This week, Terrie and I celebrate thirty-three years of ministry at Lancaster Baptist Church with the Anniversary Sunday and host the Spiritual Leadership Conference. (And I hope you’re planning to join us!)
Before guests arrive for the conference, however, I wanted to share with our church family some convictions regarding ministry that I am as convinced of today as I was in 1986. Last week, I preached a message titled “This I Believe” in which I shared four such convictions.
Whether you are just starting out in the ministry or have been preaching the gospel for decades, remembering and holding to these truths from God’s Word will keep you going during seasons of challenge and difficulty.
These convictions aren’t helpful because you believe them, but they are truths that help you when you believe.
1. The Power of the Gospel
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.—Romans 1:16
Following Romans 1:16, one of the great declarations of the power of the gospel, the Apostle Paul describes the darkened, hardened hearts of a culture in need of the gospel. We see many of these marks of depravity in our culture today.
Thankfully, at Lancaster Baptist Church, we’ve also seen the power of the gospel to change lives—one person at a time.
The fact is that the gospel is more powerful than the dark hearts, false worship, vile affections, and reprobate minds described in Romans 1.
If you don’t believe in the power of the gospel, you will become discouraged or jaded in ministry. But when you believe that the gospel is the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,” you want to continue to preach it. You rejoice in every life it changes. And you never lose hope for those who still need salvation.
2. The Potential of Children
But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.—Matthew 19:14
One of the blessings of spending over three decades in one church is performing the weddings of those you prayed over on baby dedication Sundays. It is watching the spiritual fruit in the lives of young families who were once children attending Sunday school. It is seeing God shape new generations of biblically-committed, Spirit-filled, Christ-centered Christians in this world.
But whether or not you’ve had the privilege of being in once place for a long period of time, the reality of potential in children is there. This is why a Christ-centered church must be a child-inclusive church that nurtures and disciples hearts for God.
We must continue to bring children to church—by discipling parents who already come and by sharing the love of Christ with children whose parents are not yet saved.
We must also teach children. Paul affirmed to Timothy, “that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). Children face unrelenting indoctrination from a corrupt culture. We must point their hearts to Christ and equip their minds with the truth.
3. The Priority of the Church
But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.—1 Timothy 3:15
The local church is a body of believers that is supposed to function as a place of teaching and building up (Ephesians 4:11–16), encouraging and loving (Acts 2:46), and holding sound doctrine (1 Timothy 3:15, Titus 1:9).
As a family, the local church has challenges. If it has real people, it has messy people. That’s just the nature of life and the process of sanctification for all of us. But the church is to be a place where sin is confronted (1 Corinthians 5:1–5) and the fallen are restored (Galatians 6:1–2).
The local church is God’s plan for reaching the world with the gospel (Acts 1:8). Above all, it is the place where Christ is to be given preeminence (Colossians 1:18).
Although there are certainly times when those of us who lead in local church ministry become weary, remembering the priority of the church—to Christ who loved it and gave Himself for it, to those within our church families who need the church to grow into Christlikeness, and to a lost world in need of the gospel—reminds us of the greatness of any ministry that is part of the local church.
4. The Provision of God’s Grace
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.—2 Corinthians 12:9
God’s grace is sufficient.
It is sufficient for your family. It is sufficient for your financial challenges. It is sufficient for your trials. It is sufficient for your ministry. It is sufficient.
When you face challenges in your life or ministry and consider if you can continue, the answer is always yes. Yes, you can.
Because of God’s grace.
Because of the priority of the church.
Because of the potential of children.
Because of the power of the gospel.