Remember our question. Are there things we can do today that will ensure Kingsway is a vibrant, healthy congregation 100 years from now?
Answer #1: Regularly remind one another that only Jesus builds the church
Answer #2: Faithfully preach the gospel on Sunday mornings and every other day of the week
I drew attention to the latter point at the end of our gathering last weekend. Gene had just finished preaching from Mark 7, explaining that our greatest problem in life is the sinful heart inside of us. Thus following Jesus starts with getting a spiritual heart transplant, not creating a list of self-improvement goals.
Mind you, I’d heard all of that before. There was nothing novel in Gene’s sermon. But that was actually a good thing and why I made a point of publicly thanking him for preaching the gospel and exhorted all of you to never take for the granted the fact that the gospel has been faithfully preached in this church for over 25 years.
If we’re going to continue growing into the image of Christ we don’t need a steady stream of new information. We need help remembering and applying the old, old story in new ways. We need to hear the gospel day after day, because it’s the good news of what Jesus has won for us through his life, death, and resurrection that speaks hope, and life, and peace into whatever happens in the next 24 hours. The gospel is easily taken for granted, but it is never irrelevant. It is always relevant.
Listen to how strongly Paul makes this point in his letter to the Colossians (1:3-7):
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints…”
That’s the kind of church we want to be 100 years from now – strong in faith toward God and strong in love toward one another. Now notice what Paul points to as the enduring source of their faith and love.
“…because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel…”
The reason Paul could thank God for the faith and love that marked the Colossians was simple. They clung to the hope laid up for them in heaven. Their spiritual gaze remained fixed on the eternal inheritance Christ purchased for them through the gospel. It wasn’t “new information.” They had heard it all before. But they refused to forget it. They continued to meditate upon it. And wonder of wonders, as they did, their faith in Christ and love for one another continued to grow.
In fact, the connection in Paul’s mind between their refusal to lose sight of the gospel and their growth as a local church is so strong that he switches from talking about the Colossians as growing and starts talking about the gospel as growing.
“Of this you have heard before in the word of truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing – as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth…”
Jesus is the only one who build the church, but he gets it done through faithful men and women who refuse to stop reminding one another of what Jesus has won for us. Notice how Paul credits the work of a man named Epaphras.
“…just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf…”
If we’re going to be a healthy, vibrant congregation 100 years from now, we must ensure that the elders we ordain and charge to preach the Word to us on Sunday morning don’t get tired of the gospel and start preaching another message – like twelve tips for a successful marriage. Could all the married folks use some practical suggestions for building a healthy relationship? Sure. I need them as much as anyone. But that’s not what I need the most. And giving me twelve tips without showing me how your tips are grounded in, developed from, and impelled by the gospel only sets me up for an endless cycle of self-righteousness when I succeed and condemnation when I fail. So give me practical application, but don’t you dare do it without connecting all of it to the gospel.
There’s something else we need to remember. Pastors who faithful preach the gospel on Sundays are absolutely critical. But their influence in preserving our church is negligible if all of us fail to encourage, correct, rebuke, and exhort one another with the truth of the gospel every other day of the week. When you brother is struggling with lust, he needs you to explain how Jesus delivers. When your sister is battling contentment, she needs you to explain how Jesus satisfies. When your child disobeys for the 15th time that day, they need you to explain how Jesus forgives.
“Speak the truth in love, we are to grow up in every ay into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part if working properly, make the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Eph 4:15-16)
Do that this week, my friends. Preach the gospel to your brothers and sisters at Kingsway. And when you do, remember that your words just made an investment in the health of a church you won’t live to see. Make a contribution to the health of your church tomorrow by relentlessly preaching the gospel in your church today.