The Next Generation Needs the Gospel Rather than Another Cheap Pragmatic Trick

The Next Generation Needs the Gospel Rather than Another Cheap Pragmatic Trick

 

“We must be willing to do whatever it takes the reach the next generation.”

This sounds like a line that many Christians can embrace, and sadly, many Christians charge hard with this line as their motto for ministry. Unfortunately, even the most passionate Christian can be passionately wrong. While boundaries and prohibitions may seem like bad things that hold us back from reaching our full potential as a local church or an individual believer—God’s boundaries should never be viewed through a negative lens.

Every Christian motto is built upon a theological foundation. It’s either fueled by low theological conviction that takes a backseat to pragmatism or it’s fueled by a high theological conviction that drives decision making and functionality. We want the latter rather than the former. When pragmatism takes priority over theology, the church is driven to do all sorts of things in the name of reaching people for Jesus in ways that Jesus would never approve.

Pragmatism Leads to Worldly Worship Models

An honest survey of church history will demonstrate that the church has been driven to embrace models that do not look like what God had in mind for genuine God exalting worship. From seeker sensitive marketing evangelism models to the Emergent Church that attempts to become so relevant to culture that it becomes irrelevant. If your model for ministry is “whatever it takes” people will begin to dream up and imagine all sorts of tactics for weekly worship that will attract the culture to your church. But, is that what Jesus has called us to do when he said, “go and make disciples” when he issued the Great Commission?

We have all seen the YouTube videos of zip line mishaps, motorcycle accidents, and drone crashes inside church buildings that occurred while churches were seeking to attract people from their community. It seemed like something that would draw in the crowds and make the church seem relevant and exciting, but instead it became an instant video clip for people to laugh at online rather than to connect people to the Savior of sinners. When ministries abandon the Scriptures and point people to cheap attractions rather than to Jesus—their ministries become shallow and look more like a carnival than a church in the process.

Is the Bible sufficient or must we dream up something new in order to reach the next generation? Does your church need a marketing trick to reach the community or is Jesus enough?  

Pragmatism Leads to the Embrace of Worldly Ideologies and Methods

There is no doubt that this world with devils filled is threatening to undo us. We live in a broken world with complex layers of injustices and oppression against women, crimes against children, legalized abortion, legalized same-sex marriage, and ethnic division and discrimination. We walk a broken road through Vanity Fair as we journey toward the Celestial City as depicted by John Bunyan in his classic work The Pilgrim’s Progress. As we walk this path filled with traps of Satan and all manner of human depravity—how should the church approach the sins and depraved patterns of our ungodly society?

If the church is fueled by the motto “whatever it takes” we will be led to believe that broken ideas that emerge from a broken culture will suffice. In recent days, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to embrace Critical Race Theory and intersectionality as “analytical tools” to view and approach our culture. Why should the church be encouraged to abandon Scripture and embrace ideologies that have emerged out of the sewer of radical feminism and Marxism in order to reach a God hating culture? Is the Bible really outdated and uniformed regarding the complexities we face in our day? Is Jesus not enough? Does the gospel need help from culture to reach the culture?

Pragmatism will always lead the people of God away from the will of God at some point. If the gospel is working—pragmatism says, “do it.” When the gospel seems to not be working, pragmatism says, “do something else that gets better results.”

We must remember that the Reformation was about the recovery of God’s Word. When the Scriptures are not viewed as sufficient—worship and ministry models will be contaminated by the ideas and methods of the world. When Paul was writing his final letter to Timothy before he was martyred for his faith, he didn’t say, “Timothy, do whatever it takes to reach Ephesus with the gospel.” He said:

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

The motto—”whatever it takes” will eventually lead you to walk away from the Word of God. Beware of the broken road of pragmatism.

Ministry Is Not For Sissies

Ministry Is Not For Sissies

A question was submitted for the 2019 G3 Conference questions & answers session that asked the following question:

“I’m a young man who is preparing for pastoral ministry in the local church. As a seminary student, what counsel would you give to me as I prepare for the future?”

In the fall of the year just before we would move to Louisville to attend seminary the following January, my wife and I made an agreement that we would not purchase Christmas presents for each other and we would save money for the upcoming move. Without my knowledge, she wrote to several preachers asking for them to write a letter to me in order to provide wisdom for me as I prepared to move away to attend seminary. She compiled each of those letters in a nice binder and provided it to me as a gift that Christmas. I still look through it to this very day as it sits on the shelf in my study. One letter stands out to me as it states the following:

My word to you is to always remember that you are merely a vessel and He is the Treasure. Just a river bed for the river to flow. Any demands God makes on you is not on your ability but on the Christ who promised to be your sufficiency for the journey. Remember that any old bush will do if God set it on fire for His glory. May the Holy Spirit give you enough problems to keep you trusting, enough hurts to keep you broken, and enough victories to keep you praising Him. Only God can take nothing and indwell him so he can be more than a conqueror.

What great truth that I’m still thankful that I received early in the journey of ministry rather than after hitting difficulties along the way. What I would hope to do in this article is to provide encouragement and advice to a younger man who may be preparing for ministry and unaware of the fact that hardships are coming very soon. If you have a romantic view of ministry, you need to buckle your seatbelt.

Study Hard

I remember studying specific academic disciplines in high school and college while thinking to myself that I would never need it or use it in this life. That is not true when it comes to seminary. Study hard and read as much as you can knowing that you will need far more in ministry than you have time to learn in seminary.

Study the Bible. The calling of a pastor is to study, prepare, and preach the Word of God on a weekly basis. The original languages matter, and it’s critical to gain as much knowledge and ability as possible in order to rightly divide the Word of truth. In your rigorous study and technical development, don’t fail to read devotionally and spend time memorizing the Word for greater recall as you preach and teach through books of the Bible.

Read biographies. Learn to stand upon the shoulders of men who have gone before you in the gospel ministry. Read about their joys and the intense pain they experienced in ministry. Learn from their strengths and weaknesses in order to become a better minister of the gospel.

Work Hard

The ministry is not the place for laziness. There is hardly anything more shameful than a lazy preacher. Learn good work ethic. Set good patterns for your time in the text, your extra reading, your ministry planning, your staff meetings, and your care for God’s flock. If possible, learn to get out of bed early and give your mornings to God and your afternoons to men.

We expect doctors, lawyers, mechanics, and carpenters to get out of bed and work hard all day. Why should preachers sleep longer, work less, come home earlier, and go to bed less fatigued? Most preachers who are worth their weight in salt work long hours while trying to balance properly their responsibilities to the Lord in the church and their responsibilities to the Lord in their home. Why not serve God with as much energy and passion for the glory of God as do others who are laboring in the world of business or in the building of houses? Give yourself fully to God!

Never Give Up

My wife and I were on our honeymoon and we were finishing up a wonderful day with a sunset supper at a magical restaurant on the island of Aruba. Our table was in the edge of the water, our shoes were off, our feet was experiencing the gentle wake of the ocean as the sun was setting over the water. Life was perfect at that moment. Another couple nearby asked us a few questions when they found out we were on our honeymoon, and then they asked, “So, what do you do for a living?” I explained that I work for a printing company in Atlanta, but I’m preparing to be a pastor, and soon I will be going off to seminary for training. The gentleman responded, “Yes, it seems that the ministry is a popular career choice these days.”

Soon enough the honeymoon was over, and soon enough we were serving in ministry. Life did not remain perfect and ministry will test you beyond your wildest imaginations. You will begin the day preparing to read yourself full in preparation for Sunday’s sermon only to find yourself praying a man into eternity at his bedside at the local hospital before supper. You will pray earnestly for people only to find that they will earnestly slander you and degrade you. You will enter the pulpit ministry with the idea that so long as you study hard and prepare to feed the sheep each week faithfully from God’s Word that they will be satisfied—only to learn that they aren’t satisfied due to their selfish cravings. You’ll learn that people will disappoint you, betray you, make false accusations against you, and finally leave you all alone. Ministry is not for sissies.

In the ministry you will experience your greatest joys and your deepest pains. Some days you will think you’re smelling the fragrance of heaven only to wake up the following day to the smoke of hell. Ministry is hard, people are difficult, the trials are great, the disappointments are severe, the wounds are deep, they joy is sweet, the victories are exciting, the true friends you make are committed and faithful to the end, and the calling to serve God as a pastor is the greatest privilege of ten million lifetimes. Never forget that the ministry is not for sissies. The calling to be a pastor is the calling to be a man who trusts the Lord and stands firm on God’s Word. Sometimes you will be praised for standing on the Word and in other occasions you will be fired for it or even killed for it. If you have a romantic view of ministry, read 2 Timothy 4:1-5.

If you’re preparing for ministry, never forget that you need the help of God each day. If you’re a church member who’s reading this article, remember to pray earnestly for your pastors who labor to serve you through God’s Word each week.

An older wise pastor once told me, “As a pastor, you must have a tough hide and a tender heart.”

 

The Goal of Spiritual Maturity

The Goal of Spiritual Maturity

Life is full of goals.  We spend time charting and planning everything from automobile maintenance schedules to college tuition funds.  Add that to our health goals after our recent trip to the doctor, along with our future retirement goals, and it seems that we have goals for almost everything in life.  What about spiritual goals?  Have you set goals regarding spiritual maturity?  Have you thought about ways to accurately chart your progress?  Have you considered the fact that your pastors have set goals for your spiritual life?

Spiritual Maturity Results in Gospel Ministry

The role and responsibility of pastors is to equip the church membership to do the work of gospel ministry.  It’s a categorical error to look at the pastors as the “professionals” who earn a paycheck to do the work of ministry.  Would it be a shock for you to know that God views all church members as ministers of the gospel?  According to Ephesians 4:12, God has gifted the church with pastor-teachers for the purpose of equipping the church to do the work of ministry.

The ministry of the local church can be divided into two primary areas — discipleship and missions.  Although there are specific overlaps, this is the work of the local church.  In going and telling the gospel, we baptize and teach believers the Word of God.  It is the plan of God for His children to grow-up and pursue spiritual maturity.  We must read warnings in Hebrews 5:13-14 and make sure that we avoid such errors.  Are you just a “come and watch” church member or do you have your hands and your heart involved in the work of gospel ministry to make disciples for the glory of God?

Spiritual Maturity Prevents Doctrinal Drift

As we grow in grace and in the knowledge of God, we grow doctrinal roots that are not easily moved.  We’ve all seen the aftermath of a violent storm or high winds that uprooted trees.  That same thing can be true when false doctrine sweeps through a home, a church, or across the Internet.  God expects His children to grow into mature believers who are not led astray by false teachers who speak with deceptive tongues delivering damnable heresies.  Paul explains one of the purposes of pastoral leadership in Ephesians 4:13-14:

 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

I have watched people be swept away by the winds of Roman Catholicism, prosperity teachings, and other cult groups who present crafty teachings through the television and Internet.  Those who are pursuing spiritual maturity avoid these problems because they can spot the false doctrine like a red barn in the middle of an open green field.  The spiritually immature believer often doesn’t possess such discernment.  Don Whitney writes, “In my own pastoral and personal Christian experience, I can say that I’ve never known a man or woman who came to spiritual maturity except through discipline. Godliness comes through discipline.” [1]  Like a deep root system on a majestic tree, spiritual maturity does the same thing for believers who put in the discipline to know God through His Word.

Spiritual Maturity Results in Biblical Submission

We’re born with the seed of rebellion in our depraved hearts, and then if you’re fortunate to be born in a nation like America where such rugged individualism is celebrated — submission is a backward way of thinking.  After becoming a Christian, we learn that submission is the way of the Christian life.  We’re called out of darkness and into the marvelous light of Christ.  This new life in Christ involves submission to authority.  We’re called to submit to authority, and it all begins with a submission to the Lordship of Christ.

Biblical submission involves a willingness to submit to authorities in various roles of life including:

  • Submission to the Lordship of Christ (we are the servants of Christ).
  • Submission to the Word of God (the Scriptures are authoritative and sufficient).
  • Submission to civil leaders and the laws of the land.
  • Submission to family roles (wives to husbands and children to parents).
  • Submission to those in authority over us in the work world.
  • Submission to the church family (the church caring for one another in love).
  • Submission to the pastoral leaders placed over you.

We are wired to resist and avoid authority.  However, when God changes a person’s heart, that individual learns to lovingly submit to the law of the Spirit of life (Rom. 8:2).  The individual who possesses a rogue and rebellious attitude toward authority should evaluate themselves closely.  To the young believer, pursue spiritual maturity in order that you will become strong in the faith and never forget that a heart that’s willing to submit to authority is not weak.  R. C. Sproul has accurately stated, “The very word authority has within it the word author. An author is someone who creates and possesses a particular work. Insofar as God is the foundation of all authority, He exercises that foundation because He is the author and the owner of His creation. He is the foundation upon which all other authority stands or falls.” [2]

What books are you reading?  What sermons are you listening to?  Do you have a plan for Scripture reading?  How is your church attendance?  Are you engaged in intentional discipleship opportunities within your church?  When was the last time you talked with your pastor about ways you could grow spiritually?  Perhaps it’s time to set some real goals for spiritual maturity in your life.  Setting a goal to run a 5k or a marathon is commendable, but to set a goal for spiritual maturity is far better.


  1. Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1991), 17.
  2. R. C. Sproul, “The Divine Foundation of Authority,” Tabletalk, (March, 2009), 6.
Why Your Pastor Should Say “No More” to Beth Moore

Why Your Pastor Should Say “No More” to Beth Moore

Beth Moore is an extremely popular Bible teacher, author, and founder of Living Proof Ministries, Inc. which began in 1994 with the purpose of teaching women through Bible studies and resources.  Many thousands of women (and men) study the Bible in groups who use resources from LPM and watch videos of Beth Moore’s teaching.  With wide success in the publishing world, she is a frequent keynote speaker at large conferences including Passion.  As a former member of the First Baptist Church of Houston, Texas (now a member of Bayou City Fellowship), Beth Moore has been a Southern Baptist for years and finds great success in publishing her material through B&H Publishing Group and distributing it through LifeWay – a popular bookstore closely associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

For many years, Beth Moore’s teaching has raised eyebrows among pastors and leaders in conservative circles.  Although concerns have been raised through the years, Beth Moore continues to be welcomed into the study groups within local churches where women read her books, study guides, and watch her videos with limited, if any, oversight from the pastoral staff.  Below I’ve documented three main reasons why pastors should fire Beth Moore from the women’s ministry within their local church.

Beth Moore Clearly Violates Biblical Boundaries

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” (1 Tim. 2:12).  Paul forbids women from teaching and having authority over men.  Therefore, the pattern of the early church was established by Christ who chose twelve men to be His inner circle and then entrusted the early church to their oversight.  From that point forward (post Acts 6), God raised up a plurality of men to serve as deacons who would serve alongside the plurality of men who would serve as elders.

In short, we don’t see God calling, equipping, and endorsing women to teach the Bible in the context of the church (or beyond in places such as conferences).  This position rooted in creation and upheld by a distinctive position known as complementarianism is not only consistent with Scripture, but in tandem with the early church’s design.  Beth Moore violates this early church pattern and most importantly – the text of Scripture found in 1 Timothy 2:12.  As she appears on the platform with an open Bible, she preaches the Word to thousands of men who are in attendance at the Passion conference and other venues where she’s invited to speak.  Not only is this her personal pattern of ministry, but she likewise condones other women who preach to men as she was in attendance at Joel Osteen’s church to hear her friend Christine Caine when she preached at Lakewood.

The point of the Bible is clear, women are not permitted to have authority over men, and how is it possible to teach the Bible without authority?  Paul forbids women from occupying the office of elder, but it must likewise be noted that he forbids women from the functionality of preaching and teaching the Bible to men – even if they don’t hold the office of elder (1 Tim. 2:12).  Beth Moore has demonstrated a heart of rebellion in this important area where she has violated God’s original intent in women’s role in the church, and therefore, should not be accepted into the church as an acceptable women’s ministry (or any Bible teaching ministry).  The pattern of ministry Beth Moore has developed will continue to manifest itself in local churches so long as local churches continue to incorporate her resources in their ministries.

Beth Moore Employs Faulty Biblical Hermeneutics

The fancy word hermeneutics, is a reference to the science of biblical interpretation.  Anyone who teaches the Bible understands that you don’t merely approach the Bible with a flippant and disorganized manner and expect organized presentation and application.  Beth Moore does not approach the Bible with a disorganized methodology, but she does approach the Bible with a deficient hermeneutic – one that should be rejected.

The most appropriate method of biblical interpretation is known as the literal, grammatical, historical method of interpretation.  This method seeks to uncover the original author’s intent from a literal and historical lens.  This method upholds the single meaning of the text of Scripture and does so with a careful analysis upon the terms and grammar used in the text.

Beth Moore, often very animated and passionate in her delivery of her Bible teaching employs a method of biblical interpretation known as allegorical interpretation.  This is a method of spiritualizing the text and making it say something other than what the original author intended.  If you’ve ever heard a sermon preached from the text of David and Goliath where the preacher pointed out that David is Jesus and Goliath is Satan – you’ve heard allegorical interpretation in action.  This is perhaps the main interpretative method used by Beth Moore.

Beth Moore goes beyond allegorical interpretation at times as she approaches the Bible through a mystical method of Bible reading known as Lectio Divina.  This is an old heretical form of biblical interpretation taken from Roman Catholic mystics and often closely connected to contemplative prayer.  This practice is often viewed as a spiritual method of approaching the Bible that involves emptying your brain and preparing to hear God speak.  David Helm, in his book, Expositional Preaching, writes:

Lectio Divina advocates a method that is spiritual as opposed to systematically studious. It substitutes intuition for investigation. It prefers mood and emotion to methodical and reasoned inquiry. It equates your spirit to the Holy Spirit.” [1]

Although once a Roman Catholic method of reading and interpreting the Bible, Lectio Divina is now becoming popular in the mainstream evangelical community.  This method sidesteps the careful and historical method of biblical interpretation as it encourages people to open their minds and listen for the voice of God.  We should not be teaching people to empty their minds or open their minds while they listen for the voice of God.  God has spoken clearly and we can see what God has said as we read the Bible.

Beth Moore Is an Ecumenical Charismatic

In recent years, Beth Moore has been beating the drum of ecumenism with fervor.  In many recordings of her teachings, you can hear her categorize many liberal and conservative denominations along with Roman Catholics into the same group as if there are no distinctions or divisions.  If this isn’t enough to cause great concern, in more recent days Beth Moore has been crossing over the line into the troubled waters of the charismatic circles and aligning herself with people such as Joyce Meyer.

It’s one thing to refer to Joyce Meyer as a mentor and to embrace Roman Catholics as another denomination within evangelicalism, but why should Beth Moore be classified as a charismatic?  Beyond the obvious connection that Beth Moore has with Joyce Meyer, she also leads conferences with other charismatics and engages in teaching strange doctrines. Beth Moore participated in a Women of Faith conference held at Lakewood Church in Houston (see Roma Downey promote it on YouTube) where she taught sloppy allegorical lessons and engaged in a strange “commissioning” event at the close of the conference.

  1. Beth Moore frequently hears the voice of God and receives visions.
  2. Beth Moore aligns herself with Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer.
  3. Beth Moore engages in contemplative spirituality.
  4. Beth Moore is using charismatic language such as in a recent tweet about “binding prayers.”
  5. Beth Moore advocates receiving direct messages from God.

Beth Moore relates the story of a woman who approached her during a conference with a message from God:

With obvious anointing, she told the story we’re about to study, then she said: “I don’t know you Beth. I have no idea why God sent me with such a message to give you, but He told me clearly to say these words to you: ‘Tell her that her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much.’” [2]

Notice that Beth Moore claimed the woman had an “obvious anointing” from God.  To attach God’s name to a special message that doesn’t originate between Genesis and Revelation is to open yourself up to extrabiblical revelation and to deny the sufficiency of Scripture.

Discernment is needed today in the church like never before.  It should also be noted that God has called pastors to exercise oversight over women’s ministries within the church.  To allow women to go through church sponsored Beth Moore studies and gather for simulcast studies is to open the doors of the church to unbiblical and dangerous teaching.  Pastors, guard the doors and educate the people to exercise biblical discernment.


  1. David Helm, Expositional Preaching, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), Kindle Edition, 355 of 1576.
  2. Beth Moore, Jesus the One and Only, (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2013), 91.
DBG Spotlight (8-28-15)

DBG Spotlight (8-28-15)

On August 25th, Ligonier hosted a Google Hangout with Dr. John MacArthur, president of The Master’s Seminary, and Dr. Stephen Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College. The discussion was based on the urgency to stand with conviction in a time of rapid cultural change.

The International Mission Board Plans to Cut 600-800 Missionaries and Staff – IMB president David Platt announced Thursday that the agency needs to cut at least 600 missionaries and staff in order to balance its budget. Those cuts are needed to make up for a $21 million deficit for 2015.

The 2016 G3 Conference – The 2016 G3 will be focused on the doctrine of the Trinity.  Although the conference will be held in January, there are only 125 seats remaining as of this morning.  If you’re planning to attend, you should go ahead and get your seat reserved.

When Did the Decline of Marriage Begin in America? – Joe Carter examines the negative trends that have led to a decline and eventual redefining of marriage in America.

Mailbag #13: Baptism before Communion; Moderating Members’ Meetings; Cooperating with Other Churches in Church Discipline; How to Transition to Elders and Deacons – Jonathan Leeman answers questions that were sent to 9Marks and some of the questions are worth reading and thinking through.

Ashley Madison and the Death of Monogamy – Albert Mohler writes, “The mainstream media seems to know that the Ashley Madison hacking story is big news, but the main concern seems to be more about embarrassment than shamefulness.”

Responding to Church Decline

Responding to Church Decline

We’re presently living an an age of church decline across America.  Every year we see the statistics plastered before our eyes in printed reports regarding the decline of the church and the rise of paganism.  The Pew Research Center reported that the adult population claiming a Christian identity has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Many people have answers for this decline, but before we jump on any train, we should first consider its destination.  Are these methods of addressing church decline God’s answer or man’s pragmatic approach to the deep rooted problem?  How will the church answer the culture in day when everyone is doing what seems right in his own eyes?  How will the church respond to the cultural pressures?  How will the church rebound from the recent downward declining trends?

I have the privilege to meet with a group of godly pastors each month for lunch.  During our meetings, we typically discuss theology and ministry.  Right now, we’re reading Iain Murray’s documentary on D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and discussing a chapter each month over our meal.  This time of fellowship is refreshing, encouraging, and profitable to my soul.  This week, we discussed chapter 7, “A Different Kind of Preaching.”  This chapter is devoted to the ministry of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Sandfields, Aberavon.  From the very beginning, he demonstrated his method and devotion to the Word of God as opposed to the broken pots of human schemes and tricks of church growth programs.

When D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones entered the church at Sandfields, people wanted to know what he would do.  In that day, the church was in decline and they were, in many ways, doing everything they could to answer this problem.  Everything except for what The Doctor would do upon his arrival.  With the looming black cloud of church decline, many churches were seeking to appeal to people by the use of more “high church” approaches by the use of liturgy, choirs, and organs.  Other churches felt that people didn’t want to come to church to be “preached at” – so they repackaged the sermon as a relevant address which contained modern topics, poetry, and quotations from secular authors.

The church at Sanfields had sought to answer these problems.  They had various activities going on within the church such as football, musical events, and a dramatic society.  Some members approached D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and suggested that they could be successful if they majored on their children’s ministry.  However, to their surprise, the new pastor wasn’t interested in using such things to attract people.  In fact, the secretary was very surprised at D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ response to the question of his direction and the needs of the church.  He was interested in the regular church services of 11am, 6pm, a Monday evening prayer service, a mid-week worship service on Wednesday, and a Saturday morning men’s meeting.  In the words of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, all of the other things could go.  When the Committee asked what they were to do with the wooden stage for the dramatic society, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones responded by saying, “You can heat the church with it.”

In a sermon, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said:

The world expects the Christian to be different and looks to him for something different, and therein it often shows an insight into life that regular church-goers often lack.  The churches organize whist-drives, fêtes, dramas, bazaars and things of that sort, so as to attract people.  We are becoming almost as wily as the devil himself, but we are really very bad at it; all our attempts are hopeless failures and the world laughs at us.  Now, when the world persecutes the church, she is performing her real mission, but when the world laughs at her she has lost her soul.  And the world today is laughing at the church, laughing at her attempts to be nice and to make people feel at home.  My friends, if you feel at home in any church without believing in Christ as your personal Saviour, then that church is no church at all, but a place of entertainment or a social club.  For the truth of Christianity and the preaching of the gospel should make a church intolerable and uncomfortable to all except those who believe, and even they should go away feeling chastened and humble.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones remained steadfast and refused to entertain people and attract them into the church.  He preached the Word faithfully, week-by-week.  The results were amazing.  Men who once squandered their money on liquor and were known around town as drunkards, became upstanding citizens, faithful church members, family men, and all of this without schemes or abstinence politics.  It was by the power of the gospel.  One particular woman was a well known spirit-medium in the community.  On one particular Sunday, she was feeling ill and wasn’t able to do her normal work.  As she observed the people passing by her house on their way to church, she decided to attend too.  Upon entering, she would later recount, she could sense an overwhelming power in the room.  She would later say, “I had a feeling that the power in your chapel was a clean power.”  On that first visit to the church, under the preaching of the gospel, she became a Christian.

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones did the hard thing at first, he addressed the failed attempts of church growth and broken strategies of man.  His decisions were not popular.  In fact, when The Doctor announced that there would be no more stage dramas in the hall, a Mrs. Robson said to herself, “You’ll learn young man, you’ll learn!”  However, as she would later tell her story, she said, “It was I who learnt.”  In 1927 when D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones arrived at Sandfields, the church had enough seats for 400 people, but only 70 seats were occupied on the Lord’s Day.  Under the preaching of the gospel, God added to His church.  In 1930, the church at Sandfields recorded 88 new additions, and according to their records, 70 were “from the world.”  These additions continued as the gospel was proclaimed.  In 1931, the church experienced an addition of 135 new members, and 128 of those people were new converts to Christ.

As the downward trajectory in church numbers in America (especially in the Bible belt regions) continues onward, may God raise up pastors and church members who will be fearless and faithful like D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and keep their focus on the gospel of Christ.  We cannot expect the decline of church attendance to be reversed and baptism numbers to increase through broken schemes of man and church growth techniques.  Children’s ministries and other ministries in the church are important, but we must see the gospel of Christ as the central means of growing the church.  Away with the power lifters, ventriloquists, and comedians – we need the gospel of King Jesus to echo loudly from the pulpit to the hearts of men, women, boys, and girls.  Jesus and the apostles were committed to the preaching of the gospel.  Men like The Doctor, all throughout church history, have followed in Jesus’ footsteps.  May we be found faithful in an age of cultural compromise and church decline.  Jesus is enough and His gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes.