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                The church I grew up in just celebrated its 150th anniversary. If my math is correct, that means it started in 1868 (Shallow Well began in 1831.) That church was well over 100 years old before I ever stepped foot inside of it. It (and Shallow Well) began before cars were being built in America and before the Wright Brothers flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk. It has seen two world wars, man walking on the moon, and the internet. When it started the church was the center point of the community and its leaders were also the leaders of the community who were highly respected.

                Man, have things changed since then. The church (all churches) no longer carries the same importance and its leaders are not highly thought of in the community. Attendance in churches in America seems to be declining, and the thoughts, values, and beliefs of the church are ridiculed. Some days it seems that the church is not long for this country. Research tells us about 4000 churches close their doors every year for good which means almost 11 churches a day stop being a church.

                You can drive through many cities and find closed church properties for sale for cheap. You can also find closed retail stores for sale. What were once major companies like Kmart and Toys R Us, have declared bankruptcy and all that is left (or will be left) are their buildings, just like churches. There is a big difference between the retail stores and the church. The retail stores will never open back up again.

                The decline of the church is actually greatly exaggerated. The same research that tells us that 4000 churches a year are closing their doors, also tells us that more than 4000 new churches are started each year (in 2014, 3700 churches closed and over 4000 opened.) These churches are not simply taking the members from other churches. According to this research, 42% of the members of these new churches had never attended a church or had not been in a long time (https://www.charismanews.com/us/53715-study-thousands-of-churches-closing-every-year-but-there-is-a-silver-lining).

                The news about churches should really not be surprising to us. The church is a God ordained institution. Jesus made it clear where the church comes from and how long it will last. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus takes the response of Peter about who Jesus is and says to him, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The great thing for us is that the church is not built upon Peter, who is a man, but upon who Jesus is. The gates of hell will not ever destroy the church. Churches may close and its leaders may be ridiculed, but when the church is built upon Jesus, and shows and shares Jesus it will not lose its power. It may appear that we are losing influence, but, if so, it is because we have lost sight of Jesus. When He becomes our vision and our direction, then even the gates of Hell cannot stop it.

                The interesting thing about Jesus saying the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it, gates do not march off into battle. They are stationary. You would attack a gate, but not the other way around. Jesus is telling us that a church will never be destroyed, and that a church is always moving forward. It is attacking the very strongholds of Satan, not the other way. A church that lasts is a church that fights, not each other, or other people for that matter, but fights against Satan.

                I love the church. I always have. My best memories growing up usually involve the church or friends I met through it. I sometimes get upset with people in the church (as well as people getting upset with me), but I will never stop loving it. It excites me to see old churches still around. It also excites me to see new churches start. I get excited thinking about the possibilities that are in front of Shallow Well. I know that the best of what we do is when we are moving forward and winning and teaching people about Jesus. Let us never stop attacking the gates of Hell and doing the Lord’s work.

MJ

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