Church messengers from all across the country convened on Wednesday, June 29, to attend the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches’ national association 2016 business meeting. Among other actions, the association adopted the following resolutions.
The messengers of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches, meeting together in regular conference June 28—July 1, 2016, at Harvest New Beginnings in Oswego, Illinois,
Believing that the Old Testament Scriptures are rich in teaching concerning Christ (Luke 24:27; John 5:39), regarding such topics as His incarnation, death, resurrection, glory, Messiahship, kingship, and much more,
Rejoicing in the privilege of preaching, teaching, and proclaiming the Old Testament in the light of Christ and New Testament revelation,
We must ask ourselves this critical question: “What brings us the most pleasure?” As we have already pointed out, most often we answer the question based upon personal affirmation and ministry success. Those events and accomplishments that serve to affirm our value and worth bring us joy. We experience greater personal satisfaction when people appreciate our efforts and our activities accomplish significant results. Let’s be honest, Monday morning is always brighter if our attendance was up on Sunday and people were complimentary. While these are nice, the problem is that these things are not always present. However, when we look at the early apostles, the basis for their joy differed radically from ours. We find our joy in what we accomplish in ministry; they found their joy in the ministry itself. We find our joy in the results of service; they found their joy in the act of service. The difference is enormous.
Imagine standing before a newly planted tree. For the first several years, we see rapid growth; but after a number of years, the tree seems to stop growing. In the first few years, we could measure the height of tree and measure the growth by feet. But as the years go by, the rapid upward growth slows and even seems to stop. Year after year we look at the tree and see little, if any, growth. However, reality often differs from perception. What we perceive to be the periods of little growth is actually when the tree grows the most. The greatest growth in the volume of board feet comes when the tree becomes so large it no longer appears to be growing.
So it is with the spiritual growth of people. When a person first experiences the redemption of Christ, the transformation is both dramatic and highly visible. But as time goes on, it seems as though people become stagnant with little growth occurring. However, what we fail to realize is that God is still at work within the individual.
When we encounter trials and difficulties, ministry can soon become a burden. Instead of the joy, we wonder if ministry is a curse that we must endure. However, for the apostles, the call to ministry was the greatest privilege that could be given. It is not an accident that the writers of the New Testament refer to the service of God as a “gift.” But the word “gift” is more than something given without cost. Paul uses the same word to both describe the incredible gift of our salvation (Romans 6:23) and to describe the spiritual gifts we have received to serve him (Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 12:28). In contrast to a wage which someone gives based upon the merit of the recipient, a person gives a gift freely, and it demonstrates the benevolence and loving character of the giver.
From Voice magazine, May/June 2016. Used by permission.
You started ministry enjoying the calling given by God to those who shepherd his flock. You enjoyed communicating God’s Word each week. You fell in love with the people. Every week you rejoiced that God would enable you to give your life to the very thing you love.
With time, however, the struggles mount and the discouragements continue such that ministry soon moves from a joy-filled activity to little more than a duty thrust upon you. You begin to see ministry as merely a task to perform rather than also a privilege and calling from God. While Paul saw ministry as a gift graciously given to him (Ephesians 3:7), when going through trials in ministry you begin to wonder if it is a curse. You soon lose the joy of ministry. But is that God’s intent? Did he call you to do something where there is no joy in the task? Are you to begrudgingly go about the day “suffering for Jesus” with the hope that you will only experience the joy of Christ in the eschatological future?
God calls every believer to teach His Word to others at a grassroots level. To motivate and equip them to do this, He provides pastors. These are responsible to “hold nothing back,” devoting themselves to ministry in two venues: public gatherings and private settings (Acts 20:20). While both settings are necessary, it seems that prevailing Western models favor public gatherings over more personal settings. Perhaps this imbalance hinders our efforts to engage people in ministry.
We work hard at our public gatherings. Pulpit style. Stage lighting. Usher training. Multimedia presentations. Music of all kinds: congregational, choral, instrumental, solo, ensemble, instrumental and choral. Service orders and liturgies. Invitations (or not). Announcements. Special events. Dramatic interpretations. Guest speakers. Sound systems and auditorium acoustics. We give attention to all these things and more.
But do we give equal or adequate attention to the other important ministry setting? Do we devote ourselves to connecting with believers in personal settings to the same degree? Church ministry that occurs only (or primarily) at a central church building misses a key element of the “hold nothing back” approach that Paul emulates.
Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead, (Acts 10:40-41)
If we only focus on the Cross, without the resurrection, then we have a dead Savior—who isn’t a Savior at all. If we don’t have a risen Savior, we don’t have victory over Satan, a perfect mediator between us and God, forgiveness, reconciliation, adoption into God’s family, the promise of eternal inheritance, the promise of eternal life, the promise of His second coming or the promise of a new earth in a new creation. In short, we have nothing at all.
Jesus rose from the dead—it’s part of the gospel, and people need to know about this and the cross of Calvary! God raised Him from the dead. God showed Him openly and plainly to the people. Peter and the others even ate and drank with Him—what more simple and forceful proof could there even be for His real resurrection? He wasn’t a spirit, an apparition or a ghost—He was flesh and blood, come back to life from the dead!