The greatest problem of the church is the unsaved within its own walls. When people slip into the church as members, and even worse as deacons, ministers, or even the pastor, the only possible result is disaster. We look at what the problem is, how to fix it, how we should define salvation clearly, and the missed aspects of salvation. There are two key “choke-points” when we should be very insistant on making sure people are saved. These two points are in evangelism, and when a person becomes a member of the church (indicating their salvation before baptism, or in giving a testimony of a previous baptism in another church). A third perhaps comes into play in church discipline, which is exercised when a person refuses to repent and change his life.
Probably the greatest problem in most every church is the problem of supposedly “saved” people taking key positions in the church who are not really saved. This causes problems when members have “passed the tests” of public confession and baptism and are now church members in good standing, but are not really saved. Serious problems arise when they become deacons, Sunday School teachers, influential people who guide and influence the church. This becomes a horrible problem when they actually get to the level of being a minister or worse, a pastor (leader) of a church. The only place a blind man can lead somebody is into the ditch. We will deal with this on several levels.
First of all, we need to define and sharpen our understanding of salvation, and just what it is that makes a person saved. Without clearly understanding this ourselves, we cannot help others (even though we may really be saved). This will also sharpen our ability to witness to the unsaved.
Secondly, we need to get our head together in how to deal with this problem generally among the church as a whole, and also how to deal with it in individual cases. The clearest answer here is to teach, preach, and insist on the basis of true salvation. False doctrines, concepts, and attitudes have allowed people to be “accepted” and even made leaders when they simply are not manifesting any serious indication of being saved (other than just mouthing it).
Thirdly, we need to apply what we learn towards our evangelistic efforts, both in our services, in our ministries, in our visitation and evangelism efforts, and in our missions program.
Let’s just be plain about it, churches don’t emphasize salvation enough. While we are talking plainly about this, 99% of the people out there simply have an extremely hard time understanding salvation, and this is especially true in contexts where we “lead somebody to the Lord” in a few minutes without going into a deep explanation of salvation. Don’t get me wrong, this presenting the gospel to somebody and their accepting it at first contact often happens, but without true understanding on the unsaved person’s part, there is no salvation, and true understanding is something that needs time and a lot of extra explanation, study, and meditation on the part of the person needing salvation.
Let’s say that in the case of a real salvation experience, there is going to be a response in the soul of the unsaved. Without that response, there can be no real salvation. This response is faith, and it is something that begins a chain of cause and effects in that person’s life which may vary a little but will always be there. There are NO exceptions to this rule, and even though it sometimes takes a little time to produce fruit (like any fruit tree), the fruit is always without exception there with time, and the quality is very distinct (pear trees produce pears, apple trees apples, etc.).
To cultivate fruit from a fruit tree, you need good soil, lots of water, and sunlight. You also need some protection from birds, animals, harsh weather, and other things and the fruit will come with time. In the cases of trees in adverse circumstances, the fruit will still come, but will be limited and tardy in going. Nobody tolerates a fruit tree that produces absolutely nothing. Remember the fig tree that Jesus said was good for nothing? I cannot emphasize enough the importance of getting things into a person’s life that promotes the process of fruit production and protecting the person from harmful things.
Essentials in Fruit Production
Here I would identify the primary essentials in fruit production as the following:
(1) Bible reading
A regular and broad reading of the word of God by the individual, followed by meditation. Personally the best situation here is hearing a Bible tape in a car over and over. The person is bored with driving but his mind is active, and this “killing time” is best for meditating on what it means.
(2) A Biblical sound local church
I would focus here on several aspects. Perhaps the most important one is the explaining (exposition) of the Word of God (see next point). But I would also see here a very high priority in befriending and have fellowship with real godly people (2 Tim. 2:22). The influence of a real godly person is tremendously important in producing fruit in others. We imitate those we see, and especially those we respect and look up to in some way. Other aspects that really produce spiritual fruit in a person’s life is the activities in the local church, especially Christian service (meeting needs of the brethren) and witnessing. This will only happen when the church and its leaders has their “head on straight” doctrinally which unfortunately is rare.
(3) Solid Expositional Teaching
There is nothing that will replace solid, clear, understandable explanations of the Word of God. Any preacher or pastor that is worth his salt will dedicate his entire life to learning how to understand and explain to others the word of God.
(4) Exposure to real prayer power
Here I am sorry to say that I have little personal experience in being around real prayer warriors. I pray, my family prays, and in our church we pray regularly, but this is not what I am talking about. There are some Christians that are prayer warriors. They say little to others, they have deep spiritual discernment to know how to pray, and they have great faith. You as a Christian can see God is meeting most all of their needs in their own lives, and they are satisfied and content. But the key here to these people is that what they pray for really comes to pass. They have spiritual power before the throne of God. These people will change a person’s life tremendously because they are unassuming in their Christian life, but they are extremely powerful. The world sadly has too few of these people. I preach in our church that the reason our kids aren’t interested in the things of God is because they have never seen it work. Their parents pray for things that never get answered. Their take on Christianity is that it is not really real, it doesn’t really work, because they have never seen a man or woman of God pray and get things changed. We should also add here that the thing that determines when and how much fruit a new convert produces is also how much prayer he “receives” (people praying for him) and by what kind of Christian (godly people). This is an important factor that produces profound differences.
I would also identify the primary harmful elements as the following:
(1) False teaching
Let me just say that Satan will always first try to inject false doctrine into a new convert’s life. If he cannot stop his forward movement, then he will try to channel it into unfruitful and spiritually empty things. With so many needs that we should be working on as Christians, I see Christian youth groups having soap box derbies and other such foolishness. To spend 20 hours on these foolish things is easy, but to spend 20 hours on canvassing door to door in evangelism, or in studying for giving a Bible study, nobody can do easily.
Let me say that there are a lot of false teachers out there, and their charm and powers of persuasion and making people fall in love with them are very powerful. But beyond that, many good pastors are pretty useless in their spiritual “feeding” ability. The common errors I see are that pastors believe and practice the belief that programs will build a church instead of spiritual feeding by expository preaching. This is a common error that is best taken to its extreme by the Jack Hyles crowd (or the Pentecostal church growth crowd).
The other common error among “good pastors” is the failure of their own comprehension in the matter of balance and eating a balanced diet. Most pastors study little, and when they do study a lot and get a good handle on something, it overtakes them. They want to read or insert that one thing they have “discovered” into everything that exists instead of moving on to the next discovery.
Here I see (as an example of many similar type problems) pastors discover “election,” “predestination”, and their latch onto Calvinism. Their entire ministry begins to gyrate around Calvinism and the doctrines of Grace. To put it simply, this will destroy people and ministries, restrict spiritual fruit, and cause great spirit problems. The only doctrine that we can elevate above all other doctrines is salvation, which is not that God has pre-elected some, but that God is offering salvation to all. The pre-elected emphasis drives people to be proud, haughty (after all their are the chosen ones) and neglect the unsaved in prayer, missions, evangelism, and activities that actually see the unsaved come to Christ. The true gospel emphasis motivates the entire church and drives people forward for Christ to produce spiritual fruit.
I would note that “fruit” and sheep have the concept of reproducing itself as the true fruit. That means seeing an unsaved person accept the Lord as Savior. This is the fruit that is the most desirable. When we focus on other things as fruit and detract from this reproduction aspect, we are just wrong. I would also note that nature (i.e. God) has placed the seed of the fruit around a highly desirable fruit. The concept of a sweet apple with seeds in the middle is exactly where we need to focus. The point is reproduction of the fruit tree, and the reproductive element (the seed) is surrounded by a delicious, sweet, eye-pleasing fruit. God wants Christians to “get to the point” (reproduce other Christians) and do it by having a testimony that is pleasing to God and man.
The error of many pastors is that they do not understand that there is a broad balance of doctrines and activities that his people need to be experts in if they are to be fruit bearing Christians. He must go from one to the other, and when teaching that particular one, do so with intensity and enthusiasm, but then go on to the next thing they need.
(2) Sinful conduct by supposedly good Christians
One of the great deterrents of Christian growth is the presence of supposedly godly Christians which sin without repentance and confession of their sins (they do not personally leave off sinning). This evil influence will slow and restrict spiritual growth that leads to fruit bearing. Paul puts it a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Remember you become like those you run around with.
(3) Sins and crises that distract and disable a person’s Christian life
Here I would put things like life dominating sins like fornication, divorce, pornography, sex, drugs, alcohol, and other life dominating sins. (Yes, divorce is a sin because it is not God’s will. The fact that an unsaved person leaves the Christian is accepted by God does not mean it is God’s will. God’s will is that the unsaved partner gets saved and lives the Christian life. There is no reason why two obedient Christians should ever get a divorce.) Other life dominating sins or problems here would be bitterness, rejection, singleness, gossip, hatred, covetousness, and other such character flaw sins that seem to take over and dominate the life of the person.
Perhaps we could even include here work as something that defeats spiritual growth in a person. Everybody must work, but I have seen a trend of people working to the exclusion of church and their spiritual life (making work a part of our covetousness).
Here other factors enter in also, such as the premature death of child or the sudden death of a spouse or a single pregnant teen. These things can set back a Christian greatly, or they can be the things that make a Christian strong and fruitful. The difference here is a Pastor and a local church that will truly counsel in a biblical way, and deal with what is wrong and fix it. That is their job, and if they cannot do it, they should leave the profession.
Let me add here that it is not the pastor’s job to put fruit on the trees, but it is something that should come naturally because the tree is a certain type of tree. I can buy apples in the supermarket and put them on the tree with string, and it will look great, but that is not what we are to do. We get all mixed up in a works salvation type of situation (all the while preaching loudly “saved by grace”) because we fall into the trap of “if you do this then you are a good Christian.” We are not justified by outward works but by faith. But faith must have its evidences or “fruit.”
- A Clear Plan of Salvation
- Verses for Witnessing (based on this four point plan)
- Verses for Witnessing with Explanations included.
Our the other end of the spectrum are the easy believism crowd which emphasize exclusively salvation. Their goal and priority is numbers, so they want to get “converts” at any price. They are the number counters, and any quality or even plastic apples count just as good as real ones. Jack Hyles was one of the best examples of this, and his Hyles want-a-be’s are all over America and the world. Their problem is that they have excluded repentance from salvation, from the presentation of the gospel, and therefore they preach another gospel that is not the Bible gospel.