Along with a deep burden for equipping families, the past several years my heart has longed for a return to the basics in relation to doing church. Not only do we need to simplify our structure, but we need to ask even more basic questions like,
What are the foundational pillars we cannot do without?
What is the main thing?
What is church really to be about?
It became obvious to me that the modern church can easily become enthralled with the wrong thing.
Personalities and pressure tactics often replace the Holy Spirit.
Entertainment, focused on the individual, replaces worship, focused on God.
Therapy replaces the ministry of teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training.
Making people happy and reducing conflict replace spiritual formation.
The centrality of the Word of God is minimized by sermons characterized by popular psychology, light and fluffy talks, and an obsession with creativity.
The latest fad and/or a dependence upon video, lighting, props, and handouts can be given more attention than calling on the name of the Lord for the anointing of the Holy Spirit and His deep work of revelation, conviction, and illumination. In this shift, “cool” can replace “conviction.”
Walter Kaiser writes, "It is no secret that Christ's Church is not at all in good health in many places. She has been languishing because she has been fed "junk food"; all kinds of artificial preservatives and unnatural substitutes have been served to her. As a result, theological and Biblical malnutrition has afflicted the very generation that has taken such giants steps to make sure its physical hearth is not damaged."
One book I have been reading the past six months is Charles Swindoll’s The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal. He challenges Christians to carefully examine their practices in light of the fact that many churches have drifted far from biblical truth and biblical preaching-teaching and instead are driven by entertainment, personalities, and therapy. Swindoll calls churches to radically return to the four pillars from Acts 2:42 that should mark any church: Bible preaching-teaching, worship, prayer, and fellowship.
He writes, In this one verse we have the lowest common denominator of a church. This is ground zero. It would help greatly if God’s people would remind themselves of this single verse every day. This verse is not only descriptive of what the early church did; it is prescriptive of what all churches must do.
Teaching is not the same as mere talking, or reading poetry, or motivational speaking. A church must continually be devoted to the teaching of the sacred Scriptures. Teaching God’s truth gives a church deep roots that provide nourishment and stability. Fellowship referred to close, mutual relationships where people share things in common and remain involved with one another. Koinonia represents close relationships that involve sharing life with one another – the bad times as well as the good. The breaking of bread refers to the Lord’s Table. An acceptable, all-inclusive term would be worship. For a church to be the kind of church Jesus promised to build, there must be worship. Finally, they devoted themselves to prayer. They spent time as a body adoring their Lord, confessing their sins, interceding for others, petitioning God to provide, and thanking Him for His blessings – just as Jesus had taught them to pray.
You can’t have a church if you take away any of the four essentials. You can have more than these four, but you cannot have less and still be a church. And if you have more – and most churches do – those things added must never contradict or obscure the importance of the essentials. When they do, count on it, erosion occurs.
There is a void of biblical, text-driven preaching in many pulpits today. As a result, there is a void of biblical disciples. It has been said well that a fog in the pulpit will result in a mist in the pew. Adrian Rogers, who some call the greatest American preacher of his generation, explained one time that there are three types of sermons: topical (when a certain topic drives the message), textual (when one verse of Scripture is preached), and expository (or text-driven, when a text is taught verse by verse, idea by idea, chapter by chapter). Rogers said that there is a place for all three preaching-types, but that 90% of a preacher’s messages should be expository. Or, text-driven preaching should be the pastor’s bread and butter. The way the Word of God is handled in the pulpit is the way the Word of God will be handled in the lives of the hearers.
People need to know that when they come to church, they will hear from a man who has a fresh word from God – not just from the books he has been reading or sermons from the internet. But from a man who has been alone with the Lord, who has prepared that sermon on his knees with an open Bible, who has been anointed by the Spirit of the Lord, and in whose heart the Word of the Lord burns like a fire wanting to get out. There is still a famine for hearing the very words of God.
John MacArthur writes to pastors, "The failure to preach expositionally and doctrinally is inexcusable. It can only be attributed to ignorgance of, or indifference to, the implications of an inerrant, God-breathed Scripture. God gave His Word to His people, and He expects His undershepherds to feed it to them. Only when truly biblical preaching resumes its rightful place in the church will the church regain its spiritual strength and power. It is the preacher's privilege and awesome responsibility to be a part of that process."
Jesus said that we should live not by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And the apostle Paul charged pastor Timothy, “Preach the Word.”