And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Rom 5:3-6)

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:6)

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

A Future Hope for Ekron 2016; Love God, Love Others, carry the Gospel to the Ends of the World.

Wednesday night, (Nov 18th), I was moved to hear of the history of Ekron Baptist Church.  From our beginnings in 1904 to today, this church has endured as a light to the world.

The half-acre of land donated by Z. T. Cox for the first church building was not some unwanted or forgotten tract of land; it was a key position in the town.  Around the time of our church being founded, Ekron was bustling as the major shipping point for all of Meade County.  The rail system came through daily with passenger and freight trains.  Ekron had five stores in town, and would soon boast of having two car dealerships.  Two banks and a hotel were even part of the community.  Ekron was a center of life for many people, and those who sacrificed to plant our church desired to see God at the center of these lives.

It has been a joy to learn about this church, and this town.  Only a few days ago, Bobby Chism and I drove around and discussed the rich history of the people and doings that have led us to where we are now.

Did you know, Ekron once had a high school?  That school was the first in the county to win a football division championship.  Did you know that till the 1940’s the only way to place a long distance phone call was to visit the office of the distillery?  Another historical fact is that at one time Ekron was an apple orchard haven of beauty.  Buyers would come from Cincinnati to purchase crops by the barrel full. 

One interesting story is that of Mrs. Frymeir; whose Sunday School class photo hangs in the library. She could often be seen walking the tracks from her home across from what is now the Ekron grocery to church.  She took the gospel message seriously.  Because of her efforts many young men in her class went into ministry and many others gave their lives to dedicated living for Christ?  Ekron has a rich history of people living dedicated lives to God’s glory.

Did you know that until 1949 almost every year saw a new pastor emerge at Ekron, as many may have been seminary students?  But over the last fifty years, this church has seen stability for the purpose of what God is doing today.  Much of this can be seen through the 41 year ministry of Bro. Charles Blanc.

All these steps along the way have us poised for a great future.

Over the past two years I have been seeking to answer the question, “What is God’s vision for Ekron Baptist Church?”  Notice, it is not my vision, but that of God.  I have spent hours praying, walking around the track praying, walking across the property praying, and visiting rooms in the building and praying; all in an effort to understand where we have been, what are our strengths and weaknesses, and how God is at work.

What I wish to shares if not a final answer or plan.  It is merely a step to take together in faith, that our church would joyfully thrive in a day and age that unfortunately sees many other churches closing their doors.

I found a moving scripture in Ezekiel 37.  In this passage God is giving a vision for the Jews who are dispersed, run out from their homeland.  Though this text is specifically for Old Testament Jews for a specific reason, the same God works the same principals today.

It is the story of the valley of dry bones.  The bones, scattered and dry throughout the land are bleached by the sun.  They are dead.  But God asks Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?”  Ezekiel responds, “You know Lord.”  That is to say, “God it is impossible with me but if you want them to live, then they will live indeed.”  Ezekiel knew that such circumstances were God’s greatest opportunity to display His greatness.

In the vision, God brought the bones together as Ezekiel prophesized.  He added muscle, tendons, and skin.  Yet, they were lifeless.  He told Ezekiel to prophesy to the breath.  He did, and breath came into these bodies and they lived.  Often, breath is a sign or symbol of the Holy Spirit.

Prophesy here in not the foretelling of what will come, it is the preaching of the good news.  This relates to many lives today, though physically alive, they may be are spiritually dead.  Until the Holy Spirit moves a person to conviction, they are lifeless and without God.   We must be like zekiel, we must go about sharing the good news of Christ to people in need of spiritual life.

So why the valley of dry bones?  It was that all who heard would know that He is God.  The church exists for the spreading worldwide of the knowledge of the glory of God.  God blesses the spreading of His gospel.

I believe that when Ekron shares the good news, the gospel itself, that the Holy Spirit will move and bring folks to salvation.  Ekron must be about this business.  God will bless it beyond our imagination.

4 Key Points for Our Future

I believe that Ekron Baptist needs to focus on four key points for the life of the church
·         Prayer
·         Worship
·         Discipleship
·         Outreach

The first, Prayer is to be an urgent task for every member.  Prayer is our greatest weapon in spiritual warfare.  Prayer is a necessity.  Prayer is a command of Christ for the church to have power. (Acts 1)  I love the axiom, The army of the Lord advances on its knees.

Second, we need to consider our lives as worshippers of God. Worship isn’t about style of music. Worship is about our relationship to God.  Let us seek to worship God in every mode of life, with gospel intentions.

Worship is our joy.  As we pray we begin to know God.  This action develops our intimacy with God and results directly in a joy over who God is, what He has done, how He has forgiven us, and therefore finds expression in worship.  God has created all mankind to worship Him.  Sin is the failure to worship God.  Therefore, as Christians, we are to be committed to making God the worship center of our lives.

Out of worship flows a desire to know God greater and have our lives abide in Him.  This is discipleship, our third key point. The world is hurting and hungry.  False prophets and counterfeit religions exist almost everywhere. By being a church with strong discipleship, we afford people an opportunity to personally know the God of the Bible.

Out of prayer, worship, and discipleship we find outreach following suit as the fourth point.  Outreach, the sharing of our faith, is our love for God becoming a love for others that desires souls to be brought to Jesus.  A church that operates without working toward the saving of souls is merely a country club. In all we do, we act unto the Lord with Gospel intentions toward others.

Needs for the Age
Based upon this belief about what a church should be I see three needs right now that need attention at Ekron Baptist.

Increased Prayer Ministry
            As I shared above, It has been said that the army of God advances on its knees.  A church that fails to pray is a church that fails to breathe.  I pray for every member to be actively engaged in prayer at some level.  I long to see a rotation of saints who will pray in a prayer room during the worship service. The purpose would be that the Spirit of God would move in our hearts.  I pray that we become a church with a reputation for our prayer, all for the glory of God.

Men’s Ministries to Reach Families.
            It used to be that churches were taught that to grow they needed to reach children.  Unfortunately, this is limited in effectiveness.  I believe, and we can see this happen, that to grow the church we need to be concerned with the entire family.  If we begin with the dad, the spiritual leader of the home, we will win generations to Christ. 

            There is a crisis in America today when it comes to fatherhood.  God ordained families when He created Adam and Eve.  He directed fathers to teach the children in Deuteronomy 6.  I believe we can be a church that equips and encourages men to be godly men.  Many churches fail here.  Let us seek God to be glorified in the reaching of men.

Last in this list but by no means a final ministry, we need to develop leadership for other ministries. Ekron is full of people with God given talents and abilities.  I believe every member is to be a servant on mission using the gifts that God has equipped them with.  We, as a church, can develop idea, passions, and skills through discipleship and encouragement to fulfill this calling. God has a purpose for each person to Glorify Him in all that they do.  We must work together to support one another to help say yes to the possibilities.  As a body of believers, let us help each other rise to the potential we have in God.  We need to be concerned with, how can I help this person engage in the spread of the gospel through their assets?

It is easy to dream dreams.  And we should.  C. S. Lewis said, you are never too old to start a new dream.

But let me share a few cautions in order to avoid the failures many churches have made.
  • ·         Never compromise the gospel message.  The gospel is a non-negotiable.  We find our connection with God, or direct revelation, and our doctrines from the Bible.  The gospel is to never be watered down for political correctness or to appease the masses.  As we are accountable to God above all else, to deny the gospel is to deny Christ.

  • ·         Be relevant while remaining biblical.  It used to be taught that to grow a church you needed rock music, to meet the desires of the masses, and have a pastor who was more of a motivational speaker.  Such efforts lead to deep narcissistic and entertainment driven assemblies.  When a church lacks the power of God it relies upon trends and theatrics.  True relevancy means we must demonstrate to a lost and dying world the power of God at work in our own lives to transform, support, and bring unquenchable joy.  We must demonstrate how God is the answer to the heartbrokenness of all mankind.  True Christianity is the most relevant of all offerings a people could ever receive.  Thus, we must always seek to be the church.

  • ·         Grow children with a goal of loving God and being fully equipped by the time they graduate high school to teach Sunday school, defend their faith, and evangelize.  Most kids have checked out of church spiritually long before graduating high school.  Statistics show that once a person enters college, they most likely never return to church.  Many who do stay in church are confused as to whether the Bible is true, or is even the only way to Heaven.  Many have no working knowledge of the Scriptures.  Most adults, have never fully shared with anyone on how they can be saved.

We must address this issue.  It will be my joy to see Ekron Baptist equipped with a God glorifying goal.  By the time our students graduate High School, if they have been with us for a few years, we should see them equipped to Share their faith, defend their faith, and well versed enough to teach a Sunday school class.  We must work on evangelism, we must equip them with the way science and the Bible fit together rather than work against each other, and we must give them a depth of understanding scripture with application.  Overshadowing all of this, let us teach them not merely a list of dos don’ts and regulations; let us teach them to love God.  When a man or woman truly loves God, all else falls into place.

  • ·         Produce holiness and integrity.  One area where churches falter is in the area of holiness.  Without holiness no one will see God.  We cannot compromise the gospel with worldly living.  God honors those who honor Him with their lives, and this is demonstrated in becoming more and more like Christ.  Simply put holiness is we earnestly work to have our lives set apart for God.  With the integrity of living by the Bible we act in love let our light shine for Christ.

Grow with our strengths
Thus, looking at the history of Ekron Baptist, I see several strengths that God is build the future upon.
  • ·         Strong Love for all.  I cherish the fact that anyone can come here to worship God and not be turned away.  People can feel safe here and loved.
  • ·         Strong Fellowship.  Even outside the walls of the church, I find that the members interact and display a strong friendship for one another.  The church is truly a family.
  • ·         Unity that perseveres Our church sticks together in difficulties rather than falling apart.  This builds the bonds of unity for Kingdom advancement, demonstrating the perseverance of the Saints.
  • ·         Willingness to serve.  Never have I found a church with so many people who pitch in, serve, and then serve some more with great joy. 
  • ·         Solid teaching.  Praise God we have such people committed to the gospel.  They teach truth and teach it well at every level
  • ·         Long term stability.  God has used the years of Bro. Blanc to develop a great reputation in the community for Ekron Baptist.  The church is well grounded in being a church.  God will use this for reaching the future generations.

Thus, I have tried to find a slogan that would encompass a missional thought of these observations for our future.  I believe we can say our goal is to;

Love God, Love Others, carry the Gospel to the Ends of the World.

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