The Day after church
As I read this rather old statistic, I thought about the USA, and God’s work here:
The U.S. Department of Commerce has recently released statistics on American churches, clergy and church schools. Church Law & Tax Report give some interesting figures:
– Number of U.S. congregations: 294,271
– Churches with fewer than 100 members: 60,300
– Churches with fewer than 500 members: 205,556
– Churches with 1,000-1,999 members: 21,691
– Churches with 2,000 or more members: 13,958
Last year churches received $49 billion in revenues, of which $40 billion came from contributions, $1.4 billion from wills and estates, and $2.5 billion from fees or charges for services. There are a total of 348,000 clergy employed in the United States, and they have served an average of 15.8 years in each position.
Of special interest are the statistics on who is supporting these churches. Persons 65-74 years of age donated the largest percentage of their income (3.1 percent) and those 18-24 the least (0.6 percent). Increasingly, those with lower incomes gave a higher proportion of their income to charity than higher income individuals. Persons with household incomes of under $10,000 gave 2.8 percent of their total incomes, while those with incomes over $100,000 gave only 2.1 percent. The average annual contribution to the church was $715 per household.
Pulpit Helps, August, 1992, p. 8
This is a very old article, I am sure these numbers have grown substantially since 1992.
Yet, I thought about how the kingdom of God works, through prayer and God’s Word proclaimed, and how heaven responds to our earthly ministries.
In heaven, there are no problems, and God always responds to prayer requests and acts of faith that are performed according to His Word.
Like Jesus, I believe that ministers spend the required time in prayer to accurately hear the voice and will of Father God, before they go to their studies to dig through the Scripture and study helps, to bring to their people a fresh empowering word from the throne of God, that will bless, equip, empower, and encourage the people of God in attendance, and that as they speak, people actually believe them, as faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Since God’s word is forever established in the heavens, and He is holy, He acts when His word is preached to His people, ever watching over it to perform it, bringing divine machinery to bear, in the earth, to honor His promises, and bring to pass what He instructed His servants to preach.
Sometimes, there are wonderful miracles that occur in services, but usually, processes are implemented that require spirit-led obedience on our part to bring to pass.
Then, comes the parable of the sower, and the purpose of this blog.
Most of you know, I have written a book on this parable, that is primitive as far as writing goes (Masters level study at seminary has convinced me of that!), but is a clear revelation from God on the process of His kingdom.
You recall in Mark 4, how the sower sows the word (ie the minister preaches the word), and then what happens?
Immediately, Jesus explains that the bird comes to steal the word, then there are persecutions and afflictions when we try and obey it, then there are distractions, and things that muddy the waters of clear, instant obedience.
These thoughts are amplified in two other passages of Scripture:
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings
Notice here, the similarity between the illumination or enlightenment of God to a person, and the immediate work of satan to oppose it. In parable of the sower, he is described as the bird come to steal the word of God sown in the heart of the believer, here in Hebrews, we see his work again, bringing ‘a great fight of afflictions’.
We see this clearly in the ministry of the apostle Paul:
2 Corinthians 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
Notice here, Paul was given ‘the abundance of the revelations’ directly from God (He wrote over half of the new testament), and immediately a ‘messenger of Satan’ was sent to buffet him.
MSG Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.
While God allowed the work of satan to work humility in Paul, notice here that the buffeting DID NOT COME FROM GOD.
Also notice that the buffeting came, only after Paul did what God said to do.
I have noticed, that when I go to church, I bring a pen and paper, or notepad on my phone. Surely if God should speak to me, it is important enough to write down, and transfer to my schedule and To Do, list.
Though I could preach much this morning, this is a simple call to targeted, accurate, intercessory prayer, for all those multitudes that heard the word of God yesterday in church, and either blew it off and forgot what the whispers of Holy Spirit told them to do, or for those who know now what to do, but need courage to do it, because it will require life change, and perhaps very real persecution and afflictions. Of course, the people like me need prayer too, as there are always conflicting pulls for my time, and distractions that would bring loss of focus and priority…all to prevent the work of God from going forward as Jesus directs.
For those of you determined to make an eternal difference in this life, please join with me in praying:
Father, please bring back to remembrance, what You spoke to people yesterday, and help them to write it down, and do it. For those facing hard times because of their obedience, please give them strength, courage, and firm resolve to DO what they now know they need to do. For those of us prone to distraction, please keep us focused, with precise, spirit-led obedience today, that Your kingdom would come, and move forward in power today, in the name and authority of Jesus I pray, Amen.