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将亡教会的新生

作者:道格·巴契勒牧师日期:2016-10-28 20:52:26浏览数:4029
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一个奇妙的真相:据说在1775年,英国商船屋大维号(Octavius)被人们发现漂浮在偏远北极的一座冰山之间(格陵兰岛附近)。人们在一张桌子边找到了船长,很显然他是在记录最后一篇航海日志时被冻死的。全体船员也同样被找到,有的人在吊床上,有人的在船舱中,都被冻成了冰块儿。最后一篇航海日志(写于1762年)显示:屋大维号已经在大片浮冰中航行了13年。“一座漂浮的坟墓,由被冻死的船员驾驶着。”这与好多信徒呆坐在冰冷的座位上无所事事的众多教会,别无二致!

你是否拜访过一个看上去冷淡,麻木,毫无生机的教会?你是否想过,为什么我们会有那么多看上去似乎毫无发展的小教会,又为什么会有一些大教会的人数正在不断减少?当我应邀到各地旅行布道时,能遇到一个充满生机且在向前发展的教会,常令我感到十分振奋。但不幸的是,那往往只是个特例。为什么有如此多的教会困顿不前?我们能简单的说:那是因为不法的事增多,许多人的爱心就渐渐冷淡了吗?(太24:12)

或许你就是这类教会中的一份子。当你见到一个这样的教会——其唯一的对外布道项目就是教堂的建筑标志(只是藉着教堂的建筑标志告诉人们这是教会),并且年轻最小的信徒也已经领了社会保险时(那么小的年纪都领了保险),——你通常就会知道何为已死的教会了。

圣经告诉我们,使徒时代的教会在圣灵的激励与驱策下,不计任何代价的去传扬福音。这就是为什么只用了一代人,福音就被传遍了罗马帝国的每个角落。(西1:23)

最致命的影响

在一个冷漠、沉睡或死亡的教会中,能让你经历复兴的最佳方式之一,乃是与他人分享耶稣。事实上,那是教会的首要职责。有许多不发展的小教会,整天忙于内部事务,且过于注重自身的需要,他们只是在口头上承认福音的伟大使命。问题在于:当我们只关注教会内部的事务,而我们的需要都被满足时,会发生什么呢?我们就会停滞,感到无聊,且看不到上帝对教会的旨意。

你知道,这样的事正发生在信徒的生活中,他们说:“我没有从教会中得到什么”。很多美国人都倾向于做旁观者,我们习惯于被人款待。就像看电视一样,那是一件被动的事——你只是坐在那里享受——我们常以同样的心态来到教会。但事实上,教会更应该成为一个给予的地方。我们献上我们的赞美、歌声、奉献、服务,以及对上帝的专注。

“教会的崇拜应当是一场令人满意的表演”——倘若我们希望脱离这种思维方式,那么,我们就不应当在离开时说我们在那里什么都没得着。我们会带着感恩的心离开,感谢上帝让我们能够来到教会,并献上我们对祂的赞美与敬拜。当有人问一位布道家对一场死气沉沉的敬拜的感受时,他只是简单地说:“这个讲道人不是很吸引人,但我相信上帝一定是。”

怀爱伦这样说:“人若缺乏上帝的圣灵,便无法赏识所传讲的道;但他们的内心一旦受圣灵的感化,所传讲的道便不致毫无效果。” (《信息选萃》卷一 第16章)

很遗憾,一些牧师认为增加教会人数的唯一解决之法,乃是建立乐队并发展会跳舞的执事。倘若你的牧师似乎也在为教会增长的解决之道而挣扎,或许他需要你的帮助。让他知道你支持他,你希望教会充满活力并向前发展。

心肺复苏术

激励死亡或冷淡教会的最佳方式,便是邀请一位非信徒与你一同参赴聚会,或是赢得一位血液中流淌着“起初的爱心”的新信徒。

你或许会说:“但是我不愿意邀请任何人去我们教会!教会太冷淡,并且毫无生气,当你一迈进教会大门时,就会有一阵北极寒风将你淹没!”

我相信一位渴慕上帝的新信徒或一位真诚的人,不会那么快注意到教会对你来说看似十分明显的缺陷,相反,他们会帮助你拥有新的视角。

基督身体的特征之一,就是需要不断注入新鲜血液(即新信徒)以保健康。教会必须常开展布道工作,以维持热心与活力。我们常被困在恶性循环中,认为教会并没有为布道会或新信徒做好准备,然而事实上,开展布道与拥有新人正是改变这种状况药方。

帮助别人在其基督徒经验上保持热心与活力,会使你不致被冻僵。

在你借口说你没有足够的经验去唤醒圣徒之前,要谨记,你与十二使徒刚刚开始传道时的资历是一模一样的。尽管他们并未完全悔改或完美地受训,但耶稣还是差他们出去传道了。分享他们的信仰,乃是其悔改过程中的一部分。

如果你认为你所在的教会是将亡的教会,那么,你更要积极地参与其中。你甚至能够从别人的冷淡中搜集热心。一座冰屋或许由冰组成,却仍能使住在其中的人温暖!需要一些建议吗?在此有四个能让你动起来的要点:

1、开始一个家庭圣经学习小组:一些不去教会的人,常会在家庭圣经学习中感到舒适。倘若你来到教会时,带着从这周家庭学习中得到的亮光,你就会有一些热心和亮光可供分享。

2、让自己沉浸在虔诚的基督教媒体与资料中:聆听能够提拔人的基督教音频或视频,并分发与人。这会有助于产生属灵的对话,就如把一碗热腾腾的属灵的汤,送给发饥饿且冻得发抖的人一样。

3、使你的安息日学活跃起来:借着提出促进圣经讨论的引人深思的问题,使乏味的安息日学活跃起来。例如,“我如何知道我是否真悔改了?”只须牢记,要让你的问题产生更多的光和热,并以上帝的话作为答案。

4、为复兴而祈祷:回家并拿出一支粉笔。在地上画一个直径为90厘米的圆圈,并跪在圆圈中央,然后祈求上帝从那个圆圈开始复兴。当上帝从那个圆圈开始复兴时,你的教会就会开始复兴。

当复兴发生时,你就会面临新的问题。不是试图在一个冷淡、死亡的教会中生存下来,而是你的教会可能会迅速发展,你要思考的是,你要怎样在这个大教会中生存下来了!

小型教会的生存技巧

小型教会面临的最大问题之一,是过分参与到个人的私生活中——有时教会在个人的事情上干预过多。同时,教会在让新人融入到教会领袖阶层中的事上,也总是犹豫不决——尽管那个“新来的人”在那里已做了10年的信徒。

在此有一些方法,能使你的小型教会不仅得以生存,而且还能兴旺!

1、尊重其他信徒的隐私,并保守你自己的家庭隐私:虽然或许没有什么可隐瞒的,但每个家庭都需要隐私。怀爱伦写道:“唉,真不知有多少人生因拆毁了护卫每一家庭隐私的墙垣而变得痛苦不堪啊!原来这墙垣就是用以维持家庭的纯洁与圣善的。”(《教会证言》卷二 第60章)谨记要给人空间,并要温和地让他们知道你何时需要空间。

2、拒绝成为闲言碎语传播链环中的一环:当某人到你面前说有关另一位信徒“生动的”故事时,你没有必要听。要试图转回话题,说:“让我们为他们祷告,并把这事交给上帝手中吧!”

3、不要厚此薄彼:虽然人或许会受试探要随大流,但要谨记,耶稣是被排斥之人的朋友。祂以同等的爱与尊重,来对待约翰和犹大。

4、避免对教会领袖地位的权利之争:小型教会的职位一般都掌握在一小群人手中。人们紧握权利不放通常是由于没有安全感,而非因为他们大有能力。一个在主内刚强而有领袖恩赐的人不但不会感到他人的威胁,相反,他还会给他人以机会,去操练他们的才干。另一方面,真正有恩赐的人是不需要藉领袖的职称来操练其恩赐的。如果别人得到尊荣,他们也不会介意。

5、寻找隐藏的恩赐:在小型教会中,通常相同的几个人做着几乎所有的事情。有时是因为某人想维持控制权,但更多时候,是因为有事时通常都只会找这几个人。这使得这些甘愿作工的工人变得疲惫不堪。很自然地,在小型教会中可以取用才干的池子也小。倘若领袖们有时愿意冒冒险,他们也会发现在他们中间未被开发的恩赐和隐藏的才干,只是需要机会去培养罢了。

6、加添新的热忱:有时教会小,是因为其见证太少或停滞,并需要新信徒的加入。正如我所提过的,教会必须常参与布道工作,以维持热情与活力。倘若你教会的信徒更热衷于维持现状,而非为复兴而祈祷,那么你可以走出去,借个人布道系列课程,来为基督作见证。查经、分发见证资料,或要求一位医师举办有关糖尿病、高血压、戒烟或控制体重的社区健康讲座——机会是无穷的。

大型教会的生存技巧

大型教会的挑战与社会动力学是与小型教会不同的。在小型教会中,很容易认出他们中间的新人,同样,一位新访客,也最容易在大型教会的人群中被淹没。

总而言之,大型教会的生存秘诀,乃是在全会众中有若干个小型“教会”,同时也要关注那些在边缘处游荡的人。任何能使你的敬拜经验更像家庭聚会的方法——例如做见证的时候——都能帮助人彼此相连结。

1、带头在教会中接触他人:有些人总是抱怨他们没有朋友,但问题是,他们并不友好。“要想有朋友,自己必须先做友好的人。”(参见箴18:24)试着问候新来的人,或坐在人群中看似孤独的某人身边。令人诧异的是,通常大型教会中的人,每周都会坐在相同的座位上,甚至从未与其他座位的人谋面。要友好,并尝试每周坐在不同的位子上。

2、倘若你有需要,如心理咨询,圣经学习,甚或实际的必需品,就要让他人知道:在大多数的大型教会中,都有能够提供心理咨询的人。要么就是有些教牧人员或平信徒能够帮你找到可以提供咨询的人。在大型教会中,有许多人正等待着去做一些服务他人的事。牧师通常是最后一个知道某人生病,遭遇患难或灰心的人,那是因为没有人告诉他。如果你不知道如何找到能够帮助你的人,那么,最好的方法就是,找一份教友通讯录,或从公告板上抄下教会职员名单,然后联系他们,并寻求帮助。

3、不要让教会的规模吓倒你:你可能无法认识教会中的每位教友,但或许你可以从你的安息日学课堂或查经小组开始。试着邀请几位成员到你家中共进午餐,或参赴安息日晚上的日落聚会。

4、坐到前排来:如果你感觉自己象沙丁鱼群中一条孤独的鲦鱼,你只需向上游,靠近海岸一点,在那里你就不大可能被淹没在茫茫的大海中。在我的布道会上,我发现,坐在前排的人,通常将是在布道会结束后就受洗的人。

5、无论是否有机会,都要参与:尝试去参加教会中任何的祷告聚会。人数的多少并不重要,那气氛会使你更像家庭中的一员。如果教会在举办布道会或其它活动,就去问问,看自己能否做些什么。没有什么比看到并帮助新人归向耶稣,能更快地复兴你的信心!

6、要打破只成为焐热座椅之人的习惯,要积极参与:要找到你感兴趣之教会活动的负责人,并让他们知道你非常想参与。如果你愿意在其中做服务的工作,他们更会不胜欣喜。倘若你没找到自己感兴趣的活动,不妨自己创办一个。

7、在教会中开始一个教会:找到赞同你复兴的愿望和有救灵负担的信徒,并聚在一起唱诗、祷告、学习圣经,并开展见证活动。

教会应成为最好的所在

教会成员的身份,并非进入天国的电梯。的确,我们很伤心的认识到,许多今日在教会名册上的人,最终不一定会成为天国的公民。于此同时,撒但知道“团结就会立稳,分散必致跌倒”,因此他在竭力地要分裂上帝的子民,以使我们的力量衰退。

如果总是专注于教会中存在的各样问题,(而不去悉心发现教会中微妙可喜的进步),久而久之,你就会产生一种错觉,认为在上帝的家中,到处都是衰败退后的景象。然而事实上,上帝的计划乃是要让祂的教会成为一个积极向上并充满爱的地方。尽管我们所在的教会并未达到这个地步,但我们必须保持对上帝的忠心,爱并尊重祂的教会。“教会可能显出软弱而有缺点,但它仍是上帝特赐予无上关怀的对象。”(《使徒行述》,第12页)

这就是为什么我们的眼睛要全神贯注于犁上,握紧它,直到我们的指节发白,也决不向后看,决不松开是如此的重要!((路9:62))


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New Life for a Dead Church

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: Legend has it that in 1775, the English trading ship Octavius was discovered drifting among the icebergs in a remote area of the Arctic. The captain was found at his desk, apparently frozen as he made one last entry in his logbook. The crew was likewise found, some in their hammocks and some in the cabin, all frozen to death. The last date in the logbook showed that for 13 years, the Octavius had been moving among the ice pack, “a drifting sepulcher, manned by a frozen crew.” This is not very different from many churches out there—where members are stuck in position on cold pews going nowhere!

Have you ever visited a church that seemed a little cold, mechanical, and lifeless? Or have you wondered why we have many small churches that don’t seem to be growing— or why many big churches seem to be shedding members? As I travel for speaking appointments, it’s always refreshing to encounter a vibrant, growing congregation because, unfortunately, it seems to be the exception. Well, why are so many churches stagnating? Could it simply be that because iniquity abounds, the love of many has grown cold? (Matthew 24:12).

Perhaps you are part of one of these churches. You’ll generally know a dead church when you see one—the only outreach program is the sign on the building, and the youngest member is on Social Security.

The Scriptures tell us that the apostolic church was energized by the Holy Spirit and driven to spread the good news at any cost. This is why in one generation the gospel had penetrated into every corner of the Roman Empire (Colossians 1:23).

The Deadliest Infection

One of the best ways for you to experience a revival in a cold, sleepy, or dead church is to share Jesus with others. In fact, that’s the primary function of the church. So many small growth-less churches are so busy looking inward, after their own needs, that they only pay lip service to the great commission. The problem is that when our focus is inward and our needs are met, what happens? We stagnate, get bored, and don’t see church for what God meant it to be.

You know this is happening in a church member’s life when you hear, “I don’t get anything out of church.” Many Americans are spectator oriented; we are used to being entertained. Yet TV watching is a passive activity. You just sit there and soak it up. We often come to church with the same mindset, but in reality, church should predominately be where we go to give. We give our praise, our songs, our offerings, our service, and our attention to God.

If we would just escape this rut of thinking a church service is supposed to be a satisfying performance, we wouldn’t come away saying we didn’t get anything out of it. We would come away thanking the Lord we were able to come and give our praise and worship to Him. One evangelist who was asked to give his response to a rather dull church service simply responded, “The speaker wasn’t very interesting, but God sure was.”

The core reason people are bored with their churches is they have hearts void of the Holy Spirit and, therefore, seldom have an appetite for spiritual food. But if we were hungering after righteousness, we would be less concerned with perceived faults. “To a hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet” (Proverbs 27:7).

Ellen White put it this way: “While the people are so destitute of God’s Holy Spirit, they cannot appreciate the preaching of the Word; but when the Spirit’s power touches their hearts, then the discourses given will not be without effect.”

Unfortunately, some pastors think the only solution for building church attendance is to break out the band and bring on dancing deacons. If your pastor seems to be floundering for solutions for church growth, perhaps he needs your help. Let him know you’re on his side and that you want the church to be alive and growing.

Advanced CPR for the Dying Church

The best way to energize a dead or cold church is to invite a non-member to attend with you or to win a new convert who will have that “first love” coursing through their veins.

You might say, “But I’m embarrassed to invite anyone to our church! It’s so cold and lifeless that a blast of Arctic air enshrouds you as soon as you enter the door!”

I believe that new converts or sincere people who visit your church hungering and thirsting after God will not so quickly notice the imperfections that seem obvious to you. Rather, they’ll help you get a fresh perspective.

One of the features of the body of Christ is that it constantly needs fresh transfusions of new converts to be healthy. The church must always be involved in evangelism to remain warm and vibrant. We are often caught in that vicious cycle of thinking our church is not ready for evangelism or new people when, in reality, evangelism and new people are the cure.

Working to keep others warm and alive in their Christian experience will help keep you from freezing!

And before you excuse yourself from reaching out to wake up the saints by saying you don’t have enough experience, remember that you have exactly the same qualifications the 12 disciples had when they started out. Jesus sent them out preaching even though they were not completely converted or perfectly trained. Sharing their faith was part of their conversion process.

If you think you are in a dying church, get involved. You can even gather warmth from the coldness of others. An igloo might be made of ice, but it keeps the inhabitants warm! Need some ideas? Here are four keys to get you going …

1. Start a home Bible study group. Some people who don’t go to church will often feel comfortable in a home Bible study. If you come to church each week glowing from a home study during the week, you will have some warmth and light to share.

2. Drown yourself in good Christian media and materials. Listen to elevating Christian CDs and DVDs and pass them around. This will help generate spiritual conversations and is like giving a bowl of hot spiritual soup to someone shivering and hungry.

3. Energize your Sabbath School. Make an uninteresting Sabbath class come alive by asking thought-provoking questions that stimulate biblical discussion. For example, “How can I know if I’m really converted?” Just remember to generate more light than heat with your questions and turn to God’s Word for the answers.

4. Pray for revival. Go home and get a piece of chalk. Draw a circle three feet in diameter on the floor. Kneel in the middle of the circle. And then pray that God will start a revival in that circle. When God starts a revival in that circle, a revival will have begun in your church.

When revival happens, you might face new problems. Instead of trying to survive in a cold, dead church, your church might grow so rapidly you’ll be wondering how you will now survive in a big church!

Survival Tips for a Small Church

One of the big problems that small churches face is the over-involvement in one another’s personal lives. Sometimes there is too much meddling in private business. There also seems to be a hesitancy to let newcomers integrate into church leadership, even if the “newcomer” has been a member there for 10 years.

Here are some ways to help your small church not only survive, but thrive …

1. Respect the privacy of other members and guard the privacy of your own home. While there might be nothing to hide, every family needs privacy. Ellen White wrote, “How many lives are made bitter by the breaking down of the walls which enclose the privacies of every family, and which are calculated to preserve its purity and sanctity!” Remember to give people their space and gracefully let them know when you need yours.

2. Refuse to be a link in the gossip chain. When someone comes to you with a “juicy” story about another member, you don’t have to listen. Try turning it back by responding, “Let’s pray for them and leave this in God’s hands.”

3. Don’t play favorites. While it might be a temptation to join the “in crowd,” remember Jesus was the friend of outcasts. He treated both John and Judas with equal love and respect.

4. Avoid power struggles for church leadership. Positions in small churches are generally held by a small group. People who cling to power often do so from a point of insecurity rather than strength. A person with leadership gifts who is strong in the Lord will not feel threatened by others and will give them an opportunity to exercise their talents. On the other hand, a person who is truly gifted doesn’t necessarily need the leadership title in order to exercise their gifts; they don’t mind if someone else gets the credit.

5. Search for hidden gifts. In a small church, it’s often the same few people who do most everything. This is sometimes due to somebody wanting to maintain control, but more often it is because the same people are always asked. These willing workers are being worn out. Naturally, in a small church, there is a smaller pool of talent to pick from, but if the leaders are willing to take a risk from time to time, they might discover undeveloped gifts and hidden talents in their midst that just need an opportunity to be cultivated.

6. Add some new enthusiasm. Sometimes a church is small because its witnessing program is stunted and needs a transfusion of new members. As I mentioned, the church must always be involved in evangelism to remain warm and vibrant. If it seems to you that church members are more interested in maintaining the status quo than praying for revival, you can step out and have a one-person evangelistic series by witnessing for Christ. Give Bible studies, hand out witnessing materials, or invite a physician to conduct a community health seminar on diabetes, hypertension, smoking recovery, or weight control. The opportunities are endless.

Survival Tips for a Big Church

The challenges and social dynamics in large churches are naturally different from small churches. While it’s easy for members in a small church to recognize a guest in their midst, it’s equally easy for a new visitor to get lost in the crowd at a big church.

Overall, the key to surviving in a big church is to have several small “churches” within the large congregation, while keeping your eyes open for those drifting at the edges. Anything you can do to make your worship experience seem more like a family gathering—a testimony time, for instance—helps people to connect with one another.

1. Take the initiative by reaching out to other people in the church. Some people complain they have no friends, but the problem is they’re not being friendly. “A man who has friends must himself be friendly” (Proverbs 18:24). Try greeting newcomers or sit by someone who seems to be alone in the crowd. It’s amazing how often people in a large church sit in the same place every week and never meet the folks sitting in other sections. Be friendly and try sitting in a different place each week!

2. If you have needs—such as for counseling, Bible study, or even practical necessities—make them known. Most large churches have pastoral staff or lay-leaders who can help with counseling needs or have contacts who can. Many are just waiting to be able to do their job of ministering! The pastor is often the last person to know when someone is sick, has experienced a tragedy, or is discouraged, because other members never tell him. If you don’t know how to locate someone to help you, a good way to start is by getting a copy of the church directory or the list of officers from the bulletin.

3. Don’t let the size of the church overwhelm you. You might not be able to know each member of the church individually, but perhaps you can start with your Sabbath School class. Try inviting a few class members to your home for lunch or sundown worship on a Sabbath evening.

4. Sit up in the front. If you feel like a lone minnow in a school of sardines, just swim up the aisle a little closer to shore where you are less likely to drown in a sea of distractions. I’ve noticed at my evangelistic meetings that the ones who sit up front are generally the ones who get baptized.

5. Participate whenever there is an opportunity. Try going to the midweek prayer meeting. The size of the crowd is usually not so overwhelming, and the atmosphere is much more like being part of a family. If the church is conducting an evangelistic series, ask how you can help. Nothing will revive your faith faster than watching and helping new people come to Jesus!

6. Break the habit of just being a pew warmer by getting involved. Find out who is in charge of the program you have an interest in and let them know you want to be involved. They would be overwhelmed with joy if you volunteered your services! If you don’t find the program that interests you, start it.

7. Start a church within a church. Find other members who share your desire for revival and burden for soul winning. Then meet together for singing, prayer, Bible study, and witnessing programs.

Church Is a Great Place to Be!

Church membership is not an elevator to heaven; yes, we sadly know that many names on the church rolls today might not be citizens of heaven. At the same time, Satan knows that “united we stand, divided we fall,” so he is working hard to divide God’s people so that our power evaporates.

Focusing solely on the challenges that threaten our churches can leave a person with the impression that being in God’s house is a negative experience. But in reality, God designed His church to be a very positive and loving environment. Yet even if we’re in a church that doesn’t meet this description, we must remain committed to God’s movement and treat His church with respect. “Enfeebled and defective as it may appear, the church is the one object upon which God bestows in a special sense His supreme regard” (Acts of the Apostles, p. 12).

This is why it is so important that we glue our hands to the plow, squeeze until our knuckles are white, and never look back or let go! (Luke 9:62).