Friday, December 31, 2010

The Gospel: Never Assume

Over the past year or so, our church's leadership team has been seeking God for future vision and direction for Lolo Community Church. We have prayed, we have spent the weekend together, we have discussed and boiled down ideas to the point that we have what we feel is a God-given plan that will give focus, clarity and intentionality to our church's ministry.

As the pastor of the church, I have found myself (appropriately so) in the middle of this discussion. I am pretty well versed in our new mission and vision document and feel pretty confident that I can explain it clearly to anyone who asks. But sometimes familiarity breeds, if not in this case contempt, at the very least complacency.

As many of you who are familiar with Lolo church know, our “unofficial” motto has been “Where the Bible is preached.” Strong Bible preaching drove Pastor Gale Fister's ministry here for 40 years and I hope strong Bible preaching is a vital part of my ministry as well as God uses me to build on the foundation He laid through Gale's faithfulness. As a result, in our vision and mission discussions this past year, on the first things that came up was the need to reaffirm our commitment to being biblical in all we do and staying true to God's word.
That has been a given, an assumption throughout my almost 20 years of ministry. But every once and a while even your strongest convictions, your strongest assumptions need to be shaken and challenged a bit.
A few weeks ago, I began reading The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander. In that book the authors challenge pastors never to be slow in preaching the gospel and to never assume that your congregation has a rudimentary assumption of the gospel and the Christian life. They write:

“...when we assume the Gospel instead of clarifying it, people who profess Christianity but don't understand or obey the Gospel are cordially allowed to presume their own conversion without examining themselves for evidence of it – which may amount to nothing more than a blissful damnation.” (The Deliberate Church - p. 43)

When we preach, teach or share our faith, we cannot assume that people understood either the truths of the gospel or their need to respond to it. After all, as Jeremiah reminds us, the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9) – we are good at lulling ourselves into a sense of spiritual comfort and complacency. The gospel needs to be central to ministry. Above all, our task is to win people with the gospel.

“What you win them with is likely what you'll win them to. If you win them with the Gospel, you'll win them to the Gospel. If you win them with technique, programs, entertainment and personal charisma, you might end up winning them to yourself and your methods (and you might not!), but it's likely that they won't be won to the Gospel first and foremost. “For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond servant for Jesus' sake.” (2 Cor. 4:5)” (The Deliberate Church - p. 44)
Well said, brothers!

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