Tag Archives: Christian maturity

Numerical Church Growth And The Biblical Purposes Of Church Services

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

NUMERICAL CHURCH GROWTH IS IMPORTANT TO CHURCHES. There are practical reasons for this. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually die out as the aging attendees can no longer attend, or they pass away. If churches don’t grow numerically, they will eventually have no substantial reason to exist. If they don’t grow numerically, they will eventually run out of money and will, then, be unable to pay their expenses and will be forced to shut down. Most importantly, if churches don’t grow numerically, it means they have ceased to reach new persons in their communities with the Gospel message, and have failed to get them to attend their services.

ASTRAY FROM THE BIBLICAL PURPOSES OF CHURCH SERVICES. The fact that many churches are in serious numerical decline has caused a lot of them to stray from the Biblical purposes of church services. But what are the Biblical purposes for having church services? According to the New Testament, church services are to be held so that Christians can worship God together, pray together, be taught from the Word of God together, and to have fellowship with one another. But how have Bible-believing churches strayed from these God-ordained purposes? By making their services primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel of Christ. This focus, they hope, will not only win many persons to believe in Jesus Christ, but also become  a means of increasing the number of attendees at their services, and thereby keep the church from going out of existence.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN EVANGELISM BECOMES THE PRIMARY PURPOSE FOR CHURCH SERVICES? It is certainly true that churches can and should be evangelistic. The Gospel can be made known during church services through music, through personal testimonies, through literature,  and through preaching and teaching the Word of God. But when reaching non-Christians with the Gospel displaces the God-ordained purposes for church services, it has serious negative consequences. Even though a church which has made this shift in its purpose for its services might still have a strong emphasis on worshiping God,  it is certain to spend less time teaching and preaching the Word of God to the Christians in attendance. The non-Christians are fed what they need to learn, and the Christians get little of the meat of God’s Word. This is comparable to what would happen if a family is made up of a wide variety of ages, but at meal time everyone is expected to eat what the youngest family members are able to eat. The youngest family members might thrive on such a diet, but not the older ones. But this is not the only negative consequence of church services becoming primarily a means of reaching non-Christians with the Gospel. Another almost-inevitable negative consequence is that in such church services many truths of the Word of God will be skipped over because of their potential to offend and thus alienate the very ones the church is trying to reach with the Gospel. Preachers in such  churches will very likely not warn about specific false teachers and their falsehoods. Preachers in such churches will not likely specifically identify religious groups that claim to be Christian, but in fact are not. Preachers in such churches will not be likely to forthrightly say certain kinds of behavior are to be avoided because the ones they are trying to win to Christ are involved in those behaviors, and they don’t want to drive them away from the services. Such preachers might forthrightly condemn things that the Bible specifically condemns, and which most persons agree are wrong. But they will be hesitant to speak against things that might be only what could be called questionable, borderline, and known to lead to worse behavior. The moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages and moderate gambling are examples of what I mean. Preachers in such churches will most likely say, “Don’t get drunk.” But they won’t say, “Don’t drink alcoholic beverages at all.” Preachers in such churches will say, “Watch out so you don’t become problem gamblers.” But they won’t say, “Don’t gamble at all.” Another almost-inevitable consequence of making evangelism the focus of church services is that the  music used will be the kind that is more acceptable to non-Christians. This means, it will be more entertaining than is appropriate in church services. And it means it will be more worldly or secular in style than it should be. Another way to put it is, the music will not be appropriate for worshiping  the Holy God revealed in the Bible. Here is an example of that very thing: One preacher told me and a couple other preachers of an experience he had as a guest speaker at church in serious numerical decline, and which was made up of mostly elderly Christians. He said that as he visited with the church folks before a service, someone began to play taped Christian rock music over the loudspeaker. He asked them why they were playing THAT kind of music. He was told it was done to appeal to the younger people. In our day it is common for older Christians to be criticized for objecting to much of the music used in contemporary churches.But those older Christians are justified in saying such music has no place in Bible-believing churches. To summarize the point of this paragraph, let me say that what happens when a church makes evangelism the primary purpose of it services is that it often gives itself over to accommodating the persons it is trying to reach with the Gospel of Christ. This always weakens a church, even if it results in many more attendees. It weakens a church because this kind of accommodation is contrary Biblical teaching, and it, therefore does not develop strong Christians.

BIBLICAL STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE GOD-ORDAINED PURPOSES FOR CHURCH SERVICES. Above, I said the New Testament tells that God has specific purposes for church services. But where we can these be read in the New Testament? I will give some of the chapters and verses to read, and you can look them up yourselves. As you read them, look for the statements indicating that the teaching and preaching of God’s Word to Christians was central to the meetings of the Christians. (We now would call the meetings church services.) Acts 2:41 – 47; Acts 14:21 – 28;  Acts 15:22 – 41; Acts 16:1 – 5; Acts 18:8 – 11 & verse 18, first sentence; Acts 18:24 – 28; Acts 19:7 – 11;  Acts 20:17 – 38; Ephesians 4:11 – 16; Ephesians 5:17 – 20; Colossians 1:28; Colossians 3:16 & 17; 2 Thessalonians 2:5 & 16; 1 Timothy 4:6 & 13; 1 Timothy 5:17; 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17; 2 Timothy 4:1 – 5; 1 Peter 5:1 – 4.

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.

A Crisis Point In A New Christian’s Life

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

Even though I was raised by Christian parents and went to Sunday school and church in my youth, I did not become a true Christian until I was sixteen years old. Previous to my becoming a believer in Jesus Christ, my Christianity was in my head and not in my heart. And it showed itself in my lifestyle. In other words, I did not act or think like a Christian. But that changed in the spring of 1970, when I admitted to myself and to God that I needed forgiveness and salvation. At that point, I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as my Savior, and began a new life as a Christian.

But one of the things I faced as a new Christian was the potential to go back to the way I had lived for some years before becoming a Christian. Starting when I was 13 years old, I had been drawn into a life of drinking alcoholic beverages, smoking marijuana and hash, using LSD and other drugs. All my close friends did the same things. And here is when my crisis point as a new Christian was reached: I went to hang out with my longtime friends at someone’s house. There were several of us, and we sat in a large circle on the living room floor. Someone in the group did as usual: they light a join of marijuana, inhaled some of it, and passed it to the next person, who inhaled some of it, and passed it to the next person. (We called inhaling it “taking a toke,” and “taking a hit.”) I was maybe six persons away from the joint being passed to me. I had to make a quick decision to either fall back into an old habit, or continue to go forward with my new life as a Christian. With the Lord’s help, I got up and excused myself from the situation, and left the house. With the Lord’s help, I never returned to that lifestyle. But it required that I do two things: 1) make new friends who would support my new life as a Christian, and, 2) be very careful about my relationship with my old friends. We now were on different paths, and the Lord requires that Christians stay on his straight and narrow path. The Lord did not want me to completely cut myself off from my old friends. But if I wanted to live for him, and if I wanted to be a good example to them, I could not put myself in situations that could easily result in going back to my old life. Therefore, one of the most helpful things to me as a new Christian was frequent attendance at and involvement in a local church that preached and taught the Bible as the Word of God, and that challenged Christians to separate themselves from influences that would interfere with living a dedicated Christian life. Of course, Christians have a lifelong need for this kind of positive influence from a local church which has these characteristics.

What follows are some quotes from God’s infallible Word, the Bible that apply to the subject  being considered. (The quotes are from the Modern English Version, and were taken from this website: http://www.biblegateway.com. Here is a link to the Modern English Version online: https://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Modern-English-Version-MEV-Bible/#vinfo.) Now to the quotes from the Bible:  First, consider what the Lord Jesus Christ himself said about Christian discipleship: “ Enter at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who are going through it,  because small is the gate and narrow is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14.)  Second, consider what the apostle Paul said to the Corinthian Christians concerning the importance of being careful about the kind of persons with whom we are friends: “ Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’ ”  ( 1 Corinthians 15:33.)  Third, consider what the apostle Paul said in his second letter to those same Christians about being careful about our associations.  2 Corinthians 6: 14 – 18 says:

“14 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? What communion has light with darkness? 15 What agreement has Christ with Belial? Or what part has he who believes with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:

‘I will live in them
    and walk in them.
I will be their God,
    and they shall be My people.’

17 Therefore,

‘Come out from among them
    and be separate,
        says the Lord.
Do not touch what is unclean,
    and I will receive you.’

18 ‘I will be a Father to you,
    and you shall be My sons and daughters,
        says the Lord Almighty.’

Modern English Version (MEV)The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.

A Candid Re-Evaluation Of Contemporary Christian Music

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

CCM (contemporary Christian music) is the most popular kind of music in churches these days. It seems to have been accepted by most Christians without much serious evaluation. This is an unfortunate thing, for it is not as good as many would have us believe. Dan Lucarini was a CCM worship leader who was willing to give it a candid re-evaluation. This led to his leaving the CCM movement behind and returning to more traditional forms of worship music. His re-evaluation of the subject also led to his writing a book about it. His book is called “Why I Left The Contemporary Christian Music Movement.” It has had a wide reading, and deserves reading by many others. Those who think CCM is “the only way to go,” especially if we want to appeal to younger persons, need to read his book with open minds and hearts. I encourage you to get a copy. Here is a link to one source for it: http://www.amazon.com/Left-Contemporary-Christian-Music-Movement/dp/0852345178.

Beware Of Contemplative Spirituality

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

The Bible is the infallible Word of God. If you have read it completely and carefully, you have noticed it teaches that the Christian life is to be characterized by spirituality and contemplation. God want us to be spiritual, and he, therefore, wants us to contemplate on Biblical subjects to help us be spiritual. But Satan has attacked Christians through what is known as “contemplative spirituality.” If you want to learn what this is, and why we need to beware of it, click on the following link to a good but brief article on the subject. http://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-spirituality.html

Beware Of Centering Prayer

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

The Bible is the infallible Word of God. If you have read it completely and carefully, you know how often it refers to prayer. It does so in a variety of ways: it gives illustrations of individuals and groups praying, it gives commands about prayer, it gives instruction about prayer, it gives promises concerning receiving answers to prayer. The Old Testament’s Book Of Psalms is a made up of 150 psalms, most of which are the prayers of its many authors. These factors underscore the importance of prayer in daily life.

But Satan has cleverly attacked Christians by getting them to follow false and harmful ideas about prayer. One of these Satanic false ideas is called “centering prayer.” To read a short but good article on this subject, click on the following link: http://www.gotquestions.org/centering-prayer.html

Beware Of Contemplative Prayer

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

The Bible is the infallible Word of God. If you have read it completely and  carefully, you know how often it refers to prayer. It does so in a variety of ways: it gives illustrations of individuals and groups praying, it gives commands about prayer, it gives instruction about prayer, it gives promises concerning receiving answers to prayer. The Old Testament’s Book Of Psalms is a made up of 150 psalms, most of which are the prayers of its many authors. These factors underscore the importance of prayer in daily life.

But Satan has cleverly attacked Christians by getting them to follow false and harmful ideas about prayer. One of these Satanic false ideas is called “contemplative prayer.” To read a short but good article on this subject, click on the following link: http://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-prayer.html.