Way of Life Literature
Publisher of Bible Study Materials
Following are a couple of examples:
“I am so discouraged that it is hard for me to go on. I live in ------. I have been here for over 14 years and I have searched my heart out, trying to find an independent Baptist Church that stands against sin, preaches against sin, is actively seeking to win the lost to Christ, is still using the KJV. They are dead and lifeless. And most of all they all believe in using quick prayerism and easy believism, without true repentance, faith, and Holy Spirit conviction. I have a real problem being a member of any of these churches. I want to serve the Lord so badly, but no church that takes a stand. I would first of all appreciate your prayers, and secondly any advice you may have for someone in my condition.”
“I am attending a church of small size, with a pastor who says he is fundamental, but in actual practice, he is new-evangelical. He does not name the names of false teachers. He won’t correct any members in error. He will sound no alarm about ecumenism, apostasy, etc. In my estimation, there are only two or three of the families in the church that care anything about separation from the world and apostasy, and those cannot speak freely the whole counsel of God because the leaders won’t allow it. This is the best church within my area. There are two churches 40 miles away that claim to be fundamentalist but promote Dobson-style psychology and other things that a true fundamentalist cannot countenance.”
Following is my advice for those who are in this situation:
BE SURE THAT YOU UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT THE CHURCH IS.
It is important to be reminded of, and convinced of, how important the church is. Men have corrupted churches, but men did not create the church. The church is God’s institution. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I will build my church” (Mat. 16:18).
The New Testament church is called “the house of God, the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), and in the context, that refers to an assembly that has pastors and deacons.
The book of Acts is the record of the establishment of the first churches under the leadership of the apostles. In Acts, we see the church as the divinely-ordained headquarters of world evangelism. The Lord’s commission of world missions is given in Acts 1:8. The method of carrying out that commission is found in Acts 13-14, and this is the pattern for the entire church age. Here we see a properly established church sending out missionaries to found new churches that, in turn, accomplish the same thing.
Most of the New Testament was written to churches to instruct them about how to increase in their knowledge or and service to Christ.
When Christ gave His final Revelation, He delivered it to seven churches of that day (Rev. 1:4), and seven times He said, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). Christ spoke to the believers through the churches and their leaders.
There is no doubt that God has exalted the church and that it is not His will that believers neglect it. The Word of God warns, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:25).
A child of God that wants to obey God should leave a church that is departing from God’s Word, but he can never be content with not being a committed member of a New Testament church.
BE CAREFUL THAT YOU ARE NOT LOOKING FOR A PERFECT CHURCH BY ANY STANDARD.
I meet and hear from two types of people in regard to the church issue. First, there are those who live in an area in which there truly is no sound church, and they have to do the best they can in that situation. Second, there are people who are not satisfied even with a good church and are on a never-ending search for a church that is ideal by their standards.
Some people who have told me that they are looking for a strong church and would join it if they found one, are self-deceived. I know this to be true because such people have attended my Bible conferences in good churches and they live within driving distance of these churches, but they won’t join them. For example, I recently preached a conference at Grace Baptist Church in Oxford, Pennsylvania, pastored by Steve Rogers, and though I personally recommend this ministry, some people who live in that area and say they love my writings and preaching find an excuse not to join it. I have no sympathy for that.
I have concluded that some people who say they love my preaching would not long be content if I had pastoral authority over their lives. They like my preaching only so long as I am a distant figure and they can pick and choose what they want to hear from me. For one thing, I am very strong on the importance of the assembly and on faithful, committed church membership. This is absolutely a fundamental issue with me. But by their actions it is clear that they don’t agree with this part of my teaching.
While it is important to find the best church possible, you are never going to find a church that is “perfect” by any standard. You are certainly not going to find a church that in practice is exactly what I preach and teach other than the church where I am in a leadership position. Every preacher is different, and there will be differences between preachers and churches.
Our book Keys to Fruitful Church Membership, which was first published in 1999, deals with this issue in a very practical way. Recently revised and expanded, it is available in a print edition and as a free eBook from www.wayoflife.org.
COMMUTE TO A STRONG CHURCH.
I know many people that travel an hour and more to attend a good church. I know one couple who drove three hours one way. Some drive (or ride a bus or walk) in on Sunday morning and stay the entire day, then travel home after the evening service. We find this to be a very reasonable thing to do. It is not uncommon today for people to commute hundreds of miles each week to work, and the church is more important than one’s job.
In South Asia, I know of some dear believers who WALK four hours and more to church, and I know many believers who walk one to two hours to attend church.
They put to shame many Christians in North America who wouldn’t dream of driving in a comfortable automobile on good roads for an hour or an hour and a half to attend a good church.
RELOCATE TO A PLACE THAT HAS A STRONG CHURCH.
Assuming there is no sound church within commuting distance, we recommend that you relocate. In my estimation, in light of the Bible’s teaching, the church should be the most important consideration in determining where to live.
Of course, one must follow the Lord’s leading in such matters; but the fact is, as we have seen, that He has made it plain that the church is His ordained means of fulfilling the Great Commission and He wants every Christian to be a fruitful member of a sound New Testament church.
The church directory we maintain at the Way of Life web site can be helpful in determining where to relocate. But please understand that in most cases we do not have personal knowledge of these churches. Each church on the directory has successfully filled out our questionnaire, but that doesn’t mean it is a good church. We have also discovered, to our amazement, that it is not uncommon for church officers to be less than honest in answering the questionnaire!
If someone is serious about relocating for the sake of a good church, we might be able to make a recommendation. But don’t contact us about this if you are merely interested and curious. It takes time to make recommendations, and I will only make the effort to do that for people that I deem to be very serious about relocating.
And we would warn against trying to put God’s will into a small box. If you want God’s will, you have to put His will absolutely first. One man said that he MIGHT be interested in moving IF I could give him the names of good churches in a couple of states that he listed. That is to allow God to work only within the parameters of your will. It is saying, “Lord, I will go where you want me to go, so long as it is within this little geographical parameter.” If you want God’s perfect will, you must be ready to go anywhere He leads and do whatever He says.
IF THERE IS NO STRONG NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH IN YOUR AREA AND YOU CANNOT MOVE, YOU CAN ATTEND THE BEST CHURCH THAT IS AVAILABLE AND BE FAITHFUL AND PUT INTO THE LORD’S HANDS THOSE THINGS WITH WHICH YOU DON’T AGREE
Remember that it is pastors who have the greatest accountability for the doctrine and policy of the church.
It is important to understand that the pastor's responsibility is not your responsibility. I am not recommending blind, unquestioning loyalty. The believer is to prove all things (Acts 17:11; 1 Th. 5:21). You should voice your concern to the pastors about anything that you believe to be wrong, and a godly pastor will listen carefully and prayerfully. But God has given pastors the responsibility to make decisions.
And I am not saying that a Christian should submit to a church that is teaching false doctrine or that is plainly departing from the Word of God. There are many Independent Baptist churches I would not personally join, and that number is increasing each decade. But there are different kinds of and degrees of church problems and errors, and one must have godly wisdom to discern what is most important in church matters and what is less important, and about when to leave and when to stay.
Again, for more about this see Keys to Fruitful Church Membership. Also see The Pastor’s Authority and the Church Member’s Responsibility. These are available as free eBooks from www.wayoflife.org.
BE WISE IN DEALING WITH PASTORS.
It is important to learn how to deal with pastors in a wise and biblical way.
“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thessalonians 5:12-13).
Following are some suggestions:
1. Guard your heart and attitude.
We are to esteem the church leaders highly in love for their work’s sake.
“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves” (1 Th. 5:12-13).
We need to have a cool head and a warm heart, not a cool heart and a warm head! When we attempt to correct others, we must guard our own hearts and do so in the spirit of meekness (Gal. 6:1).
2 Timothy 2:24-25 describes the spirit in which we are to seek to correct others:
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves.”
The late evangelist Mel Rutter would say, “Be as firm as the rock in your position but as sweet as the honey from the rock in your disposition.”
The difference between leaving a church over legitimate doctrinal concerns and leaving in rebellion toward pastoral authority will be evidenced in two ways, according to James 3:14-18.
“But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
First, the difference will be evident in one’s attitude. Contrast the “bitter envying and strife” of verse 14 with the godly attitude described in verse 17: “peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”
Second, the difference will be evident in the fruit that issues from the situation. Contrast the fruit of verse 16 -- “envying and strife ... confusion and every evil work” -- with the fruit described in verse 18, which is “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
The long-term consequences will demonstrate the secrets of the heart. On the one hand, those who are seeking to strengthen the church and are opposed to things that are truly ungodly and unscriptural and who leave a church on that basis alone and not because of their own self-will or carnality, will go on to serve Christ fruitfully in stronger churches.
On the other hand, those who are merely striving for their own self-will and who are causing trouble in a carnal manner usually hop from church to church, causing trouble everywhere they go, losing their testimony and usually their children, often going from a strong church to a weaker church. When someone moves to a church that is weaker doctrinally and spiritually, it demonstrates that the issue was not actually about truth and righteousness, but was a personality conflict or something of that sort.
2. Give pastors the benefit of the doubt, and do everything you can to be an obedient church member.
The Bible uses very strong language about the church’s submission to pastoral authority.
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves...” (Heb. 13:17).
Those are strong words. Unless the pastors are leading contrary to the Bible in a very clear and obvious manner, the church member must submit to them as unto God. It is like a wife’s submission to a husband.
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord” (Eph. 5:22).
Every wife knows that if she submits to her husband she is submitting to an imperfect man. Sometimes she will disagree with his decisions, but the godly wife is not merely submitting to her husband, she is submitting to the Lord who gave her that husband. Her eyes are on Christ. She is like Sarah of old who called her husband “lord” because she trusted in God (1 Pe. 3:5).
Likewise, the church member does not submit merely to a man. The church member submits to the Lord who has established the office of the pastorate and who has put that man into the office and who has commanded obedience.
Too many church members think it is their duty to advise and correct the pastor in all matters if they think he is not doing his job properly, even in matters that do not pertain to scriptural error. But it is wise and scriptural to let pastors be pastors.
I am not saying that it is wrong to give suggestions to pastors or to challenge their decisions. God’s people are to prove all things (1 Th. 5:21), and pastors are not above discipline (1 Ti. 5:19-20). Blind obedience is not scriptural or godly, but cultic. What I am saying here is that after I have shared my thoughts or concerns with those in authority over me and they decide against my position, I must leave the matter in the Lord’s hands and submit with a right attitude. This is always true unless the pastors are clearly acting contrary to Scripture.
Giving pastors the benefit of the doubt is an important principle. It means that when the pastor’s interpretation or application of Scripture is contrary to mine, I should submit to his unless it is clear that his cannot be supported by Scripture rightly divided. It means that as far as possible scripturally I should support him.
Oftentimes it is possible to apply different Scriptures to a situation, and in such a situation the leader’s application should stand. For example, one time I told one of my Bible college students that since it was common knowledge that he had cheated on a test to gain a tenth grade certificate in the national educational system, he should not try to build on that foundation to get his 11th-12th grade certificate. My thinking was based on the fact that he had gotten the certificate unlawfully, and the law of restitution says that we should try to make things right when we have sinned against men (Lev. 6). Plus I cited Philippians 2:15 and Psalm 15:4 and noted that believers need to demonstrate honesty in a corrupt generation, even to their own hurt.
Some other men in the church disagreed with that decision, quoting Scriptures that say the past is under Christ’s blood and that “everyone cheats before he is saved.”
All of these Scriptures could be applied, but which one should stand in that particular situation? I believe the Lord will give the senior leader the best wisdom in such matters.
Also, in that situation I was looking at things that others could not see or were not considering, such as this young man’s particular situation, his need to focus on his Bible studies rather than looking back, and the overall work of the Lord in the churches we are building and the future of that work. This is a reminder that a church leader often knows things and sees things that the average church member doesn’t. This is why the Lord’s people should let the Lord lead their pastors and not try to force the pastors to be under the authority of the people.
I would also suggest that you might not be able to serve with good conscience in every aspect of the church’s ministry, but you might still be able to remain a faithful member of the church. I know of members who have quit the music ministry or quit a Sunday School position because of issues that they could not with good conscience support, but they were able to remain faithful members of the church because it was the best church in their area and they were not in a position to relocate at the time.
3. If you are a man, don’t hesitate to approach the pastor if you perceive that something is wrong scripturally.
Not only is it acceptable to “prove all things” (1 Th. 5:21) and to act as a Berean to “search the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11), it is a spiritual duty to do so. God’s people are not to be simple or gullible. “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going” (Pr. 14:15).
The church is a body, and every member has an important function. The edification and protection of the body is a ministry of the entire body. The leaders have a special role in this, but every member is to contribute (“according to the effectual working in the measure of every part,” Eph. 4:11-16).
It has been said that the only thing that good men have to do to allow evil to prosper is to do nothing. That is true in the church. If the men stand idly by and allow the church to go into error, allow it to go down the slippery slope of spiritual compromise without protest, they are guilty before God and will give account for their role in the apostasy, which was their silence.
4. Women must be especially cautious in dealing with pastors.
Nowhere do we see that it is a woman’s job to correct pastors. In fact, they are forbidden to teach men.
“But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Ti. 2:12).
The only exception to this is when we see a woman working together with her husband in the informal context of the home.
“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly” (Acts 18:24-26).
Aquila and his wife Priscilla brought Apollos into their home and helped him come to a sound doctrinal stance. The Bible says “they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God,” referring both to Aquila and Priscilla. This is an example of a wife involved in informal teaching of the Bible in the home under her husband’s headship. As a newly saved 23-year-old Christian man, I was helped like this by a godly woman in the first church I joined. She had no authority in the church and had no teaching ministry to men as such, but she and her husband opened their home to young people and created a godly atmosphere for spiritual healing and discipleship. In that context, in casual conversation, she was able to help me and other young men by sharing favorite verses, describing her own experiences with the Lord, and recommending good reading material.
But this is not an example of a woman trying to correct a church leader. Apollos was a new Christian. He was not a church leader.
It is a man’s job to approach church leaders about matters that seem to be wrong.
Oftentimes women have written to me about spiritual matters and have tried to correct me about something they perceive to be wrong, and they will include their husband’s name on the email, but it is the husband who should deal with a preacher about such matters rather than the wife. If the husband is not willing to do this, the wife should keep silence. This is the principle we see in the following Scripture:
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Co. 14:34-35).
I don’t think it is wrong for a woman to recommend to a pastor or a preacher that he read some report or book or check out some web site, but that is as far as it should go, because she simply is not given permission in Scripture to correct leaders.
5. Be wise in how you approach the pastor about perceived problems or errors.
Always be respectful and kind. If you are upset, wait until you have calmed down and can deal with the matter in a godly way. An elder is not to be rebuked, but is to be entreated as a father (1 Ti. 5:1). This refers to elders in age as well as elders as a ministry position. (An elder, referring to a pastor, is to be rebuked only if he sins and the sin has been proven by witnesses 1 Ti. 5:19-20, and he should be rebuked in that context by proper representatives of the church, such as other elders or the deacons.)
Approach the pastor at the right time. For example, don’t try to talk to him just before he is scheduled to preach or just after he preaches or at some other time when he might be distracted. Make an appointment.
Approach the pastor to listen carefully and not only to talk. Approach the conversation with the mindset that you might be wrong about the matter and the willingness to hear another side.
6. Be sure that you are contending for clear Scriptural truth and not for your own preferences and opinions.
If I think that something is wrong in the church, I must ask myself, “Does the Bible plainly say that this is wrong or is this merely something that I personally do not like or agree with?” Many church problems arise because of personality conflicts and self-will and the attempt to exalt personal preference and tradition to the place of Scripture.
Romans 14 speaks to this issue. Here Paul is addressing those things about which the Bible does not speak in this dispensation. The two examples that he gives are dietary rules and holy days. These are things about which the New Testament faith is silent.
Unlike during the Mosaic dispensation, there are no laws in the New Testament about what we are to eat (1 Tim. 4:4-5). Likewise, there are no laws in the New Testament about keeping the sabbath and about maintaining certain holy festivals and special days after the Old Testament fashion.
Since the New Testament does not contain laws on these things, they are areas of Christian liberty. In such things, each believer is free to do as he sees fit before the Lord, but he cannot push his preferences on others and judge others according to his preferences.
The church member who has a problem with something in the church and disagrees with something the leaders are doing needs to ask himself if his thinking on the issue is based on clear Scripture or if it is based merely on his personal preference and human thinking.
7. Guard against allowing a church problem to poison your attitude toward the church as a divine institution.
This is similar to the previous point, but it deserves a separate paragraph. It is not uncommon for someone who discovers a serious and legitimate church problem, especially a sin or error on the part of the pastors, to become embittered against the church as a divine institution. Eventually he or she sees nothing but problems and errors in churches. Everything is wrong. We must be careful not to allow the devil to do this in our lives, and we resist it by counting the good things as well as the bad and by not forgetting that Christ is the one who established the church and made it the pillar and ground of the truth for this age (Matthew 1618; 1 Timothy 3:15). Consider Paul’s attitude toward the church at Corinth. In spite of its serious errors, he thanked the Lord for them on many points (1 Cor. 1:4-9; 2 Cor. 1:11, 14).
8. Keep your eyes focused on Christ rather than on men.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2).
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col. 3:1-4).
Some believers are said to carry permanent “spiritual scars” because of being in churches that are led by pastors that abuse their authority. Others leave church altogether and use this as their excuse. The problem in this is that such folk have their eyes upon and their trust more in men than on Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus will never disappoint us, but men will always disappoint us in one way or the other. Pastors are only imperfect men at their best. They make mistakes. They sin. They can be selfish and partial and shortsighted. They should live up to their calling, of course, but that doesn’t always happen.
9. Pray for your church, the pastors, and other church leaders.
“Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).
Pray much for your church and for the pastors and other spiritual leaders. Every preacher needs prayer. The apostle Paul constantly asked the people to pray for him. I am convinced that pastoring is the most difficult job in the world, and it cannot be done properly without God’s supernatural supply, and this supply is largely given in answer to prayer.
Effectual prayer does two things. It brings change, because God answers and works through it; and it also helps keep my heart tender toward those for whom I am interceding.
10. If you have a problem or question, go directly to the pastors or to the people involved.
Oftentimes I have discovered that my perception of a matter was wrong or that the information I had received was wrong or that I did not have all of the necessary information. By discussing a matter directly with those concerned right from the beginning, we can avoid coming to wrong conclusions and possibly causing strife over nothing.
11. Follow the “royal law.”
“If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well” (James 2:8).
Christ’s royal law teaches us to treat the church leaders with the same patience, kindness, and mercy by which I would want to be treated if I were in their place.
It is called the “royal law” because it is the law of the King of kings, and it is the law that permeates His kingdom.
12. Don’t forget that pastors have greater authority and greater responsibility in the church.
This bears repeating. It is something that has often helped me personally in my relationship with pastors.
The fact that the pastor has greater authority and responsibility means that pastors must make decisions that the average church member does not make and that they will answer to God for those decisions.
There is a time to leave a church over things that are seriously wrong, but we must also learn to put many things into the hands of the Lord and do what He has told us to do, which is to submit to the church leadership and be a blessing and be fruitful and seek to glorify Christ. Each church member needs to focus on his own part.
Don’t confuse your job with that of the pastor. As a non-pastor, you don’t have the work of the pastor (visiting the sick, burying the dead, being on call for any need, watching for souls, the care of the church, feeding and protecting the church, bearing the brunt of the devil’s attack against the church).
As a non-pastor, you also do not have the responsibility of the pastor. He will give account for more (James 3:1). This has helped me many times when I have not agreed with some decision that the pastors have made. I have laid the matter before the Lord and told the Lord that though I do not agree with this decision, it is not my decision to make and I will leave the matter in His hands and do my part to be a blessing to His church.
ABOVE ALL, YOU SHOULD GIVE FULL ATTENTION TO YOUR OWN SPIRITUAL LIFE.
No matter how strong or weak the church itself might be, the believer’s first priority is his or her own Christian life and home.
What I recommend is that each believer focus like a laser on taking everything to a new and much higher level in his or her own spiritual life and home.
It is right to critique the church by God’s Word and not to blindly accept what is happening, but the first question I need to ask is what am I doing to build up the church and to make it strong spiritually? How strong is my personal Christian life? My home? Am I perfectly faithful to prayer meetings and evangelistic programs? Do I pray for the church and its leaders earnestly and persistently? Have I rolled up my sleeves and found something to do in the house of God?
Seek a powerful revival in your own life, and that will have a mighty effect on your family and perhaps even your church.
Turn your eyes on Jesus. Set your affection on things above. With the old songwriter, heartily sing,
I’m pressing on the upward way,
New heights I’m gaining every day;
Still praying as I onward bound,
‘Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.’
Lord, lift me up, and let me stand
By faith on Canaan’s tableland;
A higher plane than I have found,
Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.
Following are suggestions toward this end:
Free up time for God (Eph. 5:16). Spiritual growth and progress requires freeing up more time for life’s most important business. As the old hymn says, it takes time to be holy:
Take time to be holy,
Speak oft with thy Lord;
Abide in Him always,
And feed on His Word:
Make friends of God’s children,
Help those who are weak;
Forgetting in nothing
His blessing to seek.
Take time to be holy,
The world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret
With Jesus alone:
By looking to Jesus
Like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct
His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy,
Let Him be thy guide,
And run not before Him
In joy or in sorrow
Still follow thy Lord,
And looking to Jesus,
Still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy,
Be calm in thy soul;
Each thought and each motive
Beneath His control;
Thus led by His Spirit
To fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted
For service above.
Bible study, prayer, witnessing, loving one’s wife, serving one’s husband, disciplining and training one’s children, and educating oneself in godly things require time. Lots of time. The growing, fruitful Christian is very wise about the use of time.
Fill up your life with God and His business. Have a single eye for the things of God (Mt. 6:22). This means to have only one Master, which is Christ (Mt. 6:24). It means to seek “first” the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Mt. 6:33).
Put away vain activities so you will have time for more important things (e.g., inordinate time spent on social media, video games, novels, inordinate amount of time spent on unprofitable talk - Pr. 14:23, sports). Even wholesome things must be weighed in the balance of God’s perfect will, so that my time is spent in the most profitable way possible. I think of a preacher who grew up near Kruger Wildlife Reserve in South Africa. He absolutely loves the park. It is a wholesome place to visit, and it is God’s amazing creation. But he told me that he has to be careful so that he doesn’t spend too much time there and thus neglect the ministry. This is a wise Christian.
Develop an appetite for the spiritual, for truth and righteousness. It is like weaning away from junk food. If I have a keen appetite for junk food, I won’t have an appetite for wholesome food, and the only way to get a new appetite is to leave off the junk. The same is true in the spiritual life. If I love fiction, I won’t love good doctrinal books. If I love to rush onto the Internet first thing in the day and allow my mind to be captivated by vanity, I won’t love to study the Word of God and meditate on it effectively.
Seek the Lord more passionately. The Christian life is a personal, intimate relationship with God. It is Christ in me (Col. 1:27). The believer is part of Christ’s bride and of His very body (Eph. 5:25-30).
Learn of Him (Mt. 11:28-30). Delight in Him (Psa. 37:4). Seek Him (Pr. 8:17; Jer. 29:13). Abide in Him (Jo. 15:5). Love Him (De. 6:4-5).
Become a more fruitful Bible student. Delight in it and meditate in it day and night (Psa. 1:2). Measure everything by it (1 Th. 5:21). Cast down every wrong imagination (2 Co. 10:5). We suggest the Effectual Bible Student, a 12 hour course on Bible study and Bible interpretation which is available for free from www.wayoflife.org. Carve out enough time in your daily schedule to become a serious Bible student. It is guaranteed to be a life-changing thing. Obtain and use the Bible study tools that we recommend in the Effectual Bible Student. Take a serious survey of the Bible, then proceed on to studying other Bible courses to steadily increase your knowledge of Scripture.
Become a more effectual prayer warrior. Nothing is more important in the Christian life than the Bible and prayer. Our course on prayer entitled An Effectual Prayer Life is scheduled for publication in August 2017.
Become a more effectual ambassador for Christ. Keep good gospel tracts with you and distribute them as you meet people and use that as a way to try to strike up a conversation about Christ. Keep a contact prayer list and pray for your contacts by name. Follow up on your contacts with phone calls and texts. Participate faithfully and heartily in any organized evangelism program in the church.
If you are a married man, seek and study to be a more effectual husband and father. Study this business and put into practice the things you learn.
If you are a married woman, seek and study to be a more effectual wife and mother.
Pursue holiness more diligently.
Pursue God’s will more diligently.
Pursue separation from the world more diligently.
We have published dozens of books and video materials to help God’s people in these pursuits, such as the following:
Advanced Bible Studies Series (the equivalent of a Bible Institute education)
The Discipling Church
The Effectual Bible Student
Holiness: Pitfalls, Struggles, Victory
Keeping the Kids: A Family Discipling Course
The Mobile Phone and the Christian Home and Church
One-Year Discipleship Course
Sowing and Reaping: A Course in Evangelism
Unshakeable Faith: A Christian Apologetics Course
Way of Life Encyclopedia of the Bible & Christianity
If you are passionately, 100% pursuing Christian growth and spiritual revival, you will have wisdom to make good decisions about church matters. You will have power in prayer to see God change things. You will have a godly spirit rather than a critical spirit. You will bear fruit before the Lord regardless of the condition of the church.
IN SOME CASES A NEW CHURCH CAN BE ESTABLISHED.
This is not a simple or easy matter. It is a difficult and dangerous situation not to be in a proper church.
It is dangerous spiritually because God has ordained that Christians be under the authority of duly constituted church leaders (Hebrews 13:7). They are to watch for our souls (Hebrews 13:17). They are to instruct us and protect us from error (Ephesians 4:11-14). They are to have the oversight over us (1 Peter 5:2).
It is not enough to say that Jesus Christ has the rule over my life. The Lord has ordained that God-called men have the rule over me under God. If God has not called me to be a church leader, then I am to be in submission to church leaders. There is no alternative in the will of God, except in certain abnormal situations in which there is no sound church and no possibility of starting one.
A New Testament church is not merely a group of believers meeting together to have a Bible study or to listen to a recorded sermon or an Internet broadcast. These things aren’t wrong, assuming the doctrine is sound, but that is not a church. A New Testament church must not only have proper doctrine, but also proper leadership, proper ordinances, and proper organization. The epistles to Timothy and Titus were Paul’s instructions on how to form New Testament churches. (See 1 Timothy 3:15; Titus 1:5.) Titus was ministering on the island of Crete and some had been saved. Naturally, these would have been meeting together for fellowship and teaching, but that was not enough. Titus was instructed to “set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city” (Titus 1:5). Some things were lacking, and those things had to do with duly qualified and ordained leadership and the proper organization of the assembly.
Not just anybody can start a church. Not just anybody can lead a church. It is probably the most difficult job in this world. First of all, this work is the work of a man. Second, it is the work of a God-called man. Third, it is the work of a biblically trained man (Titus 1:9). Fourth, it is the work of a qualified man according to God’s standards (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). Fifth, it is the work of a duly ordained man (Titus 1:5; Acts 14:23).
As we have seen, the normal scriptural pattern for church planting is for churches to start churches. That is the pattern that we see in Acts 13-14. The Holy Spirit called two men in the church at Antioch; the church ordained them; and they went out and started new churches in many places. This is the pattern for the entire church age.
If you don’t have such a man or men to lead a new church, you can only wait and pray earnestly that such will come to your community. I have no doubt that God has oftentimes sent men in answer to the prayers of godly saints who were discouraged with the existing churches and were beseeching the Lord for a biblically and spiritually strong church. I personally know of such cases.
Having acknowledged and even emphasized that there are no perfect churches and that one must sometimes endure things that one considers to be wrong, let me give a warning about staying in a compromised church, and that warning has to do with your family. If you have children and you stay in a compromised, worldly church, you will very likely lose your children either to a worldly form of Christianity (“rock and roll Christianity,” as I call it) or entirely to the world, meaning the children will reject Christianity entirely.
The bottom line is this: The church is the body of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 12:27) and the members must be added by the Holy Spirit. You must earnestly pray that God will add you to the church of His choosing, and then be faithful to that church and serve Jesus Christ through it. Put your eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of the church, not upon sinful, frail, imperfect men. Seek to be the most fervent, fruitful Christian you can be.
Ultimately, the individual believer must make these hard decisions with the Lord’s guidance.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
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