Go Forth to Die

Robert Quinn, a leadership professor at University of Michigan, has joined others in pointing out that the origins of the word leader means to “go forth and die.” In his book Change the World, he writes: “Leadership authors do not understand that leadership means “Go forth to die.” If they did understand it, they would not be enticed to write about it—because people do not want to hear this message. Most people want to be told how to get extraordinary results with minimum risk. They want to know how to get out-of-the-box results with in-the-box courage.” True leaders are servants who die to themselves so others may flourish. True leaders go forth, not for themselves, but for others.

Geiger & Peck, Designed to Lead [1]

Many have noted that an alarming majority of our young people are not staying in the Church following high school. There are several contributing factors as to why this is, but one reason to add to that list is probably that we do not do well in developing in our young people a need to serve and grow into leaders.

That isn’t to say that many of this younger generation aren’t interested in serving and becoming leaders—we often are simply failing in taking them serious enough to develop them into leaders in our Bible Church movement. The results have been disastrous.

Not only do we find it more difficult for the younger people in our churches to stay in our churches, but those that do stay often move on to churches that they perceive are forward thinking and have a vision to win the world for Christ. They want to be involved in a living church. Although the millennial generation has been often lampooned as lazy, hyper-sensitive snowflakes that want everything handed to them, I don’t think that is a fair estimate of many, if not most of them (at least in the church).

As proof I can point to the revolutionary activities of several movements that have captivated the hearts and minds of our young people—from Bernie Sanders to Black Lives Matter to the LGBTQIA+ movement. That brings me back to the Geiger & Peck quote at the beginning of this post. Clearly these movements are driven and manned primarily by young people—the very same ones that are leaving many of our churches!

Maybe instead of youth pizza parties and volleyball we should be calling our young people to “Go forth and die.” BLM and other social issues have clearly demonstrated that many are willing to go out and do just that for causes that at best will only yield temporary answers, but at worst are soul-destroying at their core. Although I understand that those that leave the Church and run headlong into apostasy would not have been “fixed” or kept if they had served or trained to lead in our churches. I’m not saying that. But I also recognize that a shallow vision of a holistic church that ministers to every age of Christian as Christians, will lead to a departure of those dissatisfied with a church that has an appearance of life but is dead inside.

Ours is the most noble cause and our Leader went forth to die for us. And He calls us to do the same. Let’s stop soft-selling the gospel and stop coddling our youth. Let’s stop putting the bar so low and begin to raise it up again. Let us point them to the cross and then show them how to take it up and follow Jesus, dying if we must.

[1] Eric Geiger and Kevin Peck, Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development, B & H Bools, 2016, Kindle ed. Loc. 254-263.

Spirit Empowered Church Planting

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Rom 1:16 ESV

It would seem that some people who are all for church planting are unaware of Romans 1:16, so I have reproduced it here for the benefit of those who think that a church is best planted by human invention.

What do I mean by ‘human invention?’ How about slick marketing programs that blanket the city? Or freebies, raffles, and give-aways that are meant to be a spiritual bait-and-switch? There are surveys meant to find out what unbelieving pagans want in a church so that a church can be tailored for them, and there are those ‘church planters’ who blanket Christian radio, Christian bookstores and encourage their core team to invite their friends over to their cool, new church that is so much better than the one they’re in now. There are other so-called church planting and church growth gimmicks I could mention, but I think that you probably know of one or two places like this.

Then there is Holy Spirit power that converts a soul from being a prisoner of darkness into a light-reflecting child of the Kingdom. Those churches that seek to grow from preaching a gospel that leads to Spirit-regeneration of the souls of men are true church plants. And those who plant churches by the power of the gospel do so in the methodology that gives all glory to God and cannot be conjured up by Madison Avenue methods.

To all my brothers out there who are holding forth the truth in faithfulness, keep it up. For those growing weary of doing good, email me and I’ll join you in prayer so that you won’t be tempted to give in to powerless quick fixes that yield a crowd, but not gospel growth.

Physically Healthy and Spiritually Bankrupt

“It is no secret that Christ’s Church is not at all in good health in many places of the world. She has been languishing because she has been fed, as the current line has it, “junk food”; all kinds of artificial preservatives and all sorts of unnatural substitutes have been served up to her. As a result, theological and biblical malnutrition has afflicted the very generation that has taken such giant steps to make sure its physical health is not damaged by using foods or products that are carcinogenic or otherwise harmful to their physical bodies. Simultaneously a worldwide spiritual famine resulting from the absence of any genuine publication of the Word of God (Amos 8:11) continues to run wild and almost unabated in most quarters of the Church.”
–Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), 7-8.

Dr. Kaiser’s quote is a good reminder for those of us that are leaders in the church and will be stepping into pulpits and classrooms this coming Sunday. Serve a hearty meal of the Word to God’s people. Leave out the artificial fillers, by-products, dyes, and chemicals. Give them rich doctrine, deep theology, and filling and nutritious worship. Point them to God and leave them with a sense of awe. Make it your goal to have the best fed sheep in town who long to hear from God and love to sit at His feet.

What Is the Church?

A few days ago I wrote about the regulative principle and the way that the pandemic has forced many pastors and church leaders to think seriously about their ecclesiology. Today I’d like to address a simple question that perhaps isn’t so simple: What is the church?

Before I point to several definitions from systematic theology books, I want to point out the practicality of this question. If you took the time to look at any given church website, you would more than likely find that many of them feature photographs of their buildings, and many of those same websites would not show you the people but the structure. I find that telling. What does a website like that say about their unintentional definition of the church? I have even seen church websites that give a history of the church—laying out the expansion of their church buildings!

Even as I picked the photograph of the cross on a church steeple for this post, I knew that there would be some that don’t equate the church with the building, but that many Christians do. The church is not the gathering place, but the gathered. But this requires greater defining.

There are those that misuse Matthew 18:20 (“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”) to say that a small gathering of at least two Christians is an expression of the Church. So, in this thinking, a Christian concert is a gathering of the church. Now I’ve been a part of small churches, but there was more than just Christians that made us a church. Does a church social in someone’s backyard make that group a church? And when I was in high school and our youth group went to an amusement park, were we actually going to church—so long as two or more of us were in line for the log-ride? 😂

So, what is the church if it isn’t a building or a random group of Christians in the same room? Below I give six answers from six systematic theology books, and then I will add my own. I’m not seeking to give an in-depth, all inclusive answer, but rather hope to spark your thinking and try to give what I consider a biblical answer to this question. If you like, add your own definition to the comments.

Wayne Grudem: “The church is the community of all true believers for all time.”[1]

MacArthur and Mayhue: “The church of God refers to the community of those who have been called out by God from their slavery to sin through faith in Jesus Christ.”[2]

James Montgomery Boice: “The church is (1) founded on the Lord Jesus Christ, (2) is called into being by the Holy Spirit, and (3) is to contain people of all races who thereby become one new people in the sight of God.”[3]

Robert Reymond: “The church in Scripture is composed of all the redeemed in every age who are saved by grace through personal faith in the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ, “the seed of the woman” (Ge. 3:15) and suffering Messiah (Isa. 53:5-10).”[4]

Karl Barth: “The Real Church is the assembly which called, united, held together and governed by the Word of her Lord, or she is not the Real Church.”[5]

Charles Ryrie: ““I will build My church,” the Lord said, and that is His special work today. Those words of Christ indicate specific distinctions about the church: (a) it was a work future to His earthly life; (b) it was not the same as the kingdom about which He also taught; (c) it must have been something different from the theocracy of Israel.””[6]

My attempt at defining the church:

The Church of Jesus Christ was established by Christ himself, and is the community of believers distinct from national Israel and the Kingdom of God, made up of all those who have been called out of darkness by the Holy Spirit, and have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, from the Day of Pentecost to the rapture of the Church. This gathering should be led by spiritually qualified leaders and should meet regularly for the proclamation of the Word, the ordinances, and if necessary church discipline.


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 851.

[2] John F. MacArthur Jr, and Richard Mayhue, eds., Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth (Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 740.

[3] James Montgomery Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 567.

[4] Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 806.

[5] Karl Barth in Donald G. Bloesch, The Church: Sacraments, Worship, Ministry, Mission (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1997), 4.

[6] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth, (Chicago, Moody, 1999), 458.

Picking Up Our Swords to Fight

IFCA, I Fight Christians Anywhere. At times in the history of fundamentalism fighting fundamentalist meant fighting with other Christians over tertiary issues and the traditions of men. I think we can all agree that many times this was unbiblical and regretful. Afterall, 1 Timothy 3:3 says that an elder or pastor is not to be “quarrelsome” (ESV), a “striker” (KJV) or “pugnacious” (NASB). This word refers to a violent bully who pushes people around with either his fists or his words. Fundamentalism has had its share of those who could be described as pugnacious. Fighting about length of hair and skirts, Bible versions and musical styles has divided the church and diverted attention away from the real enemy.

But, in some ways, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. In trying to get away from the caricature of the fighting fundamentalist, all too many Christians have forgotten that a few chapters later, Paul also wrote “Fight the good fight of the faith…” (1Tim. 6:12). Jude appealed to his audience to “contend for the faith” that was being threatened by false teachers who had crept into the church. Too many in the Church have forgotten—either that we are in a spiritual war, or who our true enemy is. In Ephesians 6:10-12, Paul reminded the Church about both of these critical truths.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10–12, ESV)

Be Aware of Your Enemy—v. 12

Our enemy hates us. Look at the word “struggle” in verse 12. This word speaks of wrestling, of hand to hand combat. This is not a battle, but a war. A war made up of many, many bloody battles. We must know what we are facing. Satan wants to destroy us. Consider how he pushed the limits of Job, destroying everything in his life. But he didn’t stop there. Satan wanted to destroy Job’s faith in God himself. He is ruthlessly evil. The angel of the Lord left Jacob with a limp when he wrestled with him (Gen. 32:25-32). The Lord’s purpose in trials is to teach us. But the devil does not want to leave you with a limp, he wants to destroy you: (Jn 10:10), “The thief comes only to steal, and kill and destroy….” One saint of old said, “Consider that the devil does not sleep, but seeks our ruin in a thousand ways.”

Our Enemy is Spiritual

He cannot be seen, heard or experienced with our five senses. He disguises himself as one of God’s angels (2Cor. 11:14, “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14, NASB95). Being a spirit being, he has been alive since the creation and has had the opportunity to watch and learn human behavior. He is the greatest philosopher, sociologist and theologian. He knows what makes humans tick and even worse, how to man-fish. He too is a fisher of souls.

Our Enemy is Organized

Because Satan is neither omnipresent nor omniscient, he must use his demonic horde to do his bidding. But this is not a mob of crazed demonic creatures. Wickedness leads men to rebel, but as at Babel, it also leads them to organize. “Rulers, powers, world forces, spiritual forces” (v. 12) —all of these designations portray an organized hierarchy of demonic angels. We may not know exactly how they are ordered, but we know that the enemy is organized for maximum effect.

Be Prepared for Battle—v. 11

Be Armored

“Put on the full armor” not just selected pieces. Later in this chapter Paul describes each piece of armor, but for now, we need to know that we cannot pick and choose. To do so would be disastrous because would leave us exposed to attack. Think about a police officer heading into a riot. As he surveys his equipment, which would he choose? A bullet-proof vest or a riot helmet? What will happen if he chooses one over the other? What about if he chose a shield and not boots? We too need to be armored, not choosing some, but all of the armor that God provides.

Be Anchored

“Stand firm” is a reference to not being moved in our doctrinal stance. Ephesians 4:11-14 says:

 “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;” (Eph 4:11–14, NASB95)

A lack of biblical discipleship leads to many things, including the immaturity of believers who will be like children who are rocked upon the shore by the waves of doubt and deception. Those who have drifted in their faith have brought disaster to their lives, and to the lives of many others. Paul warned Timothy of this happening in Ephesus: “keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme” (1Tim. 1:19–20, NASB95).

Be Alert—1Pet 5:8; 2Cor 2:11

First Peter 5:8 speaks about the need to be “sober minded.” This is not something that our age is known for, and this lack of sobriety is all too often a mark of much of the church. We are easily distracted, silly, and fascinated with the trivial. In 2 Corinthians 2:11, Paul likewise warned, “so that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Cor. 2:11, NASB95) Those who are outwitted and ignorant are also perfect descriptions of many Christians and churches. In the Bible we have a manual for warfare. War against our great enemies, the World, the flesh and the Devil. Know these enemies and their schemes!

Be Strong in the Lord—v. 10

Human Strength Fails

Second Corinthians 12:7-10 is a glorious text. It reads:

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:7–10, NASB95)

How we need to be reminded of this! When we fail to pray, we have forgotten this. When we become puffed up in our spirituality, we have forgotten our weakness. When our experiences and victories are worn like a medal on our chest, we have forgotten where our vvictory comes from.

Human Philosophies Fail

We can easily be taken off track by forgetting which war we are supposed to be fighting. We can begin fighting with each other, fighting against the Church, fighting against unbelievers that need Jesus, and fighting with political weapons of war. Our strategies and dependence upon human strength show where we have chosen to use another way to fight than the way that Jesus calls us to fight.

Human Courage Fails

            Joshua 1:6-9describes the time after forty years of wandering in the wilderness for the generation that failed to trust God and enter the Promised Land to conquer it. As Joshua lead the next generation to enter the land, the Lord spoke these words of encouragement:

“Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”” (Josh. 1:6–9, NASB95)

When men go to battle, it is not glorified as it is in the movies and the recruitment posters. War is ugly. It is fierce and cold. But it is sometimes necessary in this fallen world. When you go into spiritual battle, it will be incredibly tempting to retreat back into your comfort zone, into your cozy world where you could forget about the reality of the devil and his demonic attacks. He would love that. He would love for you to put down your weapons and stop fighting, mocking you as a fighting fundamentalist. Or even better, to turn your weapons on others who are not the enemy because confusion is better than apathy to him. But that is not an option. We must gird up our loins for battle and march forward with the Lord into war. He will go before us. Never forget that. He fights for us. This will give you courage.

Fundamentalism is a dirty word to those in the world, but also one which is despised by many within the Church. Fundamentalism is rejected because some who have used this descriptor have swapped out biblical fidelity for cultural baggage and the traditions of men. Others have rejected it because they have given sway to the fear of man. Some have decided that it is too late to salvage the label for any good.

Whatever your opinion may be regarding the term fundamentalist, we should note this: those who are unswerving in their commitment to Christ and His Word must not fear men, but instead must be willing to pick up the Sword of the Word of God and engage the enemy of our souls and his wicked system. Some may call you a fighting fundamentalist, but this is preferable to one day hearing the Lord call you unfaithful.

This post is adapted from the article of the same title in The Voice, Jan-Feb 2020. Used with permission.