Kendall Lankford Lead Pastor at The Shepherd's Church
June 17, 2019
From childhood, you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:15-17 NASB
THE PROBLEM WITH THE MODERN CHURCH
Evangelical pastors are at a great crossroads these days when it comes to the Bible and what impact the Word of God will have upon their ministries. On the one hand, the majority of evangelical pastors affirm those good old doctrines of inerrancy, infallibility, and the divine inspiration of Scripture. But, I am shocked by how many churches have organized and conducted their services around everything but Scripture. While many confirm that the Bible is true, they refuse to act as if it is the true power behind their ministry. This must change!
Many have bought into the lie that bigger and better church services will win people to Christ. The goal has tragically become to produce greater and more excellent spectacles of entertainment on the grandest altars of emotionalism all while believing that this is where the power of God is truly found. In this line of thinking, the largest churches become beacons of God’s supposed favor and grace on earth instead of objects of healthy Biblical scrutiny.
The philosophy goes like this: if you can simply create the right kind of environment, play the right set of songs under the right set of lighting, and inspire men and women with light-hearted, pithy, feel-good messages, then you can send them home on a spiritual high maybe never having encountered the Living God!
The worst of all outcomes is that many ministries have made the pathway to hell so comfortable that sinners never sense a need to turn away from that awful road and onto the narrow way. This trend will continue so long as churches believe their services are sufficient instead of the Word of God.
THE DOWNFALL OF EVANGELICALISM
Let me be clear, the problem is not rooted in having big welcoming services, large beautiful buildings, or professionally produced music. The problem comes when pastors trade in the love of God for worldly gain.
The problem comes when the men of God lust after every word the social scientists and church growth gurus have to say, instead of living by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. When this happens the church is nearing its downfall.
When men of God become enamored with how many people attend each week, instead of being utterly captivated by Christ, then it will not be long before every offense of the Gospel is watered down to keep the large crowds returning back for more. Preaching and teaching the Gospel will morph into a type of best life now seminar with no real power to save and no real Biblical direction. When men of God stop eagerly seeking to please our Lord with their services they will eventually give themselves over to pleasing a culture of consumer-driven carnal men with worldly means and schemes. Something has to change!Jesus gives us healthy criteria for evaluating the state of a believer in the Gospel of Matthew. I also think that Jesus' teaching can and should apply to the church. He says:
"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?" - Matthew 7:16Let me put this simply if a church is producing consumers, it has lost the sufficiency of Scripture. If a church is producing enthusiastic event attendees who live like hell during the week, then something other than the Word of God is primary. The root is always revealed in the fruit.
EVANGELICALS PATH FORWARD
I think the point is clear, the church is not sufficient! We must give up on our faulty notion that event-driven Christianity is going to win the world to Christ. It can't! At best, all it can produce is jubilant consumers. Why? Our events are not the power of God, the Gospel is! We cannot go on believing the Bible is God’s Word without also doing ministry that way. We cannot treat Scripture like it is true and ignore it’s sufficiency to accomplish every good work. Instead of bowing at the altar of pragmatism, we as evangelicals must resubmit ourselves to the only fount of truth that He has given (even if that means we are not popular). We do not need to employ the methods and tactics of the world to grow the church or its influence, all we need to do is stand on the promises of God found in the Word of God and watch God do what only He can do!
The solution is not overly complicated, the problem is that the majority will not trust the means that God has given. Many would rather go on believing that they know best while spurning the very tool that the Lord has given us to equip His bride. Can you imagine how Christ will deal with the men who treat His bride that way?
Let's revisit our passage from 2 Timothy 3:15-17 for a moment so that we can discover the answer. In this passage, Paul shows us 7 unavoidable truths about the sufficiency of God's Word:
- The Word of God is Sacred
- The Word of God is Able
- The Word of God brings wisdom
- The Word of God saves
- The Word of God is inspired
- The Word of God is useful for teaching, reproving, correcting, and training
- The Word of God is all the man of God needs to do the work of God
Unlike the secular gimmicks of this world, the Word of God is sacred and holy. It has been breathed out by God and set apart to accomplish the work of God in the church. There is no plan b. There is no backup. It is fully able and sufficient to grow men and women up in wisdom and maturity and it is fully able to save those who are perishing. We do not need to be inspiring; His Word already is. We do not need to entertain or placate; all we need do is preach the Word and stand back as it does its intended work.
Charles Spurgeon said it like this:
“The Word of God can take care of itself, and will do so if we preach it, and cease defending it. See you that lion. They have caged him for his preservation; shut him up behind iron bars to secure him from his foes! See how a band of armed men have gathered together to protect the lion. What a clatter they make with their swords and spears! These mighty men are intent upon defending a lion. O fools, and slow of heart! Open that door! Let the lord of the forest come forth free. Who will dare to encounter him? What does he want with your guardian care? Let the pure gospel go forth in all its lion-like majesty, and it will soon clear its own way and ease itself of its adversaries.”
The church is not sufficient; only the Bible is. When we take the Bible seriously, I believe we will see God move mightily again in our churches.
Kendall Lankford is the lead planting pastor and teaching pastor at The Shepherd's Church and is eagerly praying for and working toward revival in New England.