By Elizabeth Prata
The Grow in Grace Newsletter is written and emailed by Pastor James Bell of Southside Baptist Church in Gallatin TN. Pastor Bell has been leading this congregation in Tennessee for 48 years. He is a faithful shepherd! There are many like Pastor Bell. Do not lose heart when this one or that one falls, or revealed himself to be an apostate. The Lord has many who lead faithfully in all corners oft he world.
I find the Grow in Grace Newsletter to be edifying, so occasionally I post it for your perusal also.
James Bell wrote:
Please use the Grow in Grace Newsletter for your own spiritual growth; and as a resource to help equip you to minister to others! Volume 48, No. 4, January 24, 2023 / Southside Baptist Church / P.O. Box 1594 / 1028 South Water Avenue, Gallatin, TN 37066 (615) 452-5951 / The Grow in Grace Newsletter is a weekly Bible Study, plus local church news notes— designed first and foremost for members and those attending services at Southside Church; and is sent forth with the desire to aid one and all, (including friends far and wide), in the experience of 2 Peter 3:18. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our LORD JESUS CHRIST
Jesus reminds us: “… I will build MY church; and the gates of hell [Hades: the powers of death] shall not prevail against it….” (Matthew 16:17-18) As Jesus builds His church— each saved/born again person is a part of the fellowship of the redeemed: “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (I Corinthians 1:9)
Moreover, this fellowship is not just me and Jesus; but it is — Jesus, me, and the local assembly of believers to which the Holy Spirit has joined me! (1 Corinthians 12:12-24) [Yes, we are in fellowship with ALL who are in Christ, all around the world— but we are in very specific fellowship with a local community of saints!]
We must understand: The entire New Testament period was not filled with churches to whom the Lord was adding new converts every day, as was the case in Acts 2!
For during the New Testament era and even to our day,
- The preaching/teaching of Jesus and the Apostles drove and still drives many away! (John 6:66-71; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; 4:1-5)
- Just as Jesus warned in Mark 4:14-18— the work of satan, the reality of persecution, the cares of this life, and/or the love of money— these all REVEAL the lack of true conversion in many and so they fall away.
- The Apostle John reported that there were many anti-Christs; and that they left the true congregations because they were false converts from the start! (1 John 2:15-19)
EVEN SO, none of the New Testament churches lamented, “Attendance was down last Sunday, we need a high attendance promotion!” AND: When the strong teaching of Jesus, (John 6:32-65), caused many who had been following Jesus to leave —
Jesus did not panic or tell the few who stayed, “O gee, we had better do some creative planning and develop a plan to appeal to the likes of the masses! … Maybe I need to up the amount of dramatic miracles!”
MOREOVER, there is no evidence that they took a ‘poll’ to find out what the lost like so as to adapt church to the lost. They had no sports, no comedians, no entertainment, no advertising budget to be spent on endeavors designed to attract pagans— or to hold on to and bring back the carnal multitudes who previously attended!
GENUINE New Testament Christianity is radically different! The Holy Spirit via the New Testament repeatedly calls upon believers,
(1) To not blaspheme the gospel by bad living!
(2) To adorn the gospel by Christ-like living!
(3) To live lives of loving one another!
(4) In addition, Jesus, in Revelation 2-3, reveals that which He commends, that which He commands; and that which He rejects if a church is to be truly effective.
The Acts of the Apostles overflows with wonderful teaching and examples as to the methods of Jesus in building an effective church ministry!
HERE ARE SOME OF THE METHODS JESUS HAS USED IN BUILDING HIS CHURCH:
(1) Persecution of the church led to a church-wide prayer meeting with the results being a fresh advance of the kingdom of God—
See Acts 4:23-33!
(2) Sin by church members led to severe chastening [SUDDEN DEATH!] with the end result being another fresh advance of the kingdom of God—
(3) Neglect of some church members and murmuring in the church led to the appointment of special servants to minister to the Greek widows with the ultimate result being yet another fresh advance of the kingdom of God—
(4) Bold preaching brought martyrdom and persecution which yielded yet another fresh advance of the kingdom of God—
Acts 7:1-60; 8:1-4!
SO, WHEN JESUS SAYS, “I WILL BUILD MY CHURCH!”… He often does it through surprising ways and circumstances…. At times even bringing good things out of bad things!
In a New Testament Church, all believers have to do is to stick to the business of holy Christian living and boldly proclaiming the gospel to the world. GOD will add to the church as He pleases! (Acts 2:42-47; 1 Cor. 3:6-11).
—end Pastor Bell newsletter Grow in Grace.
The verse in Acts just after Ananias and Sapphira were killed always strikes me. Acts 5:12-14,
Now at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were happening among the people, and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s Portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people were holding them in high esteem. And more than ever believers in the Lord were added to their number, multitudes of men and women,
Barnes’ Notes says of that set of verses,
“The effect of all these things was to increase the number of converts. Their persecutions, their preaching, and the judgment of God, “all” tended to impress the minds of the people, and to lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ. Compare Acts 4:4. Though the judgment of God had the effect of deterring hypocrites from entering the church – though it produced awe and caution, yet still the number of true converts was increased. An effort to keep the church pure by wholesome discipline, and by cutting off unworthy members, however rich or honored, so far from weakening its true strength, has a tendency greatly to increase its numbers as well as its purity.”
It is still true today, as John MacArthur says, “Soft preaching makes hard hearts, but hard preaching makes soft hearts.”
People are hungry for the word of God, for answers to questions that bother them so, and for a community that is loving, as pure as possible, and Jesus-oriented. It has always been that way and it will always be. If a church decides to use other methods than the ones outlines in the Bible and reminded of to the reader above, then you will have a church filled with hypocrites, false believers, and clowns seeking entertainment and petting of their sin.
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may approve what the will of God is, that which is good and pleasing and perfect.