Our Priorities at TVBC – Part 1
Dr. Tom Nettles, now-retired and former professor of church history at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, tells a story about his days pastoring. One day, Dr. Nettles saw a deacon at the store who asked how his Sunday sermon was coming along. The pastor said it was about half done. In all his wisdom, the man replied, “Sounds like a good place to stop.” (Source: Christian Reader, January/February 1998, p.91)
Whether intended or not, this story proves one thing about us: Our priorities are all different. One prefers staying up late and sleeping in. Another person can’t imagine a day without getting up early.
How much more in the church! From worship style debates to the color of the carpet to the length of the sermon, every church attender and member has a different preference. Yet, mountains become molehills when preferences fill the center of spiritual desire. Anything in the local church life becomes an issue when we make our preferences into convictions.
What does the Bible say should be our priorities to worship, honor, and spread God’s name correctly? Certainly, there are many. At TVBC, we want to start with a foundation of at least four priorities. (We will look at the first two this week):
- Personal Disiciple Making Relationships
There is, perhaps, no more forceful or clear passage addressing why we at Tower View—or any other church—should preach than that which Paul wrote to Timothy in his last letter:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
The task of preaching is the sharing of God’s message, not the preacher’s message. A preacher can only say, “Thus says the Lord,” if God has, in fact, said it. God’s message is only found in the pages of the Old and New Testaments. There is no other source we go to discern the mind of God—the Bible is sufficient for all matters of faith and practice.
Or, we could say it this way, every part of our public ministry can fail except the public preaching of God’s Word. Why is that? Because preaching is biblically necessary for the building of the church.
The Word of God is the fountain of any spiritual life we would have – personally and corporately. God uses preaching to create, convict, and conform our faith in the first place (1 Thess. 2:13).
In his timeless work Preaching and Preachers, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote:
The most urgent need in the Christian Church today is true preaching; and as it is the greatest and most urgent need in the Church, it is obviously the greatest need in the world also. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2014], 9).
Notice that he didn’t have drama, entertainment, or pulpit chats in mind when he pressed the need for “true preaching.” This isn’t to say these may not be used by church to minister in some way (we will!). However, in Lloyd-Jones’ estimation, preaching was nothing less than the exposition of God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. He went on further to say:
What is preaching? Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire (Preaching and Preachers, 97).
I strongly believe that no church can go any higher than its pulpit ministry and presence. As the pulpit and preaching goes, so goes the church. The deeper the we go into the Word:
- The greater we’ll grow in worship of who God is and what He has done for us in Christ (the Gospel);
- The fiercer we’ll be in the pursuit of God’s holiness and the spiritual disciplines;
- The more sacrificial service we’ll be in God’s work; and,
- The further our hearts will be kindled for the work of evangelism and the cause of worldwide missions.
Let’s pray for the preaching of God’s Word this Sunday. There is power there (Romans 1:16)!
Dr. Michael Horton once said:
“People ask me, ‘Why pray if God is sovereign?’ I respond, ‘Why pray if He isn’t?”
There is little doubt that our flesh and the enemy, Satan, hate prayer and will do everything to thwart it. As in the winter as ice forms quickly, when we sense our prayer life “cooling off,” we must rush to our knees.
Luke’s commentary on Jesus’ prayer of the “persistent widow” says: “And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1).
Remember: Never think that true, biblical, and God-honoring prayer is easy for anyone. All who fight in prayer, must first learn to fight to pray. If your heart is cold, you must pray until you can pray and then pray until you have prayed.
The less we feel inspired and emboldened to pray, the more we need to pray. The less we think our prayers are effective in God’s sovereign will and plan, the more we need to pray!
If anything, the Lord has taught me repeatedly that an apparently ineffective hour of prayer is extremely better than no prayer at all. We must learn to persevere in prayer and not give up hope and faint (1 Thess. 5:17).
In prayer, the most common trash collector that empties your garbage bin becomes a mighty warrior warring battles of eternal significance and glory. Rank and social standing do not matter.
God has used a variety of people throughout the millennia. Most of these faithful ones had little in common except an uncompromising commitment to the biblical Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-8) and a life of prayer.
Our culture is one of death by entertainment. We jump from one channel to the next and must constantly know what is going on in others’ lives via social media.
Prayer is not “exciting” (whatever that means) by the world’s standards. Yet, our lives will have a sense of the supernatural presence of God only to the degree that we remain before the Bible and live a life of prayer on a daily basis (Psalms 63 and119).
Practically, what should we pray for as a church at TVBC? Here are five things to consider:
- Follow Paul’s models in his prayer. Pray these Scriptures and instruct congregation in how to pray. Prayer is their most important ministry.
- Pray that the preaching of the Gospel will be faithful, accurate, and clear in every ministry. From the worship service to Busy Hands quilting to AWANA—every aspect of our church!
- Pray for increasing maturity of the congregation. That we’d grow in corporate love, sound doctrine, and that our testimony is distinctively pure and attractive to unbelievers.
- Pray for sinners to be converted and the church to be built up by preaching of the Gospel. The Gospel is the A to Z of what we do here to know, grow, share, and serve for and in Christ.
- Pray for opportunities for yourself and others to do personal evangelism. Don’t just bring a non-Christian friend to church (that’s good!), but they will see more non-Christians than if the church is to be filled. Look for daily opportunities to do so.
You say, “Well, I don’t know many people at TVBC.” Or, you may say, “There are so many new faces.” Let me encourage you to pray through the church directory! If you don’t have one, come by the office and we will get you one.
In all my years as believer, I constantly amazed at how weak I am apart from prayer. But don’t all our weaknesses and all of life’s inconveniences drive and lead us to Christ?
May we give ourselves to prayer, investigate prayer, and explore prayer. May we learn the importance and power of prayer. Indeed, no matter how great or noble, anything in this life that can be achieved without prayer is not worth chasing after.