The Next 25 Years

By Mike Mazzalongo     Posted: Sun. Jul 30th
Mike reviews past initiatives that have brought the congregation to this point and what will be needed to maintain our growth and development into the future.

While the Israelites wandered in the desert with Moses, they carried with them a portable tent and other furniture to set up the place of worship while they live in the wilderness. The tent of meeting, as it was called, sometimes called, was the place where God and His people came together. It was here that the priests offered sacrifices. It was here that the Lord demonstrated His presence among His people. This tent or tabernacle was set up and torn down whenever the people were told to change locations. It was set up in the middle of the camp, with each of the tribes camped around it. Even after the Jews entered the promised land, the furniture, the ark of the covenant and other items, which were sacred objects, were housed in the tents and continued to be moved from place to place as different wars continued to be fought. David, as we know, was the first to have the vision to build a permanent home for these objects and erect a temple. This was his dream, but God prevented him from doing this, because he had been a warrior and had shed too much blood.

So in I Chronicles 22, we see David accepting this restriction and preparing his son Solomon to carry out his plan. I'd like to review these instructions and see how this relates to our own situation here in Choctaw, before we make the applications that I would like to make. Let's read through this text.

1 Then David said, "This is the house of the Lord God, and this is the altar of burnt offering for Israel."

So he talks about the sacred objects that he wanted housed in a permanent place.

2 So David gave orders to gather the foreigners who were in the land of Israel, and he set stonecutters to hew out stones to build the house of God. 3 David prepared large quantities of iron to make the nails for the doors of the gates and for the clamps, and more bronze than could be weighed; 4 and timbers of cedar logs beyond number, for the Sidonians and Tyrians brought large quantities of cedar timber to David.

Here he describes the materials and the organization required to bring all of this together.

5 David said, "My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house that is to be built for the Lord shall be exceedingly magnificent, famous and glorious throughout all lands. Therefore now I will make preparation for it." So David made ample preparations before his death.

So David made ample preparations before his death. Here David talks about his motivation and his reasoning. He wants to build a magnificent structure, one that will be a witness to the greatness of God and His people. His son Solomon is young and inexperienced so he's going to begin planning and stockpiling resources, in order to help Solomon complete the task later on.

6 Then he called for his son Solomon, and charged him to build a house for the Lord God of Israel. 7 David said to Solomon, "My son, I had intended to build a house to the name of the Lord my God. 8 But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'You have shed much blood and have waged great wars; you shall not build a house to My name, because you have shed so much blood on the earth before Me. 9 Behold, a son will be born to you, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side; for his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. 10 He shall build a house for My name, and he shall be My son and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.'

So now there's a dialogue where he recounts to his son how it came to be that this task was passed on from his hands into the hands of his son Solomon. He also reveals to him the fact that this charge is not merely a political thing, but a fulfillment of prophecy regarding himself as a man of war and his son, who will be at peace and be a builder and a consolidator.

11 Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you. 12 Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will prosper, if you are careful to observe the statutes and the ordinances which the Lord commanded Moses concerning Israel. Be strong and courageous, do not fear nor be dismayed.

We often wonder why Solomon asked God for wisdom instead of wealth and power, and we see here that his father, David, instructed him to seek after these kinds of things, and that these were the important things of life. This was a lesson that Solomon remembered when he came before the Lord and had an opportunity to ask Him for something.

14 Now behold, with great pains I have prepared for the house of the Lord 100,000 talents of gold and 1,000,000 talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weight, for they are in great quantity; also timber and stone I have prepared, and you may add to them. 15 Moreover, there are many workmen with you, stonecutters and masons of stone and carpenters, and all men who are skillful in every kind of work. 16 Of the gold, the silver and the bronze and the iron there is no limit. Arise and work, and may the Lord be with you."

He encourages his son for the task at hand, by showing him the resources that he has amassed and giving him a word of encouragement.

17 David also commanded all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon, saying, 18 "Is not the Lord your God with you? And has He not given you rest on every side? For He has given the inhabitants of the land into my hand, and the land is subdued before the Lord and before His people. 19 Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God; arise, therefore, and build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the holy vessels of God into the house that is to be built for the name of the Lord."

So finally we see David rallying the people to support Solomon in accomplishing this great task. Now, if we would continue reading I Chronicles, we would learn that David also provided Solomon with the plans for the temple and eventually had him anointed as king over Israel before he died. This chapter, however, contains important lessons about planning for our own future.

As a wise leader, David looked to the future. If we are wise, we must also plan for the future, and in doing so, I believe there's a very real practical lesson this morning. Not about theories or any thing. It's about practice. I believe that we also need to do several things to guarantee the growth and the health of this congregation into the next 25 years. Just as David exhorted Solomon to prepare for the time in the future, I am exhorting you today to prepare for a time in the future. And in that preparation, there are three important things that we must do.

1. We must plan for the future now

Now. As Christians, the hardest lesson to learn is to live one day at a time and trust the Lord to provide for each day, but part of today's responsibility is to plan for tomorrow. Note that David realized that he would not have the privilege or the pleasure of building the temple. But he planned for it and he prepared well for its completion, anyways. What we enjoy today is usually the result of someone else's plan from a long time ago.

I'll give you an example. I was baptized in 1977, in a small congregation in Montreal. But I was baptized there because people in San Antonio, Texas planned for a mission work in French Canada way back in 1967. Ten years to produce the first Canadian, French-Canadian preacher. I was the first person in the province of Quebec to become a full-time minister for the church of Christ. This building here, exists today, why? Because many years ago, people, many of whom are not here now, planned and sacrificed for its construction. As a congregation or as individuals, we will not accomplish anything in the future, if we do not begin planning for it seriously, today. Now.

2. We must invest in the future now

One of the most important parts of any company is its R&D department. R&D, research and development. This is the research and development section where the company invests money today to discover and develop new products and services that they will only produce and sell in the future, in order to remain viable in the future. When I was young, the thought of self-driving cars was in the realm of science fiction. But the billions of dollars poured into R&D by car companies and others, Google, for example, are making automated vehicles possible in the very near future. They're even talking about the competition that these will have to trucking companies, because large trucks, transports, will now be able to be used from one place to another without human drivers. That's coming to be. David had conquered the land, he had access to the Lord, he had amassed a fortune, but nevertheless, he looked to the future. He saw that the glory of the Lord was not seen by other nations so long as the ark of the covenant and the other objects, that represented God's presence, remained outdoors and not in a proper location. He invested his own wealth to provide future generations a place where they could worship God together, and a place that would serve as a witness to the greatness of Jehovah God, to not only the Jews, but to the people around them.

We, you and I, we're enjoying and using the investment made by those people who came before us. It was an investment in the future that prompted the Capitol Hill church of Christ in downtown Oklahoma City to organize a two-week gospel meeting in Choctaw, in the park, in August of 1939. Seventy-eight years ago, that church said, out there, eastern county Choctaw, there's no church out there. Why don't we hire a preacher and let's do a two-week meeting out there. And they had a two-week meeting, and it was an investment in the future that saw Opal Gibson, she's long gone, but some of you remember Opal Gibson, among other people, set up benches in the Old Lodge on Main Street in Choctaw, to form the first Choctaw congregation, numbering approximately 30 people. After this meeting, two-week meeting went on for a month actually, they baptized so many people, they said, you know what, we've got 30 people here, why don't we rent a room and get some benches, and let's start a congregation. Somebody had to have that idea. Sister Farmer here, is part of that first generation of Christians that met in downtown Choctaw.

It was an investment in the future that laid the blocks and built the first Choctaw meeting place across the street from that meeting hall. That was done in 1941. It was an investment in the future that built and expanded its structure 20 years later, imagine, and then sold it to the Eisenhower Funeral Parlor company. They bought the Choctaw church building, that was in downtown and that money was used to finance another dream. It was an incredible investment in the future that purchased this land and built this building in 1976. Now we see construction over here, and then a housing addition over there, and we see the highway, and we see all of that, but back in 1976 this was nowhere. This was nowhere. This was just fields, right? Nothing but fields. You're going to put a building there? Come on! That's a lot of money to invest to put a building in the middle of nowhere. But eventually, the wisdom of that investment was proven, wasn't it? Isn't it? It was the same spirit that looked to the future and hired Choctaw's first full-time minister, Louis Thompson, in 1977. And Ann Thompson, his widow, is still with our congregation to this day. It was this spirit of looking forward to the future that brought me here to Choctaw at this congregation and they began supporting two full-time ministers in 1993. Now we don't think anything of it, but in 1993 for the church to take on two full time ministers, wow, that was a risk. How are we going to afford that? And it was the same forward-looking spirit that completely renovated this building and added an additional 13,000 square feet of space in 1999. A small story about that, if you permit me, a little inside baseball here. The 13,000 square foot renovation actually began as an idea to simply renovate the auditorium. New carpet, fix the benches, paint, and the bill for that was $30,000. And I remember at the time, at the meeting, people were going, $30,000! Are you out of your mind? That kind of money doesn't grow on trees. Putting in carpet, it's not important. And I don't know how, but that $30,000 got parlayed into a half a million dollar renovation. So I've learned, be careful of meetings that go on too long. Because it started as a $30,000 renovation, and it ended at a half a million renovation. But that took some forward-looking thinking. And I might remind you that at the time, banks did not lend you money on your property. The elders had to step up and sign the paper. They were going to take the hit personally if it didn't work. That's courage. That's courage.

And so, Choctaw has a history of being grounded in the daily work of the Lord, but keeping an eye on the future. Brothers and sisters, the time is coming when we will, again, be called upon to invest in the future. The Lord continues to add to our number and we will have to make adjustments in order to maintain and to accommodate the growth that we have. You don't believe that? Have you tried to find a parking space after 10:30 in this place? Yeah, right. Things like better parking, and more classroom space, even a multi-purpose building, all options are on the table. In the coming months more information to be presented to you so that you can begin, once again, investing in the future of this congregation. As you consider these things, pray about your own personal commitment. Remember that the only reason we are here now, you and I, is because someone long ago heard a lesson like this and responded with enthusiasm, generosity, and faith. Investing in the future is not any different now, than it was in 1939, 1941, 1961, 1977. It always takes vision, produced by faith. The question is, do we, in 2017, have this kind of faith? We have to plan now for the future. We have to invest now for the future. And thirdly,

3. We must prepare future leaders now

David took great pains to prepare his son Solomon for the role he was to play. He explained to him the will of the Lord for his life and his work. He gathered and provided resources for him to use in the future. He rallied the people to his side. He taught him God's word and God's priorities. He gave him his blessing.

In much the same way, the elders have better equipped this congregation to improve ministry services and plan for the future. I was brought here seven years ago to share the burden of ministry carried primarily by Marty. To build up the adult education and improve our internet and ministry, among other things. Mike Coghill was added to the staff to form a youth and a family ministry. That took a vision for the future. If you think there was any debating about well, I don't know if we can manage two ministers on the staff. You should have been there for the meetings when somebody proposed that we have three ministers on the staff. We have a woman's ministry, Titus 2, that was begun with the purpose of having older, experienced women to teach younger, single women and young wives and mothers. Sarah Kriwanek took over the church bookkeeping, freeing Celestia to focus on answering queries by members and office support for the ministers.

We've also added more deacons and elders, to better serve the needs of the congregation. There's a men's ministry, a kids' ministry. I don't have time to list all the things. These and other ministries, with the goal of finding and encouraging and preparing and supporting the young men and the young women who show promise now, if we want them to carry the load tomorrow.

We are responsible for maintaining the purity of the word, for increasing the resources of the church, for providing the training necessary so that when our time is over, the next generation has got something to build on, and something to build with. Think of the 30 years olds in your congregation. These young folks are the church of tomorrow.

So the question is, how are we investing in the next 25 years?

Young people, is it just about school, getting your driver's license, finding a wife or a husband? One day you will be responsible for the church. These will be the decisions you're going to have to make. You will be held accountable. Are you preparing for that, and investing as much energy into this as you do in buying clothes or getting a car? Someday, this will be your job. Will you be ready? One of these days, you're the ones going to be paying to build this or to send a missionary. It'll be your money going out the door.

Married and single adults, you're at bat. It's your turn now. It's your turn to see what you will do, now that you are in charge. No use complaining about the deacons. You're the deacons. You're the teachers. You're the leaders. You're the givers. How will history judge what you did, what courage your faith had, when it was your turn to be tested? Never mind history, how will God judge how you've managed and built the church during your generation, when it was your turn? These senior saints, 80, 90, 200 years old - I'm just talking about Ron Hanks, but he can't hear me anyway.

The senior saints, they've been at bat. You're looking at the grass that they planted and mowed for years. You're looking at the building that they've built with their money and their sweat. It isn't their turn anymore. Many times the problem is, we're still depending on them. We're not moving spiritually out of our parents basement. And seniors, in seriousness, are you still looking ahead? They say that older folks tend to look back a lot, perhaps too much.

As Christians, are you looking ahead to the great reward? Are you also looking ahead, and like David, planning and providing for the next generation? Now I'm really getting personal, if you don't mind. I need water. How many times have I seen elderly saints leave all of their goods to various ones who do not know Christ and who will squander it on worldly things. How many times have I seen non-believers and the unfaithful waste the inheritance on the world, of their faithful Christian parents, when it could have been used to God's glory instead. There. I said it. I went and said it. I went and got personal.

How many funerals have I done for marvelous saints, hard-working saints, generous saints, and their children present have never darkened the door of the church, not one time in their life. They get to spend everything. Many times it's just, "I didn't think of that." Well, I'm reminding you from the pulpit. And I'm not asking you to do something that I haven't done. Ask my children, our children. We had a meeting with our children. We read them the will. We told them who is going to get what. So there will be no fighting and arguing after we're gone. And all of them know for sure, the first portion will go to the Lord. It's in the will. We want no arguing about that. There'll be some left for you. You'll be able to divide it. That's fine. But the first, generous portion, I may add, will go to the church and another donation that we're thinking of. Why? Because our whole Christian life, our entire Christian life, Lise and I have always operated on the idea that the first portion always goes to the Lord. We get a refund check for something, the first portion goes to the Lord. We get a paycheck, the first portion goes to the Lord. We get a bump in our salary, the first portion grows to the Lord. Why would we change that on the last day of our lives, with our goods that we have amassed, a house and savings and cars and whatever. Why would we change that?

Why do you think so many churches are scrimping and saving just to add a little extra room or something? I ask you, how many of us have made specific plans to give to the church one last time after we're gone. One last witness of our faith and our love for God and His church. And so, are we, as a congregation, planning and investing and training for the future now? Or are we just focused on the present. Too busy enjoying the labor of those who came before us. And so, the invitation this morning, I invite those who have not obeyed the gospel, to be prepared for the future judgment now, by repenting and washing their sins away in baptism. That's number one of importance. I also invite everyone, young and old, to take personal responsibility for our future. What this congregation is, in the year 2042, that's 25 years from now, will be charged directly to us today, whether that is good or bad.

So, if you need to respond today by coming forward, then please do so. We'll make the time for that. But I also ask you to consider seriously, the things that I have mentioned today, so that the Choctaw congregation, which is celebrating this fall, I believe, its 78th anniversary will also be able to celebrate its 100th anniversary, maybe long after some of us are gone. But it won't happen if those of us who are here today don't plan for that in the future. God bless you.

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Dr. Stafford North
Professor of Bible
Oklahoma Christian University