What Churches Do

Have you ever wondered what churches are for and why people go to church? What does it really mean to "get baptized" to "take communion" and to "dedicate babies"? Or perhaps you have heard someone ask, "Do I need to go to church? Why can't I just worship God in nature or in my home"? What would you answer? Whether you attend church services regularly or not, this course will interest you. Series were written by Robert and Evelyn Bolton.

Churches Preach the Word

Churches Preach the Word

The Word of God is given a place of preeminence or honor in churches that recognize its authority. Pastors of these churches faithfully preach the message of God’s Word to the people. Their sermons are full of its truths.

Paul, the experienced evangelist, and church-planter placed a strong emphasis on preaching. He urged Timothy, his young assistant, to preach the message (2 Timothy 4:2). He also wrote about elders who work hard at preaching (1 Timothy 5:17-18).

There is no substitute for the preaching of the Word of God. Its message must be given both to believers in the church and nonbelievers outside the church. The opinions and beliefs of all people must be corrected and judged by its teachings.

In this lesson, you will learn about the message that is preached. You will also discover why this message is preached and the effects it has on the lives of those who respond to it.

The Message must be Preached

“Someday I would like to be a preacher like our pastor,” said Timothy to Mary after a Sunday morning service.

“Why?” asked Mary.

“Because I think it would be great to have God give me a message from His Word to give to people,” said Timothy. “Besides, there was a Timothy in the Bible who was a preacher.”

“You can!” Mary encouraged. “I know you can because I heard someone say that we must all preach or tell people about Jesus.”

Preaching is proclaiming a message in such a way that it commands a hearing. Its purpose is to persuade people to trust in Jesus as Savior and Lord. The apostle Paul emphasized both the basic need of mankind and the grace of God to meet that need. That meant of course that his message proclaimed the good news of salvation through faith in Christ.

The message must be Christ-centered. To the church at Corinth Paul wrote: I want to remind you, my brothers, of the Good News which I preached to you, which you received, and on which your faith stands, I passed onto you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the Scriptures; that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3, 4).

The message must be Bible-centered, including all Scripture, and must meet the need of the whole person; body, soul, and spirit. It offers salvation for people’s souls, healing for their bodies and minds, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit to set aflame their spirits. Added to this, the gospel offers the glorious hope of the second coming of Christ. What a message!

Such a message includes not only the life of Christ as recorded in the Gospels but the action of the book of Acts. When we preach Christ risen, we remember His promise to send the Helper (John 14:16). This promise was fulfilled at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. A Bible-centered message includes the whole Bible.

Preaching this message isn’t just for full-time pastors or evangelists who usually preach formally. Millions of believers informally give the gospel. The early church did this. Scattered by terrible persecution, laymen fled to Antioch in Syria. There they preached the gospel to
Gentiles (non-Jews), telling them the good news about Jesus. As a result, a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. These lay folks caused the founding of a new church, the first among the Gentiles (Acts 11:19-21).

A modern-day example of lay preaching comes from Ivory Coast, West Africa. Spirit-filled farmers and teachers, during their off-season from work, gave several days a week to evangelism. Under the direction of their African pastors, groups went to various outposts. Dividing into small teams, they shared the good news with families sitting under shade trees. Villagers hearing the gospel from lay people like themselves accepted Jesus as Savior. As a result, many new churches were started.

Churches preach this message not only in their sanctuaries, but also in homes, in marketplaces, in evangelistic campaigns held in tents or halls, in prisons and hospitals, and in homes for the aged or the mentally ill. We have also preached in services held on board ocean freighters, inside
stone houses in mountain villages, in booths along crowded streets, and high-rise apartment buildings of Oriental cities.

Preaching the Word brings Faith

Let us look at Paul’s church-planting ministry in Corinth. There “many other people heard the message, believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). First, they had to hear the Word of God. The hearing of the Word then created faith in their hearts, and through faith in Jesus Christ, they were converted.

God’s message is the message of faith that we preach. So then, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message comes through preaching Christ (Romans 10:8, 17).

The apostle John wrote his gospel for the specific purpose that his readers might believe, and that through their faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, they might have life (John 20:31).

After preaching a gospel message, an African invited his listeners to accept Christ. Several were converted. One man, however, seemed very distressed. The minister talked kindly to him, then read from Isaiah 53:6, “All of us were like sheep that were lost, each of us going his way.”

The man exclaimed, “That’s me! I’ve led a terrible life. I’m only fit to be lost!”

“Don’t despair,” the preacher said. “Listen to the remaining part of the verse.” He then read, “‘But the Lord made the punishment fall on him, the punishment all of us deserved.’ Did you understand that? God laid the punishment for your sins upon Jesus the Savior who died on Calvary in your place. Do you believe it?”

“That’s what it says.”

“Then where is the punishment for your sins?” the preacher asked.

“It has fallen on Jesus.” And with these words, the man raised his face and exclaimed with joy,

“O thank God, I’m set free! Jesus bore my punishment!”

Saving faith for this man rose out of hearing and then believing the Word of God.

Preaching the Word Strengthens Believers

When Jesus faced temptation, He used Scripture as a weapon with which to defeat His enemy. For us, too, God’s Word serves as the “sword which the Spirit gives” (Ephesians 6:17) to win the victory. One of the temptations our Lord faced after fasting came in this form:

“If you are God’s Son, order these stones to turn into bread.” But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Man cannot live on bread alone, but needs every word that God speaks” (Matthew 4: 3-4).

With that statement, Jesus defeated the devil. And with that statement, we are told how important God’s Word is to us more important than our daily food.

We must eat if we are to grow and keep up our physical strength. We must feed on the Word of God if we are to grow spiritually and have the strength to withstand temptation.

The psalmist put it this way, “How sweet is the taste of your instructions—sweeter even than honey” (Psalm 119:103). Acts 8:8 tells us that after Philip preached in Samaria there was “great joy in that city.”

We all like to be joyful, but joy does more than making us feel good. “The joy that the Lord gives you will make you strong” (Nehemiah 8:10). As we trace it back we see that the source of His joy is in His Word.

It’s His Word that gives us the message of God’s grace, His divine favor (Ephesians 1:6). When Paul was leaving Ephesus after three years of ministry there, he knew that the people would be facing new problems, so he comforted them with these words:

And now I commend you to the care of God and to the message of his grace, which can build you up and give you the blessings God has for all his people (Acts 20:32).

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