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.

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.

Is Your Sunday Worship Driven by the Holy Spirit or an Entrepreneurial Spirit?

“The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is good, and doeth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture.”

CHAPTER XXI. Of Religious Worship, and the Sabbath-day, The Westminster Confession of Faith, Edinburgh edition.

What are the limitations of acceptable worship to God? In other words, what is allowable and not allowable when we go before the Lord in corporate worship. This question has been answered by many in the past under what has been called the “regulative principle.”

As a Christian who comes from a stream of the conservative Bible Church movement, there have been some who have decried the use of creeds such as the above Westminster Confession, instead desiring to have “no creed but the Bible.” Those of my Christian brethren that are creedal would respond that the place of confessions such as the WCF does not supersede or have any authority apart from Scripture, but organizes, categorizes, and systematizes the great biblical themes of Scripture for ease of learning and memorization. For this, I am grateful and can appreciate the beauty of such statements.

The issue of what is allowable and what is not is a good example of why such statements can be a help and benefit to the church. Today the evangelical church is awash with self-made men and ministries that are part vaudeville acts and entrepreneurial businesses. Whereas God does give us liberty in many areas regarding how He would have His Church worship, we are not given a blank check to conduct worship in any way we see fit as if God does not care so long as we are sincere. Freedom in some things does not equate to freedom in all things.

If the Lord was detailed in His prescription for Israel, it doesn’t make any sense that the Church of the New Testament was given absolutely no parameters. And although many godly men have disagreements over specific areas of worship, the point is that they are seeking to know God’s desire and not simply worshipping according to popularity or emotional responses by the congregation.

Covid-19 has pushed a lot of churches, pastors, and elders to re-examine their ecclesiology. Some started the shut-down of their churches by touting that online church is the same as in-person services, but simply an online version. But as things have dragged on, I have noticed that some of those same voices are now worried that people are not going to come back, and they are now trying to convince their congregation that online church is not the same! Of course, it is not the same.

The same is true for the ordinances. How can the Lord’s Supper be given via video? Doesn’t it represent the gathered Body of Christ? How can that be represented when we are not gathered? Some pastors have gone so far as to suggest that at-home communion include substitutes of grape soda pop or another fruit juice, and snack foods for the bread if nothing else is available!

These are not small things, dear brethren. Many in Church history have died over the sacredness of the Lord’s Table and the proper use of it. And more importantly, these things involve the worship of our God. When I hear or see the flippant and worldly worship of our God, I am reminded of God’s judgment upon Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire upon the altar. I am reminded of God striking Uzzah dead for touching the Ark of the Covenant. I think of God’s judgment of Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Spirit. God takes worship seriously! So should we.

Whether you subscribe to a creedal statement or not, it cannot be denied that we must worship God according to His desire, not our own.

The Massive Danger of Success

“When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abandoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him.” 2 Chronicles 12:1

What a warning biblical leaders have in the example of King Rehoboam! The above verse shows the downfall of many, and O how the mighty have fallen!

When a ruler or leader becomes established and strong, it is then that so many no longer depend upon the Lord, but instead abandon Him for their own strength. King Uriah did this, and so did Hezekiah. David as well as Saul before him.

What a profound warning for all rulers and leaders! We all need to take heed, lest we fall when we think that we are strong and self-sufficient. How can we know that this is happening?

  • Our prayer life dwindles and even disappears.
  • We do not seek the Lord’s counsel when making decisions.
  • We put greater focus and dependence upon our strengths and push to the background our weaknesses.
  • We see victories as “ours,” even placing our achievements before others as memorials to ourselves.
  • We become driven and ruthless when dealing with others and grace disappears from our interactions with them.
  • We find ourselves less thankful to the Lord for using us as servants, and we become hungry for the applause of men, and even downcast when it doesn’t come.

These are a few of the symptoms of a servant who has become a king in their own mind. May we never forget that there is only one King whom we serve and Jesus is His name. The rest of us are but stewards and under shepherds by His grace.

Thus Sayeth the Lord: Why We Preach the Bible (weekend repost)

When stripped down to our historical foundation, IFCA International is a Bible movement. Our churches and ministries exist to preach Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23), a prospect that has never been acceptable to the world and is rejected by the apostate church. Like the Apostle Paul, we do not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). We believe that God has spoken without error and that His Word has never failed. We believe that the Word of God rules over the Church and God’s people, and that this authority extends to all humanity whether it accepts it or not. We believe the Bible, and this should have a direct impact upon how we minister in the preaching of the Word.

Read the rest here: Thus Sayeth the Lord: Why We Preach the Bible