by Buddy Johnson
We seldom hear of churches becoming more conservative as they progress in ministry, but we often hear of those who become more liberal and embrace a more liberal theology in their ministries. In my efforts to plant churches during the past 50 years, the motivating goal has been to be as literal and biblical as possible in the formation of new churches in several different countries. In order to do this, the foundation of all church plants begins with teaching the new believers, whom we call disciples. In the Great Commission, we often emphasize the “going” and the “baptizing” and minimize the “teaching” and “observing.” If our disciples have not been taught to “observe,” “obey” and “guard” sound doctrine, it is very likely that they will become more liberal and often unscriptural in their practices in the church.
In our recent church plant in Ecuador, upon arriving, I invited men to come to our house on Tuesdays and Thursdays to begin studying the Bible. We had two different groups of six and seven men. Some of them had invited friends from other groups, and we even had one pastor who attended from another denomination. My first challenge was to select the material I wanted to teach. There are many good study books for new believers, and most of them have about 13 very basic lessons. I selected Fundamentals of the Faith by John MacArthur. Some of the lessons are “How to know the Bible,” “The Attributes of God,” “The Work of Christ,” “Salvation,” “The Person and Ministry of the Holy Spirit,” “The Church” and “Obedience.” The men memorized the books of the Bible the first week, then each week they memorized key verses dealing with the lesson. We spent extra time discussing the redeeming work of Christ.
After this study, some of the men did not return. I have not seen them again. We dealt with salvation, sanctification, God’s grace, man’s repentance and spent extra time with the ministry of the Holy Spirit and some of the errors taught concerning Him. Then we came to the church. I was shocked to hear their ideas about the church and the diverse things they had been taught. It took a while to slowly march through the biblical truths of the church. One of the most difficult times we had was to arrive at an acceptable definition of “the church.” The BMA Doctrinal Statement declares that (1) the church is a local, visible assembly of baptized believers in Jesus Christ, (2) her ordinances are two: baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and (3) her officers are pastors and deacons. We seemed to finally be on the same page as the men became aware of the biblical teaching on the church.
We had a graduation service after 22 weeks of study. The men invited their families and friends, and we had a great time of fellowship and food. I asked each one to stand and give one lesson they had learned during our study. They blessed my heart! One brother stood, almost weeping, and said, “I’ve been a believer for 20 years, and for 20 years I thought I could lose my salvation. Only now have I learned that no true believer can ever lose his salvation.” Several of them have brought others to Christ. Some of these men are leaders and hold important positions in the church. They have a vision based on II Tim. 2:2: “The things you have heard from me, the same commit to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”