Pathetic comes to mind when considering the condition of so many of our independent Baptist churches across this nation. I don’t know, maybe that seems a little strong. Nope, I am sticking with it. PATHETIC!
We like to make it seem like we are the remnant. If so it is a pretty pathetic remnant. Men, what is happening out there?
Please throw away your excuses. People are hungrier than ever and we certainly have the right food for them. They are thirstier than ever and we still have the living water don’t we? We claim to have the answers and people are no doubt looking for answers so why are they not listening to us?
Please, DO NOT mistake this for putting down small churches. There are men who have smaller, but powerful works across this nation. There is no doubt about it.
Numbers are not the only way we should define God’s blessings on our churches, but come on, what in the world is the excuse for churches that are absolutely failing.
Pastor, you know who you are. You are frustrated, disheartened, and wondering why nothing is working. This is not for those of you who know it is going well. This is for the many…multitudes of pastors who are absolutely frustrated with the lack of blessings in your church. You not only cannot keep your people, but you are losing your own families as well.
The church can’t pay the bills much less your salary. People come and go and the ratio is almost the same of those going as coming.
One of the goals of this article is not only refute the enemy, but to challenge and call us back to great Independent Baptist churches again.
However, before we can do that we must come to a point where we admit we are losing the battle and the enemy is running up the score.
Pastor, admit it! There are churches all around you that are thriving, some in a big way. You may have to drive by one or more of them every time you go to your church. In fact they may be next door to or across the street from your failing church. How does that make you feel? Well, hopefully it bothers you at least a little bit.
Dr. Jack Hyles would on purpose drive by a Christian Reform Church in Hammond, IN, the biggest in Hammond at the time, and check their attendance figures on their sign outside. He in jest would say he would curse them and then go to the church office of First Baptist Church and beg God to help him reach Hammond with the Gospel.
Yes, we all know they are not preaching the truth. They are preaching the prosperity “Gospel’ or using rock music in their so-called “worship” services. Maybe they are one of the casual emerging churches where the pastor preaches in jeans and they “kinda sorta” just play church like its some kind of a party.
Some are uppity denominational churches that are more like a country club where the wealthy are coddled. YET, they seem to be doing what few Independent Baptist churches are doing. They are reaching people. Some of them have two or even more services to handle their crowds. Others have satellite churches in other areas of town. They seem to have the latest technology and the most modern buildings.
Have you checked out the cars in their parking lots? Yeah, they actually have all their paint. You see lots of SUV’s because lots of young families are attending. If you watch closely you may even see some of your former members attending there.
It hurts, doesn’t it? They have lots of money and lots of people and you have lots of…well not much. BUT, you know you are right and they are wrong. Yet, you do wonder why don’t you?
Come on. In the secret places of your mind you wish you could see your work prosper. It hurts sometimes. Your family is discouraged and in some cases your own kids have turned away.
Who are you reaching, pastor? The great churches of your heroes were great for a reason. They reached the common man. Are you really reaching the common man?
Well, here is a way to find out. First, you must define who the common man really is.
The common man has a real job and knows how to hold onto their job. The common man owns a car and can drive himself and his family to church. The common man probably owns a home and lives in a decent neighborhood and not in a ghetto. The common man is not in jail or prison. The common man already has some character and values in place. The common man loves his family and probably is active in his community.
When is the last time you yourself won one of these common people and brought them to your church, walked them down the church aisle, had a name taker ready to take their names, explain baptism, and baptize them. When is the last time you took them soul winning with you the next week. Then, you did it all over again.
I believe you, pastor, should not take a pay check if you cannot produce. By producing I mean give the Gospel out fifteen times, from A to Z, in one seven day period, line of five by Saturday night for baptism on Sunday, go by Sunday morning to pick up at least two, and see one of them follow the LORD in baptism.
You have no one but yourself to blame to what is happening. You can use Hollywood methods as an outreach, but you will end up with Hollywood results.
I believe in calling the poor, but if you do not reach with the same vigor the “common” man as pastor you will continue flounder. Let the Bus Ministry reach the poor while you as pastor reach the common man. It is said of Jesus that the common man heard him “gladly”.
A fifth grade boys’ Sunday school teacher ought to focus on reaching fifth grade boys. A twelfth grade Sunday school teacher ought to focus on winning to Christ every twelfth grader he can get.
Thus, the pastor should reach every common man and family he can. Pastor, focus your soul winning on the common family. The broader the base and the deeper the foundation the broader and bigger the building.
Evangelist Jim Lyons went to Hammond with Dr. Jack Hyles in 1959 and in his own testimony to me, told of how they had twenty-six families lined up on a Saturday night to meet with the membership committee of First Baptist Church. This committee would examine the converts to see if they qualified for baptism and church membership.
There were so many common families lined up that the deacons threw up their hands and told Brother Hyles that they did not have time for this. They gave the responsibility to examine the potential church members to Brother Hyles. Why don’t you do the same thing?
When I went to pastor Longview Baptist Temple in 1980 for the first year my assistant and I averaged nine baptisms a Sunday ourselves.
The church had baptized eighty-four the year before. The explosion growth was a result of aggressive personal soul winning. This is no secret! Great men of God like John Rawlings, John Rice, Jack Hyles, Lee Roberson, Dallas Billington, G.B. Vick, J. Frank Norris, Harold Henniger, etc., did it the old fashioned way.
Great churches are built on these types of people. Where do you go soul winning pastor? DO you even go soul winning? Are you knocking on the doors of the common man or are you looking exclusively for the poorest part of town to go soul winning?
Your members will do what you do. Are you bold to talk to the kind of men Jesus spoke to. Study His disciples and you will discover they were men of character and substance. They were real men and they reached the common man.
￼Pastor how is your home life? Is it an extension of your relationship with the Lord or is it merely a tool to further your ministry? Beware, pastor, that you do not lust for ministerial success at the expense of your family.
There is such a thing as spiritual greed. When you watch golf you do not see the golfers family on the tee or the fairway or the green when the golfer is taking a shot. The local banker does not have his wife as his head teller and his kids all working the drive through window. So why are you trying to build your church on the backs of your family?
Pastor your church and then have a genuine home life away from the church. Do your children want anything to do with the ministry. Are they serving because they want to or because they are made to.
Be an example to the families of your church on how to have a Christian home. Stop building your home life around the church. Yes, that is what I said. Stop building your family around the church. Have a family life that is separate from the church.
Be consistent with what you preach, but do not force your wife to be your associate and your kids the custodians. Allow them to do what they choose to do in the church like everyone else.
Preach sermons with the intent of helping and being an encouragement and blessing to your family as well as the other members. Strive to be the same out of the pulpit as you are in it. Your family is thirsting for consistency. God said the secret to Solomon being blessed was “…if he be constant”.
How is your relationship with the Lord? Are you reading the Bible to find sermons or finding sermons by just reading the Bible? Is your prayer life consistent and vital to you? Are you reading books to get answers from God instead of seeking his word? Are you on the phone with other preachers more than you are on your knees with the Lord?
Do you seek the Lord’s wisdom and power in your life constantly? Are you walking with God? The strength of a tree is in its root system and the strength of your ministry is in your unseen spiritual root system.
When you love your people and counsel with them gaining knowledge of their needs, God will open up His Word as you read it giving you answers for them not sermons for you.
This is where it always begins. You cannot have the heart of God for people if you do not know the heart of God. There are no shortcuts to building a great work for God in the right way. All the techniques the liberals use may attract a crowd for today, but they will not build a real New Testament church for tomorrow.
Check it out. The great churches of old were built by men of God who walked with God and who had His power in their lives. Go back and listen to their sermons. Stop listening to the fluff of our day and seek the Lord with your whole heart. Our godless feel good music and worldly methods are a product of the lack of walk with God.
Bill Hybels had his staff do an internal study of his 15,000 member congregation. I printed the results in The Baptist Magazine. The conclusion was their methods grew the crowds, but did not grow Christians. This is not my critique this is their own critiquing of the results of they outreach.
I am speaking here of the down and outer. Please forgive us if this sounds like we are looking down at them. We are not. However, many men spend so much time reaching down they cannot provide a safe haven for them in which they can grow and see the examples of others.
Salvation does not create instant character where it was before lacking. It creates a new desire, but if you build your church primarily reaching those who through their own flaws are down and out you will have a down and out church. You must confront them with their character flaws and provide truths through examples in order to help them develop character.
It concerns me that many pastors fail to build a ministry where the down and out can be led to a changed life. The children on your buses and in your Sunday school who come from poor families or broken homes should grow in the Lord and in Christian character.
If your members are not growing in their spiritual life and their character the pastor is not doing his job. As a result you will have a flawed down-reach. Most bus riders never grow after years of riding because there leaders are not growing and challenging them to grow.
Most churches who fail to grow are reaching more poor people than they are common people. You do not need more cars to pick up the down and out you need more common people who drive in.
Some churches are certainly guilty of coddling the wealthy and allowing them to dictate the course of the church, one can also be guilty of allowing the same of the poor. We coddle those with bad character and allow a poverty mentality to inundate the behavior and atmosphere of the church. A poor person should be perfectly at home in your church, but so then should a wealthy person.
However, if you look at the buildings, offerings, and the programs of many churches you would think that they are ONLY looking for the down and out. If God has placed your church in a poor neighborhood then that will most likely define your church, BUT why are you passing by nicer neighborhoods near your church to go to the ghettos to win souls?
Why are you starting bus routes on the outskirts of town when you have done little to reach those in your own middle class community? NEVER go home from soul winning without making sure that you have given the Gospel to both.
Please accept this with a tender and open heart. Pastor, are you overreaching your authority in people’s lives? Are you trying to exert control over your people perhaps out of fear of losing them if you don’t?
Please stop and realize how wrong that is. Jesus DID NOT try to control his disciples. He merely tried to be a good influence to them. Tragically many independent Baptist pastors seem to feel they have the right or authority to control every aspect of their members lives. The damage they inflict on their churches is often greater than they realize.
The pastor should make walking with God look so good that the members are challenged to want to do the same. Pastor’s children who love the ministry are raised in a home that make living and serving God LOOK good and desirable.
Our leadership must be made of those who WANT to live holy lives and righteous lives and not because they signed a “Worker’s Requirement Sheet”.
We have all suggested that people should build their lives around the church, but think about that statement. It assumes that they HAVE a life. Sometimes we seem to want our members to abandon their lives for the church. We place the church above family, above careers, above health, and even above a personal devotional life.
What we create are co-dependent Christians who are dysfunctional in other areas of their lives except the church. By the way, perhaps that is why we only reach poor people. They have less in their lives so the church has to fill the void. I wanted our people to have a family life.
Pastors must be careful that they do not begin to feel that as the “MAN OF GOD” they somehow become the ruler of their members lives. Men who build great works for God do not assume control but accept responsibility. They are open and available to give advice but not dictates.
Teach people ho￼w to think as a Christian rather than what to think. Teach them how to make decisions rather than making decisions for them. Teach them the principles of the Bible so they can follow the Lord rather than exerting your power so they will follow you.
The pastor is responsible for the house of God not the house of the members. He is doing his best to keep all the “drama” out of the house of God. He is not attempting to run your home he just does not want all of the members’ “drama” to come into the house of God. However, some pastors feel they are called to stick their nose in their members’ business.
Pastors are often frustrated especially when it seems that their ministries are struggling all the time. They turn to methods to fix things when perhaps the real fix is within ourselves. Before blaming your church members, the world, the devil or anything else take stock of your own ideas and practices.
Perhaps you need to tweak your personal methods and ideas before you do anything else and who knows, maybe that will be all the fix your church needs.
Avoid the internet forum conclusions, the Charismatic illusion, the mega-church trap, the emerging church allurement, the non-Sunday night service churches, the anti-soul winning, anti-standards, anti-pastoral leadership, board control, worldly attire, worldly music, etc.
Focus on the basics of the ministry while developing a strong walk with God that is second nature for you and your people.