It keeps going… and going…

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Acts 20:25 (The apostle Paul writes to the church in Ephesus) And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. 26 Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. 29 I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. 30 Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears.

Here the apostle Paul is writing to the people of a church he founded in Ephesus some years prior. He doesn’t expect to ever see them again in person, so he warns them of some upcoming trials and tribulations. Obviously, he doesn’t want to see others destroy what he spent years establishing. What ever came of the church in Ephesus? We’re not sure. It’s highly unlikely the fellowship of believers, as was known in that time, continues to meet today. But this we do know.

Individual congregations come and go, but the ministry of the gospel continues…

This is a good word for many of us today, particularly those of us who belong to churches that appear to be “at risk”. I’m referring to the many churches that are struggling with sustainability. Fewer people are interested in being a part of a church community these days, and so attendance is in decline. And as attendance declines, churches struggle to remain financially viable.

On the one hand, it’s normal to grieve the slow decline of something as meaningful as a congregation. On the other hand, we know that the message of the gospel cannot be stopped! It keeps on going… and going… and going…

Lord Jesus, we know that individual congregations come and go. Minister to those struggling with the decline of a local church. Yet give us grace to remain hopeful that the ministry of the gospel continues. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.

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