Thoughts on planting yet ANOTHER church and the year 2050.

Since the day I have been involved in conversations about church planting, I have heard statements like: “Why would you plant another church – we already have enough!” We heard that before planting Village Church, and I’m sure I’ll keep hearing it.

So I want to respond to that question with 3 observations that will hopefully keep us on the same page.

1. The idea of “enough” churches is rather silly in principle and practice.

By that I mean that we will never reach a point in life where we can stop telling people about Jesus because “enough” people are saved. And for Augusta County, as long as there are still hurting families, broken marriages, needy widows, lonely children, wayward Christians, and lost souls, then we will still need more and different kinds of healthy believers, groups, and churches.

2. We actually do not have enough churches already.

There are about 150 churches meeting in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County combined but a growing population of 120,000. Most churches are not growing and some are in critical condition and will close in the next few years if nothing changes. The national attendance average is 89 people, but even if every one of those 150 churches had 200 people, that means that only 25% of the people around us are churched. This is more than a little issue, it is a pandemic of church-less-ness, brokenness, and ultimately lostness among the families in our neighborhoods, that we work and play with, and that we see everyday. And it only gets worse across our country.

3. Not every church is healthy.

A sobering reality that has become more and more clear is that just because a church gathers, sings, and teaches, does not mean that it is preaching the true Gospel or is healthy and making disciples. Some churches are even teaching false doctrines that has produced (at best) malnourished, immature believers or (at worst) false-converts.

Because of that, I believe that we need to plant more healthy churches!

———

A read some research this week that I think is important to note here. I’m not a Prophet or the son of a Prophet, but it is helpful to consider where things are going so we can have a more realistic idea of where we are. The research is about the trends in society and the American Church that paints a picture of what the year 2050 will look like. That is 30 years from now, which is the same distance as the year 1990 when some of us were not yet born, some of us were growing up, and some of us were raising families. 2050 isn’t far off at all.

Here is what the research predicts: In 2050…

  • The US will have no “majority race.” And our mixed culture means religions as well.
  • Declining numbers in Churches will be old news. Some denom-inations will have folded, much of the “old” style of church will be gone, and declining numbers will no longer be motivating.
  • There will be a new generation of leadership. Institutions, churches, and networks will no longer be led by Boomers or even Gen-X’ers, leaving Millennials (who will be close to retiring), the Gen-Z’ers, and the generation not yet born to be in charge. So whatever resources, systems, structures, and traditions we are building up now will be what they inherit.

The research also noted that ten years ago (in 2010) the population of the US was 328 million and there were 350,000 churches – making the church to population ratio about 1 church available for every 1,000 people. If everything stays similar, by 2050 the population in America will be 400 million. That means just to maintain that 1 church for every 1000 people ratio (which isn’t great already), denominations need to work together to begin a net 2,000 more churches each year in America. That is 38 new churches, every year, for 30 years, in every state – including Virginia. But we are working from behind because as of 2020, the ratio is closer to 1 church for every 6,000 people.

We could point to a lot of reasons for this decline, but when it comes down to it, existing churches are closing and we are not planting new churches at a high enough rate to keep up with population growth. In fact, in 2014 our nation only grew by a net gain of 300 churches – which is a long way from 2,000.

Now before these numbers start running together as ink on a page (or pixels on a screen), we must remember that these numbers all tell a story about people. A story that we need to listen to. So with those being said, let me be clear about what all of this has to do with us here in western Augusta County.

Here is what all this means… for our church (as a whole):

First we need to be thankful for what God has given us here. But also, every year that the American Church does not make new disciples, develop new leaders, send out new pastors, and plant new churches, “we leave that much more burden for the next generation.” So Village be invested in mission-minded networks nationally (which is why we give to organizations like North American Mission Board), state-wide (which is why we are part of the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia), and locally (which is we try to work hand-in-hand with several other churches in our “network”).

Instead of competing, we must find ways to collaborate with like-minded, Gospel-centered churches. Instead of focusing inward, we must strive for inward health WHILE focusing outward. We must keep moving, be unified in the Spirit and the Word of God, and find ways to work together to plant new, healthy churches and help out struggling existing churches.

In John 17, Jesus prayed what we call his “High Priestly Prayer” for not only his disciples, but for all of us who would ever be saved and follow him. He prayed:

[18] As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. [19] And for their sake I consecrate [dedicate as a sacrifice] myself, that they also may be sanctified [dedicate as holy and set apart] in truth… [21] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:18-21)

We need to work together so we can do the difficult, time-consuming, and faithful work to plant more churches for at least 4 Reasons:

1. New churches reach new people.
2. New churches reach different people. (as they contextualize themselves)
3. The Bible models it. (In the New Testament)
4. Sending churches brings growth. Being open-handed and generous results in spiritual growth and often numerical growth because of the Biblical principle of sowing and reaping (or “God-math”) that Paul wrote about when he said that:

“[6] …whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).

But all these numbers and the story also mean something for us individually.

Here is what all this means… for us individually:

In Jesus’s prayer in John 17, he “sanctified” us that believe in him, and he “sent” us into the world to be a witness of his love. Everyone of us that are Christians have a calling on our lives to be workers or laborers in the fields  We are the sowers of the Gospel “seed” and the field is our world. The row we are working in is the people we are around. We must not get sidetracked or envious of others’ work that seems easier or more convenient. Listen to how Paul encourages believers in 2 Corinthians:

“[10] He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. [11] You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:10–15).

So for all of us individually, let’s keep working as laborers in the field. Let’s keep giving our time, our talents, and our resources to the task at hand. And let’s keep praying for laborers in the field and invite other people on to our team. Listen to the compassionate words of Jesus that he said to his followers in the Book of Matthew:

“[37] Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; [38] therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:35–38).

Let’s pray for more godly men to be added to our Elder team (including my replacement this year), for more qualified men and women on our Staff and Leadership Team, and for more volunteers on our Dream Team. Let’s pray that God will equip and empower more men, women, teenagers, and children to be godly examples and witnesses of the Gospel in the world we live in as fathers and mothers, students and athletes, employees and employers, coaches and teachers, board members and political representatives, and all the rest as laborers in the field.

So let’s keep working, let’s pray for more laborers, and then let’s keep sending laborers in the field. Let’s keep training up men called to be pastors and planters and missionaries. Think about this: this week I counted 15 people that in these last 5 years, we have been able to in different ways to bless, invest in, teach in our Leadership Track, pray over, and send out as short term missionaries, long term missionaries, more equipped leaders, planters, and pastors. I wish I had the time to talk about the difference that we as a Church have been able to have with folks that are serving God and leading others.

So let’s being open-handed with the resources that God gives us and the people he gives us. Let’s keep encouraging our young adults, teenagers, and children to be involved, serving, and attending groups, camps, and mission trips – for we will turn all of this over to them in a few years. So all those numbers and trends mean something for us as a church and for us as individuals. And part of that is…

Here is what all this means… for me (your pastor):

My heart is to be a catalyst for growth in others. I love encouraging others to take their next step on their faith journey, to worship with a little more surrender, to open themselves up a little more to build community, to hone their gifts to better serve, to be a little bolder in their leadership, and to step out a little further in their faith. That is the focus of my life. I strive to be the kind of pastor that Paul talks about in Ephesians 4 that works:

“[12] to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).

In addition, Paul goes on to say that God gave to the church the “apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,” to also unify the Church body, teach it, help it mature so that it will no longer naively follow wrong doctrines, “human craftiness,” and “deceitful schemes,” so that we will:

“[15] …grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, [16] from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:15–16).

As I shared last year, I have been been blessed to be in the role of Lead Pastor and Elder here since we started meeting in the Fall of 2014 upstairs of Calvary Baptist Church. And because I want for nothing more than to see Village to not just maintain but to thrive, I know that God is leading me to step aside to make room for God to bring someone into my place that can reach the culture better, that can make a difference in the community in the way that it needs, and that has the leadership gifts that Village needs.

Now I want to do everything I can to set the next pastor up for success. And I’m excited about that, and I’m excited about the progress we have made in that.  Everything we do is an act of faith, of course, but we are confident of how God is leading us, and we trying to do what the Early Church did in Acts 15 based on what “[seemed] good to the Holy Spirit and the [leadership].”

So… what is next for my family and me? In many ways, I am at the same place I was 6 years ago when trying to discern what God’s will was for me. I am positive with what God has called me to do and how he has gifted me and I am aware of how God has arranged events and relationships over the last couple years. Because of that, it seems that God is leading us to continue in our calling to be an encouragement and support to pastors around here and to plant another healthy church. I hope to remain here in the valley, and right now God seems to be pointing us toward the South side of the county to further reach the families in the Stuarts Draft, Waynesboro, and Greenville – but wherever it is we are in complete surrender to him. I feel like Abram when God told him to: “Just go… and I’ll tell you what I want you to do when you get there.”

It is Jesus who is important and we need to use whatever gifts God has given us to build his kingdom whatever that takes and wherever it takes us. My life verse is what Jesus said to his followers in his Sermon on the Mount:

“[33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).


These thoughts were shared in a Sunday morning sermon on March 8, 2020 at Village Church.

What is the Church?

Over the last couple weeks (as we continue through this Fresh Start series) we talked about what a disciple is and how we can go make other disciples. Today is the next step in the process because when disciples of Jesus come together, that is called the CHURCH! 

We spent a whole series on this several months ago, but the Greek word for “church” is Ekklesia which refers to people that are called out together. The Church is not a building or an organization, it is a people. That is why we can say, “We are the church.” 

At one time God’s presence was in a garden, then it was in a portable tabernacle, and then in an established temple that was eventually destroyed then rebuilt. After Jesus ascended to Heaven and sent the Holy Spirit down, the presence of God was IN believers. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, said this to a mob of angry Jews: 

“[48] …the Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands…” (Acts 7:48, NLT).

This is why Paul later told the Corinthian believers:  

“[19] Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself” (1 Corinthians 6:19, NLT).

So the Church is, essentially, a bunch of “little temples” coming together. That’s why we can gather to worship anywhere inside or outside. That’s why Jesus said that true worshipers must worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), which is about the position of the heart and not a place of religion. This is also why any church focused more on the space they meet in than the Savior they meet for is at risk of dying.

But to be clear, what we call “the Church” is not JUST people coming together. What sets them apart from another group is WHY they come together. At its foundation, the Church is built on the simple, timeless, profound Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s Gospel, we read that: 

“[16] Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [17] And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. [18] And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:16–28)

When we study the 1st Century Church, we find that it existed then and still exists today for one thing: to make disciples of Jesus together. This is explained fully n our “statements of belief” (the Baptist Faith and Message), but let me paraphrase it like this: the church exists for the goal of discipleship  through four supporting purposeful “pillars” of worship, community, ministry, and mission. It looks like this… [church pillars picture]. 

Let’s consider each of those pillars. 

Our worship is God-focused, Christ-centered, and Bible-based. It begins with salvation, continues daily as we “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), and will culminate in Heaven through eternity. We traditionally worship corporately on Sundays not we have to or because it is the Sabbath (that is Saturday), but because the first day of the week commemorates Christ’s resurrection. When we gather, we celebrate who Christ is and what he has done, we seek to be inspired through God’s presence, we teach and apply God’s Word, we preach salvation through Christ alone, we pray together and for each other, and we serve one another. 

The second pillar is community or fellowship. Our community comes from our love for God and for each other. We recognize that we cannot live life on our own, so we band together. True community is rare because it requires humility, consistency, and vulnerability. A community does not selfishly rely on one or two people to care for everyone else, but (as the 59 “one-anothers” in the New Testament show us) we self-lessly Love one another (John 13:4), honor, accept, submit to, and be devoted to one another (Romas 12:10, 15:7, Ephesians 5:21), “Carry each other’s burdens…” (Galatians 6:2), “…[Forgive] each other…” (Ephesians 4:32), and “…Spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).  

The standard of community is found in the prototype of the Church in the Book of Acts. Caleb Spence sent me an article this week that included the words from a Roman man named Aristides in 125 AD. He had been spying on early Christians and reported back that:

“…Further, if one or other of them have bondmen or bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without  distinction… Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him into their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food…” (Aristides the Philosopher).

Now THAT is community! Whether that happens here on Sundays or in a small group or a one-on-one meeting throughout the week, that is the standard that we must figure out how to meet today. Because a Church that treats each other like this preaches the Gospel to the world through its actions. Jesus said in: 

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35)

The third pillar of the church is ministry. Ministry is not the calling of some, but the privilege of all believers to use how God designed them to “…serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13). Ministry is about giving our time, talents, and resources to bless and help others. It is about service, not title or position. The cry of the minister is “someone’s got to do it, might as well be me.” Our main “ministry” is preaching the Gospel so that, as Paul said in Ephesians 3: 

“[10] so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). 

The fourth pillar of the church is mission. Our mission is “to make disciples of Jesus by reaching families with the hope of the Gospel.” With Jesus as the only true head of the Church and Pastors and Elders leading the charge as part of the body, it is the duty of every believer to go make disciplesThis focuses us as a church. It is why we are here.

The mission is not just about addition or subtraction (and definitely not division); it is about multiplication. A disciple makes another disciple, a group starts another group, and a church plants another church. It has been that way from the beginning (although sadly not always on purpose). Then one day when Jesus returns, our mission will come to an end and the Church will be taken out of this world and as Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 4:17-18 “[17] …and so we will always be with the Lord.

So how do we respond to these things? Maybe we need to take a fresh look at WHY we are part of this church.

Are we here for the mission? Are we banded together on the foundation of the Gospel to worship God, build community, do ministry, and go on mission? Are we willing to do whatever it takes and go wherever it takes us? Do we need to commit ourself to be part of this church in a greater way? Obviously that is not just about what we do for the 2-4 hours on Sunday mornings or just with our church, but I believe it should start there as a kind of “first-fruits” to God. 

Instead of asking “What’s in this for me?”, we must ask “Am I in this for God?”

Or maybe someone recognizes that all this talk of church and mission does not resonate with you because you have never actually surrendered your life to Christ. This week – or even this morning after service I would love to help you work through that and give your life to God. It is the purpose in life that you have been searching for.

[20] Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, [21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20–21) 


This sermon was preached by Robert Hampshire at Village Church in Churchville, VA.

How Do I Go Make Disciples?

One of my favorite things to do is to sit down with someone and listen to their life story over a cup of coffee. There is so much to learn about someone when we just take the time to listen. Sometimes those stories end up with needs and prayer requests or “praise reports” like the one we got last Sunday: “Church family. Amen. I know God hears our prayers. I have been praying for my daughter and I’s relationship. God heard all of us. God is working on our relationship and continuing to do his will. Thank you!” 

Speaking of stories, I started a journey at the beginning of the year to get some video testimonies of some folks that God has given a “fresh start” in their life. In our services this month we are hearing some incredible life stories of some men and women in our church family.

I love how Greg said that once he got back involved with church, his relationship with God got back on track. It’s amazing how those two things are connected – our relationship with God and our relationships with others. But I also love how he talked about as he was growing in his faith, he began to want to do more and to go further with his faith. Which leads in pretty well to where we are going today as we continue in our Fresh Start series. 

Last week we defined a “disciple” as a follower, a pupil, or a student who does not just sit in a classroom and learn information, but who is… “is so devoted to their leader and their ideas that they regularly accept them, adhere to them, and assist in spreading them. They walk WITH the teacher in order to become like them. We see this in the lives of Jesus’s first disciples or apostles who even though they stumbled and even denied him at times, they came back. That is very clear in Scripture. 

Another thing that is clear is that not only do disciples follow, but they invite others to follow, too. In fact, one major sign of spiritual maturity is a willingness to help others follow Jesus. That is the topic I want to deal with today and the question I want to answer:

How do I go make disciples of Jesus?”

When Jesus began his ministry on earth, one of the first things he did was call 12 others to follow him. What is so incredible about this is that Jesus began THE biggest movement of human history by inviting a handful of unqualified, untrained, and unlikely men to spend time with (or “diatribo” as we talked about last week) and then release them to lead. Then at the end of Jesus’s ministry (after his death, burial, and resurrection) he stood on a hillside in Galilee with those disciples and gave them his final command in Matthew 28: 

[18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

You might know this passage as the “Great Commission” by Jesus – which considering the timeless importance of this command, to call it the “great” commission is a pretty accurate title. And we will come back to this in a minute, but it is helpful to know that Matthew was not the only Gospel-writer that gives us a record of these imperative statements by Jesus. 

For example, Luke records for us in his Gospel that: 

[47] …repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed [or preach or publish with authority] in [Jesus’s] name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [48] You are witnesses of these things. [49] And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you…” (Luke 24:44–49) 

Or later in the book of Acts he wrote: 

[6] So when [the disciples] had come together, they asked [Jesus], ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’ [7] He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. [8] But [as if to say – instead of me restoring the kingdom right now…] you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and [as a result of that Holy Spirit power] you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth [also known as here, there, and everywhere]. (Acts 1:6-8) 

Interestingly, John’s Gospel records a much different conversation: one that happened just with Simon Peter. In a confrontational dialogue in John 21, Jesus asks Peter three times whether he loves him or not, to which Peter responds each time with “Yes – you know that I love you.”

But Jesus then responds to Peter each time with “Feed my lambs” and “Tend my sheep” and then “Feed my sheep.” And when we understand that spiritual “sheep” (which is all of us) need to be fed by the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, then we see the similarities between “feed my sheep” and “go preach the Gospel” and even “go make disciples.”

So what is the point of these “Great Commission” passages? Well obviously it is to “go and make disciples” or as we say it here, “go and lead others to Jesus.” But how do we do that? 

I think there are thousands of “how” statements we could come up with that would fall within the realm of “baptizing them… and teaching them…” or “feed my sheep” as Jesus said, and we will come back to that in just a minute. But first, I want to say that I discovered several years ago that there is a huge “gap” between the ideas of “go” and “make disciples.” “Go […] make disciples…” 

There is not a gap in the text, but there IS in our carrying out the command. Think about it: Jesus said to go… and then he starts talking about baptizing and teaching them. But we know that something needs to happen between us going and preaching and someone’s discipleship happening… and that something is salvation! Isn’t it weird that Jesus would leave that part out about someone getting saved SO they can be baptized, taught, and discipled?  

Well here is why: because we have a responsibility to move and make disciples, but it is God’s responsibility to do the saving! On one hand that is a huge relief, but on the other hand it is disappointing, because there is absolutely nothing we can do save someone. That never negates our responsibility to go and do, but it is only the Spirit who gives life. Mark’s account of Jesus’s Great Commission helps clarify this even more:  

[15] And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. [and here is the part that is out of our hands] [16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15–16) 

We must keep this in mind as we try to reach people because it is so easy to either get puffed up with pride when someone gets saved because we thought that it was our skills that made it happen or we get saddened and discouraged when someone does not get saved. It is always the Holy Spirit who draws someone and who does the saving, but he uses us as the practical hands and feet of Christ and mouthpiece to proclaim the Gospel.

With that being said, I want to spend the rest of our time together giving 6 simple steps on how we can actually go make disciples. Because truth that is not lived out is a waste of breath and a Christian life that is not on mission is a waste of time. 

1. Know to GO.

Before we will live on mission, we have to recognize that we should go, which starts by understanding that we need to go. 

Maybe you assume that most people around you are already Christians because they are okay people or that is what they say about themselves. I mean, who are we to judge, right?

But if we were to really dig in, we would find that America (even Augusta County, Staunton, and Waynesboro) is a much larger mission field than we think. According to the Pew Research Center, a quarter of the population has “no” religion: that is 85 million in America or 32,000 in our area that are athiest, agnostic, or nothing. At the same time, less than half of all Americans consider themselves “Protestant Christian.” So out of every four people we meet, two call themselves Christians, one is Catholic or another religion, and one is nothing. And if we are being honest, we know that not everyone who calls themselves a Christian IS one, and many of those that are need discipling.

We must know to go. We are God’s ambassadors, the light of the world, and the salt of the earth – and if WE do not go and make disciples, then who will? Just think: where would we be if no one had ever shared the Gospel with us?

Then after we know to go, what gets us of the bench and into the game is having a true, God-given compassion and burden for the lost. So…

2. Love the lost. 

Listen to the heart of Jesus in Matthew 9:

[36] When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. [37] Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; [38] therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36-38)

It is only God who can save and cause life and growth, but he has called us to be the laborers in the field to plant the seed, water the crops, and gather the harvest. But this has to start with love of Jesus and love of others. This is how the “Great Commission” is closely tied to the “Great Commandment.”

With his love in us, we can be the loving parent that embraces our wayward son, the friendly neighbor that loves our cultural enemy, and the “hands and feet” of Christ to reach our lost and dying world with the Gospel. This isn’t about loving someone’s sin or loving the world systems, this is about loving the soul of someone that is dying and going to hell or living a life far from God.

So we know to go, we love the lost, and then we must…

3. Move our feet.

We have to go to where people are if we are going to reach them with what we have. The verb “go” in the Great Commission means to“to [continue to] pursue the journey on which one has entered.”  That means that “going” is just a continuation of “following” Jesus. It is a natural outflow that as we are following, we will be going.

Years ago I was given the impression that as a Christian I should stay away from sinners so they would not rub off on me. But while choosing our friends IS important, there were two problems that I found with that “staying away from the world” approach. First, I found that I did not need to be around other sinners to sin… I did just fine on my own. Secondly, I found that the further away from the lost I was, the less influence I had on them, the less impact I can make, and the less I will care for them. 

So what is the answer? Well if we are looking at Jesus’s life, his own stated reason for coming to earth was to “seek and save those who are lost (Luke 19:10), which is evident in his life actions and who he spent time with. 

So how do we live our lives IN the world and AMONG the lost and make a difference instead of being influenced for evil? The difference is MISSION. We must remember that we are a spy behind enemy lines in a foreign land. We are the light side infiltrating the dark side to try to bring others over to the light side.

But most likely, we are ALREADY with people where we work, go to school, live, and play. We have to refocus our eyes to the need around us, ask God to give us a love for the lost, and then move. Outreach is not just about mission trips, street evangelism, powerful sermons, or big debates. It gives me great inspiration to know that Jesus started with a motley group of uneducated, untrained, and unlikely men who were filled with the Holy Spirit and who started where they were and began to move their feet to be witnesses of the Gospel, which eventually turned the world upside down. And God want to do the same with us working together as a church on mission.

And as we go to where people are, the next step is to:

4. Open our hands.

This is where we start to get down to the details of using what we have to make a difference in others’ lives. Jesus was the master at discovering what people really needed and stepping into that need, but it started with a relationship. Then as we are WITH people and find out their needs, we can “open our hands” and help meet the needs by spending time with them, being a listening ear, offering counsel, helping with a bill, lending a hand, praying for healing, connecting them with a doctor, giving them a ride, coaching their sport, helping them move, and the list goes on and on. 

The former NFL coach, Tony Dungy, said in a devotional I read recently that we have to “show them that you [are] real first. And when you [do] that, [they’ll] listen to you about other things.” Do our coworkers, neighbors, and family members know that we are real? That there is something different about us? That we care for them? We must know to go, love the lost, move our feet, and then open our hands to help and love them. 

But, of course, it cannot end there – we must:

5. Use our words.

This is why Jesus said that as we go and make disciples, we must “[teach] them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).

Think of it this way: we should live a questionable life. By that I mean we are pursuing who God is and what he wants in our speech, conduct, faith, love, and purity… and then as Peter wrote:

“[15] but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).

If you are not ready to give a reason for “the hope that is within you” or you do not know how to explain the Gospel, I would love to help you with that. But I think for many Christians there is just a fear from our enemy that keeps us thinking that we do not “know enough” or we aren’t “good enough” to talk with someone about Scripture, explain the Gospel to them, or pray with them.  

If that is you, that is where the wonderful promise of Jesus comes into play – that AS we go, Jesus said, “…behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is with us through His Word in our hands and the Holy Spirit in our hearts. In order to lead someone else to Jesus, all we have to have is a relationship with Jesus. We are just inviting someone in, which leads to this last step:

6. Invite them in.

Sure – invite people to a worship service or small group with you, but more importantly, invite them into your life. The most powerful tool we have to share the Gospel with someone (outside of the Bible) is our own story. We live in such a closed off, walls-up, masks-on society that most people are starved for a true friend. We are lonely people. Inviting someone into your life – to see the good, bad, and ugly – and especially to see how God has made a difference in us, in our marriage, in our habits, in our worship, and in every area of our lives. 

We do not have to have it all figured out, we just invite someone to follow Jesus WITH us. This is exactly what one of the first disciples, Andrew, did. As soon as he started following Jesus:

[41] “He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). [42] He brought him to Jesus…” (John 1:41–42). And the rest is (Church) history. 

So we know to go, love the lost, move our feet, open our hands, use our words, and invite them in. 

Let us consider this question together: Are we going and making disciples? 

If SO, let’s keep at it because as Paul said to the Galatians: “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9)

If we are NOT going and making disciples… why?

  • Are we not actually following Christ? Pray for salvation. 
  • Are we ignorant of the things of God? Pray for wisdom from the Word of God, and then immerse yourself into it daily.
  • Are we insecure in what we know? Pray for boldness to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16)
  • Are we insensitive to the needs of the people around us? Pray that God will open our eyes to the people he has ALREADY put into our lives for us to influence and reach for him. 

As we said last week, this is not about a program, curriculum, memorizing information, outsourcing to a pastor, or waiting on a big moment to happen. Nor is it about being perfect. It is about our presence.

We do this whatever it takes and wherever it takes us. That is our calling, our duty, and our privilege as followers of Christ; that is why God saved us: to ultimately go lead others to Jesus in our everyday, normal lives. As we do, God is going to use us in the same way that he has used countless others before us for his glory to impact the lostness, brokenness, and hopelessness around us with the Gospel.

Let’s do it!

Planting is for big churches, small churches, and every other kind of church.

“The Great Commission is the duty of every church regardless of size, demographic, or budget”

The following is an excerpt from a book titled Church Planting Thresholds: A Gospel-Centered Guide by Clint Clifton. I found this excerpt at NAMB.net.


From the earliest days of our church, we determined to measure our success by our sending capacity rather than our seating capacity, thus aligning the primary mission of our local church with the primary mission of Jesus’ universal church: making disciples of all nations. This emphasis has required us to put a tremendous amount of energy and resources into the founding of other churches. It has also required us to intentionally choose the spread of the Gospel over our own numeric growth. Since our church’s first worship service in 2005, we have had a hand in planting more than a dozen new churches, with several more preparing to begin. Many of the men we have sent to plant new churches began as members of our church, laymen working in non-ministerial occupations. About half of these men still have no seminary training, and they had no aspirations to plant a church before joining Pillar. That’s not to say that the men are not well-trained or competent for the work. They are faithful and godly men with a love for the Gospel, good character, and an undeniable ability to “rightly divide the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

I don’t say these things to brag about Pillar Church but to emphasize that church planting is not just a sport for megachurches with multimillion-dollar budgets. I’m often asked how large a church should be when it begins to plant another church or how much it costs to start a new church. These questions, as well-intentioned as they might be, are the wrong questions. Here’s the right question: At what age and size is a church responsible to begin obeying the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20?

The Great Commission is the duty of every church regardless of size, demographic, or budget. The Great Commission does not say, “Go ye therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as soon as you have the money” or “as soon as you have more than 500 people.” The command stands for every New Testament church, period.

In my observation, only one resource is necessary for a church to begin planting another church, and it has nothing to do with buildings or budgets. That one necessary resource is a ready leader. Churches are planted by missionary-pastors sent by Kingdom-building churches. So, if you’ve picked up this book looking for the church planting silver bullet, here it is. The only thing you absolutely must have in order to plant a new church is a scripturally qualified, missionary-pastor to send.

In our current environment, the majority of evangelical churches in North America do not attempt to plant other new churches. American churches have been far too busy with ministry to give much thought to mission. Church planting has been about as regularly practiced as foot washing and street preaching, but that seems to be changing. A noticeable surge in church planting has taken place over the past few decades. Many denominations and networks are offering resources and training to those wishing to plant new churches. Colleges and seminaries are developing programs in church planting, and a small library of church planting books and training materials are now in print.

But as denominations, networks, and seminaries get on the bandwagon, let us not forget that church planting is the responsibility of the local church much more than it is the responsibility of any network, denomination, individual, para-church ministry, or educational institution. Our greatest potential for Kingdom growth is found in local churches, whose elders and members dedicate themselves to equipping and sending members to establish new churches in communities that need them. Local churches are better positioned to start new churches than any other organization on the planet. In the same way that a mother would give birth to a child, churches most naturally give birth to churches. Denominations and para-church organizations are tremendous resources for the church planter and should be utilized to the extent that they are helpful, but these organizations should never replace the local church as central figure in church establishment and renewal. That is not to say that denominations and networks are completely unsuccessful in the endeavor to start new churches or that churches planted by such organizations are illegitimate. However, churches are the normal and natural means for starting other new churches.

The aim of this writing is to assist healthy, Christ-centered churches through the process of starting other new churches. The stages proposed in this material were developed through the joyous and sometimes painful experiences I have had leading a small church to reproduce aggressively. They are meant to be a general guide for pastors and churches wishing to prepare leaders for a ministry in church planting.

What is a Disciple?

We say that our church is about “making disciples”. This is not a new concept at all – it is what the Church has been commissioned to do for the last 2,000 years, but in a general sense discipleship goes back way before that. 

Nevertheless, discipleship can be one of those ideas that gets talked a lot about, but hardly understood and rarely done. So today, I want us to have a “Fresh Start” with the idea of discipleship and answer this question: What is a disciple?

Well first, let’s look at the meaning of the word. A disciple is a follower, a pupil, or a student of someone or something. Based on a few sources, I compiled this definition:

A disciple is so devoted to their leader and their ideas that they regularly accept them, adhere to them, and assist in spreading them.

A disciple is not just someone that sits in a classroom and receives information from a teacher, but more someone who walks WITH the teacher in order to become like them. 

In New Testament times, it was very common for a Jewish teacher (or a Rabbi) to have disciples that were following them around. In fact, that is part of what was so weird and even offensive for some of the people in Jesus’s time, because Jesus did not follow around his another Rabbi before he started teaching. Even worse – he spoke as someone who had his OWN, independent authority! That is why in Matthew 21 tells us that

“And when [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and asked him, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” (Matthew 21:23) 

But then to make matters worse for those chief priests, Jesus had even called his OWN followers or disciples! Of course, this is all easy for us to read about, but would have been a complete surrender of life for those that followed Him. Let’s read about this initial calling in: 

Matthew 4:18–25 [18] While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. [19] And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” [I’m sure they had no way of knowing what that would mean for them, yet…] [20] Immediately they left their nets and followed him 

[21] And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. [22] Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

What I find so interesting is that when we take a closer look at the calling of Simon and Andrew in John’s account of the Gospel, we see that it was actually Andrew who followed Jesus first, and then watch what happened:   

John 1:41–42 [41] [Andrew] first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). [42] He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

Jesus went on to call a total of 12 specific disciples to follow him that became known as “Apostles.” Matthew lists them out in: 

Matthew 10:1–4 [1] And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. [2] The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; [3] Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; [4] Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Then, of course, later after Jesus’s resurrection and ascension, Judas left the scene and Paul was brought into the ranks of Apostle.  

But wait – there’s more! When we read through the Gospels, we actually find that while Jesus had these 12 key followers, there were MANY more people that followed him and were even considered as “disciples” (in general, a little different from the 12). There were smaller groups of followers like Jesus’s mother, Mary, and a few close friends, as well as the 72 that were sent out later.  

But we can even zoom out further and see that there were literally thousands of people that followed him from a distance in the “crowd” – many just because of what they hoped they could get from him not because they really loved him. And we know that many of these were not really disciples of Jesus because we see this common, yet sad and realistic phrase several times throughout the Gospels: 

John 6:66 After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. 

And think about this: I heard this week that Jesus never once chased after anyone that left him. Why? Because he knew who were really his and he knew that true disciples would stay with him. In fact, Jesus even challenged his disciples’ commitment at times.  Right after some turned and walked away, Jesus said to his 12:  

John 6:67–69 …“Do you want to go away as well?” [and I love Peter’s response because it is the confession of a true disciple] Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” 

As we said, true disciple is someone who goes WITH the teacher. Not perfectly, they may stumble sometimes, they may wander and then come back, but in the end (to go back to the definition from earlier): A disciple is so devoted to their leader and their ideas that they regularly accept them, adhere to them, and assist in spreading them. 

Because of that, I want us to really narrow in on that idea of discipleship for us today as still walking and living WITH Jesus.

———

In the book Hero Maker (a book and an idea that has brought a good focus to my own life and ministry), the authors Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird highlight the fact that after Jesus called his first disciples, the majority of Jesus’s 3 year ministry on earth was spent WITH them – intentionally with them. We often picture Jesus standing before the big crowds, triumphantly riding into town, reading Scripture in the temple, calling out the pharisees, and doing big things on a big platform – and he did all those things, yes. But more often, we see in the Gospels that Jesus was just spending time with his followers talking while walking, sailing in a boat together, eating together, reclining in a house together, and just living life together. 

Discipleship for Jesus was about everyday, regular encounters, loving corrections, little challenges, daily reminders, and quick life-giving words of encouragement. Along the journey, Jesus debriefed life events, asked questions, explained parables, cast vision, and even called out sin and lack of faith when he saw it: like with Peter a few times or when a couple of disciples had the wrong understanding of their place in the kingdom of God. It may have STARTED on the day that Jesus called Andrew and Simon to leave their fishing nets and follow him, but from there and to the end it was their LIFE. They went WITH Jesus. 

In Luke 8, we see this common phrase: 

Luke 8:1 [1] Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,

Or in John 3 after Jesus had his famous “for God so loved the world” one-on-one conversation with Nicodemus, we read that: 

John 3:22–24 [22] After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them

That phrase “remained there with them” is actually just one Greek verb:

“diatribō” [dē-ä-trē’-bō]. 

It means to spend time with someone, or to literally “rub off on someone” or even “wear away” over time. A good word picture might be how the shoreline gets worn away or eroded over time by the waves of the ocean rubbing against it. Listen to this quote form these authors Ferguson and Bird: 

“What Jesus did is really quite simple. He selected just a few people – he focused on [them] – and they hung out with him and did ministry alongside him… What Jesus did was not just about hours and minutes. It was diatribo: some of him was rubbing off on them. One of the main ways Jesus transformed his followers into people who would impact the world was through… simply spending time with them.”

He just lived life with them and over time he “diatribo – he “rubbed off on them.” In my word study, I discovered that it was the same thing that Paul and Barnabas did with the believers in Antioch when we read in Acts “they remained no little time with the disciples” (Acts 14:28) or later when Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Luke “remained in [Philippi] some days” (Acts 16: 12). They were WITH them.  

So now let’s “translate” all of this into our lives today in 2020.  

While we do not physically have Jesus to follow, we have 

(1) the life of Jesus to read about in Scripture
(2) the Words and teachings of Jesus to read in Scripture
(3) in place of the physical body of Jesus we have the Holy Spirit that indwells EVERY believer (as Caleb explained last week)

So when we say that discipleship is following or walking WITH Jesus – it is! And that word WITH is so important, especially for us today because we are always trying to distance ourself from the most common false teaching in America today – which is Cultural (and false) Christianity. Cultural Christians follow Jesus from a distance when it is convenient, accepted, and when they need something. They are the “crowd” in Jesus’s time that at one point cheered for him and then later cheered against him. But a true disciple goes WITH.  

———

But there is another part of our discipleship that is also crucial especially as we consider who we are as a Church – that not only do we have words about Jesus and from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but we have other believers (or other disciples) around us to learn from, walk with, and lead.

In our Growth Track, we explain that while discipleship starts on the personal level, it continues as a “team sport.” To that point I would say that we will not grow in our faith correctly and will not become the person that God wants us to become apart from a consistent, committed community of people WITH us. As the same Here Maker authors I quoted before said:

“When we spend time with others, we begin to rub off on them, and they rub off on us. You start talking like each other. You pick up similar interests. You care about the same stuff.” (Ferguson and Bird)

Over the last six weeks I’ve been doing a group fitness challenge at a local gym. It’s been great and helpful and weight-changing. But here’s the thing: I already knew that with regular exercise and healthy diet that I would lose fat and be healthier. But the last 6 weeks I have seen growth and progress. So what changed? I moved from just me to a group. 

There was a consistent, committed community of people WITH me that helped keep me motivated, that expected me to be there, and that served as examples for me. There was a coach or trainer who helped me. There was focus and camaraderie and and relationship. There was room for people of every fitness level. Through this experience, I learned a lot about myself – especially that I needed others around me (even if they were only gym friends) to reach the kind of health that I need to reach.

I have said before that we have the “big group” here on Sunday mornings – and it is so important in our discipleship for us to come together, meet people, hang out, have an opportunity to give and serve, worship God, celebrate God’s goodness, and hear Biblical teaching. And it is equally important for us to be in “small groups” of believers that bring us together closer, lead us to spiritual growth, and studying deeper into God’s Word.

But here is the thing – if the big groups and small groups do not ultimately lead to true, authentic committed, consistent relationships with others (especially with one or two people our same gender) that we can walk through life WITH, then we are not accomplishing what we were sent by Jesus to do.

Jesus said to “go… and make disciples.” If we are not doing that as a church and if we are not doing that as individuals IN the church, then we are not being obedient to the mission that God gave us. And that is a huge challenge for me and for everyone of us. All of this is about discipleship. 

So let me be clear about this:  

  • Discipleship is not about a program, although it may take a program to get it started will need a system to keep it in place.
  • Discipleship is not about a curriculum, although reading books and studying the Bible are necessary and helpful tools.
  • Discipleship is definitely not about a pastor. It does not happen because of the gifts of one or two pastors or elders who preach good sermons, pray good prayers, make good visits, lead good songs, or whatever else). But it is about a person (or persons): it is about (first) the person of Jesus Christ that we are following, (2) it is also about you as a person, intentionally building a relationship with someone and spending time with them, and (3) it is about that person who you are spending time with! 
  • Discipleship is not just about front-loading your mind with information and becoming an academic, professional Christian, but it is important for us to learn proper theology and the doctrines of our faith over time.
  • Discipleship is not about one big moment. It is about countless little moments WITH Jesus and WITH others. It is about a life-long journey of little steps, changes, worship services, sermons, group meetings, Bible studies, conversations, failures AND successes, prayers, confessions, serving, giving, witnessing, and all the rest. It is about (as we layout discipleship here) everyday regularly connecting to God, growing together, serving others, and going and leading others to Jesus. 

I think back back in my life to the COUNTLESS little conversations with people that “diatribo-ed” or “rubbed off” on me – like a friend in college, Brandon Kessler, who called me out on a bad decision I was making, like James Henderson who was so encouraging, and like Albert Hardin who had was older and no idea how to connect with me or talk about relevant things, but was present and invited me to walk WITH him.

Some of you already have or had those kind of relationships where you are walking WITH someone and discipling them or being discipled. If so, be encouraged that all the little things you do will make a big difference in the end. 

But here’s the thing – for our church we want to see EVERYONE discipled by someone else that is further along in their faith and then turn around and disciple someone else. That is the kind of personal, organic discipleship that Jesus started that makes the biggest impact.


This message was preached at Village Church in Churchville, VA. Watch the video HERE.

Who is the Holy Spirit?

This past Sunday, my good friend and fellow Elder, Caleb Spence taught the following sermon at Village Church. Watch the sermon video HERE


Fresh starts are good aren’t they? There has always been something about waking up in the morning to a sunny morning after a bad day or night from the previous day. It’s like its a chance to go again, to build upon what happened the day before or to erase what brought you down. To reflect on the fact that no matter how much we’ve messed up, God is always faithful to go again, love us, and shower his grace into our lives over and over and over. 

And, like those feelings, similarly we are starting 2020 off with a fresh start, a fresh perspective, a renewed grounding into the truth of the Word and erase maybe some beliefs we’ve wrongly settled in. Maybe expecting less of God, maybe not asking anymore because we’ve given up, maybe bogged down by the waiting for an answer, maybe lost complete connection, maybe forgotten who God says he really is in His Word. And, maybe lost our way and forsaken the faith. 

I want to encourage you that today, we get to start again. We are in God’s house, we are His church and He is here. 

As part of this series, we are continuing by learning about “Who is the Holy Spirit?” I was speaking with a long time brother in Christ yesterday about the subject and we were sharing our thoughts on scripture and beliefs about the Holy Spirit. And, he said that for some reason Baptists tend to get antsy or iffy when discussing the Holy Spirit. He believed it was a fear of entertaining something that would be considered “Pentecostal” or “Charismatic” and etc. And, he’s right. From my younger experience growing up in different church denominations (mainly baptist) the Holy Spirit was something that was known but wasn’t discussed much outside of the work of salvation. 

If you come from church backgrounds that discussed the Holy Spirit or if you didn’t. I want to say that you are in good hands – I am not a professional. I would say that I fall somewhere in the Baptist-Costal range if there was something like that. My goal today is to hopefully reground us in a basic, better understanding of who the Holy Spirit is, who the Bible says he is, his attributes, his work, his presence and whatever else the Spirit would like to reveal of himself in this place and to honor and glorify our God bringing fame to His name among His people and making him famous to the unbeliever.

Much of what I will be sharing I have gathered from theologians on the matter complimented and driven by scripture. (J.T. English, J.I. Packer, Alistair Begg, A.W. Tozer) 

It’s been found that the Holy Spirit has been seen as subordinate to the Father and the Son. Many circles mention him as an afterthought, part of a phrase or this ethereal force that radical Christians claim to summon for different things. That He can be absent and needs to be conjured up to do work among the people of God. But, the Bible doesn’t say that at all. I have some points or truths to share that I believe will encourage and challenge you. Remember today if you have preconceived notions about the Holy Spirit, or if you have “heard” things about what He does or anything else, please test them against the Word. Even me. I’m getting ready to share a member of the Godhead, and the word says that it deals with teachers who lead astray more harshly. I take this seriously and I want us to be right in our thinking. Now, I know 35 minutes isn’t very long to encapsulate Him and all of the theological avenues one could study about this. But, we will lay out some fundamental truths about who the Holy Spirit is. 

The Holy Spirit is referenced many times in scripture with many different names which usually are used to reference a role or characteristic:

  • Breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4)
  • Counselor & Comforter (John 14:16, 26; 15:26 and Romans 8:26)
  • Spirit of Counsel (Isaiah 11:2)
  • Eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14)
  • Free Spirit (Psalms 51:12)
  • God (Acts 5:3-4)
  • Good Spirit (Nehemiah 9:20; Psalm 143:10)
  • Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11, Luke 11:13, Ephesians 1:13, 4:30)
  • Lord (2 Corinthians 3:16-17)
  • Power of the Highest (Luke 1:35)
  • Spirit of Might (Isaiah 11:2)
  • Spirit of Adoption (Romans 8:15)
  • Spirit of Burning (Isaiah 4:4)
  • Spirit of Judgment (Isaiah 4:4, 28:6)
  • Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9, 1 Peter 1:11)
  • Spirit of Glory (1 Peter 4:14)
  • Spirit of God (Genesis 1:2, 1 Corinthians 2:11, Job 33:4)
  • Spirit of Yahweh (Isaiah 11:2, Isaiah 61:1)
  • Spirit of Grace (Zechariah 12:10, Hebrews 10:29)
  • Spirit of Knowledge (Isaiah 11:2)
  • Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, 15:26)
  • Spirit of Life (Romans 8:2)
  • Spirit of Understanding (Isaiah 11:2)
  • Spirit of Wisdom (Isaiah 11:2, Ephesians 1:17)
  • Spirit of the Living God (2 Corinthians 3:3)
  • Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19:10)
  • Spirit of the Father (Matthew 10:20)
  • Spirit of the Fear of the Lord (Isaiah 11:2)
  • Spirit of the Lord (God) (Acts 5:9)
  • Spirit of the Son (Galatians 4:6)
  • Spirit (Matthew 4:1, John 3:6, 1 Timothy 4:1)
  • Spirit of Revelation (Ephesians 1:17)

To describe an infinitive being, part of the Godhead in a way that does Him a complete 

 

1. He was at Creation

  • In Genesis 1:1-2, 26 we see that the Holy Spirit was in the beginning with God and was part of the creation. Genesis 1:2 refers to him as the Spirit of God “hovering.” 
  • The Hebrew word for “Spirit” is often translated as “breath” in the Old Testament. The same word is found in Psalm 33:6. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.”
  • The Hebrew word translated as “Spirit” here is ruach (pron. roo-ahck), which also can mean “breath.” The ruach elohim, “the Breath of the Almighty,” was at creation.
  • In Job 26:13 we read that “By His Spirit (God) adorned the heavens”
  • The Spirit hovered over creation as some theologians describe as a bird sitting on a nest hovering and brooding over her eggs and the new lives in them. 
  • Isaiah 45: 18, “For thus says the Lord, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): “I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
  • A similar parallel is found in Luke 1:35 as a similar “hovering” of the Holy Spirit when the angel spoke to Mary and said, “They Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you.” That “overshadowing” is similar to hovering.
  • Just as He helped with creation bringing the first light into the world, he was also active in Jesus being born as the God-man who IS the light of the world. 
  • The Holy Spirit has been there from the beginning as part of the Godhead. He is fully God with all of the powers, attributes and holiness.  

2. He is not “the force,” but a person

  • As part of the Trinity, he has full authority as God. He shares in and fully possesses in the omnipotence, the omniscience, omnipresence and all other attributes of God. 
  • He is spoken of in the pronoun “He”, and not as “it.” This is important because so often He is spoke of in neutral terms or referred to in a way that makes Him neutral or less than. . We have to understand that the Holy Spirit is indeed personal.
  • The Holy Spirit can be grieved: (Ephesians 4:30 – And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.)
  • The Holy Spirit can be quenched: (1 Thessalonians 5:19 – Do not quench the Spirit) 
  • The Holy Spirit can be resisted: (Acts 7:51- “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.)
  • Many of think of Him as the power that can be conjured up if the right things are said or is this absent power that must be asked in. But, He omnipresent also.  

3. He is one with the Father and the Son (Jesus):

  • He is both co-equal and co-eternal. In the upper room, the Bible says that both the Father and the Son would send the Spirit to us 

John 14:15-17, 19-21, 26 “15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” “19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him… 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

  • The Spirit came and acted and acted on their behalf. So the Spirit acts through them, for them and with them. They all work as one, equally in harmony with one another. 

4. He is the agent of salvation. He indwells believers. He illuminates the truth.

  • He is the author of the new birth. We see this in John 3:5, in the classic encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus (the first Nick at Night), where Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (v. 5). 
  • And he seals our salvation and is our assurance, Ephesians 4:30 “…by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 1 John 4:13 “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”
  • He illuminates the truth of the Gospel and the truth of the Word in our lives. If he was in the beginning, then he is equal part of John 1:1 “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.”

1 Corinthians 2:12-13 “We have not received the spirt of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order to know what has been freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.”

W.A. Chriswell said:

“Jesus is no longer with us in the flesh to explain to us all of the things that we need to know and to share all the things that we need to do. The Holy Spirit is given to us that we might have the wisdom, the direction, and the illumination the living presence of our Lord would otherwise provide… He takes the place of Jesus in the flesh. Jesus has returned to heaven and the Spirit of Jesus, which is Jesus Himself, is here with us. In practical religion it is impossible to distinguish between the Spirit of Christ in the heart and Christ Himself in the heart…When we possess the Holy Spirit we possess Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 2:10-14 ESV “10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

5. He is the Author of Scripture

  • 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us, “All Scripture is breathed out by God. …” The Greek word for this theopneustos, which translated as “God-breathed.” In creation, the Spirit was there, releasing the power of God in the act of creation. We have the same thing in the act of redemption, and we see it again in the divine act of giving to us the record in the Scriptures themselves.  
  • Peter stated, “No prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21 ESV)
  • The Bible was written by real people at a real time in history by the power of the Spirit of God. But the authorship of Scripture was dual. 

6. He Empowers the Believer with Gifts

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 ESV “1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

Now this is where Baptists start weirding out and saying ok you had me with who is the Holy Spirit but this gifts thing is starting to go overboard. Don’t worry ladies and gentlemen I AM NOT a professional. The gifts themselves are each a sermon in their own right. So, what I want to impart to you is this… 

Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

  • This word is alive. The Holy Spirit is real and is God as equal and unique part of the Godhead. The word says that He indwells in us and we can abide in the Spirit. We can commune with God through the Spirit and have unity in the body. We are empowered with Him to make God’s name made famous among the nations, to reach unreached people groups (which number nearly 4,000) throughout the world, to encourage believers, to demonstrate to the world that we are His, to magnify the name of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth until His return where we will be completed in Him in Heaven. Real stuff. 
  • This Spirit works in the church throughout the world, and history has shown that when it compressed or stifled it thrives, grows and is miraculous. 
  • I know that the Lord has given me the gift of discernment as well as Sarah. I know that he has developed that in me through the power of His Spirit to see things others can’t see for the glory of His name and the edification/protection of the church. 
  • I know that he has healed miraculously overseas. That he has fed millions miraculously. That he has caused some in remote places to speak other languages (tongues) to spread His gospel.  
  • Francis Chan recent sermon at Moody Bible Institute (Myanmar, Burma healings in remote village)

3 Reasons to Plant (even) in Highly-Churched Areas

The following is not mine – is a repost of a blog post by Brandon Smith found HERE.

3 Reasons to Plant in Highly-Churched Areas

In 2010, I co-planted a church with a few other men in the Wylie, Texas area outside of Dallas/Fort Worth. For the last two years, I’ve been part of a church that has planted churches in places like downtown Fort Worth. The question is often asked, “Why are you wasting your time planting a church in the Bible Belt?” This question was usually followed up with two common concerns:

  1. There are already enough churches in DFW, and planting more will simply water down the congregations of existing area churches.
  2. We need to revitalize all of the struggling churches first, and then worry about planting new ones.

While both critiques have validity, I would answer these concerns in a few ways.

1. Jesus Commanded Us to Make Disciples

We should never say that existing churches are not making disciples, or that revitalization is not needed. This is a common mistake made by those who like the excitement of a new start, or by others who simply don’t want to deal with the grind of working through tough situations. In fact, the second point of this article proves in some regard that revitalization is equally necessary. Revitalization needs to be a fad, too! But the point is that revitalizing and planting are both needed in any context.

Even with healthy, growing churches making disciples, planting a new church puts even more organized feet on the ground in the given context. There can never be enough groups sharing the gospel and living evangelistic lives in any area of the world. Disciples make disciples who make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20), and the higher percentage of disciples living out God’s mission, the higher percentage of opportunities and manpower to spread the gospel. Moreover, beautiful stories like Nathan Lino’s church in Houston and several stories shared with Ed Stetzer sometime ago show that new converts are especially reached by new churches trying new methods.

2. Christianity’s Troubles in the U.S.

People in the Bible Belt are often inoculated to the fact that most people call themselves Christians in this area. The tendency is to disregard whether or not these people simply associate with Christian ideals, or whether they are true followers of Christ. For the first time, a report has claimed that Protestants are the minority religious group in America. Ed Stetzer argues that this stat is a little skewed, arguing that it’s more likely that “cultural Christianity” is on the decline. In any event, we’re seeing that there is a dire need for more disciple-making in our context. Planting churches is an integral part of seeing this occur.

This also means that concerns about “sheep-stealing” must take a backseat to concerns about the lost and the nominal. When a church is planted, we see a few people walk out the back doors of their local church into the front doors of the new kid on the block. It is unfortunate that Christians hop from one congregation to the next, but it’s far more terrifying to know that so many local churches exist and that the Christian population (however it’s statistically defined) is still shrinking. We must continue to place feet on the ground in every context, unleashing gospel soldiers into the battlefield.

3. Church Growth in the New Testament

It’s helpful to look to the New Testament for answers regarding church ministry. Of course, contexts change and methods can be adapted, but there are some principles that do not change. For one, post-Resurrection Christians did not seem satisfied or content with a few local church communities living on mission.

The rebuttal might be that church planting was more necessary in the New Testament era because churches simply did not exist yet. Fair point, but this does not change the fact that Paul spent his entire ministry planting churches and did not stop at some point and say, “Welp, we’ve got some in this region… let’s hope for the best.” No, he ordered that elders be appointed in every town (Tit. 1:5) and was not satisfied with a few people in each town knowing Jesus (Acts 19:10). He was also clear about leaders being raised up to teach others (2 Tim. 2:2). Jesus’s words are still true today, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Matt. 9:37).

What Shall We Say Then?

I worked for a 130-year old Baptist church in East Texas that had hit plateaus and valleys numerically for its entire existence, but by all accounts had never been over 200 regularly active members. Does this mean that the church is a failure? Absolutely not! I ministered to and with some of the godliest people I have ever met at that church. What is disturbing is the fact that even in that tiny town, the most established, city-seat church was still not reaching every person in the area.

I often wondered how much more gospel impact could be made if there were just one or two other churches with different models and diverse leaders. Our Jesus is the same, but not everyone comes to him in identical ways. There is room in every context for multiple churches, using several models, all proclaiming the unmatched name of Christ.

The Barna Group says that 3,500-4,000 local churches close their doors every year. If we never plant new churches, we may witness even further troubling numbers. Every church in existence was planted, and every church has its own niche in the bigger story of God. May we never stop until every ear has heard the name of Jesus.