Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Failures in the Bible (No Invite For Them to a Church Planting Conference)

Years ago while pastoring a small traditional church, I received a packet in the mail that told me that if I would pay this group such and such amount of money (seems like it was around $500), this group would come in and help our struggling church grow.  They would do a survey of the community, break it down according to its demographics and would provide a sure plan for helping our church grow.  They would provide a consultant who was “an expert in church growth” and would help me come up with ways to be more effective in our outreach, better at keeping visitors, and providing an atmosphere that was suitable for church growth.  Ironically, God was mentioned only in passing.  Nothing was said of prayer, of expository preaching, of repentance, of discipleship in a biblical sense, of biblical evangelism, of baptism.  God was simply part of the means to the ends.  The bottom line was man could teach me how to grow a church.

I take that view to Scripture and I look at the many failures in the Bible.  I think of Noah and his failures.  Here is a man who Scripture calls “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5 NASB) yet we read that only eight people repented at his preaching after over 100 years of preaching (1 Peter 3:20).  8 people after 100 years.  That is not good results.  Yet Scripture exalts Noah as “an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7 NASB).

I think about Moses.  In many ways Moses was a success.  He was from a wealthy family (Hebrews 11:26) yet because of his sin of murder, he was in the desert for 40 years.  God brought him back to Egypt and he came only reluctantly.  He led more than three million Israelites from bondage to the promise land but in the end, he himself didn’t even get to enter the promise land because of his sins.  He had all the promises of God about the promise land but his own moral failures led him to miss the promise land.  In many ways, Moses was a failure in the eyes of the church growth folks.  Yes he did lead three million souls but he died with them wandering in the desert.

I think of Jeremiah the prophet.  Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet (Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17; 14:17).  Here is a prophet of God who was threatened, tried for his life, put in stocks, forced to flee from Jehoiakim, publicly humiliated by a false prophet, and thrown into a pit.  He preached over 50 years and most rejected his prophetic voice.  He preached that Judah should repent and turn to God but in the end, none heeded his voice and the Jews were taken into captivity by the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 52).  The book of Lamentations is Jeremiah’s weeping over the status of the Jews.  Jerusalem, the city of David, now was in bondage and forsaken by God and given over to the evil Chaldeans.

I think of the Lord Jesus Himself.  Would Jesus be rejected from a church growth seminary?  Here is a Man who did have large crowds following Him at times yet He often withdrew from them to pray (Luke 5:16).  In fact, John 2:24-25 is a powerful insight into the ministry of the Messiah:

24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

Jesus would say things that often would make the crowds smaller such as His discourse in John 6 that ended with many disciples forsaking Him (John 6:66).  Jesus would tell the crowds to repent (Luke 13:5) and He would tell them how hard it was to be His disciple (Luke 14:25-35).  His parables and His actions show a Man who is not focused on having large numbers but is committed to doing the will of God perfectly.  In the end, all His disciples forsook Him (Mark 14:50).  After His resurrection, He appeared to over 500 people (1 Corinthians 15:6) yet only 120 went to the upper room to wait as He commanded (Acts 1:4-5, 15).  Here is a Man who once feed over 5,000 people (very likely near 10,000) yet in the end, He had only 120 people.  Jesus never wrote a book.  Never started a church.  Never went far from His boyhood home.  Never had much money.  Died without the riches of this world, without the applaud of the people, and He was mocked in His death.  I suspect Jesus would be viewed as a failure.

Even Paul the Apostle could be viewed as a failure.  Yes he was a mighty man of God, planted churches, and preached the Word in many places but in the end, he was forsaken and alone in prison at the time of his death (2 Timothy 4:10-11).  The church growth folks want us to believe that a clergy should be praised, held in honor, and adored by the people.  You would expect crowds to mourn your loss because of your greatness to the kingdom of God but here is Paul alone in the prison cell and about to die.  After years of warning and preaching and exhorting, people still are forsaking the faith and him (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 4;3-4).  Even his greatest church (Ephesus) would be rebuked by Jesus in Revelation 2:1-7 for having lost her first love.  No applause from men when Paul dies.  No weeping over his loss.  No masses of saints waiting to see the beloved Apostle.  Instead, we see him alone.  Where is the fame?  Where is the fortune?  Where are the experts waiting to hear what Paul has to say?

I write all this to encourage you.  Don’t allow pragmatism to rob you of being faithful to Jesus.  Focus on pleasing God and not on what you can get out of it or the applause of men.  Make Jesus your passion.  Seek Him for Him.  Serve Him for Him.  Make heaven your goal.  Don’t be fooled by the lure of money (1 Timothy 6:10) nor of the flesh.  Seek to please Jesus and make Him the One that you look to.  People will mock you for your witnessing, saying that it doesn’t work or you are only an embarrassment to God for passing out gospel tracts but remain steadfast (1 Corinthians 15:58).  People will mock you for your “old-fashioned views” regarding the Bible being the inerrant and infallible Word of God but remain faithful in your preaching just like Jeremiah and allow God to glorify His name through you even if you must die.  Preach hard against sin (when no one else will) and preach hard on repentance (when few will).  The Lord will be exalted and that is our aim (Philippians 1:20-21).  Don’t look at your bank account as a sign of blessing or curse.  Don’t look at the people standing there hearing you weep over their souls.  Make your aim focused on pleasing Jesus!  Perhaps you will die alone and in prison and none will mourn you when you are gone but take heart, Jesus is there with you through it all (2 Timothy 4:17-18).  Jesus has promised that He will be with us to the end (Matthew 28:20).  May He be exalted through what others see as our failures.  We may die without a church or without anyone noticing but Jesus will and He will reward us on that day.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

06/30/2013 at 10:45 AM

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