Tag Archives: the Gospel

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.



By Pastor Bruce K. Oyen, First Baptist Church, Spearfish, SD
This is a reminder that God (by which I mean the Triune God who has made himself known in the Bible and in the person of Jesus Christ) is not a Republican, Democrat, Tea Partyer, Socialist, or one from any other political party. He’s an Independent. That is, he’s independent of it all, being, as the Bible says, the high and lofty one who inhabits eternity. He is the one who transcends anything and everything, in every way. He is the absolute and final authority of the universe, the one who is the standard of behavior, and who has made his expectations known in the pages of Holy Scripture. He is the one who, as the Bible says, does not, in contrast to the rest of us, change. He is the one who refuses to be the personal servant of self-centered humanity. He is the one who will not be put on a leash and led around by or for any political party. He will not, and cannot, be put in the box of any political party. He opposes wrong wherever it is found, and supports right wherever it is found, and will hold us accountable for our behavior. He is not now running for political office, nor has he ever done so. Therefore, he does not change his views on issues to get more votes. He does not make promises he cannot keep. He will not send us a bumper sticker if we promise to vote fo him. He will not send us a tote bag if we donate to his campaign fund, nor does he ask for donations to his fund. He never worries about someone finding out the hidden truth about his private life and making it known to the world. That’s why Christians sing that grand, old hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty.”

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.

Uncle Ivan, The Candy Man

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

    I was born in Appleton, MN, in 1953. We lived in Appleton, and on two farms, one of which was maybe 20 miles north of Appleton, right next to Drywood Lake. We lived on this farm longer than on the other one, and it is of this farm that I have the most memories. Fortunately, they are all good memories.

One of my memories of those years, now long ago, was of the times when Uncle Ivan and Aunt Hazel would come from California to visit relatives. I think they always came in the summer. They were nice people. But what I remember most about them is that, shortly after they would drive up to our farm house, Uncle Ivan would open the trunk of his fancy Cadillac and hand out treats to any kids present. The treats were not only candy, but also raisins. If memory serves me well, the raisins were in small, paper boxes, just like the ones some stores sell now.

This was Uncle Ivan’s way of befriending kids, and it worked well. But as I look back on those visits from Uncle Ivan and Aunt Hazel, I must admit that I was more interested in the treats he handed out than in him as a person. But, then, that is to be expected from a young  child.
I tell this story to make this point: Some people never grow up. Many teenage boys and grown men only like their girlfriends for the “treats” they get from them. They don’t really care about the person who gives the “treats.” That is why they easily move on from one “treat giver” to another. And isn’t this true of many others who have learned how get handouts from others, whether it is from their relatives, friends, churches in their communities, welfare agencies of one kind and another, and local, state, and federal governments?

But the worst abuse of all is the abuse of God himself. This is due to what is known as “the prosperity Gospel,” which teaches that God wants all his children to be healthy and wealthy, with an emphasis on being wealthy. This false Gospel (false because it is not the Gospel found in the Bible) makes God to be the Divine Uncle Ivan who opens the trunk and hands out treats to anyone who wants them. Of course, the God of the Bible is omniscient, so he knows what motivates a person to seek his blessings. He is also holy, and doesn’t promise to give his blessings to anyone who simply looks to him for a handout.

But isn’t that exactly what the preachers of the prosperity Gospel promote? They want a god (notice I wrote “god” not “God”) who wants to make them happy by giving them multi-million dollar homes, very expensive cars, and, of course, multi-million dollar private jets that will enable them to fly around the world to promote their “ministries.” What they hope most folks don’t know is that their expensive lifestyles are often paid for by donors who can hardly pay their own bills. But these donors often donate because they have been led to believe that by doing so, the Divine Uncle Ivan will open his trunk and make them rich, too. Therefore, greed motivates the preachers of this false Gospel and those who have fallen for it.

Now, consider this: if we want to shut down the prosperity Gospel, all we have to do is convince people that the Bible’s God, the only true God, is not interested in making everyone rich. What he is interested in is people who will love him and worship him for who he is, not for the “treats” he has in the trunk. And the way to convince people of this fact about God is to get them to read God’s Book, the Bible, and to compare its teachings with the prosperity Gospel. If they do so with open minds and open hearts, they will see the prosperity Gospel to be the false and harmful thing that it is. A good place to read about this in the Bible is chapters 5, 6, & 7 of the New Testament’s Gospel of Matthew. Once those chapters have been carefully read, one can move on to other parts of the Bible that speak about the danger and deceptiveness of seeking wealth and other forms of prosperity. An example is 1 Timothy, chapters 5 & 6.

The Bible does not teach there is something inherently wrong with wealth and prosperity. But it does teach that these things can easily sidetrack us from more important things in life, especially a relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Who do we love and worship? The Divine Uncle Ivan, or the Bible’s God?

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.

Dad Found My Marijuana!

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

In a previous post I told about the day my mother found my cigarettes. I was maybe 13 years old at the time, and we lived in Minneapolis, MN, on Pillsbury Avenue South. Some time after Mom found my cigarettes, we moved to a different location in Minneapolis, on  Lyndale Avenue South. We lived in the upper half of a duplex at that location. Both renters had more room in the basement, which was divided in half by a wall. At first, my bedroom was upstairs. But then my parents gave me permission to move into the basement. This meant that the other renters lived between me and my parents. One of my bad habits at that stage in my life was smoking marijuana. And I found a convenient place to hide it: in the pocket of a flannel shirt. The shirt had two pockets that had a button-down flap on each pocket. My closet was small, and crammed full of clothes on hangers. So, it seemed a safe place to keep that shirt with the marijuana in one of its pockets. I did not just put the marijuana in the pocket and button it. It was kept in one of those clear plastic containers that hold nose plugs used when swimming. My hiding place worked well, for a time. Dad was suspicious that I was using marijuana. So, one day when I was not home he went looking through my room for marijuana. When I got back home, I went into my room as usual, only to find something very unusual: there lay Dad on my bed reading the newspaper and wearing that shirt with marijuana in one of its pockets! He said nothing to me about what was in the  pocket, so I did not know if he had taken out the plastic container to have a look at it. Not knowing what else to do in that situation, I went over to the bed, took out the container of marijuana from the shirt pocket and left the room. Here is, perhaps, the most remarkable aspect of this whole event: Dad never said one word  me about it. He put on that shirt in 1968 or 1969, died in 1976, and never had said anything to me about it. It is now 2015, and I still do not know for sure if he knew what was in that shirt pocket. But my guess is, he did know. I think that was his unique way of telling me he knew that I was using marijuana.

One thing to be learned from this remarkable experience is that, sooner or later, the facts become known. We might be able to fool others for long periods of time, but we can’t  permanently hide the truth about ourselves.  Eventually it will catch up with us. If not in this life, it will do so in the next life. We might be able to hide our real selves from other human beings, but not from the all-knowing God who will one day hold us accountable for our lives. God’s infallible Word, the Bible, teaches that those who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior cannot lose their salvation. They will never perish. They will make it to heaven. (See John 10:27 – 29.) But Christians will be held responsible for how they have lived since they became Christians. We shall stand before the judgment seat  of Christ, and give an account to him.  (See, for example, 2 Corinthians 5:8 – 10.) And God’s infallible Word, the Bible, also teaches that those who live and die as non-Christians will be judged for their sins. They have not been forgiven because they have not believed in Jesus Christ, and must, therefore, pay the penalty for their sins. This penalty is confinement in hell, which is a place of conscious, eternal punishment. (See, for example, Revelation, chapter 20.)

In Acts 17, the apostle Paul plainly speaks of the future time when the world will be judged, and it says Jesus Christ will be the judge. Here is what Acts 17, verses 16 – 31 say. Pay close attention to verses 30 and 31: “16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.17 Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.18 Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.19 And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? 20 For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean.21 (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) 22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” (These verses are quoted from the King James Version because in the USA it is in the public domain. They are taken from this website: http://www.biblegateway.com. To read these verses in modern English, go to that website and click on the New King James Version. )

Now, since God knows all about us, and since he will hold us accountable for how we live, here is what should be done: Wayward Christians should immediately make things right with God by confessing and forsaking their sins. (See, for example, Proverbs 28:13 and 1 John 1:9.) Non-Christians should immediately believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. (See, for example, Acts 16:30 and 31.) We have no guarantee that we will live another day, or even another hour, so do it at once! The opportunity to do what we need to do could end vey soon!

Answers To Many Questions About Christmas

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

What follows is a link to a  website that answers many questions about Biblical subjects from a Bible-believing perspective. The specific subject discussed is Christmas, and over 20 questions about Christmas are answered. Here is the introduction to the website’s answers to questions about Christmas, which is followed by the link:

Questions about Christmas

We receive a lot of different questions about Christmas. Rather than focusing on any one particular question, we thought it would be more helpful for us to give you the list of our most frequently asked questions related to Christmas. Whether or not you choose to celebrate Christmas, rejoice with us that Jesus was born. Without that day around 2000 years ago in Bethlehem, Jesus could not have become the Savior of the world.

Here is the link: http://www.gotquestions.org/QOTW.htm