In the Fall of 2016 the Elders of the Rushsylvania Church of Christ identified four goals for our church as we look to the future. Our goal is to meet the first three goals by the end of 2021. 500 people in average attendance. 100 percent in Discipleship Group (D-Group) participation. $25 per capita giving. The fourth goal is to have zero building debt by the end of 2023. We believe that God has called us to do big things in Logan and surrounding counties and know that if we are faithful to this calling, He is faithful to continue to bless our efforts.
You’ve no doubt heard the maxim “numbers are not everything”. We agree with this statement. But you may also have heard the expression, “numbers do not mean anything”. That notion does not apply to Christ’s church. We have been given a mission. We are to make disciples and reach the lost for Jesus Christ; to be the hands and feet of Christ in order to save others. The natural result of living out this commission, of being the church, is increased involvement in the body of Christ in Rushsylvania, and around the world. Christ wants the church to increase and be productive. In Acts, God tells us that 3000 people were added to the church on the day of Pentecost. This shows us the result of the Holy Spirit working in our lives and in the church.
Time after time, study after study, testimony after testimony prove that small groups of people inside a church body, focusing on discipleship and witness bears a tremendous harvest and fosters an internal change and maturity in those who participate. Discipleship Groups are meant to be small, to help encourage dialog, accountability and close relationships, so we are intent on starting many. Leaders meet once a month for continued training, help, focus and accountability. The purpose of our D Groups is three-fold, and these three purposes will be repeated with sharp focus throughout the next five years.
1. To develop, through biblical study and application, the character of Christ in our lives. To live our lives with the same character and attitude as Christ lived.
2. To be a witness. This means that we all learn how to talk about our relationship with Jesus. How did we come to know Jesus? What does he do for me in my life? What are the highs and the lows in my journey? That’s it. We are not called to be complete biblical scholars or teachers. We are not called to prove the existence of God, nor are we called to change the hearts of people. God does that. It is the spirit that convicts the heart. We are simply called to tell our own personal story.
3. Each member is challenged to eventually start their own D Group. For some, this may happen very soon. For others, it takes a little longer to be comfortable and confident enough to do this, but this is always a repeated goal in our D groups. This is living out one of the expressed purposes of the church; to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 16-20).
Personal goal - participate 100% of the time. Church goal - 100% Participation by all regular attenders. (regular attenders defined by attendance at church 3 weeks a month)
One spiritual discipline is that of giving. If I am training for a marathon, and I’m running 5 miles, 5 miles, 5 miles, eventually I’m going to get pretty comfortable and I’m going to have to start pushing myself. My legs need to burn, my heart rate needs to increase. We need personally, and as a church, to flex our giving muscles. A simple fact of life is that things operate by being funded. Where there is very little funding, there is very little operation.
I’m sure most of you are perfectly familiar with this concept, but just in case some are not; this is not each person increasing their giving by a set amount. This is the church, through each person sacrificing more, raising our total average to 25 dollars per person. Remember, this is a five-year goal. You don’t have to skip paying the electric bill so that you can increase your giving in an irresponsible way over the next month. I’m not going to run 20 miles the next day. I’m going to run 6, then maybe 8, then maybe 10.
Not only does this benefit the church collectively, not only does it benefit those not yet associated with the church of Jesus, this act of faith benefits each person who participates. Remember the disciplined person; the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason. We sacrifice in giving not to have a statue, not to have a plaque on the wall or a wing of the church named after us. We sacrifice in giving because it is good and right to do so.
As we already said, the church needs to operate, be maintained and most importantly, grow. Sometimes this requires borrowing the money to do so. But once borrowed, satisfying that debt needs to be a priority.
We need to know two truths about debt in scripture:
1. Nowhere in the bible does God call monetary debt a good thing.
2. Nowhere is the church forbidden to take out a loan, borrow money and manage it wisely.
In other words, if we think debt is always bad or wrong or sinful, that is a misinterpretation of scripture. Likewise, if we assume it’s always ok to live life in debt, or that God never says anything negative about debt, that is also misrepresenting the Word of God.
So why make debt satisfaction such a priority over the next few years?
1. It is the right thing to do. It is wrong not to repay debts. Psalms 37:21, “The wicked borrow and do not repay.” Rom 13: 7-8 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.
The conclusion here is fairly obvious: If we do not repay our debts we are participating in a wicked practice. Can a Christian file for bankruptcy? Our legal system allows individuals and businesses in distress to regroup and re-establish themselves under the protection of bankruptcy laws. Ultimately, however, a believer has a moral obligation to repay his or her creditors to the best of their ability.
2. It increases our ability to serve others. A church servicing a debt restricts its ability to serve the Christ. Important ministry decisions may be affected by a need to make debt payments, and the actual work of the church may suffer as a result. Acts 4: 32-37: 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 had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 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 35 and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet.
3. It relieves potential tension placed upon its members and church leaders. The church wants to grow, but now with debt, with the obligation of monthly payments, we may send mixed messages about growth. The singleness of purpose and unity of motive may be diluted by the need for more income. If attendance slackens, financial difficulties are soon on the horizon. Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. God tells us not to be anxious for anything; Money and anxiety are seldom separated!