Twelve Spiritual Disciplines of a Biblical Church – Part 2
1. Biblical Preaching and Teaching
So, a church preaches and teaches the Bible. The Bible alone is the authoritative word of God, not the Bible plus something else. Not the Bible plus a pastor’s ideas and a pastor’s opinions and a pastor’s thoughts. No, the Bible alone.
This is why when you turn back just a couple of chapters in 1 Corinthians 2, Paul wrote when I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God. The word of God with lofty speech or wisdom for I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified and I was with you in weakness and fear and much trembling and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom but a demonstration of the Spirit and power so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but the power of God.
As a pastor, planter and leader in the church, we must give ourselves to proclaiming the Word of God so that people in the church are putting their faith, not in the wisdom of man but the power of God and in His word. If you or I gather together with the church and we do not open our Bible or maybe we read the Bible a little bit and then we just kind of talk about all our ideas and thoughts and on the side over here then we will lead a church to base their faith on our thoughts and our ideas and our opinions. And that will fail them but when we open the Bible and we instruct from the Bible we correct and teach and exhort and encourage and rebuke and edify with God’s word and people begin to put their faith in God’s word then that will last forever.
In my quiet time this morning, I read heaven and earth will pass away but my word Jesus said will never pass away. So, give them God’s word, teach them God’s word, help them to know how to learn God’s word. In your own life meditate on God’s word, memorize God’s word, study God’s word, proclaim God’s word, obey God’s word. God’s word must be at the centre of the church. This is the first spiritual discipline because everything flows from this. If God’s word is central in the church driving everything in the church then that will lead to faithfulness before God. If God’s word is on the side and it’s not central and it is not driving everything then, that will lead to unfaithfulness before God. You must be faithful to his word. This is why 1 Timothy 3:2 makes clear that a pastor has one primary qualification that he must be able to do; he must be able to teach God’s word. Why? Because this is how God and Jesus lead his church through his word, through the mouthpiece of pastors, church planters, and leaders who were proclaiming his word. The First spiritual discipline of a church is biblical preaching and teaching.
2. Biblical Prayer
The second discipline is biblical prayer. That’s exactly what Paul was talking about here in 1 Corinthians 2 – demonstration of the spirit and power. This is why when we read the story of the church in the Book of Acts three times in the first 6 chapters, we read that the church devoted themselves to prayer. It’s where the whole book of Acts starts the churches gathered together devoting themselves to prayer and the Holy Spirit comes down at Pentecost in response to their praying and Peter proclaims the gospel and 3,000 people are saved. 3,000 people come to faith in Christ and then right after that it says they devoted themselves to prayer. Then I want you to see I wish we had time to study this. You read through the book of Acts every major move of the gospel and the power of the spirit of God comes about in response to the church praying.
So, you have what I just described in Acts 1, 2 and 3 they go up to the temple at the time of prayer. They’re gathering together corporately for prayer, and a man is healed and people start saying what is happening here the disciples start to experience persecution they gather together and they pray at the end of Acts 4 and it says the place where they were meeting was shaken and they were all filled with the holy spirit and they spoke the word of God boldly. And right after that in acts chapter five multitudes of more people are coming to faith in Jesus. That leads to Acts 6 where it says yet again they devoted themselves to prayer and right after it says that the number of disciples was multiplying including many priests who were becoming obedient to the faith.
In Acts 7, Stephen is being stoned. He looks up to heaven and he prays and right after he prays the church is scattered. Stephen dies and was martyred for his faith and the church is scattered spreading the gospel preaching the word throughout Judea and Samaria. In Acts 10, Peter is on a rooftop praying when God speaks to him and opens his eyes to the fact that the gospel is not just for the Jewish people. It’s for the gentiles. It’s for all the nations and the gospel starts spreading to Cornelius’s house. You get to chapter 12, the church is praying while Peter is in prison. Peter is miraculously delivered out of prison as a result of the church praying. Acts 13, the church is worshipping and fasting and praying and the spirit says set apart from me Saul and Barnabas for the work to which I’ve called them and they go out as missionaries to spread the gospel a whole mission movement is born that takes the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. It all happens because the church was praying. We could keep going on and on and on but get the picture when the church devotes itself to prayer the church sees the power of God at work.
I just want to encourage you. I got back recently from time with the church in South Korea and I don’t know if you know the story of the Korean church. But in the year 1900 the whole Korean peninsula so this is before there was North Korea and South Korea, the whole Korean peninsula was less than one percent Christian very few followers of Jesus on the Korean peninsula and there was a particular conference where leaders, pastors, and missionaries. Not a lot of them were there but they came together for this conference. And while they were there. God met them in a powerful way. As they were reading God’s word and praying they began confessing their sins before God to one another they began falling on their faces confessing sin crying out with tears before god. This happened one night in the conference it kept going on throughout the night into the next morning into the next day and the next day just praying and crying out for God’s mercy and God’s power.
Then they scattered from that conference and they began doing this in all their churches they would get up at four in the morning and they’d pray for two hours every single morning. They would come together on Friday nights and they would pray throughout the night. They wouldn’t sleep until Saturday morning. They just pray all night fasting asking God to move in power and lead people to Jesus. Strengthen the church. So, they did that starting in the first few years of the 1900s. By the year 2000, there were over 10 million followers of Jesus in South Korea alone. After doing that, that’s the story of the church in South Korea. Even today they get up every morning and they’re praying they gather together on Friday nights and they pray and God has moved in power 10 million followers of Jesus and they’re sending out missionaries all around the world. They are second only to the United States when it comes to sending out missionaries in the world and that’s considering they’re much smaller than the United States.
So, just think about a country; that’s less than one percent, Christian, today that’s very close to the gospel. Think about Afghanistan. Can you imagine 100 years from now being 10 million followers of Jesus in Afghanistan? And they’re sending out missionaries all around the world. How is that possible? It’s only possible through the power of God in response to the prayers of his people. So, we must lead our churches to pray like this. To pray for God to do that which we cannot do on our own. You want to see your community, villages around you, the city around you reached with the gospel. You don’t have the power to do that. Only God can do that. So, pray. That’s spiritual discipline number two.
3. Biblical Evangelism
The third discipline of a church is biblical evangelism – the biblical proclamation of the gospel. So, this is Matthew 16, where Jesus says I will build my church on the proclamation of who I am. As you proclaim Jesus is Lord Jesus saviour, Jesus is Christ, Jesus is the king as you proclaim this I will build my church. The church is built on the proclamation of Jesus as Lord and king and saviour overall. This is why at the very beginning of 1 Corinthians 1, Paul talks about the supremacy of Christ and the cross of Christ. The gospel of Christ and its proclamation of this gospel. So, I would encourage you to ask in your church – Are the people in your church proclaiming the gospel wherever they go? That’s a spiritual discipline of a church. Are you a pastor, church planter, and a leader in the church? Are you proclaiming the gospel leading people to Jesus?
4. Biblical Discipleship
It is biblical discipleship so think of the great commission to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything Christ has commanded us. This is what the church does: we lead people to Jesus and then we help people grow in Jesus. When we give ourselves to these spiritual disciplines. What God does in the church is. He produces disciples. We teach them to obey everything he has commanded us. We teach them we’re not, we don’t just tell them what God’s word says so they have more information in their heads. We teach them to obey. We teach them to walk with God, to worship God, to love others as themselves, and help them see how the word of God transforms every facet of their lives. That is Biblical discipleship.
5. Biblical Membership
The fifth spiritual discipline of a church is recognizing the followers of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 12, kind of way as significant members of a body like a foot or a hand or an eye every single member has its part to play in the building up of the church and the spread of the gospel. Every member matters. Every member counts. So, this spiritual discipline is where we realize throughout the Bible. Specifically, the New Testament, we see the church talked about and sometimes the Bible talks about the church as the universal body of Christ. The believers in Christ in all the world or in all time. Like you and I together are part of the universal body of Christ.
However, out of the 114 different times, the Bible talks about the church. Over 90 of those times, the Bible talks about local bodies of believers who are gathered together in a particular place and are committed to being the church together in that place. This is different for you and me. I’m a part of a local church in Washington DC. You’re a part of a local church in your community in India. And I’m a member, yes, of the universal body of Christ with you but I’m a member of this body where I’m committed to loving and caring for the brothers and sisters who are part of this body and working together with them to build up this body of Christ and to spread the gospel of Christ and every member of the church matters in this way. So, when it comes to the spiritual disciplines of a church, we’re building the church according to God’s word. We recognize members of local churches and we affirm that every single member matters. The foot matters. The hand matters. The eye matters. Every single member matters.
6. Biblical Leadership
The Bible recognizes pastors and elders and overseers as leaders in the church. These words are used interchangeably in the New Testament to describe those who shepherd the church, who teach the word to the church, who model the character of Christ. We see the qualifications of pastors and elders and overseers in Titus 1:5-9 and 1 Timothy 3:1-7. These qualifications that basically say, “An elder or pastor overseer should be an example of what it means to follow Jesus.” In 1 Corinthians 11, one kind of way to be able to say to the church follow me as I follow Christ. And then, we see 1 Timothy 3:8-13, qualifications for deacons. Those who lead and serve in the church in different ways and so. The spiritual discipline of a biblical church is biblical leadership having pastors, elders, and overseers according to God’s word. This is why in Acts 14, as soon as these initial churches are started by Paul and Barnabas. In new places, one of the first things they do is appoint elders in those churches who will shepherd those churches according to the word of God.
This article is the second one of the three-part article series of the transcript of the Session 1 preached by David Platt in Online AIPC 2020 Conference held on Sep 15-17, 2020.
Please click here to see the video.