Andy Davis is Pastor of FBC-Durham, NC and a former keynote speaker at the Evangelical Forum. At the 2008 Founders Conference he gave a message from Revelation 1:10-20 on "Danger in Reforming a Local Church." You can find the audio and video links for this and other messages from that conference here. Davis gives some powerful autobiographical accounts from his experiences of local church reformation at FBC-Durham in this talk that are really worth hearing (I am emailing a link to our JPBC Deacons). A lot of what he says made me think of the reformation experiences we've had at JPBC.
Here also are the notes from this talk (found here):
Ten Dangers I Have Learned from My Experience in Church Reformation:
1. Forgetting the centrality of God in church reform
The church is God’s, for He bought it with his own blood (Acts 20:28). The blood of God purchased the church. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit completely invested in the owning of the church–it is His alone. And He alone has been there throughout all of history. We need to keep central God’s interest in it, His power over it, and His right to command it. God is zealous over His church.
The core issue of salvation is this: in whom will you place your trust ultimately. The only two ways of salvation in this world–self-salvation and salvation by faith in Christ alone. This is such a core tendency of the human heart, and it will be to the day we die–we tend to rely on ourselves. The danger is that you are going to look inward to see if the resources are there to meet the challenges. The two sides of self-reliance: side one, you look inward for the resources which you don’t have and murmur and complain and get bitter against God; side two, you look inward for the resources and you find them and results in pride, arrogance, and boasting. You are not the answer, never have been, and never will.
3. Failure to rely on the Word alone.
Sola Scriptura is still true in the reformation in the local church. Put all your eggs in this basket. You will be blessed in everything you do because God will bless His Word. Martin Luther, “I did nothing; the Word did it all.” The sufficiency of Scripture–do you believe God’s Word is sufficient to reform a church, to revive a dying church? We don’t need any gimmicks, and reformation out of the box. Reformation does work with handouts and powerpoints. We need to resist pragmatism and gimmickry. Isaiah 55:10-11–God’s Word will not return empty, but will accomplish God’s purpose.
We need to avoid church conference and management techniques. That is not where it is at. 2 Cor. 4:2 - renounced secret and shameful ways . . .. It is not about marshaling enough people in your corner to accomplish reform.
4. Deficiency in prayer or prayerlessness.
Jonathan Edwards, “Hypocrites Deficient in Private Prayer”. That title is enough to bring conviction, doesn’t it? Deficiency is a big danger. We must beg that God would reform His Church. Prayer puts us in the humbling position as beggars, trusting in God’s power to reform the church. It is home base for the church. The most urgent need of the church is a deeper, intimate knowledge of God (Carson on Paul’s prayers). Don’t focus on technique and strategy; get on your knees and ask God to reform His church. Prayerlessness is arrogance, unbelief, and disobedience.
5. Pride toward your people resulting in gossip and slander about you.
Consider the Pharisee and the tax collector. There is a tendency when you have experienced reformation to think that you are better than those who haven’t seen reformation. What do you have that you didn’t receive? (1 Cor. 4:7). God hates slander and gossip–check them in the lists of things detestable in the eyes of God. We should be praying that God would grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth.
6. Cowardice or fear of man.
I dealt with this every step of the way. Fear of what man thinks. What will _______ do? Will I be criticized again? What will the deacons think about this? What if I lose my job and can’t take care of my family? It makes a preacher shrink back from preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word. Jesus forces you to make choices–see Paul’s example in Gal. 1:10. One man said to me, “I will fight you every step of the way.” And he did. No matter what I did, he would hate me. The Lord showed me a Scripture, Isa. 51:12-13:
“I, I am he who comforts you;who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,of the son of man who is made like grass,13 and have forgotten the Lord, your Maker,who stretched out the heavensand laid the foundations of the earth,and you fear continually all the daybecause of the wrath of the oppressor,when he sets himself to destroy?
We have to be courageous; cowardice is an enemy to reformation in the church.
7. Mistaking non-essentials for essentials.
Dr. Mohler is concerned about young ministers turning churches upside down. Well, it is not the young people alone, but anyone who seeks to reform a church needs to be careful. You need to be careful where you put the line in the sand. In essentials unity; in nonessentials liberty; in all things, charity. The idea that there are not any “nonessentials” will get you in trouble. Not all doctrines are of equal weight. Not every fight is over doctrine; sometimes it is building programs, budgets, worship screens, etc. We need wisdom. Cowardice is fleeing when you should stand and fight; contentiousness is when you should be patient but act without wisdom.
2 Tim. 4:2 is a key verse for reform. “With great patience and careful instruction . . .” Give God time to work. Give His Word time to work in the hearts of your people. It is arrogance to think that they must get it immediately. How did God work with you? Give it time. Know your people, and don’t go too fast. Jesus, “I have much to say to you, more than you can bear . . .”. Many agricultural illustrations point to patience. You don’t stick a seed in a soil and come back in an hour to see how it is doing. Martin Luther, “Take care of the idols in the heart, and the idols of the wall will take care of themselves.”
Satan is on every street corner selling poison to every minister telling them to “drink this.” Satan sells discouragement because our weapons are irresistible. If we get the full gospel array on us, with the Word of God in our hands, Satan will lose. So what does he do? He keeps you on the sidelines in discouragement. Every servant has fought discouragement and despair. Paul, “sorrowful and yet rejoicing” . . .. Martin Luther, “I am quitting preaching; I not preaching anymore . . .”. For 15 months, he did not preach. Why? Discouragement. Adoniram Judson, when his wife died, he dug his own grave and stared into it for weeks and said, “I believe in him, but I find him not.” (Other examples: Charles Spurgeon, David Brainerd, Martyn Lloyd-Jones). Lloyd-Jones in his book Spiritual Depression: “Stop listening to yourself and start preaching to yourself.”
10. Not developing men as leaders around you
Reformation is led by godly men. There were godly men who stood up for me and had enough of the way their pastor was being treated.
The Ten Dangers Turned Positive
1. Keep the glory of God central in all things.
2. Rely on God and God alone.
3. Unleash the power of the word of God through faithful exposition of Scripture.
4. Saturate your efforts through prevailing prayer.
5. Humble yourself continually before God and others; see the grace of God in your own life.
6. Be strong and courageous, fearing God more than men.
7. Keep clear on essential issues; spend your strength on them.
8. Be patient. Don’t expect reformation to come overnight.
9. Never be discouraged; Christ will most certainly build his church.
10. Build a strong group of godly men in your church who will encourage you in the work of reformation.
Join me in prayer for reformation of our churches.
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