Much has happened over the last few months! This has been a time of great blessing for the three authors. Ken has been called into a ministry to those in the Navy. Shawn is now pursuing his doctorate in Louisville (Some fly-over state) :). In November I was called to pastor a church plant in Las Vegas, Cornerstone Community Church. My transition is still underway, but the desire to get writing again prompts this action.
Shawn and I are currently thinking through a series on pastoral ministry. This issue is extremely prevalent in my mind right now as I transition from part-time to full time ministry. Already the desire and temptation to be stretched in 1,000 different directions is prevalent. Add all the chores involved with moving, and life is crazy. Life right now has three focuses (in no particular order): shepherd the family, shepherd the church, and get moved in. All three can easily be a full time job.
As we move forward with the church plant a few questions seem to come to mind. “Where do we begin?” “What should our focus be on?” “How do we grow?” “Where are you located?” “How can you build a ministry without a premier location?” Considering our (all three authors’) convictions are to minister according to His Word, the natural starting place for me is Scripture.
What does the Bible say about starting a church? Church planting right now seems to be popular. There are probably 1000 different methods and practices groups use to plant churches. The discussion would be easier if we could say, turn in your Bible to Ephesians 7 and look at Paul’s instructions for planting.
But instead we have to go to Scripture and find principles and observe practices; we have to observe its instruction, and draw from it as best we can. There are many principles and foundations to a biblical ministry. I do not like ranking principles in life as x is most important followed by y, then z. I don’t like this because Scripture emphasizes, “Be faithful to all I’ve given and commanded you to do.” So, when Scripture indicates the priority we need to take note.
What does God emphasize the church do? Preach the Word! (2 Tim 4:2)
What do we mean by preaching? Certainly each of us has heard a guy stand in the pulpit, rev up to 90mph, speak at 6000 decibels for an hour, use 400 synonyms, and points his finger a lot. But is that preaching? Jonathan Edwards was said to preach by reading a full manuscript and was not considered very “lively”. Was Jonathan Edwards any less of a preacher? Preaching is not the way it’s delivered as much as it is the content delivered and the preacher’s faithfulness to the Word! The Word of God saves people, just like it did Timothy (2 Tim 3:15). Preaching is not entertainment and the manipulation of audiences for intended responses. Preaching is proclaiming God’s message, being faithful to the content, and trusting the Lord for His intended results!
The church is a “pillar and support of truth” (1 Tim 3:15). The truth we support and proclaim is the exact truth this world needs to hear: “Sinners, under the death penalty, can be forgiven and the penalty removed through Jesus Christ!” Believers need the Word preached because we need to be corrected and encouraged so that we may be adequately equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:17). People need to know the real God, who He is and what He has and will do! The only way to do that is by proclaiming the exact revelation given to us by Him that is sufficient for these things.
Consider Jesus. Jesus ministry can be summed up three ways: prophet, priest, and king. What did Jesus do while he walked on earth? He proclaimed the Gospel — He was a prophet to Israel declaring himself and promising eternal life!
- Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God. (Mark 1:14)
- “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for THAT is what I came for.” – Jesus (Mark 1:38).
- And he went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out demons. (Mark 1:39)
- And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and he was speaking the Word to them. (Mark 2:2)
- He appointed twelve so that they would be with Him and that He could send them to preach. (Mark 3:16)
- Jesus taught enough that people referenced him as “teacher” (Mark 10:17, 35; 12:14, 19, 32; 13:1).
- Other texts with emphasizing “teaching / preaching”: Mark 4:1; 6:1, 12, 34; Mark 10:1 “according to His custom”(also Luke 4:16); Mark 11:17; 12:1, 35, 38; 13:5; Luke 4:15 to name a few
There is a tension for when we read through the Gospels we see Jesus taking care of people and teaching / preaching. He preached to the crowds, taught the disciples, and healed people. So as a church, should helping peoples’ needs be a priority? Yes! Should helping peoples’ needs be more of a priority than preaching? No. Jesus would leave towns where there was certainly a life time worth of needs and ministries to preach. “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose. So He kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea” (Luke 4:43, 44). We as individuals are called to take care of people and our love for Christ compels us to love others and it is because we love others that we want to preach Christ because what He offers solves the greatest need: salvation from God!
In the end, Jesus did not commission the Apostles to go feed the poor. He commissioned them to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples. Reading through Acts, it’s hard not to witness the priority given to the apostles to preach. In Acts 6, the Apostles appointed spiritually qualified men to take care of widows who are being neglected. Why did the apostles appoint others? So the men could stay faithful to preaching and prayer. The emphasis is on preaching and yet the men, with shepherds hearts took care of the widows.
The greatest problem in this world is mankind’s standing before God (not gun laws, socialism, abortion, fiscal cliff, or insert popular social agenda here). The greatest problem is people will stand before God and they have already been judged and declared guilty. Their punishment is death. But God, being a kind caring king, offers forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ. And He says we need to preach to them. He sends his church to preach a message because “Today” is the day of salvation!
“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 10:14-15)
So as a church planter, there are certainly 1000 things to do today! But the emphasis for us is preaching because our desire is to extol Him and He gave us in great detail the best way to do it!
 1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not sent me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void. “cleverness of speech” is probably a reference to Greco-Roman persuasive speech patterns common in the culture. Orators sought responses and knew how to manipulate them. Paul focused on content trusting the Spirit to be faithful to His Word. I recommend an article by Duane Litfin in “Preach the Word” edited by Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson, ‘Swallowing our Pride: An Essay on the Foolishness of Preaching’ for more details.
Below is a great quote from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones answers the question, “Have not the times changed?” In context he is talking about is preaching still useful?
“There is nothing new about this condition of ours; one of the central fallacies of today is to think that because we are living in the mid-twentieth century, we have an entirely new problem. This creeps even into the lief and the thinking of the church with all the talk about postwar world, scientific age, atomic age, post-Christian era etc. It is just nonsense; it is not new at all. God does not change. As someone put it, ‘Time writes not wrinkle on the brow of the Eternal.’ And man does not change; he is exactly what he has always been ever since he fell and has the same problems. Indeed I would go so far as to say that never has there been a greater opportunity for preaching than there is today, because we are living in an age of disillusionment.”