A twelve-step program for your church (Part III)

NOTE: An earlier version of this post mistakenly omitted point #9. This commentary is the third in a three part series on developing an effective church ministry. If you have not read the previous two installments, please check them out on our website. Click here to read the first installment and here for the second.  These twelve steps are observations I have made and in many cases practices I employed as a pastor over a 41-year time span. We will begin with step number ten.

9. Every church must lift up a standard of righteousness.

It seems that the world would like to relegate the church to the confines of its own property, but the church must be bold and lift up a standard of righteousness in the community in order to be the salt and light Christ commanded. Years ago Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” The church must penetrate the community with the love and life of Christ and not hesitate to be involved in the social, ethical and political issues that glorify God. We have too many church members today who have become “at ease in Zion.” God has done so much for me, but I am especially thankful that He has delivered me from the love of an easy chair. Dear Christian, how can you take it easy with the number of lost people increasing, when the world is tending toward corruption and the church is in decline? The Bible says, “All those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Jesus did not suffer and die in order to save us from suffering, but that our suffering might be like His. We need to be on the firing line in the battle for souls, for moral decency, for righteousness and for revival.

10. Every church must have a strong emphasis on discipleship/evangelism.

I think the best way to disciple someone is to teach them how to share their faith. A passion for Christ and His Word is more caught than taught. And when a believer leads someone to faith in Christ, he has an experience that compels him to want to know more and do more for the cause of Christ. One of the primary characteristics of life is reproduction. If you are not reproducing yourself in someone else you are denying your very nature as a new creation in Christ. I think every believer should be attempting to make disciples. I have had people say, “Well, I don’t know much about the Bible.” My response has been, “Well find someone who knows less than you do and begin to disciple them and teach them how to win and make disciples.” The early church in Jerusalem started with 120 people in an upper room. It wasn’t but a very short period of time until there were 3,000 people who had come into the fold (Acts 2:41). In Acts 4:4 we read about another 5,000 “who heard the word and believed.” Very soon thereafter the church was not growing by additions, but by multiplications. By Acts 5:28 the believers were being threatened because they had “filled Jerusalem with doctrine.” The witnessing of these early Christians was so passionate and intense that by Acts 19: 10 we read that they had pressed themselves against every door in Asia so that everyone, both Jews and Greeks, had heard the Word of the Lord. They were winning and making disciples of people everywhere.

11. Every church needs to invest in the next generation.

For years surveys showed that a vast percentage of Christians make a commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday, but more recent surveys indicate that many churches are no longer even reaching children and youth. That must change in order for the church to be a viable force in the community and the nation for years to come. Churches often have very little of their budget allocated to reach and minister to middle and high school students. That must change. We are always one generation away from total atheism. Churches must spend a considerable amount of time and money in reaching today’s youth. A strategy to reach youth is absolutely necessary. Build relationships with the schools in your church’s neighborhood with the objective of reaching the students and their families for Christ. Partner with groups that already have a focus on students – groups like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Youth for Christ, Operation Mobilization, and others who can help your church touch the lives of students. Honor and recognize students when they have had significant accomplishments. Involve them in places of service in the church. Have special events that will appeal to them and give them reason to invite their friends to your church. Love them with genuine love. Let them know how important they are to the church and to the cause of Christ. Challenge them by giving them responsibilities and planning mission trips for them. You might be surprised at how positively they will respond to significant challenges.

12. Every church needs to be characterized by expository preaching and teaching.

I know we live in a visual society, one that likes to hear stories and Reader’s Digest-like sermons. It is an “instant” society of sound bites and 15-second infomercials where everything is condensed to the bottom line and neatly packaged in a convenient, summarized statement. Michael Gowens stated, “Though our forefathers sang, ‘Take time to be holy: speak oft with thy God:’ Americans today don’t have time to be holy. We are, in the words of Neil Postman, 'amusing ourselves to death.’” In spite of all that, the spiritually literate churches are those who have expository preachers in the pulpit. Expository preaching forces the preacher to deal with everything the Bible has to say and deal with each subject proportionately to the frequency of its mention in the Bible. Preaching through the whole books of the Bible with expository sermons allows the Holy Spirit, who wrote the Scripture, to set the agenda every Sunday. Preaching through the Bible forces the preacher to deal with every passage in its own context. Expository preaching will also create a greater hunger for God’s Word. The twelve steps I have provided are not exhaustive. In fact, I would recommend to you Dr. J. Robert White’s book Healthy Kingdom Churches, (in English and Spanish and available in his office), which is far more significant and detailed that these simple paragraphs. The point is that you can build a significant ministry if you work hard and depend upon God’s Spirit to grant you wisdom and empower you for service.
church growth, church health, discipleship, evangelism, students, worship