It has often been stated that the Lord Jesus referenced only the church twice in His earthly ministry. The first time is in Matthew 16 wherein he stated that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church and the secondly in Matthew 18 wherein He envisions the necessity of church discipline against an impenitent member. In these two statements, it has been said, we have the church triumphant and the church militant (struggling). The history of the Church bears both these marks. There are glorious stories of triumph and grievous stories of shame, infidelity, and retreat.
For over thirty years I have been part of Reformed Baptist Churches. I have pastored one church for nearly 25 years and have sought to help other churches get planted. I have been involved in ministerial training in the US, Africa and the Far East. In recent months I have been thinking through the trajectory we, as churches, seem to be on. I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. My plan, in these blogs, is to identify four areas of concern and articulate some course of action.
The first area of concern is that of future leadership. While there are numerous Calvinistic Baptist movements marked by vigorous and youthful leadership, our churches are not yet among their number. There are many of our churches where there are sole pastors and some of those churches are pastored by men of advancing years. Not only can they not find a fellow elder to bring about a biblical plurality, they do not know who will lead their flock in the decades to come. No pastor I know wants their churches to fade away when they are gone. They desire that God will replace them with robustly confessional men who love the Lord and His people and who will lead them to the green grass and cool waters of His Word for decades till they themselves are replaced.
What kind of men? We desire biblically qualified men who have a passion to selflessly shepherd Christ’s flock. We desire men of giftedness who will be able to feed the flock. We desire men of confessional conviction. That means, for us, men who embrace the truths of historic confessional Christianity with firmness, conviction, knowledge and joy. Men who embrace Baptist Covenant Theology. Men who love the Lord’s Day and are not ashamed of its place in the Moral Law. Men who believe in the centrality of the church and the commitment of members to its life together. If our churches are to remain committed not only to Orthodox and Reformed Christianity but to 1689 Confessionalism then we must do at least three things.
The first we must do is pray that the Lord of the Harvest will raise up laborers (Matt 9:38). As one has well said, only the God who made the world can make a gospel minister. Secondly we must invest in our youth. We must lay bare afresh what we believe and why we believe it and pray that the Lord will instill in them a passion for these truths they have grown up with in a way that does not lead to pride, judgmentalism towards brethren who differ, and isolation. We can and must be a people of narrow convictions and broad affections and associations. Thirdly we must act. Encourage young men to consider the ministry. Pastors need to look for men to mentor and invest time and resources in. Look to give younger men opportunities for ministry—prison ministries, nursing homes, homeless shelters, youth gatherings, Sunday School classes, and eventually morning or evening worship services. Lead the people of God in prayer for the rising generation with hope that God will own and bless His truth in them till His Son returns in glory.