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 heart concern!
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 out."
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 position.
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. 3:17-20.
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 anything.
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.

Editorial - OCTOBER - NOVEMBER 2014 The Fundamentalist Digest; Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.

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