Green Leaf Press Quarterly Newsletter, November, 2009
My book, Why Are These Presbyterian Churches Growing?, released this last July, tells the story of fifteen Presbyterian Churches in California and Hawaii that have distinguished themselves in evangelistic outreach. Over the five year period, 2002 - 2007, their memberships increased from eight to over four hundred percent. They encourage us in what is possible in many more of our churches. If you haven’t purchased a copy of the book yet, I encourage you to do so. You cannot help learning and being challenged as you read the stories of these fifteen churches. Many valuable lessons can be learned from them—but here are a few principles that were evident:
1. Fidelity to the scriptures
2. A keen awareness of the unchurched, the dechurched, the unbelieving—and a commitment to give special energy and attention to these people.
3. The structure and music of the worship service takes into account those who may be unfamiliar with Christianity or perhaps alienated from Christianity.
4. Even though they may be informal, the worship services evidence careful planning, and the amount of time that they will take is predictable (average 70 minutes).
5. A willingness to be innovative
6. Excellent preaching
Speaking of the church, I am enjoying teaching a twelve week class at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian, Redondo Beach on "Living as a Christian in the Twenty-first Century". The October 11 lesson was on "What will bring spiritual renewal to the individual and to the Church here in the United States?" The Bible give us much encouragement toward spiritual renewal:
II Timothy 1:6,7, "I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline."
Revelation 2:3,4, "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love that you had at first. Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."
Hebrews 12:1,2, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,..."
Many of us, along with our churches, are lethargic, unconcerned, distracted, discouraged, complacent. We are not giving our best to our Lord and his kingdom. Can it be said of us that we "strive first for the kingdom of God". Our Presbyterian and Reformed Churches need to be revived and renewed in the Lord. We need to regain our first love. We need to stop apologizing for the Bible. Our priorities need to be the priorities that our Savior gives to us. We know that God has revived his people in past times, and is doing so in other parts of the world today. We say that we need to depend upon God for revival, and so we do. But could God be waiting for us to prepare the soil? Hosea 10:12, "Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you." Here are a few very basic things that we can do as we wait upon God for his greater blessing:
1. Avoid spiritual decline. James 4:7,8, "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you." I Peter 2:2, "Like newborn babes, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up to salvation;"
2. Be renewed in your love for God. John 21:15-17, "When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my lambs. A second time he said to him, Simon son of John, do you love me? He said to him, Yes, Lord; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Tend my sheep. He said to him the third time, Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, Do you love me? And he said to him, Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. Jesus said to him, Feed my sheep."
3. Be a student of the word of God. II Timothy 2:15, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved by him, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth."
4. Memorize scripture. Deuteronomy 11:18, "You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead." Psalm 119:11, "I have laid up thy word in my heart, that I might not sin against thee."
5. Be generous in your giving. II Corinthians 9:7,8, "Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work."
6. Pray for Revival. II Chronicles 7:13,14, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." Revelation 22:14, "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come. And let him who hears, say, Come. And let him who is thirsty come, let him who desires take the water of life without price."
7. Maintain a steadfast hope in heaven. Philippians 3:20,21, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables hm to make all things subject to himself." Titus 2:11-13, "For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,"
A word on what we are about:
The mission of Green Leaf Press is to promote the truth claims of the Christian faith. To that end we promote books in the areas of Bible Study, Church History, Christian Evidences and Christian Living. We want to challenge Christians, and others who are interested, to watch less television and study the Bible more, to use their minds more fully, and to better understand and answer those who ask concerning the hope of Christ within us. Green Leaf Press is a non-profit Christian publishing company. About half of our income comes from selling books; the balance from contributions. We welcome contributions from those who are in sympathy with our ministry. Contributions are tax deductible under IRS Code 501 (c) (3) and the Franchise Tax Board of the State of California.
Foster H. Shannon, President
Green Leaf Press, Inc., P.O. Box 880, Alhambra, CA 91802-0880 Phone: (626) 281-7221 FAX:323-221-4334
Board of Directors:Robert Curtis, Jean Haserot, Eric Hoey, Al Soo Hoo, Bibiana Soo Hoo, Dean Rowley, Foster Shannon, Janis Shannon, Darrel Sager, Jim Stockl, John Van Genderen, Matthew Welde
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