. But the effect is similar to the effect that Walmart has had on many smaller businesses in many communities. Walmart moves in, and after a period of time, many smaller businesses close down. Whether or not we should excuse this when it comes to a business is open for discussion. But we shouldn’t excuse it when it comes to Bible-believing local churches. It is not an honorable thing to build a Bible-believing church by drawing people away from another Bible-believing church. Not only is it not an honorable thing to do. It is not really an accomplishment to do it. It is simply a transferring of church people from one church to another. And many times those who leave one church for another do so for poor reasons. In some cases it is to make more business contacts. In some cases it is to find daycare for one’s children, or to get handouts of one kind or another. Some persons make how often a church has potluck meals a criterion for whether or not they will stick with a given church. Some persons leave one church for another because they are running from accountability for sinful behavior. A church should seek to grow primarily by winning people to faith in Christ, and by drawing in those who claim to be Christians but who are not plugged into a Bible-believing church. So, Bible-believing churches should make it plain to their regular attendees who they want to get into their churches. It might well mean slower growth than they desire, but it will be the Biblical and honorable way to grow.

WHEN THE WORLD SERIES IS OVER

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

FRED SAYS, “Hi, John! How have you been? I haven’t seen you for a few days.”
JOHN SAYS, “I’ve been fine, Fred! I watched every game of the World Series, including all 12 innings of the last game. It was long, but it was worth it. How about you, Fred? Did you watch the World Series? I know you like baseball.”
FRED SAYS, “Well, I watched as much as I could. But I missed some of it so we could go to a Bible study that meets 1 night a week.”
JOHN SAYS, “Huh? You skipped part of the World Series so you could attend a week night Bible study? You attend church on Sundays, too. How many hours a week to you go to church? It sounds like too many to suit me!”
FRED SAYS, “We attend 2 hours on Sunday, and 1 hour on a week night. That adds up to 3 hours a week, plus the short amount of time it takes to drive there and back. How many hours did World Series last, John? Or just the last game of 12 innings?”
JOHN SAYS, “Never mind, Fred, never mind. I get the point!”

ADRIFT ON THE OCEAN

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

We lived on St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands for 2 1/2 years in the 1970s. We enjoyed going to the ocean, sometimes just to walk the beach looking for shells, sometimes to sit and watch the seagulls and listen to the waves, sometimes to swim, and sometimes to do all of these activities. One day, I inflated an air mattress, laid back on it, shut my eyes and relaxed. After some minutes, I looked up and was surprised at how far I had drifted from shore. It seemed like a few blocks back to shore. It was so long ago that I do not recall if this happened because the tide was going out, or for some other reason. As I think about that experience, it reminds me of the fact that we Christians can drift a long way from the Lord without realizing it is happening. It is not always intentional. It happens because we get busy and quit reading the Bible regularly. It happens because we get busy and quit praying regularly. It happens because we get busy and quit attending a Bible-preaching church regularly. It happens because we get busy and neglect Christian friendships. It happens because we get lax in our resistance to bad influences, such as immoral TV programs. It happens when we allow non-Christian friends to pull us away from our commitment to Jesus Christ. Whether we drift intentionally or unintentionally, it is up to us admit it and to get back to shore, so to speak. If you have drifted away from the Lord, it will do you good to read Psalms 32 and 51, and act on their truths.

A Crisis Point In A New Christian’s Life

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Even though I was raised by Christian parents and went to Sunday school and church in my youth, I did not become a true Christian until I was sixteen years old. Previous to my becoming a believer in Jesus Christ, my Christianity was in my head and not in my heart. And it showed itself in my lifestyle. In other words, I did not act or think like a Christian. But that changed in the spring of 1970, when I admitted to myself and to God that I needed forgiveness and salvation. At that point, I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and began a new life as a Christian.

But one of the things I faced as a new Christian was the potential to go back to the way I had lived for some years before becoming a Christian. Starting when I was 13 years old, I had been drawn into a life of drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking marijuana and hash, using LSD and other drugs. All my close friends did the same things. And here is when my crisis point as a new Christian was reached: I went to hang out with my longtime friends at someone’s house. There were several of us, and we sat in a large circle on the living room floor. Someone in the group did as usual: they light a join of marijuana, inhaled some of it, and passed it to the next person, who inhaled some of it, and passed it to the next person. (We called inhaling it “taking a toke,” and “taking a hit.”) I was maybe six persons away from the joint being passed to me. I had to make a quick decision to either fall back into an old habit, or continue to go forward with my new life as a Christian. With the Lord’s help, I got up and excused myself from the situation, and left the house. With the Lord’s help, I never returned to that lifestyle. But it required that I do two things: 1) make new friends who would support my new life as a Christian, and, 2) be very careful about my relationship with my old friends. We now were on different paths, and the Lord requires that Christians stay on his straight and narrow path. The Lord did not want me to completely cut myself off from my old friends. But if I wanted to live for him, and if I wanted to be a good example to them, I could not put myself in situations that could easily result in going back to my old life. Therefore, one of the most helpful things to me as a new Christian was frequent attendance at and involvement in a local church that preached and taught the Bible as the Word of God, and that challenged Christians to separate themselves from influences that would interfere with living a dedicated Christian life. Of course, Christians have a lifelong need for this kind of positive influence from a local church which has these characteristics.

What follows are some quotes from God’s infallible Word, the Bible that apply to the subject  being considered. (The quotes are from the Modern English Version, and were taken from this website: http://www.biblegateway.com. Here is a link to the Modern English Version online: https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Modern-English-Version-MEV-Bible/#vinfo.) Now to the quotes from the Bible:  First, consider what the Lord Jesus Christ himself said about Christian discipleship: “ Enter at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who are going through it,  because small is the gate and narrow is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14.)  Second, consider what the apostle Paul said to the Corinthian Christians concerning the importance of being careful about the kind of persons with whom we are friends: “ Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ ”  ( 1 Corinthians 15:33.)  Third, consider what the apostle Paul said in his second letter to those same Christians about being careful about our associations.  2 Corinthians 6: 14 – 18 says:

“14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion has light with darkness? 15 What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he who believes with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

‘I will live in them
    and walk in them.
I will be their God,
    and they shall be My people.’

17 Therefore,

‘Come out from among them
    and be separate,
        says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
    and I will receive you.’

18 ‘I will be a Father to you,
    and you shall be My sons and daughters,
        says the Lord Almighty.’

Modern English Version (MEV)The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.

The Origin Of The Easter Sunrise Service

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

THE ORIGIN OF THE EASTER SUNRISE SERVICE
Have you ever wondered about the origin of the Easter sunrise service? Wonder no more! It is based on something we read in the 2nd verse of the 16th chapter of Mark’s Gospel. The whole chapter is given below, as found in the King James Version. For your information, the Bible nowhere says or implies we must have Easter sunrise services, or, for that matter, Easter services of any kind. They are harmless traditions of men, and can be great reminders of fundamental Gospel truths, so long as the Gospel is followed. Personally, I do not like sunrise services for practical reasons. But we should have church services on Easter Sunday and any other Sunday.

MARK 16, VERSES 1 – 20 (The whole chapter.)
And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him.
7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.
8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.
9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.
10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept.
11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not.
12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.
13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.
14 Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen.
15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
19 So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.
20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
King James Version (KJV)
by Public Domain

The Bible verses quoted were taken from this website: www.biblegateway.com