As a local church evangelist, I have the privilege and and opportunity to be in many churches. Over the years, my heart has become increasingly burdened regarding the overall state of affairs among pastor and people in our churches. I have witnessed in many churches a condition that I call "maintenance ministry" rather than "moving forward ministry" among many pastors and their people. I offer this assessment not as a criticism but rather as a concern that must be addressed or else this dangerous and unscriptural pattern will become the norm and accepted in our local churches. From my observations, this "maintenance ministry" rut has befallen many a pastor in our local churches today, and therefore, many a church member has been infected with the same virus. As a former pastor of three churches over a twenty year period, I know the temptation is real to grow comfortable, complacent, and even cold regarding the vision of what Almighty God can do through my life and ministry.
I describe this "maintenance ministry" as a view on the part of many a pastor to minister the Word, maintain the programs, and manage the problems in their local churches to the neglect of instigating and instilling a vision in both themselves and their people to reach their communities for Christ and to experience lost souls added to the kingdom of God. I don't believe we are commanded to perform the Great Commission, but rather, we are called to accomplish it! Matthew 28:18-20 starts with Jesus saying to His disciples, "All power is given unto me in heaven and earth" and ends with Him saying, "and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." To me, the words of our Lord in this passage negate our unwillingness to perform the Great Commission and challenge us to accomplish it with passion and vision.
In Malachi 1:1 we find, "The burden of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi." To me, true pastoral ministry must start and end with "the burden of the word of the LORD." From my viewpoint, this burden of the Word of the Lord consists of the call to preach, a compelling desire, and the command to obey. We preachers readily yield to the call to preach and the command to obey. But we often fail to fan the flame of compelling desire in our hearts to reach the lost and disciple new believers. Didn't the Apostle Paul emphasize his compelling desire in the ministry of the Word when testifying in II Corinthians 5:13-15 with the following words, "For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause. For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but him which died for them, and rose again?" The burden of the Word of the Lord should create a compelling desire in both pastor and people to not live unto themselves, but unto Christ with a passion and vision to reach lost souls.
Duncan Campbell, in his book, The Price and Power of Revival, makes the following assertion, "There is a place beyond consecration, there is a place beyond sanctification, and that is the place of implicit confidence in God." Dear pastor and people, could it not be that we have reached a plateau in our own sanctification and settle for a "maintenance ministry" in our local churches and failed to "move forward" for the cause of Christ in our community? Let's allow the promises as recorded in Ephesians 3:20-21 to cause us to repent and "move forward" in the reaching of lost souls. "Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen"
"Behold, all souls are mine; (Ezekiel 18:4)
God lays claim to the title rights of every human body. No person, neither one who has trusted Jesus Christ as personal Savior, nor one who has rejected Him, can lay claim to his or her own body. God is the owner of every human being as demonstrated in Genesis 2:7; “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul.” God further claims ownership of every person when He states in Isaiah 57:16, “and the souls which I have made.” Additionally, God declares in Ezekiel 18:4 that, “Behold, all souls are mine.”
To trespass against, violate, or usurp God’s right to our bodies brings the just condemnation of God. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” In Hebrews 2:2, God says that those who disobeyed His Word, “received a just recompence of reward.” The height of human foolishness and arrogance is to say, it’s my body; I can live in it, and do with it as I please. As stewards of the bodies which Almighty God has given us, He holds us accountable to bear His image and glorify Him in all matters of human sexuality. Fraudulent use of the bodies which He has given us is warned against in Galatians 6:7-8, “Be not deceived’ God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth of the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”
Therefore, the high court of our land, the liberal media, infidel politicians, and the apostate church have all trespassed against God’s right to ownership of the human body when espousing the sexual perversion and individual licentiousness sweeping our land. It has been said, that what one generation will tolerate, the next one will embrace. In America, it appears that we have crossed that threshold. No true believer should compromise on God’s ownership of the human body and the honorable deportment of such. We, of all people know we are not our own. Having been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we are to glorify God in body and spirit, which are God’s. Our biblical mandate from God is found in Ephesians 5:11-13, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.”
May both preachers ordained of God and saints of the Lord Jesus Christ resist the social pressure to tolerate the evil of self-ownership in these last days. We preachers, must live above reproach in our moral conduct, and all saints must zealously surrender to the admonition found in Ephesians 5:3 “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you.” The god of compromise and apostasy lies hidden in self and our own rights. Let us stand for the truth with our testimony being “We are not our own” for the honor and glory of God!
“For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness.” (I Thessalonians 2:5)
I have seen over the past several years a professional pulpiteerism that is both nauseating and disgusting to endure. This type of preaching has not Christ and the gospel at the center, but rather self,
achievement, and money. The Independent Baptist churches are not exempt; instead they seem to be birthing the growing ranks of preachers given over to it. Preaching of this sort exalts self either
consciously or subconsciously and is adept at making appeals for the necessity of money for ministry purposes. This professional pulpiteerism sheds a negative light on the character and ministry of our
Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible’s model preacher. It brings defilement to those who practice and accept it, inoculating the church against any intervention of the Holy Spirit both individually and corporately. Dearly
beloved, beware of it and run from it, using the Apostle Paul’s letters to identify it and “all the counsel of God” as the only standard of measurement for godly preaching. This type of preaching may be sound doctrinally, dynamic in delivery, and true to the gospel message, yet it subtly adapts to the arena in
which it gets opportunity with financial means as an underlying motive. The preacher who either makes or allows the pulpit to be his profession can be a pastor, an evangelist, or a missionary. God help us to escape
from our ranks and to find preaching in the fashion of Christ and his pulpit ministry. The man called to preach by God, and to stand in the pulpit in the house of God, is just that ---Called of God! God has
ownership of him; God will take care of him, and provide for him. God wants him to be a man that cannot be bought, and money cannot dictate his theology or be the motive for his ministry. Paul, as stated in the verse above, said, “For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness.” Paul and Silas had gone into Macedonia on his second missionary journey preaching the gospel in Thessalonica with folks getting saved and baptized, and a local church being established. Notice carefully that in expressing his pure motives for preaching, Paul vehemently repudiates the use of flattering words and a cloak of covetousness. He made no attempt to take the Word of God and
deceitfully appeal to his hearers nor did he use material gain as his ambition. Paul openly declared that “God is witness” with a clear conscience and utter transparency. The godly preacher who exalts Christ in his own heart and denies self with no affection for material gain will do the same.
James N. Spurgeon’s poem titled “Job or Ministry” is a good template for identifying the preacher who is sold out for Christ and Him alone.
A job is your choice;
a ministry is at Christ’s call.
In a job you expect to receive;
in a ministry you expect to give.
In a job you give something to get something;
in a ministry you return something
That has already been given to you.
a job depends on your abilities;
A ministry depends on your availability to God.
A job well done brings you praise;
a ministry done well brings
honor to God.
The Preacher of preachers, Jesus Christ, offered the greatest example of a godly preacher with the following attributes:
1. “For your sakes he became poor…” (II Corth 8:9) 2. “[He] made himself of no reputation…” (Phil 2:7) 3. “…yet learned He obedience by the things which he suffered; (Heb 5:8)” The pulpit ministry should always
be an honorable representation of Him in manner, message, and motive.
In I Kings 18:24, Elijah the prophet of God challenges the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of the grove, to call on the name of their gods. Then, Elijah proclaims that he "will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God." There is a pandemic today among preacher and people alike in our churches representative of Elijah's reproof to all the people gathered on Mount Carmel of "How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him." This reproof of God's people, Israel, found in I Kings 18:21 ends in sad commentary, "And the people answered him not a word."
Thank God, the prophet of God didn't settle for silence and inactions. Thank God, and I say many times over that Elijah took the bullock by the horns', pun intended, and challenged all assembled there with an indictment of their indifference by thundering "the God that answereth by fire, let him be God." It is my observation that many a preacher and the people in churches where I preach have dwarfed God into a midget of their own making, with unbelief, self-sufficiency, and blatant indifference. Consequently, revival tarries and apathy grows among believers, advancing the church to a showdown with the devil in which God seems to be relegated to a mere bystander. The outcome is frightening to consider, for the church and America as a whole, should this spiritual malady continue.
There is hope with God, however, and He is ever merciful toward those who truly repent and return unto Him. A solemn and sincere surrender to the edicts of God as found in Jeremiah 6:16 justifies this appraisal of hope and mercy with God. "Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein." But, the pastors and leadership in our churches must stand up and be counted with God. Dr. Lee Roberson is quoted as saying, "Everything rises and falls upon leadership." Throughout my 39 years of both pastoring and local church evangelism, I've learned and exercised a conviction that leadership makes all the adjustments. Thank God Elijah did not consider his own neck when confronted by the wicked King Ahab, but brought the apostasy and apathy of God's people to a conflict on Mount Carmel.
Tacked on the wall of the home of a young African pastor was a sheet of paper that reads:
My Commitment as a Christian
I'm part of the fellowship of the unashamed.
I have Holy Spirit Power. The die has been cast.
I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made.
I'm a disciple of His. I won't look back,
let up, slow down, back away, or be still.
My past is redeemed, my present makes sense,
and my future is secure. I'm finished and done
with low living, sight-walking, small planning,
smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions,
mundane talking, cheap living and dwarfed goals.
Dear preacher and people in our churches, may we share the same commitment as this African pastor. Let us not be guilty of "when all is said and done, more is said than done!" May we get out of the way and let Almighty God be God!
"Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
Thou will revive me:" (Psalm 138:7a)
The word of God predetermines the candidate or the one who is eligible for personal revival. To 'revive' means to nourish up, preserve, quicken, or restore. A person in need of revival finds himself or herself in a fallen state due to unconfessed sin, excessively heavy burdens, or a prolonged period of unbelief concerning the will of God. Although a person can pray, confess sin, and seek God's face, they may not yet be a candidate for revival.
So many of us, preachers included, put up a stiff barrier against God's intervention in our lives and expect Him to meet with us on our terms. Pride or self-consumption either puts us above the need for personal revival, or our close examination of others causes us to view them as better candidates for God's intervention.
For others, the effort is made to pacify ourselves with a week of special meetings intended to give us an emotional boost or spiritual jolt for the work of God. We would do well to take heed to the edict of God proclaimed in Isaiah 55:7-9, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."
The person who is a sincere candidate for revival understands and submits to the qualification set forth in Isaiah 57:15 "For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and revive the heart of the contrite ones." Let us be careful to note that God promises to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.
My friend, God blesses and uses 'broken things' but not partially broken things. He intends to break us into 'pieces', so that when we allow Him to put us back together He might get all the glory. Please be reminded that in Isaiah 48:11 God gives the following warning to Israel, "I will not give my glory to another." The renowned evangelist Charles Finney proclaimed revival to be a "renewed conviction of sin and repentance, followed by an intense desire in obedience to God. It is giving up one's will to God in deep humility."
The real candidate for revival finds themself in the crucible of testing and the furnace of fire by the hand of Almighty God. If we submit to God's purging we can experience the truth of Proverbs 25:4, "Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer."
Do you really want revival?
Do you really want God's power?
Do you really want His Spirit to control your life this hour?
Oh, repent and turn to Jesus,
Seek His face and humbly pray;
Do you really want revival?
Are you willing to obey?
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart,
O God, though will not despise" (Psalm 51:17)
"In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple." (Isaiah 6:1)
In this election year, a dim and dark forecast hangs over the future of America. As we consider the moral breakdown and the spirit of anarchy permeating every aspect of our society, we can empathize with David when he asked in Psalm 11:3, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" Additionally, David proclaimed in Psalm 119:126, "It is time for thee, Lord, to work: for they have made void thy law."
In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw also the Lord. The death of King Uzziah was a national calamity. He had been a good king. He had sought the Lord, and the Lord had prospered him. He had defeated the enemies of Judah, improved living conditions, and built up national defense. Undoubtedly, his untimely death overwhelmed many in Judah and created a sense of trepidation concerning the future of the nation. However, Isaiah saw also the Lord! The crucial point here is that the man of God was captivated by a vision of the Lord, and it changed his perspective of the Lord, himself, and the nation. Isaiah allowed the Lord to deal with his heart in light of the national calamity confronting Judah when King Uzziah died.
As Americans, we're facing the apparent death of many of our liberties and rights afforded us by our founding forefathers when they drafted the United States Constitution. During this election year, we believers as a whole are definitely facing a national crisis. We must allow ourselves to be confronted by the Lord. Instead of centralizing our focus on the election, concentrating on the candidates, and contemplating the outcome we must see also the Lord. The key is that Isaiah saw also, the Lord, meaning the Lord Jesus Christ wants, demands, and deserves first place in our lives in view of the present day condition and circumstances we're facing in America during this election year. The word also better describes the pre-eminence of the Lord in our lives, rather than a national crisis in leadership confronted by a nation. After all, Daniel 2:21 states the following concerning our great Sovereign God: "And he changeth the times and seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding."
So therefore, as we consider the crisis we're facing during this election year and beyond, may I ask, "Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid, does your all the Spirit control", as the songwriter so aptly puts it? The also of Isaiah 6:1 must point us toward the Lord and not toward the crisis, candidates, or the election. May we not fall into the characterization later proclaimed in Isaiah 64:7, "And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and consumed us because of our iniquities." Let us identify with the petition of the Psalmist in 115:1, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake." In the year 2020, may we long to see also the Lord!
"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge:"
The fault for the lack of victorious Christian living experienced by many a professing believer today lies at the door of their unwillingness to "grow in grace", and in the knowledge of or Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," as referenced by II Peter 3:18. Please notice and understand that Peter exhorts the believer first of all, "to grow in grace," and secondarily; "in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Whereas the believer is to simultaneously pursue these each one carries a distinct, yet harmonious benefit. It is the second exhortation of Peter to grow "in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" that is especially deficient among believers today.
God proclaims through his prophet and mouthpiece, Hosea that "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." Obviously, these are not words of comfort, but rather condemnation, yet God cares without measure for His people in pronouncing this indictment and warning. The religion of Israel had become totally corrupt in Hosea's day; officially they served God but everywhere their worship was mixed up with idolatry and Baalism. In short, God's people were in a state of decay and were wasting away, because of their lack of knowledge of Him! The emphasis here is not on the acquisition of facts concerning God, but rather, on the appetite to personally know and desire the character of God in our daily lives, thus experiencing victorious Christian living.
Let me share with you a most vital and crucial truth regarding growing in your knowledge of Him. You must give yourself to reading! Read the word of God daily with a fervent appetite to know God, but also consistently read biographies and autobiographies of those who have gone on before us who came to a place of confrontation and crisis in their Christian life, but who also came to a place of consecration whereby they wholly gave themselves to the Lord and His cause. Without apology, I say get off the phone, the computer, tablet, and away from the television! Stimulate and develop an appetite for reading books of those who learned how to "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called," (Eph 4:1). Years ago, I came across a classic book in a dusty, old attic entitled, Deeper Experiences of Famous Christians, and I read it avidly desiring to know God in a greater way in my personal life. That book helped to revolutionize my daily walk with God, and I presently look and search for any book of good repute to read, that will whet my appetite to know my Saviour in a greater and more intimate way.
The Apostle Paul, himself, called for "the books" while in prison and exhorted Timothy to "give attendance to reading," (II Tim 3:13 and I Tim 4:13). Paul charged Timothy to "Study to shew thyself approved unto God," and Peter exhorted believers to "add to your faith virtue" and virtue knowledge," (II Tim 2:15 and II Pet 1:5). Revelation 1:3 states, "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand." Charles Spurgeon is quoted as saying, "The man who never reads will never be read: he who never quotes will never be quoted, and he who will not use the thoughts of other men's brains, proves he has no brains of his own."
In our walk with God, let us pursue the goal of the Apostle Paul wherein he states, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship of his sufferings being made conformable unto his death;" (Phil 3:10).
The Watchman's cry