In our recent annual elders’ church evaluation and strategy meetings we came to the unanimous understanding that several challenges lie before our local congregation. Of course, this is consistently the case for every local church. There is always some challenge on the horizon. But it is important to stress that while identifying what needs to be done is a healthy exercise for church leadership, prayer is never the last step.
Before anything is done our intents and needs must be set before the Lord in corporate and prevailing prayer. I want to publish some of the major challenges facing our congregation here with the hope that they will be circulated among the flock and stimulate prayer, while we continue to develop goals and specific plans for moving forward.
I have purposefully left out details at this point and will devote the remainder of the entry to the subject of prayer. We will provide more information and seek the congregation’s input and involvement in the near future in a less public forum.
- The development of near and far term elders/pastors.
- The development and revitalization of the diaconate.
- Deepening and improving our discipleship of both men and women.
- The division of labor among ministerial staff.
- The resetting and recasting of vision regarding church growth/planting (mission) beyond the Hispanic ministry (which has been our focus for two years).
- Various facility improvements and the need to address our space limitations.
Praying for the Temple
In 1 Chronicles 29 David gives thanks for the offerings collected for the construction of the new temple. I find this chapter instructive and illuminating as I ponder the challenges that lay ahead for us. I hope you will also find them to be insightful and encouraging.
What stands out in my mind is not so much the amount collected but the heart attitude of the people and the theology of David’s prayer. I invite you to read the chapter and consider both of these principles. Whatever plans we develop for improvement in the areas mentioned above and others, it will require deep faith and church-wide involvement.
The Heart Attitude of the People
“Then the people rejoiced because they had offered so willingly, for they made their offering to the LORD with a whole heart…” (29:9). The success of what we accomplish in ministry should not be measured in monetary value, but by the heart attitude with which our gifts are given and ministry is carried out. Their offerings were given with a “whole heart.” This pregnant expression deserves a brief explanation.
A careful study of 1 & 2 Chronicles will reveal a special emphasis on the concept of a properly disposed heart. While the Hebrew term heart occurs 850 times in the Old Testament it is found 63 times in 1 & 2 Chronicles. The phrase “with a perfect heart” or “with a whole heart” occurs 21 times. This prompts commentator Roddy Braun to rightly see “the disposition of the heart” as one of the main themes in 1 & 2 Chronicles. We should also point out that a note of joy is frequently struck in connection with this attitude of a whole heart. The expression, therefore, depicts the undivided enthusiasm in which the project was taken up by David’s generation. It underscores that what matters is that our obedience be done with a willing, generous, undivided and joyful heart. Think about how far this heart attitude could take us.
I thank the Lord that He has given His New Covenant people a new heart from which the obedience of faith springs. Our efforts should outshine the world’s examples of “teamwork” a “human spirit” and “dedication.” We are the family of God! Christ is our brother! We realize that true and lasting joy is not found in what we KEEP but in what we GIVE! This applies to our wealth, gifts, talents and energies.
He has taught us to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20-21). It will take nothing less than our whole hearts joyfully submitted to God to move forward in our mission. May God profoundly unite our hearts in this effort.
The Theology of David’s Prayer
Read David’s prayer (29:10-19) and note the following:
(1) We human beings don’t truly “own” anything. Wealth comes from God and He is the ruler of all things (29:10-12). Hence, David will say, “For all things come from you, and from your hand we have given to you” (29:14). Whatever we give and offer to our local church ministry is “for the Lord’s sake” and belongs to the Lord as it is. We are stewards of our “possessions” and abilities, not owners. This prompts D. A. Carson to note, “Such a stance utterly destroys any notion of us ‘giving’ something to God in any absolute terms. It becomes a pleasure to give to God, not only because we love Him, but because we happily recognize that all we ‘own’ is His anyway!”
(2) Our human experience is transient while God Himself is eternal (29:10, 15). Here is the king of a powerful and enduring dynasty settled ‘in the land” God had given him and still he recognizes that they are just “tenants.” This theology is grounded in the truth that only what is rooted in the eternal work of God will have lasting value. The temple to be built was significant only because it was to be built to His “holy name” (29:16). We are all just passing through the Bay Area on our spiritual journey with Christ.
(3) Though the responsibility to persevere in this heart attitude belongs to man it is made possible only by the intervening grace of God (29:18). This was a tremendous day! The people had given so liberally and wholeheartedly. But this was just the beginning! The work to be accomplished was “great” and would require sustained commitment. Hence David prays, “preserve this forever” and “direct their heart to you.”
As I sit here today I humbly recognize the need of God’s powerful, gracious and sovereign hand. This will be my twentieth year as pastor-teacher of GBC. In some ways we have plateaued. In many other ways we are still growing. But moving forward will require greater teamwork, sacrifice, faith and wisdom.
Addressing these areas looms over the horizon like nearby Mt. Diablo. It will entail much from each and every one of us. Yet, I have hope because I know that David’s God is our God. He still owns all things. He is still the Chief Shepherd of the Church. He still walks among the candlesticks as the all knowing, omnipotent Lord and Savior (Rev. 1-3).
What we seek to accomplish we seek for the sake of His holy name. He can still direct all our hearts and the hearts of those with whom we will partner. May He make our hearts and hands strong for the work ahead that all praise might be given to Him alone.