Category Archives: Christian discipleship

Numerical Church Growth And Humanity’s Sinfulness

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

Most Bible-believing churches want to see their churches grow numerically. Many churches make it a priority. That is a good thing. But it is very important for us to keep in mind the Bible’s teaching concerning the sinfulness of man, which started when Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden, and which continues to this day. Those who are well-versed in Biblical truth know our inherited sinfulness results in our resistance to Biblical truth. In Genesis 6:5 we read a striking fact about the early years of human history. That verse says, “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” And that describes humanity all throughout the centuries since then.  God’s Word tells us in Isaiah 53:6 that “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way.” His Word tells us in Romans 3:10 that “there is none righteous; no, not one.” His Word tells us in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” His Word tells us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” His Word tells us  in John 8:12 and John 9:5 that the Lord Jesus Christ is “the light of the world”. But we read this in John 3:19, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.” In other words, humanity prefers the darkness of sin over Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
      The fact is, the Biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ does not make us look better than we really are. It confronts us with our sinfulness,  with our need of salvation, and with our need to repent and believe the Gospel in order to receive that salvation. And it confronts us with the reality of eternal punishment in hell for those who die as unsaved persons. The fact is, we sinful human beings are not eager to hear that sobering message. We avoid it like criminals avoid police officers. When we first are exposed to these Biblical truths, we hurry away from them, just like bugs hurry away when the rock under which they are hiding is turned over and they are exposed to the sunlight.
      It was this objection to Biblical truth that got some of the Old Testament prophets imprisoned, tortured, and even murdered. It was this objection to Biblical truth that got John the Baptist beheaded by Herod. It was this objection to Biblical truth that got the Lord Jesus Christ ridiculed, maligned, beaten up, whipped unmercifully, and then nailed to a cross and left to die a slow, painful, shameful death, only to have his death hastened by a soldier who pierced his side with a sword.  It was this objection to Biblical truth that got many of the Lord’s apostles treated much the same way as their Lord.  It was this objection to Biblical truth that led the writers of the New Testament’s letters to warn that there will be an ongoing objection to that truth. Read, for example, the apostle Paul’s two letters to Timothy, the second letter of the apostle Peter, and the first letter of the apostle John.
      In light of the massive amount of evidence from the Bible that men love darkness rather than light, it is utterly foolish for us to think that if we will just follow the advice of church growth experts on how to grow our churches numerically, success is sure to follow. Numerical success might be the direct result of shallow preaching and teaching, and of using unbiblical means to attract attendees. Packed churches mean little, if the attendees are not being taught the great Biblical themes of God’s holiness, our sinfulness, our consequent need of salvation that comes only to those who repent and believe the Gospel, and that God’s Word tells everyone who names the name of Christ to depart from iniquity (2 Timothy 2:19). The New King James Version is quoted in this article.

Walmart And Local Churches

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

WALMART AND LOCAL CHURCHES
Many of you who will read this attend Bible-believing churches. That is a good thing. After all, the Bible alone is God’s Book of truth. Here’s what the Lord said about this in John 17, verse 17,when he was praying to the Heavenly Father: “Father…..your Word is truth.” Every Bible-believing local church, small or large, seeks numerical growth. That, too, is a good thing. But what I have observed over the years is that many of the large Bible-believing churches are not large because they have won a lot of new persons to the Lord and then gotten them into their churches. Instead, many of them are large because they have drawn people away from other Bible-believing churches. This might or might not be intentional. But the effect is similar to the effect that Walmart has had on many smaller businesses in many communities. Walmart moves in, and after a period of time, many smaller businesses close down. Whether or not we should excuse this when it comes to a business is open for discussion. But we shouldn’t excuse it when it comes to Bible-believing local churches. It is not an honorable thing to build a Bible-believing church by drawing people away from another Bible-believing church. Not only is it not an honorable thing to do. It is not really an accomplishment to do it. It is simply a transferring of church people from one church to another. And many times those who leave one church for another do so for poor reasons. In some cases it is to make more business contacts. In some cases it is to find daycare for one’s children, or to get handouts of one kind or another. Some persons make how often a church has potluck meals a criterion for whether or not they will stick with a given church. Some persons leave one church for another because they are running from accountability for sinful behavior. A church should seek to grow primarily by winning people to faith in Christ, and by drawing in those who claim to be Christians but who are not plugged into a Bible-believing church. So, Bible-believing churches should make it plain to their regular attendees who they want to get into their churches. It might well mean slower growth than they desire, but it will be the Biblical and honorable way to grow.

WHEN THE WORLD SERIES IS OVER

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

FRED SAYS, “Hi, John! How have you been? I haven’t seen you for a few days.”
JOHN SAYS, “I’ve been fine, Fred! I watched every game of the World Series, including all 12 innings of the last game. It was long, but it was worth it. How about you, Fred? Did you watch the World Series? I know you like baseball.”
FRED SAYS, “Well, I watched as much as I could. But I missed some of it so we could go to a Bible study that meets 1 night a week.”
JOHN SAYS, “Huh? You skipped part of the World Series so you could attend a week night Bible study? You attend church on Sundays, too. How many hours a week to you go to church? It sounds like too many to suit me!”
FRED SAYS, “We attend 2 hours on Sunday, and 1 hour on a week night. That adds up to 3 hours a week, plus the short amount of time it takes to drive there and back. How many hours did World Series last, John? Or just the last game of 12 innings?”
JOHN SAYS, “Never mind, Fred, never mind. I get the point!”

Cigarette-smoking Church Attenders

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD
Many years ago, a woman from a different church asked me if we had any cigarette smokers who attended our church. I said, “People who smoke? We have people attending our church with far more serious problems than that!” The woman did not say why she asked that question, but I had a hunch that it was because she had driven by the church building on a day when we had church services and had seen people having a smoke on the property. Or she had seen some of our people around town somewhere having a smoke. I might be wrong, but I also have a hunch that her question was meant to tell me it was not a good thing to have cigarette-smoking church attenders, especially if they smoke on church property, and that something needed to be done about it.

It is not my intention to defend smoking cigarettes, or smoking anything else. But I have told this story to make an important point: a church is not for perfect people, but for imperfect people. That means, a church is for folks just like ourselves. Some church attenders have not yet become Christians, and their attitude and behavior often make that plain. But we want them to become Christians, and so we accept them as they are (within reason, of course) and pray they will accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If they do believe in him, their attitudes and actions will begin to change for the better. Other church attenders are Christians, but even so they/we are in the process of becoming better Christians. We Christians are still “under construction,” so to speak. We won’t reach perfection until we go to be with the Lord in heaven. Until then, we might have some bad habits to wrestle with, one of which could be smoking cigarettes. And until then, we might, no, we will, struggle with bad attitudes about one thing or another now and then. Maybe even frequently.  It is very easy to condemn someone who smokes while excusing our own bitterness toward someone who has hurt us. But when compared to bitterness, smoking is a very minor matter. Sinful behavior and attitudes must be dealt with in sermons and Bible studies. And sometimes a person must be directly spoken to about correcting these things. But we must make it clear to others that we do not see ourselves as better than they are, but as works in progress. When we do, it will help them understand that we are here to help one another deal with the moral and spiritual struggles we face on a daily basis. When they become convinced of that, they will become a church’s best advertisement that we exist to be a blessing to the community. The result will be that others will seek us out for help. Isn’t that what a Bible-believing church wants to see happen?

God Deserves More Than A Minute A Day

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

“GOD’S MINUTE” is the name of a daily devotional book that was first published many years ago. And based on recent research on the internet, it is still available. I have perused the book, but have never read it. Each day’s reading is able to be read in one minute. What strikes me about the book is that, even if each day’s reading is good, it is very unfortunate if the average Christian has only one minute a day for God. “God’s Minute.” That’s all? Really? If Christians would re-set their priorities, the result would be remarkable. One major result would be that they would spend more time reading the Bible each day than doing less-important things. Maybe re-reading Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 would motive us to take more time to frequently read the Word of God.

Fourth Of July Christians

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

You might have known some Fourth of July Christians, or perhaps know some now. Here are some of their characteristics: 1) They go off with a big bang, and aren’t heard from again. 2) They sparkle for awhile, and then disappear. 3) They produce a lot of smoke, but that’s it. 4) Someone lights their fuse, but they turn out to be duds. What we need are more Christians like the man named “Mnason,” referred to in Acts 21:16. The New King James Version and The Modern English Version say he was “an early disciple.” This means he had been a Christian for a long time, in contrast to Fourth of July Christians.  This takes commitment to the Lord, and his grace to stay committed.

ADRIFT ON THE OCEAN

By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD

We lived on St. Croix, U. S. Virgin Islands for 2 1/2 years in the 1970s. We enjoyed going to the ocean, sometimes just to walk the beach looking for shells, sometimes to sit and watch the seagulls and listen to the waves, sometimes to swim, and sometimes to do all of these activities. One day, I inflated an air mattress, laid back on it, shut my eyes and relaxed. After some minutes, I looked up and was surprised at how far I had drifted from shore. It seemed like a few blocks back to shore. It was so long ago that I do not recall if this happened because the tide was going out, or for some other reason. As I think about that experience, it reminds me of the fact that we Christians can drift a long way from the Lord without realizing it is happening. It is not always intentional. It happens because we get busy and quit reading the Bible regularly. It happens because we get busy and quit praying regularly. It happens because we get busy and quit attending a Bible-preaching church regularly. It happens because we get busy and neglect Christian friendships. It happens because we get lax in our resistance to bad influences, such as immoral TV programs. It happens when we allow non-Christian friends to pull us away from our commitment to Jesus Christ. Whether we drift intentionally or unintentionally, it is up to us admit it and to get back to shore, so to speak. If you have drifted away from the Lord, it will do you good to read Psalms 32 and 51, and act on their truths.