THE TRIUMPHANT CHURCH
T. PIERCE BROWN
Almost every person who claims membership in the church, whether the most liberal in doctrine, or the most conservative, apparently wants the church to be a triumphant, dynamic church. One group seems to want it to be victorious by having it change both in message and method to suit the changing social conditions of the age. Some may think it can be victorious by going on in the usual humdrum, lackadaisical way it is going in most localities, opposed to any change. Many of us who are adamantly opposed to what is sometimes called the “change agents” in the church are not opposed to any change that will bring us closer to the pattern approved in the New Testament when the church grew the most rapidly. In fact, we urge all persons to examine themselves and make whatever changes are necessary to get closer to that pattern. Let us at this time examine a few of the marks of the church as pictured in the first few chapters of Acts that made it a triumphant, dynamic church. If we want to make changes, let us make them in that direction instead of assuming that the kind of significant changes that should be made is to snap the fingers, clap the hands or wiggle the hips to show more spirituality or involvement in the worship.
Besides the simplicity, boldness, earnestness, purity of life and doctrine, and unity with which they proclaimed the message, there are at least three qualities they had which we must have in order to reproduce their triumphant growth. First, there was an unquenchable motivation. There is something intensely gripping and inspiring in the statement in Acts 4:20, “We cannot but speak the things we saw and heard.” They were moved with a passion that we sometimes talk about, but seldom emulate. Verse 13 may help to explain why. “They took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” It is probable that if we would spend more time with Jesus and less with TV and hundreds of other trivial or debasing activities, we would feel more strongly the urgency of the Great Commission. Part of the problem is that many of us tried to accept Christ as our Savior without accepting Him as Lord of our lives.
Second, this unquenchable motivation stems partly from a complete conviction of several key points. They had no doubt that Jesus was the Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no man could come to the Father but by Him, in His appointed way. There are an increasing number of preachers among us who teach that one does not have to understand and obey the gospel to be saved, but that good, honest men of all religious persuasions are all equally satisfactory. The expressed idea is that we all are imperfect, and must be saved by the grace of God. So we may teach, believe and practice all sorts of false doctrines and still be saved. Well-known and influential brethren now teach that one does not even need to understand that he is lost before he obeys the gospel. That is, he may think he was saved at the point of faith when he accepted Jesus as his personal Savior. But if he goes ahead and submits to some rituals, such as baptism, the purpose and nature of which he does not understand, he is saved anyway. Instead of “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” the doctrine now is, “Ye may believe error and still be made free.” How can a man speak with power and conviction, if he does not believe that his message really makes any difference?
Third, they had an irrefutable message. There were no wavering or uncertain sounds. Peter said, “Let all the house ofIsraelknow assuredly–” (Acts2:36). It is now politically and religiously incorrect in many circles to teach that you can know anything assuredly. Everything is relatively uncertain except that nothing is certain. There are an increasing number of preachers among us, even with graduate degrees, who do not seem to be able to prove that there is a God, or that the Bible is the inerrant inspired word of God. Some even assert that it cannot be proven, but must simply be accepted by faith, which to them seems to mean “a strong opinion.”
Another thing closely related to the irrefutable message is suggested in Acts4:14, ” And seeing the man that was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.” Part of our problem is that those who observe the effect of our preaching do not see the man healed! That is, I preach, “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature; the old things are passed away; they are become new” (2 Cor.5:17). But we see a person who apparently obeys the gospel and does not become a new creature. He still practices the same old sins. What conclusion do people draw? Instead of saying, “There is something wrong with the man” they conclude, “There is something wrong with the message.” When they saw the man healed, they could say nothing, but suppose they do not see the man healed?
I preach a message that Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men.” Then there are thousands who are claiming to follow Him, but are not fishing for men, nor give any evidence that they intend to try. When one cannot see the man healed, then the message tends to lose its power.
If we are interested in changing the church, let us make sure it changes in the direction of having preachers and teachers that have the same kind of message, compulsion, resolution and conviction which marked the first century Christians. Let us make sure that as members we know the difference in sensuality and spirituality in worship and life. Let us make sure our worship is directed to God, and not for the purpose of showing off or demonstrating for man. Let us make sure that we are striving to develop the mind of Christ and that when persons see our lives they think about Jesus.