Believers best defend the faith by turning the Bible loose through careful, accurate and patient teaching. Ultimately this becomes an issue of biblical anthropology: how do you view man? Is he able to fully comprehend and judge facts as if The Fall (Genesis 3) had no affect upon him?
Here’s what I mean. God created everything in the universe and His imprint is seen everywhere in creation because everything came from His hand. But Romans 1:18-23 teaches that man’s problem is not a lack of evidence.
Man’s problem instead is the cognitive, moral deficiency to correctly interpret what he sees. Romans 1:18-23 says that man suppresses the truth displayed in creation/natural revelation and he rejects its message of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20) so that all men “are without excuse” (Romans 1:20). Unbelieving humans reject what creation reveals to them.
From Voice, Jan/Feb 2015. Used by permission.
I have always found it compelling that in the letter designed to instruct Timothy in how to be a pastor of a local church, the first and last words had to do with defending the faith. At the epistle’s beginning, Paul instructed Timothy to guard the truth in opposition to false teachers (1 Timothy 1:3), and at the epistle’s ending, Paul commanded Timothy to guard the truth that was committed to his trust (1 Timothy 6:20).
In his exhortation to the Ephesian elders, Paul urged them to guard the flock of God from false teachers (Acts 20:28-30). Peter warned against false teachers who would secretly bring in destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1-3) and who would mock God’s promises (2 Peter 3:3-4); he cautioned his readers to beware and not fall into the error of the wicked (2 Peter 3:17). Jude commanded us to contend earnestly for the faith against false teachers who would attempt to creep into our churches unnoticed (Jude 3-4). And the Lord Jesus taught about the nature of our Adversary who would seek to destroy God’s work in the lives of people (Matthew 13:19) and to deceive everyone possible through his implanted agents (Matthew 13:36-43).
Defending the faith is an essential part of the ministry of pastors and churches!
A two-fold assumption is often evident when believers are evaluating the effectiveness of churches, ministries, movements, and denominations. The assumption is, first, that the Great Commission is the standard of measurement and, second, that effectiveness is measured by the number of people who are hearing the gospel or are being brought into worship services.
Certainly it’s exciting whenever thousands or tens of thousands are gathering for worship and hearing the gospel. If they’re doing so in multiple locations linked by cutting edge video technology—well, many of us see that as progress into a new and wonderful future for the body of Christ.
But, to understate, exciting and wonderful in our estimation is not always exciting and wonderful in God’s—even when our hearts are in the right place. Four principles argue that if we’re going to evaluate churches, ministries, and movements in a way that approximates God’s evaluation, we’ll have to consider more than the Great Commission, understood as number of souls reached.
Yes, Minnesota has a gigachurch. The baffled reaction of most hearers notwithstanding, it’s true.
For the unconversant, a “gigachurch” is one with average weekly attendance of at least 10,000. The United States has about fifty in total; about half of the states have none. Churches that reach this size frequently have wide-ranging reputations, with many people near and far at least cognizant of the church’s existence. In contrast, mentioning Minnesota’s gigachurch often triggers perplexed looks even from long-time Minnesotans. Yet this church is perhaps America’s 12th largest, with average weekly attendance currently twice the gigachurch threshold.
Over this past summer I became drawn to discover who this inconspicuous colossus is. And so a fascinating journey began.