5 Reasons I Hate the Prosperity Gospel

Hate is a strong word. Using it should always be done in prudent fashion. People today hate a lot of things, but we must ensure we’re hating the right things. Hate is simply defined as “intense or passionate dislike” and can be a helpful learning tool for others who may be wondering why you feel so strongly about __________ (insert issue here).

In several simple paragraphs, I want to share with you why I hate the prosperity gospel. Let the reader understand, I don’t necessarily hate the people preaching it or family members who propagate it, nor do I believe that malicious or violent behavior towards a prosperity preacher is becoming of Christians. Such a thing is detestable. Still, there is an anger that God considers to be righteous (Ephesians 4:26) and we have a duty as Christians to push away apathy and embrace action when it comes to anything that tears down our God and His truth. Hatred, albeit taboo to say so, is not always a bad thing. Anger towards that which is “anti-Christ” is acceptable in God’s sight but it should always be accompanied by humble prayer and biblical explanation lest we become the dragon we’re trying to slay.

With a level-headed understanding of the kind of “hatred” in focus, here are 5 reasons why I absolutely hate the prosperity gospel:

I. It’s not good news

I’ve heard friends say, “There’s really no such thing as the prosperity gospel because there is only one gospel.” I completely agree, though I still prefer to use the terminology because people understand it so easily. “Gospel” literally means good news, and the prosperity gospel is not that at all. While prosperity preachers sell what appears to be good fortune, it’s actually damning heresy that paves the road to hell. Too strong? Not when you compare the true gospel to the lunacy that prosperity preachers promise. I love seeing lost people saved by the Gospel so much that I hate anything that gets in the way of them hearing transformational truth (Galatians 1:6-12; Romans 1:16).

II. It blasphemes Scripture

If you love God’s word, the Bible, would you ever want to lie to people about what it really says? One of the most hateful and abusive things happening in the church-world today is when a person opens the Bible and uses it as a tool for deception. This is blasphemy. This is what prosperity preachers do. The Bible declares some incredible things about itself. 2 Timothy 3:16 specifically reminds us that Scripture is “God breathed.” How dare someone take what comes directly from the Holy One and use it for sordid gain?

III. It insults Christ

I hate the way the prosperity gospel insults my Lord. He’s worthy of honor, glory, and praise. One day, every knee will bow before Him and declare Him King (Romans 14:11). But for now, there are those who smear His heavenly name to build their earthly empire. They ascribe promises to men that Jesus never made. Jesus did not come to inaugurate a get-rich-quick scheme for humanity, He came to fulfill a redemptive plan. What an insult to make Jesus into a lottery ticket! Jesus didn’t die on the cross to provide a steady stream of Bentley’s, Big Diamonds, and Botox. He died on the cross to provide our atonement. We deserved wrath for sin but He took our place. We deserved an eternity in hell but He ensured heaven would be home for those who put their faith in Him.

IV. It exploits the poor

Slowly read 1 John 3:17-18 for a moment: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” Now, imagine a prosperity preacher flying into a poor country on a private jet, staying in luxurious hotels far away from the slums, and then packing a soccer stadium with 300,000 desperate people in order to exploit them for money and good TV marketing. Then, imagine the prosperity preacher airing their perfectly edited program on TBN (or other platform) and telling their American (and global) audience to give money to help the poor people they’re reaching who need the gospel. Lastly, imagine the money pouring in and the ministry CFO ensuring that millions of dollars goes to the “anointed” leader to fuel his lavish lifestyle. Wash, rinse, repeat. I’ve been there and done that. It’s fun on the inside but scary once you think about eternal ramifications. God loves the poor. Exploit them and you’re going to be dealing with Him one day.

V. It has become mainstream

Have you ever been tossed by a wave in the ocean? I remember the feeling of total helplessness several years ago during a morning surf in California. Forecasts predicted ten foot swells so a couple friends and I packed up our egos and went out to surf. Fast forward to me gasping for air and getting crushed by wave after wave as the sets rolled in with little relief. I had no business being in the water that day. Nothing is more disheartening than being crushed by the momentum of something you cannot control. Similarly, I hate the prosperity gospel because it has produced a massive wave of destruction across the globe. Worst of all, that wave of destruction has become mainstream. People want it (2 Timothy 4:3-4). From America, to Africa, to South America and beyond, the prosperity gospel is en vogue.

If you hate the prosperity gospel as much as I do, the most loving thing you can do is speak the truth to those who need to hear it the most.

__________________________

Documentary Resource: 

“American Gospel: Christ Alone” has released and quickly become one of the most impactful documentaries on the prosperity gospel to date. Brandon Kimber directed and produced this film to help people understand the difference between the gospel of the Bible and counterfeits being sold today. Numerous testimonies are already pouring in from people who held “watch parties” as a tool for outreach to friends and family being deceived. Watch it on Vimeo on Demand today. Here’s the trailer.

 

Coming in 2019: 

In order to combat some of the evil spreading through prosperity theology today, I chose to write a book that deals with it head on. It will include a thorough look at life behind the scenes, and plenty of biblical teaching to help people grow in truth. The book is titled, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel and is being published by Zondervan. You can pre-order it on Christianbook.com (currently discounted at the time of this article) or Amazon right now. Other outlets will carry it in the coming months.

Should Your Church Sing Jesus Culture & Bethel Music?

One of the top questions I receive is about Jesus Culture and Bethel Music. Inquiring minds ask, “What do you think about listening to the music, or using only the songs that are sound?”

It’s a fair question that deserves an answer. Still, each person must determine how they’ll proceed. To spark your consideration, the 5 reasons below approach the topic from a few unique angles.

Let’s start with the obviously theological reasons, then let’s move to some practical implications that can directly or indirectly effect your church and ministry.

  1. Their movement & leaders preach a heretical version of Christ

When I use the “H” word here, I’m not being extreme. Scriptural teaching, early church teachings, early church councils, and your Bible college textbooks would all confirm, the “Jesus” that Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, Bethel Music, and Jesus Culture propagate is not the real Jesus. Blending Kenotic Theory (that Jesus emptied Himself of Deity), and shades of Arianism and mysticism, Bill Johnson’s teaching is beginning to be widely rejected after years of remaining mainstream and acceptable. So what took so long? Perhaps it was the tolerance narrative that evangelicalism tends to lean towards, or, people have to see enough friends and family led astray before it hits home. Whatever the reason, it’s praise-worthy to see church leaders standing up for the true gospel.  There is no debate here. The “Jesus” of Jesus Culture and the rest of the Mystical-Miracle movement is not the Jesus of the Bible. If you’re not familiar with Bill Johnson, Bethel Music, or Jesus Culture, here are 5 options to read through (both short and long). I’ve listed our book last since it’s the longest.

At What Price Awakening? Examining the Theology and Practice of the Bethel Movement  By Stephen Tan

Book Review: When Heaven Invades Earth, by Bill Johnson By David Schrock

Responding to the False Teaching of Bethel Church, Jesus Culture, and Todd White By Gabriel Hughes

Why I Don’t Sing the Songs of Hillsong and Jesus Culture By Jonathan Aigner

Defining Deception: Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement By Costi W. Hinn & Anthony G. Wood

  1. They need to be rescued with truth; not mitigated in their errors

A typical response to this article might be: “Even if the movement is heretical, the music is still really good. I’ll just not sing the ‘bad songs.’” Or, “We’re just singing catchy songs, it’s not like Bill Johnson is preaching our Sunday services.” 

Let’s be honest for a second, even it stings a bit. You’re avoiding the real issue if this is your attitude. If their version of Jesus is the “kenotic theory Jesus,” then there could be a lot of people believing in, singing to, leading others to, and following a false Jesus. In other words, like Mormons or other false religions who appear to be “Christian,” a lot of people in this movement aren’t being given the truth and they need the real gospel. There are many following these false teachers (like many of us were before being rescued) who are in serious danger. That means we need to view them as a mission field instead of making excuses for our using the music. We need to engage them with the truth and reason with them from Scripture. The power we need is the power of the true gospel. When we start making concessions on the music, or using apathy to avoid facing hard truths, we’re cowering from the Great Commission. Be different. Don’t sing the music. Don’t muddy the waters. Reach these people.

  1. They get paid royalties to keep funding their heretical cause

Perhaps the most practical reason not to sing their music at your church is that by doing so you’re (or your church is) paying them royalties. These royalties fund their schools and programs like Bethel Supernatural School of Ministry and WorshipU, that allow them to keep reproducing more false prophets, more music, and more musicians; spreading their teaching around the world. Through CCLI, direct downloads, or other purchase methods, even when you use the “good songs” and leave out the “bad songs,” you’re putting money in the same pockets. In the previous generation, there was little discussion about using the music produced by false teachers like of Juanita Bynum, T.D. Jakes, and Benny Hinn. First Baptist down the street was not going to feature a special recording during the offertory by Hinn’s crusade choir just because it sounded good. The unanimity around them being prosperity preachers and a danger to the gospel was, and is, without question. Therefore, no discerning Christian wanted to support their ministries financially by using their material. We need to take the same approach today. However, this is a new generation and the lines must be drawn again. I don’t know too many believers who want to knowingly support false teachers. Avoiding their music is a sound decision.

  1. You could be limiting the creativity and talent of your church’s own band

How many songs would be written if we stopped using Jesus and Bethel Music and had to come up with our biblically reliable music? How much would it challenge us to new heights of excellence if we had to make great sounding music that was not on the downgraded slope of apostasy? What next-generation world changers would rise up to be used of God in the music industry if we fostered their value in our congregations by asking them to write homegrown songs? If we knew that our music originated in the right place, our questions on this issue begin to fade. Many churches are sitting on amazing talent and gifts but do not use what God has provided. Take advantage of the autonomy that Christ allows each individual assembly to have and take ownership of creating your own songs and music.

  1. People need clarity on this issue more than ever before

People will naturally call it legalism when we’re taking about whether or not to sing Jesus Culture or Bethel music. But the church may do well to “steal” an idea from our Baptist friends. Just like a most Baptists avoids drinking altogether for the purpose of avoiding even the appearance of evil, a church may consider avoiding singing songs by heretical groups under the same guiding principle. Wisdom and prudence may be in order on this subject because it has become such a stumbling block for people today – just like alcohol. Is it sin to sing a Bethel song with sound lyrics? Is it a sin to take a sip of wine? No. But it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to risk confusing people in an effort to not come across legalistic. There are better hills to take, and more pressing issues to focus on. This one gets put to rest if we just draw a hard line and move on. If anything, the question of music is an easy one to deal with if you keep things biblically balanced. Why even associate with anything that is unbiblical or in question? Some New Testament guidelines that can help with this hot-button issue are:

  • Avoid being a stumbling block to others (Rom. 14:13-23)
  • Avoid even the appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22)
  • Dangerous people should be silenced, not supported (Titus 3:11)
  • False teachers should be marked, not mitigated (Rom. 16:17-18)
  • Leaders are responsible to guard their doctrine and lives closely (1 Timothy 4:16)

While you may not agree with all the points listed here, at the very least, I hope I’ve provided you with some food for thought as you determine your own trajectory both at your church (whether in leadership or not), and in your home.

5 Signs of a Dangerous Church Member

In his phenomenal book titled, Well-Intentioned Dragons, Marshall Shelley addressed the challenges of problem-people in the church saying,

“Wherever there’s light, there’s bugs.”

And boy, is he right.

It seems that, without question, problem people tend to pop up most where the light burns brightest. Not in every case, but quite often, they end up draining the pastor(s) of energy that should be going towards genuine needs – not nagging tares.

Hide of a Rhino; Heart of a Child

Now before you take this post to be the “default” position on problem-causing church members, understand that no pastor should ever be callously eager for church members to head out the door. Still, he must protect the flock from divisive members who prove to be more inclined to subterfuge than support. A pastor must be tough and tender. He needs the hide of a rhino, and the heart of a child.

The Bible provides hard evidence for church discipline with the goal of restoration (Matt. 18:15-20) and pastoral patience with the goal of saving people from errors (2 Timothy 2:24-26). Conversely, the Bible gives instruction for how to deal with wickedness and factious persons doing harm to the church (Romans 16:17-8; 2 Cor. 5:1-10; Titus 3:10-11). The subject of dealing with dangerous church members is certainly a “both/and” in that we ought to be patient, while still protecting the precious bride of Christ.

When Enough is Enough

I’ve known pastors who have literally spent countless hours trying to appease and please church members who seem to be more interest in shooting the dust and making them dance than receiving actual ministry from the shepherd. Once they’ve wreaked enough havoc or been shown the door, the church member leaves for another church and repeat the process. As much as pastors have a day of reckoning with the Master coming (rightfully so), so will church members who fail to humbly fulfill their duty in the body. Equal to the the high standard of excellence we place on our pastors (and we should), a high standard of excellence must apply to church members. Church hopping trouble-makers beware, a resume of harassing the bride will not go over well with the Bridegroom.

Sure, there will be plenty of seasons when difficult church members need thick-skinned pastors who will offer counsel, exhibit gentleness and patience, and be longsuffering. That is the job.

But are there times when a pastor needs to brush the dust off his feet and let church members huff and puff out the door? Absolutely.

As a compliment to a recent article on FTG entitled, 5 Signs of a Dangerous Pastor, here are 5 signs of a dangerous church member.

  1. The Money Manipulator

This church member uses money in two ways. One, they give lots of it and use that to manipulate their agenda. Two, they have money but give none of it because they don’t get their way. This kind of church member completely ignores imperatives for generous giving without strings attached (1 Timothy 6:17-18). Sometimes, they know a lot about church because they grew up in it, served on a deacon board, or perhaps even hold a seminary degree. Unfortunately, all of their experience and knowledge doesn’t translate into supporting or submitting to the church.

  1. The Sideline Spectator

When it comes to church members serving, some people have just never been taught what it means to biblically employ their gifts to serve one another (1 Peter 4:7-11). If they were told that the Bible commands serving, they’d joyfully obey. These are well-intentioned spectators waiting to be challenged and put in the game! But the dangerous type of spectator is the one who knows what to do but has an attitude problem about doing it. Their own pride keeps them from serving others and exemplifying the kind of love that Christ expects of His people. When VBS needs volunteers, the food pantry needs a cook, the campus team needs ushers, or the children’s ministry needs a teacher, they shrug it off with sentiments like, “Let the paid guys worry about that. That’s why we put food on their table.”

  1. The Extortionist

I witnessed this one first hand when I was a newly appointed associate pastor. A church member approached me and said, “If the pastor doesn’t stop preaching that way, we’re outta here.” Said church member didn’t like the hard truths coming from the pulpit or the teaching pastor’s refusal to tone down his doctrinal preaching. Fortunately, in this case, the member left and our church filled with people starving for truth. But not all of these shakedown standoffs end in joyful victory for faithful pastors. Many good pastors suffer greatly at the hands of dangerous church members. Horror stories abound of elder boards and influential families putting a pastor in the position of, “do what we say or end up homeless.” This heart-breaking reality is actually one of the reasons why denominations and church associations are so beneficial. They can usually help find the pastor a new church to serve.

  1. The Bitter Busy Body

This type usually steers clear of the pastors as long as they can; seeking to lurk in the shadows. They spend a lot of time making their rounds, gossiping and creating factions, questioning the leadership of the church, and adding, “promise you won’t tell?” to their secrets. They are a time thief who distracts the church from staying on mission. You’ll often notice a repeated pattern of strife, gossip, bitterness, and discord at multiple churches from these individuals. Usually they don’t deal with their heart issues at one church so they continually leave churches because of their own pride; ignoring the very thing church members are supposed to: work out their sin and be restored! Have you ever wondered why there are so many “one another” statements in the New Testament? We are to love one another, serve one another, forgive one another, and bear with one another because we are human and we’re going to hurt one another. Dangerous church members refuse to face their sin, confess their need to help, and resolve conflict. God help their next church.

  1. The Blame Gamer

This is a toned down quote from a real story: “Pastor Larry didn’t meet with me because it was his day off. I really needed him. Now my marriage failed and I lost my job. If he was there for us when we needed him this wouldn’t have happened.” How many times does this occur in our own lives? We are the issue, but we need someone to blame to cope with our guilt. Dangerous church members are those who refuse to love their wives, won’t put down the porn, cuss at the boss, and roll their eyes at the pastor’s sermon series on marriage only to blame the pastor for what they caused. What’s at the center of this blame game? Self-centered sin and a focus on self. If a pastor refuses to cancel his date night or a family day to meet with a member, good for him. Unless it’s life or death, chances are it can wait 24 hours or someone else in the church can handle the situation and offer prayerful encouragement in the interim. Disobedient church members demanding the pastor save them from their sins have it twisted. They don’t need a pastor. They need Christ.

Be encouraged, faithful shepherd. There are some people that you can let go. Focus on loyal labor for the Master and serve those whom God has entrusted to your care. He will reward you (Rev. 22:12).

Recommended Reading: Well-Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in Your Church by Marshall Shelley

What Will You Do With Jesus?

In the synoptic Gospels, around the time leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, we find some of the most heart-wrenching literature in all of Scripture. From this brief period of time, a simple question of personal reflection can be drawn out. It’s a question of conviction: what will we do with Jesus?

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all record important aspects of Jesus’ betrayal, denial, trial, and sentencing to death. What was done with Jesus began a short distance from the city of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley, up the Mount of Olives, and into the shadows of the Garden of Gethsemane. There, underneath the overhang of olive trees the Lord Jesus’ sweat turned to blood as He accepted the will of God unto death on a cross. It’s there, in those shadows, that you may begin to see things in a way you never have. Men and women from the time of Christ until today have had their opportunity to come face-to-face with the reality of who Jesus is.

What will you do with Him?

Judas Betrayed Him

It was an act that we all scoff at with self-righteousness. Surely none of us would stoop to such a low as Judas. That dark night, leading a cohort of weapon-wielding officers, chief priests, and Pharisees (John 18:3), Judas betrayed the God-man who just a short time before had washed his very feet. He sold out the Son of God for thirty pieces of silver. The chief priests got their hands on Jesus. Judas got his blood money. Complimenting John’s gospel, Matthew records Judas’ guilt-ridden effort to redeem himself; throwing the money back at the priests in remorse (Matt. 27:1-5). He never repented; hanging himself in shame.

Peter Denied Him

Against all odds, Jesus told Peter exactly what would happen and it did (John 13:31-38). Without hesitation, and on repeat (3-times), Peter flat out denied the Lord he’d so verbosely defended. The disciple who often was the quickest to speak and the first to jump out of the boat, suddenly stood by firelight in the deafening silence of his own denial of Jesus. Then, the cock crowed (John 18:27) and Peter began to weep (Mark (14:72).

Pilate’s Wife Said, “Avoid Him”

Historical writings name Pontius Pilate’s wife Procla (or Procula).Some view her as a saint while others don’t go so far. Whatever the varying views, Scripture gives only one small piece of evidence as to why she was so hesitant about her husband condemning Christ to death. In Matthew 27:19 she comes to her husband’s side telling him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” In a last-ditch effort, Procla interrupts her husband while he was mid-trial – something that would have been extremely unacceptable – to offer a final warning. Perhaps she had to come to believe that this Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah. Or, she was uneasy about Him after her dream. Whatever the case, she thought it was best for her husband to have nothing to do with Him.

Herod Mocked Him

Receiving a hand-off from Pilate, Herod finally got what he wanted. It was a chance to put this Jesus character to the test and see signs and wonders put on display. However, Jesus refused to answer anything that was asked of Him by Herod (Luke 23:9), while throughout the process of questioning the priests and scribes were “accusing Him vehemently” (Luke 23:10). Unsatisfied with the anti-climatic turn of events, Herod made a mockery of Jesus; dressing Him in royal robes and sending Him back to Pilate.

Pilate Sentenced Him

Pilate knew Jesus had done nothing wrong (Luke 23:4), and even tried to wash his hands of the situation (Matt. 27:24). When offered a choice between releasing a known murderer or Jesus, the angry mob demanded the murderer be released and Christ be crucified. Giving in to the incessant pressure of the mob, Pilate handed Jesus over to them. This was the death sentence. The Son of God was condemned to a cross.

Today, we know the story of Jesus did not end in defeat. Long after the grave could not hold Him, we still have access to salvation because of His resurrection power! No, we may not be faced with the exact situational choices as the men and women we read about, but the narrative surrounding the final days of Christ’s life still serves to show us how people respond to Christ in many different ways. For those who desire everlasting peace in heaven, the answer of what to do with Him is quite clear:

We must weep over our sin. Then, going beyond just remorse, guilt, or avoidance, we repent and turn to Him as the sole object of our worship. In doing so, we come to experience the riches of His grace, and peace beyond all comprehension.

What will you do with Jesus?  

God is Good… All the Time

Think about the best things that have happened to you lately. If you’re a Christian who has received a promotion, a raise, a new car, a bigger home, a newer home, a good report from the doctor, a healthy baby delivered, or that job you’ve always wanted…you’ve probably said these words:

“God is so good!” And you’re absolutely right…He is.

But could there be more to His goodness than just the bright side of your story? It seems like our first response when things are going right is to declare His goodness, but the Bible paints a picture of God’s character of goodness even in the darker times. Was God still good when He allowed Satan to afflict Job with suffering? Was God still good when He didn’t answer Paul’s prayer to remove the torment of Satan via the thorn in the flesh? Now personalize it. Is God still good if you lose your job, lose your home, can’t have a child, or doctor says you have 6 months to live?

It’s a sobering thought that will test the core foundation of how we view God.

God’s goodness is based on His character. Which means that your career advancement and good health are unrelated to whether or not He is good. He is good and He is good all the time – no matter what our circumstances might be.

Consider the following biblical examples of how God’s goodness means more than just good times:

The Example The Extent The Edification
Job (Job 1-3, Job 38-42) Job loses his kids, his health, his wealth and friends; His wife says, “Curse God!” Job experiences a deeper relationship with God, is blessed by God, restored.
Paul (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) A messenger of Satan that torments Paul like a thorn in the flesh. God won’t alleviate his torment. Paul experiences the extravagance of God’s grace and learns that God’s power is perfected in weak people.
The Church in Smyrna (Revelation 2:8-11) They suffer. The devil is allowed to cast them into prison, yet they must be faithful unto death. They received the crown of life and enter into the eternal glory of God as honored martyrs.
Peter (Luke 22:31-34) Satan asks permission to sift Peter like wheat – is allowed. Denies Jesus and fails Him. Peter is restored, becomes a pillar of strength in the early church. Suffers faithfully; never to deny His Lord again.

These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. When we search through the pages of Scripture we quickly find that God is good no matter what we’re going through, and that His purposes and methods are beyond what we can comprehend. That doesn’t change the reality of our pain at certain times, but as real as the suffering is, the rewards and blessings for those who remain faithful are monumentally greater – and priceless.

Though God may allow Satan to roam the earth on His leash for a time, there is coming a day when Satan will be bound and cast into the lake of fire for eternity (Rev. 20:1-15). In the grand scheme of things, he is simply a pawn on God’s chess board as He works all things together for His good (Rom. 8:28).

Always remember, God’s allowance of your trials is rooted in love. He loves you so much that He will grow you and sanctify you until eternity, then reward you for being faithful – how good is that?

Enjoy the daily battle in the faith as it is used to test you, shape you, and grow you for the glory of God (Phil. 1:6).

God is good…. all the time.

Chasing a Title or Carrying a Towel

When it comes to leadership, how do you measure greatness?

The mother of James and John thought it was having the best seats in Christ’s Kingdom (Matthew 20:20-21). There are those today who would certainly say that church size, book deals, Twitter following, and global influence are sure signs of high status.

Our salacious, ever growing appetite for affirmation leads us to view the academic letters behind a last name as the moment of “arrival.” Ambitious and youthful pastors think greatness is eventually achieved when their subjective calling to ministry finally lands them an objective goal: The #1 spot in the pulpit.

But is that what greatness is in the end? Is leadership simply climbing a ladder of power, so as to eventually be a shot-caller? When it comes to leadership, if greatness is defined by a spot on the executive board, a large following, fancy letters, and dominating a one-way conversation on a weekly basis because you hold the mic, we need an intervention.

The church does need greatness to live out its purpose in Christ, but in God’s eyes, great leaders are great servants. Just a cursory glance through the New Testament reveals that the word leader is used rarely when compared to the word servant. That’s not to say that leadership is not an important or prominent theme throughout the Bible (it is), but it is to say that leadership is not so much about carrying a fancy title as it is about carrying a servant’s towel.

No one nails having a humble servant’s heart every day, yet certain trends in our life reflect God’s grace in the midst of our own ambitious drive for significance in ministry.

If you are one of those passionate souls who believe they must do something great on this earth, here are three ways things to consider what greatness truly is:

1.) We Must Be Decreasing

Of all the people in the Bible, perhaps John the Baptist could have been the one who’d be let off the hook if he took just a little bit of the spotlight from Jesus. After all, he was the forerunner and ultimate set up man for Christ. Instead, he said he wasn’t the Christ, he wasn’t Elijah, and he wasn’t even a prophet. When pressed for the real story, all he could muster up was quite possibly the most unimpressive personal bio history has known. If John the Baptist had Facebook, the about section would read, “Just a voice. Not worthy to tie Christ’s sandals. Consistently decreasing and not worth a follow. Link to Jesus’ profile ‘here.’”

It can be a monumental challenge to stomach the obscurity that comes from consistent “decrease,” but it’s part of every pastor’s journey. There may be seasons when a gifted pastor is not in the pulpit, but desperately wants to be. There may be seasons when a pastor is called to play a supporting role in someone else’s ministry – and could do more on his own. None of this matters in the grand scheme of what God is constantly teaching His servants. If we cannot accept that His plans and timing are better than ours, that’s a sign that we are still living with an “I must increase” mentality.

Obscurity doesn’t mean obsolete. You don’t need to see your impact to have an impact. John the Baptist was locked in a prison waiting for his head to roll while Jesus – the Jesus he got to baptize – was adding disciples by the minute.

Greatness is giving up what you could do for what you must do. Everybody can be great.

2.) We Must Be Feet Washing

Yes, it’s true, regardless of how above-the-task we think we are. Imagine Jesus the Christ taking the towel and the basin as he washed the feet of Judas the Betrayer. Surely, a towel has much to do with greatness (John 3:1-17; Luke 22:24-27).

Greatness isn’t doing ministry from an ivory tower. Greatness isn’t well-manicured finger nails that click a wireless mouse through hours of Logos. Greatness isn’t preaching all the biggest conferences.

Greatness is bowing low to wash feet.

Ministry is messy and Jesus knew we would all long for clear calendars, simple churches, and well-behaved congregations that don’t interrupt our day in the study, so He showed us a better way. Dirty, smelly, crooked, cracked feet are the key.

Even for those who make our lives difficult. When no one is watching. And when no one washes ours. Greatness is grabbing a towel.

3.) We Must Be Stewarding

Paul set the standard for the greatness of a church leader by modeling the greatness of a servant. He considered himself a slave of Christ (Philippians 1:1), and a steward of the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1). The criteria for a steward in his mind was faithfulness (4:2). As we consider how we will leave a mark on this earth in ministry, it is imperative that we consider what it means to be a steward of all God has given us.

We will be called to give an account for how we managed for the Master. A leadership title is a responsibility that involves accountability (1 Corinthians 3:13; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Stewardship is weighty in light of the implications.

On the minister as a steward Charles Spurgeon wrote,

…a steward is a servant, and no more. Perhaps he does not always remember this; and it is a very pitiful business when the servant begins to think that he is “my lord.” It is a pity that servants, when honoured by their master, should be so apt to give themselves airs. How ridiculous Jack-in-office makes himself! I do not refer now to butlers and footmen, but to ourselves. If we magnify ourselves, we shall become contemptible; and we shall neither magnify our office nor our Lord. We are the servants of Christ, and not lords over His heritage. Ministers are for churches, and not churches for ministers. In our work among the churches, we must not dare to view them as estates to be farmed for our own profit, or gardens to be trimmed to our own taste. Some men talk of a liberal polity in their church. Let them be liberal with what is their own; but for a steward of Christ to boast of being liberal with his Master’s goods, is quite another matter.

Greatness isn’t in the title you’re called, it’s in the towel you carry.

7 Habits of the Wise

In the previous post, we looked at 7 Habits of a Fool. It’s easy to pick on fools because they’re so blatantly…well, foolish! But not playing the fool doesn’t necessarily prove that you’re wise either. In fact, Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise…” So how do you know if you’re a truly wise or just a silent fool?

For that answer, we go to Scripture. The Bible consistently provides a measuring rod of truth that you can use to test if your faith is genuine, and certainly to test if your wisdom is genuine.

Grab your Bible again, turn to Proverbs, and let’s see how we measure up to the 7 Habits of the Wise.

  1. The Wise Can Discern What Wisdom Is (1:5-6; 4:5-7; 13:10; 13:20; 16:21-22; 17:24; 19:8; 19:20; 20:18; 21:11; 24:6)

A ministry mentor once told me, “Hear many, listen to few.” Getting perspective from others is a humble way to learn and can be very helpful, but when it finally comes to decision time, only your most trusted advisors should have a voice. There’s nothing worse for a family, a business, or a church, then when leaders who do not make well-informed decisions. This is why thing like the “podcast pastor” epidemic is so dangerous. Technology can be a blessing to our spiritual growth, but when we need wisdom to make the right decision, we need to be careful turning on our podcast pastor or only ever googling what John MacArthur thinks (guilty of this!) and go to our actual pastor who knows us, loves us, and can provide well-informed wisdom. Podcasts and faithful Bible teachers can be a huge blessing, but our local church must have a voice in our life. At our church, we tell people all the time, if you can’t trust us as church leaders, we’ll help you find a church where you can. Nobody should be left as an orphan in the body of Christ and every sheep should know their shepherd. In life, we’ll hear a lot of voices, but only the wise can discern which one is true wisdom for their personal decision.

  1. The Wise Work Hard For The Right Things (11:4; 11:24; 12:11; 13:11; 16:8; 16:16-17 ;20:13; 22:1; 23:1-5)

You’re not going to find a wise person trying to get rich quick because they’ll be too busy working hard for their increase. Wise people who happen to be wealthy know they’re blessed to be a blessing and they keep wealth in the right perspective. Wise people who aren’t wealthy live within their means, and trust the Lord with what they’ve been given. God has and always will honor those who work hard, remain faithful, and live generously no matter what their salary is. On a recent Sunday, our Sunday School taught the kids about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. One little boy asked the teacher, “Why is the rich man in Hades and the poor man is with Abraham? If he was rich, he must have a good life and should be with poor man in heaven!” The teacher explained that the rich man used his riches for all the wrong things. The Bible doesn’t speak against having a nice house or making a good honest wage, but it does make it clear that the wise work harder at building God’s kingdom, than their own castle.

  1. The Wise Lose the Argument Before Ever Losing Their Temper (12:18; 16:32; 17:14; 17:27; 19:11; 29:9; 29:11; 29:8)

Wise people know that no resolution can be found once tempers have been lost. Proverbs repeatedly offers wisdom to those who struggle with anger, and affirms those who consistently avoid a war of words – or worse. Notice that nowhere in these verses does it say conflict won’t happen. That’s because conflict in life is inevitable. The wise know how to handle their emotions, and practice keeping their tongue under control. So what’s it going to be when a quarrel breaks out? Fight or flight?

  1. The Wise Bring Joy to Family, Friends, and Even Foes (13:1; 14:26; 15:20; 16:7; 23:15; 23:24-25; 27:11; 29:2-3)

Wise people don’t frustrate others because of their foolish decisions! Parents, is there anything better than seeing your kids living for Christ, making the right choice even when it’s hard, marrying the right person, or honoring their commitments? Think about bosses who lead organization ethically and treat employees with fairness, dependable dad’s who work hard, love their wives, and consistently provide a good example to their kids. One more: church leaders who plan ahead, budget properly, spend only what God provides, and stand their ground on biblical truth rather than people pleasing. Even people who may not like you will respect you when they know clearly where you stand. The wise say what they mean, mean what they say, and what you see is what you get.

  1. The Wise Plan Ahead (6:6-8; 21:5; 24:21-22; 24:27; 27:23-27; )

In 2011 I ran the San Francisco marathon without any training to prove to my sister how “naturally” fit I was. I did it in 4 1/2 hours and have the medal to prove it. I also have the hotel receipt for the additional $300 I had to pay to stay in a local hotel for 2 extra days because I couldn’t walk afterwards. Humble pie was served for dessert that night. There’s a reason why people train for 6 months and plan ahead for marathons. If being a prudent planner was easy to do, everybody would be considered wise. Planning ahead is easy to think about but takes incredible discipline and practice to do. The disappointing thing about being a poor planner is that there’s rarely a good excuse. Churches in Illinois know they’re in Tornado Alley so they build a certain way, Alaskan fisherman know the weather so they dress a certain way, and people know April 15th is when the Tax-Man says pay! The wise don’t assume everything will just work itself out. Lastly, wise people are usually in control of their emotions so they are able to stay balanced and objective even when things do not go according to plan. They simply go back to the drawing board, learn from their mistakes, and trust the Lord.

  1. The Wise Avoid Debt and/or Pay Off Debt (6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 22:26-27)

Speaking of planning ahead, the wise know it’s good practice to pay their credit card off every 30 days or to avoid debt alltogether. In a day in age where school is required and not everyone can afford it, let’s leave the debate about student loans off the table for now and agree that in the very least, credit card spending with money we don’t actually have and balances we can’t actually pay off is living dangerously. Proverbs tells us to not make pledges we can’t pay, and if we have, then to run like a Gazelle (that’s really fast!) to pay it off. Is it time for you to get a side job for a few months or to stop spending what you don’t have? If we’re wise, we’ll take Solomon seriously on this one.

  1. The Wise Man Finds an Excellent Wife (12:4; 18:22; 19:13-15; Chapter 31)

A wise man who marries a wise woman for the right reasons has “power couple”written all over it. God honors men and women who work hard, live faithfully, listen carefully, and keep their eyes on the right things. If you have sons, teach them to marry the woman in chapter 31 and steer clear of a contentious woman no matter how dolled up she looks on Instagram. 31:30 says, “Charm is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.”If you have daughters, teach them to stay away from fools until a wise man comes.

We’ve all played the fool at one time or another. If you think it’s too late for your kids, yourself, or someone else you love, be encouraged.  God’s word is the best solution.

Pray for growth, and open up a chapter a day in the Proverbs – there’s thirty-one.

7 Habits of a Fool

Everybody’s played the fool at some point. That means that once in a while, we’re going to say and do things that aren’t very well informed. But that’s supposed to be the exception not the norm right? Unfortunately, human depravity can quickly turn foolish behavior into foolish habits that do a lot of damage.

The Bible has a lot to say on the subject of foolishness. More specifically, the book of Proverbs gives us time-tested truth about what a fool looks and sounds like. We would do well to spend more time learning from Solomon because as the old saying goes, “You must learn from the mistakes of others because you can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Grab your Bible, turn to Proverbs, and let’s look at 7 Habits of a Fool.

  1. A Fool is Arrogantly Unteachable (1:7; 12:1; 12:15; 13:1 26:12; 28:26)

Only a fool thinks he is always right. He constantly considers himself above the wisdom and instruction of others. There’s a hardened pride that takes over a person who refuses to listen to wise counsel, and by this the fool shows that he does not fear the Lord. Whatever you do, don’t be this person, don’t hire this person, don’t marry this person, and don’t do business with this person. Pray for this person.

  1. A Fool Goes Looking for Trouble (1:10-19; All of chapter 7)

My mother used to make me memorize Proverbs 1:10-19 when I would hang out with the wrong people at the wrong time. Times may have changed, but the Proverb still provides wisdom from parents to youngsters. But adults can learn too. All of Proverbs chapter 7 tells an all-too-familiar story about a man looking for adulterous sex, and a woman looking for just such a man. These two find exactly what they’re looking for and are fraught with consequences.

  1. A Fool Can’t Control His Mouth (10:14; 10:31-32; 13:3; 18:7-8; 18:13; 26:21; 29:20)

Is there anything more deadly that the human tongue? Nothing sets off a war of words quicker than a person who hurls insults. Verbal abuse, assault, murder, low self esteem, suicide, adultery, and divorce have something in common – vicious words that fatally pierce the heart of another. There might be no more an important lesson to learn than this one. May we all do better at controlling our mouths.

  1. A Fool Can’t Control His Temper (14:17; 19:3-4; 19:19; 21:7;25:28; 29:11)

This could easily go hand in hand with #3 but it still deserves its own rank in the list. Though hardly a theologian, it’s difficult to contend with Robert Frost when he said, “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or self-confidence.”If education of oneself is some indication of learning to control emotions, this perfectly illustrates the fool’s ignorance and insecurity. When tensions rise and emotions boil over, the fool would do well to heed the advice of Martin Lloyd-Jones’ to preachers when he says, “Nothing is more important than that a man should get to know himself. I include that he should get to know himself physically as well as temperamentally and in other respects.” Slow down, learn what triggers you and why, then get help and educate yourself on how to handle emotions in a way that honors God.

  1. A Fool Refuses to Discipline His Children (13:18; 13:24; 19:18; 23:13-14; 29:15)

Some parents use a “switch” or wooden spoon, others use incentives, still others take away privileges and toys. There is one thing in common with all of these methods and it is that there are serious consequences for disobedient behavior – period. A person who does not have a structure of discipline in place in the home is playing with fire and playing the fool. Not to mention, raising one.

  1. A Fool Blows Paychecks to Party (20:1; 21:17; 23:20-21; 23:30-35; 31:3-5)

We can all relate to this either from personal experience or from someone close to us. A fool doesn’t plan for the future and spends most of his time thinking of instant gratification. How can I feel good now? Proverbs 31:3-5 provides specific instructions to leaders who do not practice some level of sobriety. No wonder employees loathe working for a lush. Hollywood movies may make it look fun and endearing, but the life of the party will drain your paycheck, and lead you to poverty one way or another.

  1. A Fool Never Learns His Lesson (26:7-9; 26:11; 27:22; 29:1)

I’ll let Spurgeon take this one home. He says: “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” There’s a very specific reason that Proverbs 26:11 compares a fool to a dog returning to it’s own vomit. It’s meant to paint the repulsive picture of our own lives when we do not learn from our mistakes.

Ultimately, even though the Proverbs speaks to many practical issues of life, it is not merely secular, prudential wisdom. Instead, all of wisdom is grounded in one’s relationship with God. Naturally, reverence and relationship are a good place to start.

So ask yourself, how often have you been playing the fool? Are you ready to increase your reverence for God, and be more intentional about cultivating your relationship with God.

There hopefully comes a time in every person’s life when this Proverbial truth hits home. Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient for your weakness, and you can always draw from the timeless practicality of the Proverbs.

In the next post, we’ll look at 7 Habits of the Wise.

The Preacher’s Proclamation

An old sermon illustration that makes its way around from time to time goes like this:

There was a young preacher who was not lazy, just conceited. He frequently boasted in public that all the time he needed to prepare his “great sermons” was the few short moments it took him to walk from his parsonage, to the church just next door. Well, one day the congregation decided it was time to burst his bloated ego and help the man improve his preaching ministry. So, they bought him a new parsonage eight miles away!

Now that’s a congregation with their priorities in order and one lucky pastor.

In Lectures to My Students, Charles Spurgeon stressed the vitality of preaching when he wrote,

We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk’s sake; we have instructions to convey important to the last degree, and we cannot afford to utter petty nothings…If we speak as ambassadors for God, we need never complain of want for matter, for our message is full to overflowing. The entire gospel must be presented from the pulpit the whole faith once for all delivered to the saints must be proclaimed by us.

When it comes to those who preach the Word, the church can settle for nothing less than faithfulness to the Word of God. New fads are a dime-a-dozen, the latest pragmatic gimmicks change like the weather, but one thing remains tried, tested, and true – God’s Word to His people.

The preacher and the people are both responsible for protecting the pulpit in the church. When the pulpit isn’t held in high regard, sheep become malnourished by fast-food style preaching that contains little nutritional value. When pastoral ministry becomes just another career requiring a beefy resume and social media platform, pulpits fill with hireling preachers who take a paycheck, wear a title, but run at the first sign of hard work. The church needs fearless heralds who will put on their work-boots, roll up their sleeves, and boldly feed Christ’s precious flock no matter what the cost. Like waterless clouds that produce no rain, so is the preacher who makes a proclamation to people but fails to preach God’s Word. When there is no divine food for the soul, there will be spiritual famine in the land.

The preacher must proclaim the truth and the people must proclaim, “We want the truth! And nothing but the truth!”

When the Apostle Paul provided young Timothy with one of the first handbooks on preaching – and boy, is it ever still a best-seller – he gave him timeless wisdom that we must still heed today. Throughout the pastoral letters, Paul gives numerous imperatives that every preacher should pay close attention to, but five of these can prove immensely useful in governing the preacher’s proclamation. These imperative commands are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and through them, we are given the greatest church growth strategy this world has ever known, that is, spiritual growth.

1. Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2a)

Paul was never one to mince words when it came to the message. In his mind, preaching was to be unadulterated, Christ-centered, Gospel truth. After all, that is the power of God unto Salvation (Romans 1:16). That doesn’t leave room for much else. On other occasions he told Timothy to avoid worldly fables (1 Timothy 4:7), empty chatter (1 Timothy 6:20), to be accurate (2 Timothy 2:15), and that Scripture was all he needed to be fully equipped (2 Timothy 3:16-17). A preacher doesn’t need another proclamation – and neither do the people.

Word-saturated preaching does what nothing else can do. Such preaching increases people’s faith (Romans 10:17), reveals God’s will (Deuteronomy 29:29), increase biblical literacy (1 Peter 2:1), and gives people lasting peace (Ephesians 2:17-18).

Ever wonder what it is that makes a congregation go from worrying, doubting, and complaining to saying, “Ahhhh, I needed that”? It is the Word of God soothing their soul and setting their minds on Christ.

Give the people what they need. Preach the Word.

2. Be Ready In Season and Out of Season (2 Timothy 4:2b)

Paul continues with an imperative to instantly be ready. Whether it’s popular or not, convenient or not, with or without your bible app – be ready. This is one of the quintessential marks of a true preacher and his mandated proclamation. His message is internalized. He is living it, breathing it, and armed with it. It doesn’t matter what political firestorm is brewing, he is ready with the Word. It doesn’t matter what polemical drama is stirring, he is ready with the Word. It doesn’t matter what he can personally gain by compromising the message, he is ready with the Word.

Our Christian culture today can greatly benefit from taking a page out of Paul’s book. Though we face some varying levels of persecution, he serves as a lofty inspiration. Whether shipwrecked, chained to a guard, beaten, questioned, or threatened with death – he considered every difficult obstacle still as an opportunity.

No matter the climate or the cost, the preacher is always ready.

3. Reprove (2 Timothy 4:2c)

Tolerance is the climate of today’s millennial culture – but our preaching must be counter-culture. Simply put, the preacher is to reprove if he is, in fact, a preacher. This means that he must correct people’s thinking with the truth of God’s Word and trust the Holy Spirit’s work in convicting people of their error. What good is a pastor if he doesn’t tell you right from wrong or truth from tricks? Furthermore, what good is a pastor who does not reprove out of love for the people?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “The trouble with some of us is that we love preaching, but we are not always careful to make sure that we love the people to whom we are actually preaching.” Therein lies wisdom for every preacher who reproves the people. God’s love for His people is directly related to His loving correction of His people (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19). What better way for a preacher to show his love for people than to show them the way of truth?

4. Rebuke (2 Timothy 4:2d)

The second of two negative commands settles the matter: preaching the Word includes giving people the hard truth. Rebuke must be clear, and as already stated, it must be done in love. The preacher is a not a rigid surgeon with cold hands and a sharp scalpel – he is a warm, kind, and caring shepherd. To rebuke is not to use the staff to beat the sheep – it is to use the staff to draw the boundary lines of safety. The preacher is never desirous of pugnacious controversy. We must, like Paul in Philippians 3:18, even deal with false teachers through “weeping.”

There is also no room for passive aggressive manipulation in the preacher’s rebuke. To sharply and clearly tell people about the consequences of their error requires that a preacher be forthright and honest. Little is accomplished when preachers attempt to rebuke people with “hints.”

Better is open rebuke, than love that is concealed (Proverbs 27:5). The preacher who rebukes proves he is a lover and protector of God’s people.

5. Exhort (2 Timothy 4:2e)

The preacher must afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. He must walk with his people and be an encouraging voice as they are taken captive by God’s grace. To bring people to a place of great conviction, and to offer a clear correction, but offer no encouragement is to merely place weights on people and walking away. Exhortation is the call to action through the grace and power that the Holy Spirit provides. The preacher proclaims the truth and encourages the people to walk in a manner that is worthy of their calling and to look to Christ as the Author and Finisher of their faith.

Unfortunately, exhortation is often misunderstood as a license to unleash on people but offer little help in the wake of such a lashing. We get exhortation wrong when confining it to the likes of drive-by evangelism, or drive-by discipleship. When a preacher is brash with people from the pulpit, then too busy to walk with people after the sermon, exhortation has scarcely been achieved. It’s an ivory-tower preacher who appears once a week in the pulpit but does not come alongside the people throughout the week. That style of ministry is not what Paul had in mind as he instructed pastors and preachers.

In the end, Paul says that the preacher’s proclamation must include one key element: “great patience and instruction” (2 Timothy 4:2f). People are not won to truth by verbal assaults. Such preaching is easy. Anyone can be angry and use the Bible as a hammer, but Paul capstones his call for the preacher’s method by raising the bar. Translated in English as “patient,” the Greek word makrothume (meaning to abide under; or endure) makes it quite clear that in all of the preacher’s proclaiming, he must be patient with people. That is what sets him apart as God’s mouthpiece.

On the topic of effective preaching H.B. Charles Jr. wrote, “Our preaching is not the reason the Word works. The Word is the reason our preaching works.”

Always remember: Churches don’t die. God’s voice in them does when a preacher fails to preach the Word, and the people fail to demand that Word be preached.

Preach the Word.


This article originally appeared on “For the Church” @ www.ftc.co

 

Five Things Only the Local Church Can Do

There is nothing on earth like the local Christian church. Hundreds of conferences offer life-changing experiences for several days but can’t come close to the life-long impact of a local church. Evangelistic crusades may draw tens of thousands to hear the gospel, but the crusade team can’t possibly facilitate the spiritual growth of those converts the way the local church can. When it comes down to it, Christ loves His bride, and there is no substitute that can satisfy the needs of His growing body like the local church.

Providing that a group of believers gather under biblically qualified leadership, with a focus on biblical teaching, prayer, worship, evangelism and edifying fellowship, the church will live up to its potential in the way that God intends. Of course, in a fallen world there will be turbulent times along the way, but together, Christians who hold in high regard the Body of Christ as He builds it will experience a level of joy that is only found within the local church.

In this article, I will consider five unique blessings that only the local church gets to experience. Each of these makes the local church unlike any other institution on earth.

1) The Manifold Wisdom of God

Nothing glorifies God like the local church! His wisdom is shown through Christ’s unfathomable riches, and the world looks on as His light outshines darkness. Preaching showcases the manifold wisdom of God. The divine revelation now revealed through the gospel showcases the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:8-10). Heaven looks on, and all of hell trembles as Christ is declared the wisdom of God personified (1 Corinthians 1:24).

People will turn to many sources for wisdom, but nothing will bring the lasting peace that the wisdom of God will bring.

God chose the church to showcase His wisdom. What greater privilege can there be for a Christian to take part in?

2) The Methods of Evangelism

Is there a greater blessing than to see the lost sheep called home to the Great Shepherd? The local church is right at the center of this process! As Jesus gathers His flock from every tongue, tribe, and nation, He uses the preaching of good news to accomplish the work. As Paul declared the divine process that brings about salvation to the hearer he wrote:

For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” (Romans 10:11-15).

Gospel power goes out from the local church in more ways than we may realize. From a congregation that lives their faith while the world looks on, to a child who grows up to become a missionary or worldwide evangelist. They are all trained up, sent out, and supported by the local church.

Preaching is one of the primary methods through which the local church can spread the gospel it is not the only method.

Relational evangelism can spark gospel conversations that never even involve a pulpit but lead people to repentance. I’ll never forget how the Lord used a personal friendship sparked in the gym one day, to lead to an open door for evangelism. Now over ten years later, my friend has married a fellow believer and is the proud father of three children. What happened? A relationship provided the context for the gospel to be shared. The result was a regenerate life changed by the power of the gospel! It doesn’t always happen that way, but relationships are one of the most powerful ways that evangelism is accomplished.

Whether in the gym, at the park, on the court, in the store, or on the mission field, the life-saving power of the gospel is entrusted to the local church. What else on earth can make that claim?

3) The Making of Disciples

When an unregenerate heart turns to Christ, He entrusts the church with a most sacred task – to make them a disciple (Matthew 28:16-20).

In the local church, converts aren’t left to fend for themselves, leaders are trained so more converts can be discipled, marriages are mentored through the ups and downs of life, and sanctification is in overdrive as the church worships with undying affection for Christ!

The privilege (and mandate) of making disciples is something often overlooked because it takes work. Laziness is no excuse for being unwilling to enter the grueling task of disciple-making. Life is messy, and ministry is too. If we aren’t willing to roll up our sleeves, put our work boots on, and dig into discipleship, we have to ask ourselves if we have lost sight of what our true purpose is.

In his book Discipling, Mark Dever writes,

The local church – this, Father-designed, Jesus-authorized, and Spirit-gifted body – is far better equipped to undertake the work of discipling believers than simply you and your one friend. Jesus does not promise that you and your one friend will defeat the gates of hell. He promised that the church will do this.

We must maintain a culture of disciple-making because if we don’t, no one else will. Only the church is given this unique task.

4) The Ministry of Saints

Talents abound in the world today, but spiritual gifts are a whole different matter. Parents pay thousands of dollars to have their son or daughter receive specialized training to become an elite performer, but no amount of money or training regimen can land you a spiritual gift.

The Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts, and the church and believers are the benefactors. What grace that He would pour out such gifts for the body to be built up in Christ. In our serving and our speaking, we are strengthening one another and glorifying our Creator (1 Peter 4:7-11). How can we not take full advantage of this great blessing?

In addition to the privilege of using our spiritual gifts, we are also given a clear structure for how to operate with our gifts. The “common good” that the gifts achieve (1 Corinthians 12:7) provide us with spiritual protection, teaching, equipping, and meet physical needs.

Ministries explode within the local church because saints put their gifts to work. Qualified elders are appointed (1 Timothy 3:1-7), older women teach the younger (Titus 2:3-5), widows and orphans are cared for (James 1:27), mercy is shown, sinners are exhorted, and so much more. Much is achieved for the edification of saints because obedient believers employ their gifts for ministry.

When onlookers see the Body of Christ functioning in unity, God is glorified.

5) The Memories Shared

In the Old Testament, God told Joshua and the people of Israel to create “Memorial Stones” to showcase all His wondrous works (Joshua 4:1-7). In 2017, our memorial stones may take on the form of Facebook albums, Instagram galleries, or a church highlight a video but the principle remains the same. Our stories of God’s goodness, faithfulness, and mighty works are shared through and with the church.

There is no denying that the relationships we form in serving Christ are some of the most powerful bonds that can be formed in this life. The love that Paul shared with the churches he started was rooted in his devotion to Christ. A church that serves, sings, and even suffers together will more often than not, grow old together, or plant more churches together!

Generations of Christians will spend eternity worshipping Christ in celebration of all that He did in them and through them.

Over the course of a lifetime, Christians will experience a plethora of emotions within the life of the church. There may be joy, pain, loss, and hurt. All in all, it takes commitment to Christ to remain devoted to His bride through it all.

If Christians will continually turn back to the Scriptures and renew their love for the church, they will enjoy the blessings and privileges that it alone can provide.


Originally posted on www.servantsofgrace.org on February 21, 2017.