IN THE BOOK"
While attending a conference recently, this preacher heard Dr. Shelton
Smith make the simple but profound statement "It's in the Book."
This quote caught this writer's attention and he immediately began
to ponder several spiritual principles that are found "in the
book." These all deal with the activities of the local church
and it's evangelistic and edification ministries.
1. It's in the Book that it is God's Desire that Men and Women Everywhere
be Converted and Come to the Experiential Knowledge of the Truth.
The Scriptures make it plain in Ez. 33:17 that God takes "no
pleasure in the death of the wicked," but rather longs that the
"wicked turn from his way and live." The deep longing of
God's heart is that the unconverted might come to know Him and live-Col.
1:21-22. The Scriptures declare that when Christ saw the multitude,
"He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and
were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd-Matt. 9:36-37."
While Salvation is wholly of the Lord-Jonah 2:9, God has voluntarily
decided to involve his children in the proclamation and fulfillment
of His redeeming grace. God's decree concerning the engagement of
his children is so great that five times in the first five books of
the N.T., Christ gave His Great Commission Mandate: Matt. 28:18-20,
Mark 16:15, Luke 24:47, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8. This "last"
will of our Saviour has been called "The Marching Orders of the
Church." Christ's heart concern should also be the believer's
2. "It's in the Book" that Christ is Building His Church:
In Matt. 16:18 Christ stated: "
upon this rock I will build
my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,"
while Acts 15:14 says that "God at the first did visit the Gentiles,
to take out a people for his name." The words "take out"
in Acts 15:14 come from a Greek word which clearly signify to "call
While there is diversion of opinion among Bible-believing Baptists
about the word church, this writer believes there are two expressions
of this term in the N. T. (1) The church, in particular-Eph. 1:1,
Phil. 1:l, and the church in prospect-Eph. 5:27, Rev. 21:2. Local
N. T. churches, composed of born-again believers, are graphically
portrayed in the N. T. as the "building, [Matt. 16:18],"
the "bride [Rev. 22:17]," and the "body [Eph. 1:21-22],"
individuals who have been "called out" from a life of self
and sin unto the Saviour.
3."It's in the Book" that Local N. T. Churches are the Central
Agency in Christ's Building Work: The Great Commission involves the
building, establishment and edification of local N. T. churches via
evangelism, baptism and indoctrination-Matt. 28:18-20. In I Tim. 3:16,
the Apostle Paul emphatically declared that the local N. T. church
is the pillar and ground of the truth. God's work today does not center
in extra-denominational agencies or inter-denominational entities,
but in local churches-Col. 1:1, I Thess. 1:1.
A well-known ecumenical evangelist, speaking to a massive gathering
of young people, declared to them that in that huge conclave, they
were "'making an end-around' the church." While such a plan
may sometimes be effectively utilized in football, God doesn't have
any "ends-around" the church in his divine program for this
age. God's divine plans for this dispensation center in the building
and edifying of local N. T. churches.
God does not any alternative plan! In the N. T., In the N. T. era,
there were no extra ecclesiastical polity entities such as conventions
of churches [SBC] or associations of churches [GARBC], only completely
free, autonomous independent churches, who, through their shepherding
pastors, were responsible for the carrying out of the Great Commission-I
Thess. 1:1 & 1:8.
All extra-church entities must have as their major goal, simply the
aiding and assisting of local N. T. churches in carrying out the Great
Commission. Unfortunately, many religious organizations are by-passing
God's divinely appointed means, and sometimes supplanting local churches
rather than complementing their ministries.
4. "It's in the Book," that if God's Work is to Scripturally
Prosper, Believers must Place the Ministry of Local Churches First
on their Spiritual Agenda. There should be every-Member Involvement
in Service. Heb. 10:25 states: "Not forsaking the assembling
of ourselves together, as the manner of some it; but exhorting one
another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching."
While churches, not families, are the pillar and ground of the truth,
one of the desperate needs of the hour is for church-centered families,
and family centered churches. For dedicated homes, the daily and weekly
center of activities and ministries should be the local N. T. church!
The church's agenda, not the community's activities, should be the
major factor in a family's time occupation.
While home-schooling and Christian day-schools should have an important
part in the building of solid Christian family structures, they are
not substitutes for the local church itself. While churches that meet
in homes as families congregate together to worship are a valid Scriptural
concept, Christian fathers cannot act as spiritual "pastors"
or "shepherds" of a so-called "family" congregation.
A constructive suggestion is that infants should be "weaned"
as soon as possible from the church nursery and placed with parents/guardians
in the church pews. Proper reverence can be taught so that children
do not holler or loudly cry in the services. This preacher was placed
with his parents in the pews at an early age, and heard preaching
from his early childhood upwards. He is sure that it was one of God's
chief means in preparing his future call to preach!
Several decades ago, when this preacher was pastoring a small church
of approximately 35-50 congregants, he invited Dr. G.B. Vick to invest
an afternoon and evening at this writer's church, talking about church
growth. Dr. Vick was then making plans to move the church's facilities
to another 5,000 seat auditorium near the location of the Detroit
city/suburban borders. In his remarks, Dr. Vick made the shocking
statement that the task of reaching the 4,000 weekly SS attendees
was based solely on 200 workers, meaning that only 5% of attendees
were involved in reaching the other 95% of the 4,000 individuals.
When Dr. Vick died, most of the 200 workers apparently dispersed elsewhere
and within a short period of time, the formerly massive SS was eventually
discarded under a different pastor.
5. "It's in the Book" that Local N. T. Churches should use
every Possible Legitimate Means to Achieve their Scriptural Goals:
In I Cor. 9:20-23, the Apostle Paul declared: "And unto the Jews
I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that area under
the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the
law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak; I am
made all thing to all men, that I might by all means save some."
And why did Paul employ such divergent methods? In I Cor. 9:23 he
explicitly states the reason: "And this I do for the gospel's
sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you."
Now, it is true, that there has been much religious "nonsense"
that has been/is being utilized to attain large crowds. This writer
does not believe that sitting on top of a church structure and eating
a spaghetti dinner to attract a large attendance is a valid use of
Paul's principle. However, traditional programs can sometimes become
"idols" and lose their effectiveness and thus some innovative
planning may become necessary.
While mimicking the world is never God's plan, original programs that
are no longer achieving their purpose can be/should be discarded,
and new means utilized to achieve spiritual goals. Special care should
be taken to insure that new methodologies do not unnecessarily divide
the congregation. There is no substitute for congregational unity
in laboring together to achieve numerical and spiritual goals. Churches
should never "get stuck in the mud," with outdated means
that have lost their effectiveness. New methods must always have a
scriptural foundation. Evangelistic methodologies must always center
around the Acts 5:42 plan, "and daily in the temple, and in every
house. They ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ."
6. "It's in the Book" that Pastors are the "Key"
in Leading Churches in their Scriptural Programs: In God's plan, all
believers are Christ's servants and have been called to "minister"
in some capacity in the local church, but there is a Biblical division
of service responsibilities-Phil. 1:1. Both "pastor" and
"people are on the same spiritual level, so far as heavenly standing
is concerned, not as in In R. C. circles, where the "Priest"
supposedly has a greater "clout" with God because of his
For genuine N.T. believers, this false elitism is not true, there
are no spiritual gradations based on solely on position. The average
saint can enjoy the same spiritual access to God's throne that his/her
pastor possesses as well as the same amount of spiritual power. They
can experience the same power and joy that the pastor should possess-Eph.
However, in carrying out specific responsibilities, there are Biblical
divisions and separations of spiritual powers and the pastor is God's
key man in leading the local church to fulfill its Biblical obligations
of carrying out the Great Commission. While pastors are not infallible
dictators, they are God's divinely appointed shepherds of local churches.
In God's plan, pastors are the individuals whom God has called to
feed-Acts 20:28 and guide the local flock of God's saints-I Pet. 5:1-3.
Deacons are the pastor's assistants, not his bosses. They are called
to assist in whatever tasks, the church and the pastor desires-Acts
6:2-3. They can also act in the capacity as his trusted spiritual
advisors and counselors, but not as his overseers-Prov. 11:14.
7. "It's in the Book" that N.T. Churches can Experience
Spiritual and Numerical Growth Regardless of Satanic Obstacles and
the Trends of the Times. The church in Thessalonica certainly was
not born in an area where Christianity dominated society's culture
in that Roman region. The Apostle Paul invested only a brief time
in that city, perhaps four Lord's days and a month's ministry. Yet,
in that brief span, this church was not only born in its infancy,
but experienced unusual numerical and spiritual growth. Paul joyously
declared in I Thess. 1:8: "For from you sounded out the word
of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place
your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak
While churches may not experience the phenomenal growth like the Thessalonian
congregation, and there may be reverses due to adverse economic conditions,
membership moves, financial reverses and other factors, N. T. churches
that are constantly persistent in their evangelistic outreach, and
constantly place evangelism and soul-winning first, at the top of
their church's ministry can experience the kind of spiritual growth
that God desires. "And so were the churches established in the
faith, and increased in number daily-Acts 16:5."
This writer encourages all independent Fundamental Baptist churches
to get "in the Book" and become harnessed to the evangelistic
bandwagon, with an intricate every-member involvement in the task
of reaching the needy multitudes for Christ-Acts 5:42. D. J.