While this particular message is addressed to Westgate Chapel, where Alec Rowlands is the pastor, you may find that the message of this blog resonates with your own heart for your church, for your marriage or for your family. In order to not overwhelm you with a lengthy blog, we have divided up the message into a couple blogs. Here is part 1 of the message. Whether or not you attend Westgate Chapel, we pray that this message will touch your heart and speak to you:
Looking back on the last 23 years of Westgate Chapel’s history, all we see is God’s incredible faithfulness and the many blessings He has bestowed on us. To name just a few of them:
1. God has so faithfully anointed Sunday services…with worship focused on Him that draws us into His presence.
2. People lives are being transformed by God’s amazing grace… as witnessed in our water baptism services, just as one example.
3. Every Tuesday night, people of all ages fill the downstairs of the sanctuary as they gather for prayer to call on the name of the Lord.
But today, Westgate Chapel finds itself as a congregation, at a crossroads. We find ourselves at a crossroads for several reasons that as we look back, have been unsettling for all of us:
1. Our move from program ministries to small groups three years ago; the move to groups came at the expense of several other ministries that had to be set aside to make room for groups. This transition was very unsettling and troubling to many people who had been blessed by the program ministries and that unsettledness has rippled through the congregation.
2 Also over the last three years, we have seen the transition of six pastors and key staff members out of Westgate Chapel who had significant ministries among us. Lyle Schaller, an expert in Church culture, says that every pastor has a nucleus of 150 people around them who have strong attachments to them, relationship with them and receive ministry from them. So, when a pastor leaves, it disrupts and unsettles those 150 people. When you multiply 150 by 6, you can see that about 900 people have been impacted. Fortunately, not all of the 900 people have left, but those who have stayed were still unsettled.
3 In the last year we have made some significant changes in our approach to and style of worship, and this has been unsettling to some people.
When our world and nation are so totally out of control I can understand that Christians want their church to be the one place in their lives that remains stable and predictable. They don’t want anything there to unsettle them (understandably) and when it does, that unsettledness is amplified by what’s going on in the world and it feels like everything is out of control.
How do I know the congregation at Westgate Chapel is unsettled and at a crossroads right now?
1. Over my 27 years at Westgate, there has been a huge spike in the last nine months in the number of emails, phone calls and messages from a wide range of concerned people with all kinds of ideas for what we should do to fix things.
2. Attendance has dropped.
3.Tithes and offerings have suffered a steep decline since April.
This is nothing new.
Our situation is not unlike what the City of God faced in Isaiah chapter 22. The City of God in the Old Testament is Jerusalem. Everything going on Jerusalem had special significance because that’s where God’s name rested under the old covenant in the Old Testament. It was the hub of what God was doing.
In the New Testament covenant and for New Testament believers, there is a new hub and focal point that is also called the City of God and that is the local church. Hebrews Chapter 12:22 says, “You have come to Mt. Zion and to the City of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven …”
Each local congregation today represents the City of God. As such, Isaiah 22 applies to the local church today as well.
(My blog next week will draw application from Isaiah 22 regarding the path the people of God took in the prophet’s day, which serves as a warning for the church today. It will also cover the details of a special call to prayer and fasting given to Westgate Chapel…which we are actually in this week as a church, with an incredible response from the congregation and the anointing presence of the Lord. Stay tuned!)
From July 27th – August 2nd, our church is holding special prayer meetings twice a day. We have a 6:00 AM prayer meeting and a 7 PM prayer meeting. If you would like to listen in and watch the prayer meetings live as they are happening, you may do so by downloading an app on your phone called, Periscope. You will need to have a Twitter account and follow me, @pastoralec, on Twitter. Once you have done that you will get an invitation on your phone to join the prayer meeting. Of course, if you live near Westgate Chapel in Edmonds, WA, you are welcome to join us in person as well.