Pastoral Ministry
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Why Are We Here?
Matthew 16:18 


And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 

Why are you here today? There could be as many answers to that question as there are people present. Some would say, "I'm here because my parents made me come." Others would say, "I'm here for my children." Still others would say "I'm here because I have responsibilities." Some are here for the fellowship, others for the worship, others for the teaching. I'm always aware that some are here desperately wanting to hear a word from God.

Why are you here?

I've got another question to ask you, it is, in my opinion, more difficult to answer, "Why are WE here?" Next year we will celebrate 60 years of this Church's ministry on the Monterey Peninsula. Though we've met in several locations and have changed our name more than once, the Lighthouse Baptist Church was established by its founders for a reason. Why? Why are we here?

A church whose members can't answer that question is destined to walk along the path of least resistance. It becomes a ship tossed by the waves or a leaf blown by the wind. Without clear direction we will drift and possibly capsize. Without a clear answer to my question, "Why are WE here?" we will fall prey to whatever force can speak the loudest or with the greatest passion.

Take a look with me in our rear view mirror and think about our origins. With Peter's profession of faith, Christ established His Church. He said, "That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Jesus said, "I will build MY church." A few moments ago, I said, " . . . the Lighthouse Baptist Church was established by its founders for a reason." Really, the reason the founders established this church is not as important as the reason "the Founder" established His church. Notice that Jesus didn't say that he would establish Peter's Church, He said I will build "my church."

As we glance back at our rear view mirror, let's all agree on this one thing, the Lighthouse Baptist Church is Christ's church! It doesn't belong to the preacher. Amen? It doesn't belong to the deacons. Amen? It doesn't belong to the permanent residents. Amen? It doesn't belong to the officers or the members; this church belongs to Christ. It is His Church.

Some people start to feel like they have a certain amount of ownership of the church. Maybe it is because they've attended for a long time or have made significant contributions over the years. Maybe it is a feeling of having "sweat equity" built up. You may be able to convince me of the fact, but I doubt that you can convince Jesus of that fact. He bought the church with his precious blood and I don't think he is willing to share ownership with you or me.

Before we move on to the purpose of the Church, I want you to see one more thing, Jesus said "I will BUILD my Church." Do you ever feel pressure to make our church grow? The emphasis has changed in recent years from church growth to church health. I applaud that change. I never felt comfortable with the sterile programmatic approach of the church growth movement. It was almost as if we had the programs, we didn't need God. The authors guaranteed results if churches would follow the specific directions.

Growing a church isn't like baking a cake. It isn't a matter of adding certain ingredients together in the right proportions. Jesus makes it clear in this text that He will BUILD His Church. No doubt He will use our efforts and programs, but He will do the building, not us. 

Now the phrase we've been waiting for, the one that comes after Jesus' bold declaration that the Church belongs to Him and He will build it up. He said this, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

We often gain comfort from this Scripture believing it teaches that the forces of hell cannot invade the church. As if God was promising believers a safe haven from the storms of life and the evils of Satan. We get a picture of the Church being a fortress that offers sanctuary and protection to its members. But, that is a misreading of the text. 

Look at it again. Jesus doesn't promise that the church will withstand hell's charge, it is the opposite. He promises that hell can't withstand our charge. 

This text is a call to arms. It is a clear trumpet sound to charge Hell. Jesus promises that He will build the church and Hell will not be able to withstand the church's force when it beats up against the gates of Hell.

Have we charged Hell lately?

Michael S. Hamilton, Assistant Professor of History at Seattle Pacific University wrote, "In the 1930's, most missionary agencies emphasized evangelism, church-planting, and discipleship. In 1998, however, four of the five largest overseas ministries specialized in relief, development, and education work. For many of these agencies, evangelism is a secondary concern." (From Fresh Illustrations)

If Professor Hamilton is right, the church is drifting from our purpose. We've stopped charging Hell with the gospel. Instead, we're spending our efforts trying to alleviate Hell on earth. We're charging the wrong Hell. Suffering on earth, "Hell on earth" if you will, isn't even a drop in the ocean of the suffering that await those who will spend eternity in Hell.

If we don't feed the poor, someone else will. If we don't clothe the naked, someone else will, but if we don't spread the gospel, who will?

Among Jesus' last words to His disciples were these, "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1:8 KJV)

Jesus talks about a power that will descend upon his disciples-a Holy Ghost power-that will compel them to spread the gospel both near and far. Jesus does not give them a command, he states a prophesy. He clearly says what will happen when the believers are empowered: they will spread the gospel.

Earlier in His ministry, he does give his disciples a command, He said, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. [19] Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: [20] Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matthew 28:18-20 KJV)

He talks about the power again in verse 18, then he commands his followers to make disciples of all nations. We are to "go," we are to "baptize" and we are to "teach." This is your commander-in-chief speaking. He doesn't ask you your opinion about the mission, and He doesn't want your input. He wants your obedience. Are you battle ready?

Why are we here? Simple. We are here to proclaim the gospel. And so today, I challenge our leaders. Ask yourself this simple question, "How can I lead my organization to fulfill the church's purpose?"

Follow the example of Deanna Shrodes, the choir director of the North Carroll Assembly of God in Manchester, MD who takes her choir to bars and prisons. Why?

According to Deanna, they go to places "where we were guaranteed to find hurting people." They are taking their message of hope to those who can't or won't come to them, and many of them are responding by accepting Christ. (From Fresh Illustrations)

How long has it been since someone came to faith in Christ because of your ministry? How long has it been since you've asked them to? Are we reaching the unchurched, or are we simply providing a place for Christians to gather? Is our focus on reaching the lost, or are we satisfied with ministering to the saved? 

We are not a warehouse to store the saved, we are a lighthouse! Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16 NASB)

In forty years of involvement in his church's visitation program, Wilt Durant had led one person to Christ. You know what they say, if only one person comes to Christ its worth all the effort, right?

When he retired in 1992, he moved to Rogers, AR and joined Immanuel Baptist Church. One Sunday, his pastor preached on Soul Winning and Durant responded to the invitation and devoted the remainder of his life to winning souls. Since that time, he's prayed with over 600 people to receive Christ. He isn't casual about his witness, he averages visiting in over 60 homes a week. What does he consider the secret to his success? "A willing heart." (From Fresh Illustrations)

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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