The gospel is…the word about Jesus Christ and what he did for us in order to restore us to a right relationship with God. – Graeme Goldsworthy

Monday, March 30, 2015

Seven Years Ago Today

Seven years ago today -- at this exact moment that I now write -- I was preaching my very first sermon as a “pastor.” On March 30, 2008 New Covenant Community Church launched its first church service. Three decades of divine preparation led up to that moment, and God’s grace has sustained me and the precious congregation I shepherd in the years since. God has been faithful and good.

Many in Christianity today define success -- first and foremost -- numerically. The size of a congregation is the immediate litmus test whereby we gauge whether a minister and his church has “made it.” Additionally, denominational brass and nay-saying critics often marginalize those churches that haven’t performed many baptisms. I’m glad God’s opinion -- found in His Word -- doesn’t parallel these superficial perspectives. I’m also thankful that church history -- and some of the more significant ministries in the story of world missions -- doesn’t completely agree, either. I opened my sermon yesterday with the following quote:

It was seven years…
…before Carey baptized his first convert in India.
…before Judson won his first disciple in Burmah.
…that Morrison toiled before the first Chinaman was brought to Christ.
…declares Moffat, that he waited to see the first evident moving of the 
              Holy Spirit upon his Bechaunas in Africa.
…before Henry Richards wrought the first convert, gained at 
              Banza Manteka. 
                                        A.J. Gordon in Why Revival Tarries by Leonard Ravenhill (p. 130)

Immediately following this quote I said, “I would like to add to A.J. Gordon’s list. Seven years ago New Covenant Community Church had its first church service. May it be said about us one hundred years from now that seven years after we began...revival broke out." A resounding, “Amen!” followed.

But whether that happens or not is not the main point. I’ve come to learn over the last seven years that numbers, financial health, or numerous conversions does not define the success of a local church. It is defined by faithfulness. In the early years of planting New Covenant Community Church, I read a book written by a seasoned pastor that laid out the biblical case for this, entitled Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by Kent Hughes. With a providential timeliness that can only come from a kind and gracious God on this seven year anniversary, one of my congregants sent me an email this morning entitled “For your encouragement” with the notation, “I think you will be blessed by this series. It is by Kent Hughes on success in ministry.”

As I listened to one of the messages of the series this morning, I couldn’t help but respond in gratitude for this fortifying reminder, and I’d like to share it with you. Whether you are in full-time ministry or not, it will encourage your heart if you consistently battle Western society’s constant definition of “success” -- which is not only propagated outside the church, but also, sadly, from within its own walls. As you listen, may your heart be sweetly drawn back to the clarity of God’s Word.

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