For all its vast complexities, Church ministry consists of two essential elements, preaching and love.
The church should preach the Word even when society opposes the Bible’s sexual ethic, even when the local community deems the Bible’s view of depravity outdated, and even when church members and pastors do not like hearing that God commands us to put the needs of others before our own. God’s Word is often unpopular. But it is also gracious, joyous, and life giving. Paul encourages Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13-16 with the following advice:
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Salvation, hope, joy, kindness, and life are found in the Word of God. If the church loses the Scriptures or minimizes the presence of the Word in worship, in Bible Studies, and in the youth group, the church will die. Her building may expand, but her people will drift far from the God of the universe into eternal despair. Rather, the church must continue in the Word. If the people of God devote themselves to the preaching and the reading of the Word, they will save themselves and others. The church will grow, succeed, and survive.
As your pastor, I come to preach the Scriptures. During my first year at Amissville Baptist Church, I want to regularly and faithfully preach, teach, and share the Word in all that I do.
But great preaching cannot thrive on its own. The preacher’s devotion to the Word must be matched by his commitment to love others. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:2:
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
Though many associate 1 Corinthians 13 with romantic love that they have commemorated via the artwork hung on their living room wall, Paul is addressing the love of the believer. He is detailing how Christians should conduct themselves. Paul says believers should be known as those who love each other. A man can preach greatest sermons, fill row after row of pews with tech, savvy youth, and break into the conference circuit and still fail to love his family and his congregation well. Such a man is nothing more than a clanging cymbal. He is one who proclaims the majesty of God and then slinks into a hole because he cannot in good conscience encourage others follow his loveless lifestyle. His family knows he never has time to hear about their struggles or complaints or to attend their basketball games. His church members know not to call him because he has little time for talking, counseling, or prayer. And the advice he does give seldom goes beyond, “Read your Bible and pray more.” Lacking love, the preacher proclaims a gospel that he has not experienced. All people who have been deeply touched by the love of Christ cannot help but love their brothers and sisters. The apostle John affirms Paul’s teaching and writes:
If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20).
When preaching is combined with love, the Gospel goes forward with incredible power. When men and women know their pastor calling them to change is himself being changed by the love of God, their hearts fill with joy and encouragement. I have been blessed to experience this joy first hand. Both at the Bible Church of Little Rock and at Fairdale Baptist Church, godly men regularly preached the Word in love and kindly confronted me when they saw sin in my life. God used their love for the Word and for me to shape and grow my faith.
Though I am definitely an imperfect man with many faults who daily repents, I desire to love the people of Amissville well. I hope to love you as I have been loved.
When I think about all that has happened over the last several months, my heart leaps for joy! April and I our counting down the days till our arrival! We look forward to introducing two (soon to be three) little kiddos to our Amissville family and to getting settled into Northern Virginia!
I cannot wait to worship with you on April 22! To Preach and to love! May God bless us all!