291 The Strong Church Part One
Today I begin a two part series on the strength of the Church. What makes a Church Strong, and why the Church needs to be strong in these days? You will notice if you’ll look on our Web page that following this series I intend to Preach throughout the month of November on the coming end times, and my focus will be on the middle east and in particular on the land of Israel.
(Be sure to tune in)
Suffice to say at this point that I believe that the Church right now needs to gird on a Strength like never before, We need to prepare for what is coming … for it is the Church of Jesus Christ that will be the only source of hope and help left in the coming days. Mark my words.
To those of you listening who don’t go to Church because you are lazy and uninterested in spiritual things, my counsel is to get back to Church if you can, or at any rate get back to God, if not for your own sake then for your Children’s sake.
Its time to look up – Almighty God is about to show up in our world in an unmistakable and undeniable way and the financial and economic shaking we have seen since 2008 is only the prelude to what is coming. I recon that in about two years from now, everything we believed to be “permanent” will have been moved from its place. Governments, Financial Institutions and Banks, Medical care and Welfare Systems, Pension Funds, Travel, Business, Commerce, Tourism, Education and much more. There will be a shift in the structures of Government and those assuming to be the great super-powers will crumble and fall. Dictators will be crushed, and the poor often trampled down will stand up again. The rich will see their wealth, investments and their commodities evaporate, and only the true Blood Line Church will remain standing. (What I mean by the blood line – is those who have been blood bought at Calvary) False religions and cults that keep people in slavery and under the thumb will also fall and the wealth of the ungodly, even that hidden wealth, will transfer to the righteous in one single stroke of the Almighty’s hand!
In the disaster and chaos that will ensue, people will turn to the Church, and turn to God. Thank God. God desires it so, for we are in the times of Zion’s Favour, (Psalm 102:13) and that means the time of Israel’s favour and the Churches favour. (we are the Israel of God) We will witness the greatest ingathering of souls ever, and in this hour the Church will need to be strong. But the Churches strength is measured by the faith and focus of its membership in the Head of the Church, who is Jesus Christ.
The Queen is not Head of the Church, the Pope is not the Head of the Church, – without any disrespect to them – they are only traditional-head or figure-heads. The Bible shows us that there is only one head of the Church, that is Jesus Christ – Gods Son our Saviour. If you are in relationship with Him, you will stand, if not you will fall. If your Church and denomination is Christ Centred and Bible Centred then it will survive, if not,
it too will crumble and fall. I have no time for “political correctness” today, time is quickly running out – you need to hear this and I shall do my best to “speak this truth in love“.
There are some Preachers who would not touch these “end times” issues with a “barge pole” but God warns that the “watchmen” who make no warning sound will answer to him. Ezekiel 33:6
So, there are literally thousands of buildings called churches that are scattered across this country and all around the world but the truth is that these building are not the Church – they only house the Church? There are many kinds of these churches, yet not all of them are, or claim to be – Christian Churches. Some of them carry other names but function as church buildings. Millions of people belong to a Church. Some of them claim to be saved, and some deny salvation, some attend church regularly and some don’t belong to any Church. This causes me to ask the question, – What is a Church and what kind of Church do I want to belong to? Do I want to belong to a weak church or a strong church – and what makes the difference. When Jesus said “I will build my Church” – I can only conclude that anything that He builds – I ought to be interested in it.
First of all, by way of introduction, lets look back in today’s Gospel at what Jesus said in Matthew 16:13-20 about the Foundation Stone of the Church. It is important to lay down some foundational or fundamental facts before we look at the characteristics of the Church. Over these two messages, (today’s being part one) I want to focus on 12 characteristics of the Strong Church, but before I can do that I must lay the foundation stone, as Jesus himself did in Matthew 16 which
we read from a moment ago.
In Matthew 16, Jesus was not saying that he was going to build His Church on the Apostle Peter, in fact in verse 23 Jesus likens him to the devil and told him to get behind him. And we know that Peter compromised his relationship with Jesus when he denied him publicly ( Matt 26:74) Contrary to some denominational traditions, Jesus would never have founded his Church on an imperfect Apostle. Rather he founded the Church on Peters Confession that Jesus Christ was the son of the Living God. If we remove that truth that Jesus is the Son of God we no longer have a Church. It may be a beautiful building, even a Cathedral, but its not a Church. A Church that is built on the principle that Jesus is the Son of God, and that Jesus is Lord, then the gates of hell will not overpower it. All the forces of evil will not be able to withstand the movement and work of the Church of Jesus Christ; Satan cannot destroy it.
The body of Christ the Blood Bought Church cannot be shaken. All kinds of people have done their best to silence the Church but it will never ever be overcome by anything or anybody. Roman Emperors tried their best to destroy the Church but the Blood of the Martyrs only served to strengthen the Church at that time and in the years since. We must belong to a Church that teaches the word of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Gods Good News. How else can we grow. Yet I recognise and acknowledge today that some folk cannot get to Church? Advancing years, Disability, Immobility or the Duty of Service, often keep people from regular and continuing attendance with a local fellowship… but this is why I have The Sanctuary, this Radio Service, so that you can join this radio Congregation from your own home, your hospital bed or from your car radio. It is still Gods Church and God is present and God is omnipotent. His power is still able to move and work in and through our lives even though we are not physically sitting together in a pew. Gods church does not live in a building – Praise God!
After laying this cornerstone with the Apostles, Jesus goes on to say that He will give to both them and to the believers that follow them into the Church – the Keys of the Kingdom. We know from previous studies that these keys are keys of authority to bind on earth those things that are bound in heaven, and loose on earth those things loosed in heaven. Thus the Church was Poised – and at Pentecost empowered, to move forward with the Word of God, the Name of Jesus and the Power of the Holy Spirit. Remember that these keys are “Kingdom Keys” and not “Church Keys”… and therein lies confusion for some?
The Churches role is to prepare for the Kingdom, plan for the Kingdom and pray for the Kingdom. Everything we do in the Church should never be about “Our Church” but only about “His Kingdom”. That’s the foundation stone that Jesus laid – both for the Apostles then, and for us now.
If your Church is only inward looking and not outward going, then it is a weak Church, barely surviving and never growing.
These two Sermons about the Strong Church are meant to help strengthen the Church for the transition period, where the coming Kingdom, becomes the current Kingdom. Jesus is about to take his Throne on Mount Zion and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ – and he shall reign for ever and ever. Amen.
So let us continue now as we consider the first of these characteristics that make for a strong Church.
The First I’m calling … SPIRIT FLLED LEADERSHIP
There are two kinds of leadership in my opinion, those who lead by walking, and those who lead by talking. In every strata of society as well as within the Church it is possible for leadership to embrace a “Do as I say not as I do” philosophy. In other words a leader may lead in his own strength, which is usually “leadership by words.” Saying things like “This is the way to do it, this is the plan, this is the best course of action, this is the wisest route, the quickest way, the cheapest option“… and so on.
But the leader who is relying on God will be far more concerned with his own walk than his talk. He will hope to show leadership by example. With kind words, wise counsel, loving care and humility he will show that he is prepared to take the longer way around, the more strenuous path, the less popular choice in order to Lead, and not be Led. Good leadership will not compromise standards or truth, and will accept hardship and even criticism in the search for the best way forward. A good leader will not be concerned about who follows him, his focus is in front of him not behind him. A good leader will press on in spite of circumstances and in spite of criticism.
A good Church Leader, a good Pastor or Priest will not be relying on his own intellectual or academic ability, but will see these as merely gifts in the hand of God to be utilised and used as the Holy Spirit wills. Without the Holy Spirit filling, the human spirit is failing.
Without God we are already weak. The Great commission to
“Go into all the world and Preach the Gospel to every Creature”
( Mark 16:15 ) was given … BUT they were told to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came to empower and equip them. These few believing men were given the challenge to get his truth to the entire world. How ridiculous that sounds to us today when we remember that there were no computers back then, no e-mails, no cell phones, no twitter, or talk talk. The work could be done by word of mouth only. If anyone needed a supernatural empowering it was the Church back then, and if they needed the filling of the Holy Spirit, then we need it also.
Not only the Pastors but the entire leadership of the Church – need to be listening to and depending on God for Direction and Partnership. All your staff and teachers need to be filled, all your musicians and singers need to be filled, all your outreach and witness needs to be filled – without the anointing, its just words, but when Gods Holy Spirit moves, the words we speak become life changing truth. Is your Church Spirit Filled?
What makes a Strong Church … in the Second Place
It has to be …A DOCTRINALLY SOUND MESSAGE
The Sermon, or Message Preached from the Pulpit, must be doctrinally sound – and meet the needs of the people. This is why, for me, as a Preacher, I must wait on God in the place of Prayer and Meditation in the Word, to allow the Scriptures to impact my own life, before I can ever hope they will have an impact on yours. Of course I receive REVELATION first and foremost for my own spiritual growth, but sometimes I get so excited about the liberty and freedom that comes from these revelations that I just have to share them with you from the Pulpit or in a Broadcast Service.
It is important to me, (it may not be as important to other preachers) but to me I was ordained to “Declare the whole counsel of God.” That means that in all good faith and conscience, I cannot hold back from any scripture that is not “Traditionally” acceptable in some denominations. If God says it, and it is in agreement with the whole “tenor” of scripture, then I am bound by God to preach on it. I won’t be preaching you sermons from the Readers Digest, or the Belfast Telegraph, or the Mail on Sunday, interesting reading they may be, but I am ordained to preach only from the Bible, Gods Book!
Sadly even many of our Bible believing Churches have become selective in what parts of the Bible they believe. Its time to look within – if you don’t believe the whole book is for the whole man, then you cannot take the whole Gospel to the whole world?
How many today go to Church without a Bible, listen to sermon-ettes and then they go home, retaining very little of what they heard. How much do you remember? You should carry your Bible and open your Bible, and mark it, retain it, underline it and treasure it. In many Churches no one carries a Bible but the Preacher – and if I turn up carrying my Bible they suppose that I am the Preacher that day? The Bible is Gods Handbook, without it you just have someone’s opinion. How do you know that what I’m saying is truth or not? If I don’t quote from the Bible and make sure that I can back up everything I say from it, then I am merely passing on my opinions, and your opinions are just as valid as mine!
To be doctrinally sound means that our beliefs are born and bred in the word of God, sourced from the word of God not from the opinions or traditions of men. A lie may be in office for a long time, but that does not make it truth. Just because you have believed in something for years, does not mean that you have the truth. Folks in the old world believed it was flat until it was discovered that we lived on a Sphere. Once we were able to orbit it, that changed everything. Some of you may disagree with my preaching, but if I stick to the word, I needn’t worry, you are disagreeing with God, not me. By comparing Scriptures with Scriptures we add knowledge to our gifts and the word of God grows and bears fruit in us and around us. Some will see contradiction but there is no contradiction in the Bible if you look closely at the contexts. Contradiction arises only in the minds of the ignorant because the don’t know the complete story. We should know what we believe and why we believe it; and we should teach our Children also to believe in and to test the scriptures for themselves. If you have taught them the Truth, then the truth will always remain.
I could go on on this subject for a week, but suffice to say that you need to be part of a Church that believes in and teaches the whole Bible. While it is true, for the Bible teaches it, and I have taught you that we are New Testament Christians, (there is no such thing as an Old Testament Christian) we must learn that the New Testament is the Old Testament Revealed, while the Old Testament is the New Testament Concealed. You can’t have one without the other! Yet remember that much of the Old Testament has to do with Law, and the law was given to the Jews and not the Gentiles. We Gentiles have been given Grace and not LAW, “for by Grace we are saved through faith. Not by works“. Ephesians 2:8 Yet we must hold all truth in balance and speak all truth in love.
What makes a Strong Church …
Number Three – UNCOMPROMISING IN CONVICTION.
If as a Preacher I compromise the TRUTH of the word of God, weaken it, water it down, belittle it, or fail to preach it, and if as a people you similarly compromise on Truth and accept only your Traditions as truth without question or without Biblical Authority, then such Compromise of the Truth of the Bible will result in error and weakness, even in heresy.
For example if you have a conviction about the drinking of alcohol, if you lay your conviction aside to please somebody, you do wrong. If you have convictions about the things you view on TV, or how you spend your money, and break those habits to please a child or a partner, then you show weakness of character and a lack of back-bone. I say again that A Church where the Preacher compromises the word of God is a weak Church and A Church were the people compromise their convictions – that too is a weak Church.
Some of you may not fully understand what I mean by compromise, so let me explain further. Over the years of my Counselling ministry, I have had occasions when I have had to speak to a Pastor or Preacher about problems in their Churches. Some of these men I knew when they were students for the ministry and they showed great promise and potential at that time. Years later, I found them worn out, weary of work, and about to resign. By their own confessions they admitted to changing the methods and message of their ministry to suit the people who listened, or sat under them week by week. There was less of a God Pleasing effort and more of a Man Pleasing effort. Sure enough congregations increased in number, popularity grew but with all of that – problems multiplied and stress ruled. It is frightful to think how many of the Clergy are even now as I speak, on leave for stress related conditions.
But when I discovered the Truth of the matter, I found that Compromises had been made and instead of Gods Holy Spirit being in Charge, men and women were in charge. The Church was being “managed” like a business might be, and the Minister, the Preacher had become the CEO, but often in name only. Instead of being dictated to by the Scriptures, he was being dictated to by the Elders, the Deacons and the Laity? Only Gods work done in Gods way will have Gods approval. Without Gods approval it will fail. There can be no compromise. The only way the Church will influence the world nowadays, is for the Church to get back to the Bible, and have nothing to do with the world – except to change it. Even if the Devil empty your Church, God is well able to fill it once again – but make no compromise with the world.
Now, dear friends, time has beaten me today, but God willing I will return to this subject next Sunday, when I will continue
to look at What makes a Strong Church … I will examine …
Its PRAYER life, WORSHIP, GIVING, PLANNING
TALENTS, UNITY, LOVE, VISION and SERVICE
So be sure to join me again next week for part two of this important subject.
As we ask …What makes a Strong Church
God Bless You. Amen