What Can We Do?
This will be a short article just to get to think about where we are today in America, how did we get here and what will we do to change our course
Our church, Caesarea Baptist Church, recently had our missions conference and we were blessed to have Brother Jeremy Rowland from Baptist Church Planting Ministry in as our speaker. Our focus for our missions conference was reaching America.
I was challenged by the messages and also have started to think about what can we do to make a difference. Brother Jeremy Rowland made the point that in the past decades instead of focusing on church planting we have generally focused on growing the church. Some churches have failed, some have grown to be substantially larger. We have focused on going out into surrounding cities and bringing people back into the church rather than planting new churches in the surrounding area. Planting churches is the Biblical mandate that Jesus has given us in the great commission.
Notice we are to go out and teach all nations – baptizing them. That is done in our local church. We should be going out and reaching people and bringing them into the church.
Where is our Focus
This morning in my reading I read the first few chapters of Zechariah and it could apply to us today. Zechariah and Haggai had ministries at the same time. They both lived in Jerusalem upon the return of Jews to restore the Temple and they both issued prophecies at almost the same time. Zechariah, however, had a longer ministry than that which is recorded of Haggai. His prophecies were presented over a period of about thirty-three years. Both prophets sought to encourage the returned Jews in the struggle to rebuild the Temple in the face of opposition.
In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,Zechariah 1:1 (KJB)
Just a couple of months after Haggai issued his prophecy this message was delivered to the Jewish people. Let’s take a look at the first few verses of chapter one.
As we can see Zechariah wasn’t wasting any time getting to the point. I would think that after being in Babylon for all those years because of their disobedience to God that these words would have gotten someone’s attention. The Jews were back, in their homeland. They had attempted to rebuild their Temple, met opposition, became discouraged, and quit. They had turned their pursuits to making money, to building homes, and doing things other than serving God. Zechariah reminded them that God was “sore displeased with your fathers.” The reference is to backslidden Israel prior to the captivity.
Zechariah reminded them that God had dealt with the sin of their forefathers. They reaped the harvest of that chastening to that very day. I believe we see some of the same results here in America because we as churches have become more focused on numbers, how big and fancy the building is, and how many busses and routes we have instead of planting churches. In decades past there was a focus and emphasis and planting churches. Now, the focus is bring them in and grow the church, expand the building, have multiple services. Why did we stop focusing on God’s plans and planting churches? In the new testament we see God brought persecution on the people and that was the cause of spreading the gospel? I ask you is that what COVID is for us today? The government closes the door of the church but God’s men find a way to open the door, preach in the parking lots, the parks, on the street!
Zechariah 1:3 (KJB) Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.
In very few words I believe the thought here is “turn” or return unto me. We are talking about repentance. What we need is a change of heart. We need to focus on spreading the gospel not the size of the flock in our building.
Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.Zechariah 1:4 (KJB)
Are we going to continue doing what we have been doing and expecting different results? There are some churches doing a great work and they are replicating themselves. No, the individual church may not get larger, no, the flock may even become smaller but the ministry the gospel is not about us, it’s reaching the lost! If we want different results we have to have a different approach. In times past there was a passion for adding new churches in areas where there was no local congregation.
Zechariah is simply asking the people where are your fathers & the prophets that didn’t listen to God’s plan? They were dead and buried in Babylonian soil. They had been judged by God and the people of Zechariah’s day knew it. He continued, “and the prophets, do they live forever?” The answer though similar has a far deeper implication. Indeed, the prophets (Obadiah, Joel, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah to Ezekiel and Daniel) were all by now dead. But as noted in verse six, God’s Word, continued to that very day.
What Can We Do?
The initial premise that churches should reproduce churches is biblical because Christ gave the local church the area to reach with the Great Commission. We are told in Acts 1:8 we are to go into “Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth.” The Jerusalem church fulfilled this even though God had to bring about persecution to the church in Jerusalem to carry it out.
Acts 8:1 (KJB) And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.
God scattered the believers in the Jerusalem church into Judea and Samaria by persecution that was brought upon the church. Please notice that the apostles were not scattered but only the believers.
The result of this preaching and dispersion was the reproducing of churches “throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria”.
Acts 9:31 (KJB) Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
You will also note that the churches “were multiplied.” This is not addition but multiplication, which means that while one was reproducing a church another was also reproducing a church. Churches were reproducing churches and reaching the area for Christ. This was not the end of the travels for these persecuted believers.
Acts 11:19 (KJB) Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.
The church at Antioch was reproduced by the church at Jerusalem, which means they did reach their “uttermost parts of the earth.” You will also note that the first pastor of this church was Barnabas and he was sent to pastor this church from Jerusalem and by the leadership of the Jerusalem church.
Acts 11:22 (KJB) Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch.
What will our generation do so God is not displeased with us?
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