Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Backbone of the Church: Faithful Lay Leaders

"Lay leaders are the backbone of the local church."  This ministry mantra has been one of my main points of emphasis during the church revitalization work at the First Baptist Church of Freeport.  The Apostle Paul shared this same conviction for he instructs Titus in Crete to "appoint elders in every town."  Titus was to appoint "qualified," servant-leaders who would help him shepherd, protect, govern, and feed the flock of God (note Titus 1:5-16 and 1 Peter 5:1-4).   Paul gave similar marching orders to Timothy (note 1 Timothy 3 and 2 Timothy 2:2) in Ephesus.  As a young pastor Timothy was specifically told to train faithful men who in turn would train and teach others.  2 Timothy 2:2, The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many faithful witnesses; entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.   

In my judgment, the second most important thing a Senior Pastor does, after the faithful exposition of Holy Scripture, is to train, develop, and raise up faithful lay leaders.  After all, faithful lay leaders are the backbone of the local church.  I wholeheartedly concur with the assessment of Dr. Harry Reeder who said, "If you and I die, or move on from our present pastoral ministry, and we do not have other leaders trained and ready to take our place, then we have not been good leaders.  Period.  ...Great leaders develop more leaders; they multiply themselves continually and intentionally."  By the grace of God, I have very intentionally devoted a lot of time into the men's leadership training and discipleship ministry at First Baptist Church and have witnessed God bless our Church through these faithful men.

Monday, July 21, 2014

"The Pulpit is the Rudder of the Church"

"As the pulpit goes, so goes the church." This straightforward quote explains why so many local churches are weak, shallow, immature, and in desperate need of spiritual revitalization.  "Successful" churches seem very content to be an inch deep so long as they remain a mile wide.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was right when he said, “The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and the most urgent need in the Church, it is the greatest need of the world also.”

In this vein, Dr. Steve Lawson adds some insightful commentary, "If a reformation is to come to the church, it will be preceded by a reformation of the pulpit. A return to preaching—true preaching, biblical preaching, expository preaching—is the greatest need in this critical hour. If we are to see God usher in a time of reformation, there must be a significant alteration of the pulpit. Today’s preaching, which is light, shallow, trivial, man-centered and devoid of Scripture, must become once again weighty, profound, God-centered, and saturated with Scripture."

One of the most important tasks of a pastor is to faithfully preach the Word of God.  Sadly their is a famine in the land for the hearing and preaching of holy Scripture.  Much of what is called Biblical preaching is nothing more than shallow, evangelical principlizing.  Droves of American Christians seem to prefer preaching that is easy on the ears and not too demanding on the Sunday Daytimer.  Even during a time when many contemporary praise songs extol a high view of God many preachers still present a user-friendly Deity.

So what is true preaching? How can one know whether they are hearing an expository sermon or something else?

Dr. Walt Kaiser Jr explains, Expository preaching and teaching begins and remains with the biblical text throughout the whole sermon. Rather than beginning with a human need or concern as the impetus for the sermon, the expository sermon deliberately reverses the action and has the sermon originate in the exposition of the Biblical text itself. Exposition starts with the Biblical text and holds fast to that text throughout the sermon or lesson. —Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament, p. 50

Saturday, July 19, 2014

How the Doctrines of Grace Aid Church Revitalization

In this short video Dr. John Piper explains how the doctrines of grace aided the work of church revitalization at Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Show Us Christ!!!

In Colossians 1:28-29 the apostle Paul beautifully summarizes his philosophy of ministry with these inspired words; We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me. 

I am thoroughly convinced that every reformation work or revitalization effort that is of God is always grounded in Christ-centered preaching.  Yes, the whole counsel of God is to be systematically taught, but above all else, faithful ministers of the gospel preach Jesus Christ!  To borrow language from the pen of J.C. Ryle, "The true shepherd of the souls is he who enters the ministry with a single eye to Christ, desiring to glorify Christ, doing all in the strength of Christ, preaching Christ's doctrine, walking in Christ's steps, and laboring to bring people to Christ."

I came to Freeport with this core conviction and have made every effort to make Christ-centered preaching and God-centered worship the defining marks of our local church.  In other words, it is no accident that I choose the Revelation of Jesus Christ as our first expository series when I started pastoring this local church.  This verse by verse study was followed up by a in-depth study of the Lordship of Christ in the book of Colossians.  Recently I have preached 58 sermons highlighting the glories of Christ in the gospel of John.  

Why?  Because God is jealous for the glory of His Son!    

The goal of my expository pulpit over the past six years is perhaps best summarized in the wonderful worship song Show Us Christ.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Be Faithful and Trust God With the Results

We long to see thy churches full, That all the chosen race. May, with one voice and heart and soul, Sing Thy redeeming grace.   

Jesus promised to build His Church and articles like this one by Meredith Flynn remind me He is doing this very thing in America and around the world.  We should all rejoice when we hear of a "Word-centered ministry" flourishing in the Lord!

Article by Meredith Flynn —  June 19, 2014

"A 16-page church bulletin leaves little to the imagination. At Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., worship attenders know exactly what they’re getting into from the time they walk into the split-level, high-ceilinged sanctuary, less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol.

The order of service, printed neatly on the inside cover page, lists every hymn, prayer, and Scripture reading. Every song is there in entirety – not just lyrics, but actual music.
Even the Nicene Creed gets its own page, with three paragraphs of explanation about where it came from and why we recite it. (“I said this in church for 28 years,” said one visitor, “and nobody ever explained it to me.”)

Your first impression is that this church is good at welcoming new people. They remember well that not everyone who walks in the door has been here before, and maybe they’ve never been in any church before. But it’s more than that. There’s a shrewdness here (in the nicest sense of the word), and an attention to detail that may be best matched just down the street under the Capitol Dome.  Capitol Hill Baptist Church is a church for its very unique city.

What’s most interesting is that there are Millennials here – that elusive generation that’s giving churches fits around the country. A variety of ages are represented at Capitol Hill, but the congregation skews young. A few families sat in “bulkhead” seating at the back of the sanctuary, with a little extra leg room to accommodate a fidgety toddler. The rest of us were packed into crowded pews – between 900 and 1,000 are here for worship on Sunday mornings.

Capitol Hill isn’t doing what most churches do to try to reach Millennials. Lately, the normal prescription is a relaxed dress code, coffee bar in the lobby, and maybe a violinist in the worship band.