A Multiplying Ministry

A key element in the apostle Paul’s ministry strategy was to reproduce himself in others. Perhaps this strategy is most clearly seen in 2 Timothy 2:2 where Paul writes, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This process started with Paul investing himself in Timothy, but it was not to stop there. As Timothy grew and matured, he was to commit himself to the training of other “faithful men.” This is where the multiplying effect really kicked into gear. These men were expected to “teach others also,” who would teach others also, and on an on it goes. This is nothing new – Paul simply followed the ministry strategy of Jesus in His training of the Twelve. What his Savior modeled and taught, Paul modeled and taught. This worked very effectively as the early church grew and flourished. The same is true over the past two thousand years – when this ministry strategy was followed, the church (in a particular context) experienced growth and health.

Today this standard still applies. If pastors and leaders are not working and planning with the aim of raising up other leaders for tomorrow’s church, they are falling short of our Lord’s commands. As Bill Hull explains in his book The Disciple-Making Church, “The communication and reproduction of the Gospel must become the criteria for leadership. A candidate (for leadership) must be spiritually motivated and propagating the Gospel must become his ultimate objective.” The goal for the pastor is not simply to build a big church with lots of attenders, but to build a healthy church that is filled with disciples. In Luke 6:40 Jesus explained that, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Faithful Bible teachers all look the same and sound the same. Of course, they all have their own unique personality, but down through the ages as disciples have been reproduced, they bear a striking similarity to their teacher, who is ultimately…Jesus.

As we recognize individuals who are in love with Jesus and who have the right character and giftedness for leadership, we must not fail to invest, train and mentor them, and raise them up so that they can do the same for others and lead the church into the future. To be sure, this process takes time. As Oswald Sanders reminds us in his classic book Spiritual Leadership, “Leadership training cannot be done on a mass scale. It requires patient, careful instruction and prayerful, personal guidance over a considerable time. Disciples are not manufactured wholesale. They are produced one by one, because someone has taken the pains to discipline, to instruct and enlighten, to nurture and train.”

In conclusion, pastors and leaders must be intentional about training up “faithful men” in their ministry strategy. It doesn’t just happen without careful planning, implementing and investing. This is going to take a lot of time and effort, but as the multiplying effect gains momentum, the fruit of this ministry strategy will be evident.

Is All Truth Really God’s Truth?

Several years ago I attended a one-day pastors conference in Columbus, Ohio. The featured speaker was a pastor from Florida whose church numbered well over 10,000 people. As the day progressed, I grew more and more concerned. This pastor taught church growth principles while sprinkling in some stories along the way, but any biblical content was totally absent. I knew there was going to be a Q & A session at the end of the day, and for the last couple hours, I debated whether or not I should say something. With my blood pressure rising and a growing sense that what I was hearing from hugely problematic, I knew what I had to do. When the Q & A time came, I rose from my seat and went to the microphone. My question went something like this:

 

“Sir, you have spent the whole day teaching about leadership principles that you have used in your church. My concern is that the Bible is nowhere to be found in your presentation.”

 

I will never forget how this pastor stood up and without hesitation said, “All truth is God’s truth! Everything that I have taught today can be found in the Bible.” He briefly expanded on this and when he finished there was a chorus of cheers and amens from several of the other pastors in attendance. I humbly took my seat, having nothing to say in response.

 

Since that time, well over 4 years ago, I have often thought about that experience. It would appear in this instance that we have a clear violation of the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura. For those of you who are not familiar with that concept, it is Latin for “Scripture alone.” As Christians, we acknowledge that Scripture is the foundation of all truth and is the sole authority in our lives.

 

The London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) puts it this way: “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men.”

 

In short, Scripture is sufficient. This is not just a Baptist belief – this is a Christian belief. What is unfortunate is that most Christians (especially pastors) are willing to affirm Sola Scriptura in theory but not in practice. Going back to my introductory statements, this Florida mega-church pastor would no doubt hold to Sola Scriptura. But when it comes to growing a church, it is obvious he doesn’t believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. Instead, he has turned to secular leadership literature and the so-called “principles” he finds in the business world to grow his church. The question must be asked: is the New Testament inadequate? Is the Bible insufficient for our ecclesiology – for our understanding of the church?

 

Perhaps you are wondering, how do you get away with this departure from one of the clear doctrines of the Christian faith? Well, it starts when you take something that works in the business world and call it a “leadership principle.” Then you reason that if it works in the church (meaning: the church grows numerically) that principle is surely “tried and true.” Hence we have “all truth is God’s truth.” Admittedly, this is quite a leap, but for the past several decades, ever since the advent of the Church Growth Movement, this paradigm has been adopted by countless churches.

 

Just for the record, I don’t think it is wrong to read secular leadership books or even to attend secular leadership seminars. But the Word of God is always authoritative and it must serve as the filter by which we evaluate all truth claims originating from outside the Bible. All to often, pastors have been quick to label something “true” simply because it worked for them in their context. But this does not necessarily mean that these “principles” are faithful to the Biblical norm.

 

What is all comes down to is this – what is your foundation? Is your work built upon the sure foundation of God’s Word (Psalm 127:1), or upon something else? The pastor’s conference I attended several years ago was filled with worldly wisdom and pragmatic insights, but little (if any) biblical truth. This was justified with a flippant statement “all truth is God’s truth.” No doubt all truth is God’s truth, but we have to ask – is God’s truth really my truth? Is God’s Word my sole rule of faith and practice? One day every man’s work will be revealed for all to see (1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Was it built upon the foundation of God’s Word and in the power of the Holy Spirit? Or was it done in human strength and wisdom? On that great Day (Isaiah 7:18-25), we will know for sure.

John Stumbo: New President of the C&MA

I would like to congratulate John Stumbo on being elected as the new president of the U.S. Christian & Missionary Alliance. John has filled many roles within the C&MA over the past 30 years, including pastor, administrator, and most recently a District Superintendent. Other than watching a few videos that featured him, I don’t know much about John. He seems to be very well thought of within Alliance circles and considered to be a proven leader. No doubt he will need our prayers (1 Timothy 2:1-2) as he embarks on this monumental challenge. My prayer is that Stumbo would show himself to be a leader like Ezra who, “set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules” (Ezra 7:10).