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I have been a church member for 58 years. I made a profession of faith at about age 11 and was baptized as a member of a Southern Baptist church in central Florida. I wasn’t saved. At age 23 I was born again and joined an Independent Baptist church, and I have been active in, ministering in, preaching in, and studying the church ever since.
As the house of God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Ti. 3:15), the New Testament church is the most important institution on the earth. But because of false teaching, human tradition, and spiritual compromise, the vast majority of churches are not what God intends the church to be. They really shouldn’t be called churches.
In America, Independent Baptist churches exploded in number in the 1970s and 1980s. That was their heyday, and I was there. But looking back, in my estimation Independent Baptist churches in general were never strong enough biblically. Typically, they have had significant weaknesses that have resulted in the “great collapse” we have witnessed in the 21st century. I have described the collapse and laid out some of the reasons in the free eBook Why Most Independent Baptist Churches Will Be Emerging within 20 Years, which was first published in 2011 and has been enlarged several times.
I am not discouraged. In fact, I am getting more encouraged all of the time. God is on the throne. Christ is alive, and the Bible still works. End-time apostasy does not render God’s Word ineffectual. The Spirit of God is still empowering the harvest (Ac. 1:8). Christ’s true churches are still golden candlesticks in His sight. Christ is still walking in the midst of His churches, still holding the angels of His churches in His right hand (Revelation 1). He who said, “I will build my church,” and, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations,” has promised, “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Mt. 16:18; 28:20). His Word cannot be broken, and those who set out to prove His Word by faith will not be disappointed, though that faith will surely be tested.
THE TYPE OF PREACHERS I AM PRAYING FOR
About two years ago, I began praying for God to raise up 1,000 special kind of preachers, men who can build and lead special kind of churches.
Sound, strong, fruitful churches are what the world desperately needs, but we won’t have such churches without the right men. It has been said, truly, that “everything rises and falls on leadership.”
Let me describe these men as I see them in Scripture: They are God-called men; biblically-qualified men; Christ-centered men of good Christian character and testimony; men who love their wives and disciple their children; well-trained men (in the Bible and in other issues facing the churches); studious men; men who are committed to God’s Word rather than human tradition; humble men who can work with a team of men as we see in Acts 13; men of faith; men of Spirit-wrought courage; men who fear God more than man; men who are not intimidated by any old boy’s network or preacher’s association or “camp”; men who are willing to walk alone if necessary for the truth’s sake; men of serious spiritual wisdom and discernment; men of passion for the truth, who esteem God’s precepts concerning all things to be right and hate every false way (Ps. 119:128); men of large vision and zeal for gospel preaching and world missions and church planting; men who are wise about salvation, understanding repentance and knowing that saving faith is always accompanied by a change in life; men who are careful about church membership; men who reprove and rebuke sin and error in a plain way; men who are ready and willing to exercise biblical discipline when necessary and will not draw back because of its difficulties; men who are hard workers; men who multiply themselves by training preachers; men who hate religious pragmatism for the evil thing that it is in God’s sight (e.g., making decisions about the ministry based on what “works” to produce a desired goal as opposed to making decisions based strictly on Bible truth).
These are not mythical men. I know men like this. We have the treasure of Christ in earthen vessels in this present life, and there is no perfection. If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves. But these are the type of preachers that are described in the Pastoral Epistles, and they are, therefore, the type of men that God wants for His churches today. Only God can make such men, but since He has instructed us to pray for laborers for the harvest, surely these are the type of laborers we are to pray for. “Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).
And since Christ has commanded that we pray this, surely God is ready to answer if we will be passionate about it. We don’t have to fret and wring our hands in helplessness against the apostasy of the times. There is a lot we can do to overcome.
THE TYPE OF CHURCHES I AM PRAYING FOR
I pray daily and fervently for the Lord to build strong churches. I pray for countries and regions in general, and I pray for specific towns and cities.
In a nutshell, I pray for churches that have qualified pastors and officers and teachers; churches that are exceedingly strong in the Bible, that build up the people in God’s Word in a very serious way, churches of real Bible students; churches that not only have Bible institutes, they are Bible institutes; pilgrim churches that are biblically separated from this filthy, foolish world; churches that build up holy homes to raise children to be disciples of Christ; churches that preach the gospel zealously but are very careful about salvation, looking for clear biblical evidence, even in children; churches that are wise and educated about the very fundamental issue of music and that are forthrightly rejecting sensual, worldly, and ecumenical music that is a bridge to the one-world church crowd; churches that practice biblical discipline in a godly, compassionate, but unabashed manner; praying churches; kind churches; churches that seriously disciple young people; churches that have a vision of training preachers and sending them out to start new churches; churches that multiply themselves; churches that support missionary works in far-flung places, not merely throwing a few dollars at them and barely (if at all) even reading their “prayer letters,” but churches that know their missionaries and really pray for them and love them in Christ as part of their extended spiritual families.
This is not a mythical type of church. It is what we see in Scripture. I know of churches like this. Not many, but I know some. This is the type of churches we are endeavoring to build. And I know of many churches that are going against the grain and are getting stronger, more biblical, more fruitful, which is exactly the opposite direction than most churches are moving.
For those who are interested, let me be more expansive about the type of churches that I am praying for God to multiply.
Churches with qualified leaders
- If a church’s leaders are not right, the church will not be right, so I am praying for churches with God-called, qualified leaders. The Bible emphasizes high qualifications for pastors. They must be right in their spiritual and moral testimony and right in their family life. They must be serious students of God’s Word and of everything else necessary to feed and protect the flock. They must be apt to teach and able to deal with false teachers and compromisers. They will not be ignorant of serious issues facing the churches, such as music. We described such men earlier.
Churches with a first love for Jesus Christ
- I am praying for churches that love Jesus Christ. This is a true, New Testament church, and nothing less is acceptable to God (Re. 2:4-5). Christ taught that no man can have two masters (Mt. 6:24). Man’s created purpose is that he love the Lord with all of the heart, soul, and might (De. 6:5; Mr. 12:30). Salvation is intended to bring man back into this sphere. God doesn’t save men so that they can go about their lives as they please. The redeemed are peculiar people, which means they are God’s purchased possession (1 Pe. 2:9), and they are to love Him and serve Him passionately. The believer has been bought with a price and is therefore to glorify God in the body and in the spirit (1 Co. 6:20). Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Tit. 2:14). This is true Christianity. This is the true disciple of Jesus Christ, and the Bible plainly teaches that these are the type of people, and no others, who are to make up a church congregation.
Churches that are careful about salvation
- I am praying for churches that are wise and careful in dealing with souls and not quick to pronounce people saved unless there is real evidence of the new birth, even in children (Mt. 18:3; 2 Co. 5:17; Tit. 1:16; 1 Jo. 2:3-4). They are churches that know that eternal security goes hand-in-hand with evidence (Joh. 10:27-28). They are churches that take the time to explain the gospel thoroughly and that wait patiently upon the Spirit of God to do the supernatural work of conviction and conversion. They are churches that preach repentance plainly and unapologetically (Lu. 13:3, 5; 24:47; Ac. 17:30; 21:20; 26:20; 2 Pe. 3:9), and look for the evidence of repentance that we see in Scripture.
Churches with biblical standards for members
- I am praying for churches that are careful about membership. They look carefully at the applicant’s salvation testimony, doctrinal soundness, and Christian zeal and faithfulness. I am praying for churches that have faithful members who conform to the pattern set in the first church in Acts 2:42, “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.” These are not churches in which a high percentage of the members are “Sunday morning only,” because, when measured biblically, “Sunday morning Christianity” is no Christianity at all. Such Christianity so-called is lukewarm at best, and Jesus Christ hates lukewarm (Re. 3:16). Who are we to accept lukewarm, when Christ hates it?
Churches that are strong in the Bible
- I am praying for churches that are strong in God’s Word, that have real biblical depth. They are churches that have strong preaching with reproof, rebuke, and exhortation, but also with doctrine, preaching that builds up the people in the Word of God so that they understand it and can interpret it for themselves and live it out in their daily lives (2 Ti. 4:2). They are churches with a strong Bible teaching ministry conducted by qualified, effectual teachers. They are churches that not only have Bible institutes, they are Bible institutes. They are churches that train the people to be serious, effectual Bible students, even the youth. They are churches that memorize Scripture and learn to meditate on Scripture day and night.
Churches with biblical standards for workers and teachers
- I am praying for churches that are wise and careful about appointing teachers and workers. They have biblical standards of spirituality, knowledge, ability, and faithfulness for every position, for God says that “it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). These are churches in which the pastors are not bending to the pressure to lower the standards as is happening everywhere today. They don’t have worldly people singing in the choir and ignorant people teaching Sunday School and deacons that miss prayer meetings to attend ball games. I am praying for churches that know that those who serve in ministry positions, whether usher or singer or Sunday School teacher, have an influence on the spiritual climate of the entire church by their testimonies and lifestyles and that it is better to have a few spiritually qualified workers than many unqualified ones.
Churches that function as a body
- I am praying for churches that know that the church is a body with many members (1 Co. 12:27), and that every member has an essential place and purpose in God’s will, a church that aims to build up every member to the highest spiritual level possible. They are churches that aim to obey Colossians 1:28, “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” They are churches that are geared to “the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).
Churches that are discipling churches
- I am praying for churches that produce true disciples of Jesus Christ. They are discipling centers, not entertainment centers. They are all about serious discipleship. This is reflected in every aspect of the church’s services and “program.” It is reflected in its calendar. It is reflected in its ministries to children and youth. It is reflected in its ministries to the elderly.
Churches with discipline
- I am praying for churches that exercise biblical discipline. In a sense, discipline is everything the church needs to do to obey Christ’s command to teach the saints “to observe all things” He has commanded (Mt. 28:19-20). A biblical church has a disciplined environment that produces disciples of Christ. This has been called constructive discipline and formative discipline. But here we are thinking about corrective discipline of sin and error, which is something that is widely neglected today. I am praying for churches that do not draw back in obeying Matthew 18:15-20 and 1 Corinthians 5 discipline, that understand that biblical discipline is godly love and are ready and willing to go against the grain of the age (Pr. 13:24; Heb. 12:6; Re. 3:19). They are churches that understand that “there must be also heresies [divisions] among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Co. 11:19).
Churches that are uncompromising about separation and love holiness
- I am praying for churches that are uncompromising about holiness and biblical separation, churches that are going against the tide of worldliness and compromise, churches in which the people live as holy pilgrims in an unholy world. These are churches that preach and apply and live out scriptures such as Ro. 12:1-2; 2 Co. 7:1; Eph. 5:11; 2 Ti. 2:22; Jas. 4:4; 1 Pe.1:14-16; 1 Jo. 2:15-17. These are churches that love sacred music and understand what sacred music is as opposed to fleshly, worldly music. They are not playing around with and “adapting” contemporary music while pretending to be opposed to it. They are churches where the pastor understands sacred music and educates himself about music and doesn’t make the excuse that he is ignorant. They are not churches that preach a mere external separation that produces hypocrites, but they preach separation as foremost a heart matter (1 Ti. 2:9-10; 1 Pe. 3:2-4). These are churches where separation is emphasized in the preaching and teaching and where holiness and separation is lived out in the homes and reflected in the lives of the youth. These are churches that are separating from pastors who have committed themselves to a compromised path and a contemporary philosophy, even if they are still called Baptist or Fundamentalist or whatever, and even if they still pretend to be faithful to God’s Word. These are churches that aren’t deceived by mere lip service, that understand that continued ministry affiliation with compromising preachers brings destructive influence that will harm the church, if only a little in this present generation, then a lot in the next.
Churches that build godly homes
- I am praying for churches in which the church and the home work together in harmony to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission. These are not family churches; they are churches that minister to families and do not hinder the biblical function of the family. But they are churches and not merely groups of families. They are neither “segregated” nor “integrated.” They are simply biblical churches that train parents to build godly homes and to disciple their children, churches that train parents that the children belong to God (Eze. 18:4) and are loaned to parents to raise for God’s glory. These are churches that know that it is the church that is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Ti. 3:15) and that the church has a commission from Jesus Christ to teach God’s people “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20).
- I am praying for churches that have Christ’s love, churches that love people. They love the lost; they love the saints; they love children; they love young people; they love old people. These are the churches that are described in the following Scripture: “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-16). These are churches like the one I joined 45 years ago after being saved out of a druggie “hippie lifestyle,” that loved me and was patient with me and helped me to grow spiritually and begin to get my feet on solid biblical ground.
- I am praying for churches that are praying churches, churches that are full of real prayer warriors. They are churches in which the members are eager to attend prayer meetings instead of finding excuses to stay away, a church like the one at Jerusalem that “continued ... in prayers” (Ac. 2:42). They are churches that are engaged in intercessory prayer as an element of spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-20), churches that understand that there are demonic strongholds that “goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:21). They are churches that obey God’s command to pray for kings and those in authority and for laborers for the harvest (1 Ti. 2:1-5; Lu. 10:2), churches that pray for healing according to James 5. They are churches that pray a lot. They have real prayer meetings in which the people actually spend time praying, churches that have special prayer before special meetings, churches in which the homes are praying homes.
Churches that value women in a biblical way
- I am praying for churches that value women in a biblical and godly way. They are churches that recognize that women are equal to men in the Christ (Gal. 3:28), though they are distinct from men in their roles in this world; they are churches that understand that women are forbidden to teach or to usurp authority over the men (1 Ti. 2:11-14), but they are exceedingly valuable for the ministry and should be prepared and liberated for that ministry under the direction and authority of the pastors. A Phebe would be welcome in these churches (Ro. 16:1-2). A faithful Priscilla would be loved and honored in these churches as Paul loved and honored Priscilla of old (Ro. 16:3-5). I am praying for churches in which the ministry of Titus 2:3-5 is operating in a wise and godly and effectual fashion.
Churches that pursue serious training of youth
- I am praying for churches that are exceedingly focused on discipling youth. I’m not referring to a “youth ministry” that isolates young people from the adults and the families; I’m referring to a biblical ministry geared to youth. I am praying for churches that care little to nothing about entertaining young people, churches that refuse to be little more than a Christianized edition of the world. I am praying for churches in which the young people are dealt with seriously with the gospel and where everything possible is done to bring each young person to born again faith in Christ, churches which seek to make the young people effectual Bible students, churches in which the young people are taught not to be conformed to the world so they can find that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. These are churches in which youth meetings are not fun and games with a veneer of Bible; they are forums of serious Bible teaching and discipling. I am praying for churches that have some success in seeing the young people serve Christ with a pure heart and a joyful spirit as pilgrims in a strange land, young people who think differently, act differently, dress differently, and plan differently from the world.
Churches with a strong gospel and missionary vision
- I am praying for churches that are zealous and aggressive in evangelism, that aim to get the gospel to every soul in the community and as far beyond as possible. They are churches that are geared to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission of world evangelism, churches that reproduce themselves by training preachers and sending out missionaries. They are churches that have missions conferences, not out of tradition, but out of a passionate, growing vision to reach the world for Christ.
Churches that know the times
- I am praying for churches that know the times. They study, love, and understand Bible prophecy. They know that this is the time of end-time apostasy and they understand the implications of that. They know that the hour is late. They recognize that Israel’s presence back in her land and the plans to build the Third Temple are major signs of the times.
Churches that are growing and fruitful
- I am praying for churches that are growing and fruitful. They might not be large churches, but they are growing. They might not be growing very quickly, but they are growing and not dying. They are growing spiritually and growing numerically. Souls are being saved; lives are being changed. Homes are making spiritual progress. Growth is influenced by a church’s location, and the growth might be slow at times, but in the churches for which I am praying, there is growth.
WHAT IF THERE IS NO STRONG CHURCH?
If you have read this and would be thrilled to be a part of such a church and are qualified to be part of such a church, but there is no such church within commuting distance, there are still things you can do. We have dealt with this extensively and practically in the free eBook What If There Is No Strong Church?, which is available from Way of Life Literature.
FOR MORE ABOUT THIS SUBJECT, WE RECOMMEND THE FOLLOWING:
The Discipling Church
Steps toward a Stronger Church for the 21st Century
The audio files for “Steps toward a Stronger Church” can be accessed at the following page -
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