In 1989, seven words were whispered in a classic movie, Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.” While I have not been a pastor for 29 years since that classic hit the theaters, I have seen something similar over the course of 18 years of ministry:
“If you preach the Word, they will come.”
I saw it in student ministry, I saw it as a children’s minister, and I see it as a teaching pastor. “If you preach the Word, they will come.” I believe we see this dynamic unfold in Acts 2: as they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to fellowship, and so forth, we find in verse 47, “Every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.”
Granted, 20 or 30 years later we read Paul foretell in 2 Timothy 4:3–4, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths.” Nevertheless, the words preceding this warning to Timothy could not be clearer: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2)
Brother pastors, you may not have a Field of Dreams at your church, but you do have a responsibility to preach the Word, and I have found, time and time again, they will come. Maybe not in droves, maybe not at great cost to you and your family, but I believe there is a key for us in 2 Timothy 4:2, “with great patience and teaching.”
Jesus does not expect you to hit a home run each and every Sunday; He expects you to preach the Word. Your people do not need you to be the next Dr. Adrian Rogers; they need you to preach the Word. Your patience and faithfulness in teaching may not get you to the conference circuit or on the platform to write books; you simply need to preach the Word.
There are countless ways to “grow” the church you serve, but only one that will last. A church built on an everlasting foundation: the Lord and His Word. Fads will come and go, trends will shift by the seasons, but there is one never-changing truth worth staking your church’s future upon: the Lord and His Word.
You know what Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.” You know what Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 3:11, “For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ.” Pastor, it is not your job to build your church. It is Jesus’ job, and there is no foundation other than Him. If you will put your fruitfulness on the altar—along with your desires to grow a platform or build a name for yourself—and follow Paul’s encouragement to Timothy to “preach the Word…with great patience,” I believe Jesus will take care of the rest.
Perhaps it will be fast, perhaps it will be slow, and perhaps it will not even be that noticeable, but over time, as you continue to preach the Word, they will come. And because of it, they will grow and mature with each hit that advances the baserunners. Stay faithful, stay patient, and preach the Word.
I have been called to pastor two different churches who were plateaued and declining for years, and the temptation to get fancy and creative was strong. But I made a commitment to faithful plodding, leaving the results to Him. I entered the pulpit week in and week out and made my way through books of the Bible, verse by verse.
I was not that creative, I was not that imaginative, but I aimed for faithfulness. One went from 30 or so to over 100, and my current church went from around the same to as many as 168. And the Lord continues to keep the baptism waters flowing. In other words, it was not built on my personality or abilities, but on the inerrant, infallible, and inspired Word of God. I trusted my faithfulness to preach the Word into the far more capable hands of Jesus and watched Him continue to build His church.
Matt Henslee serves as the pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church in Mayhill, New Mexico, the Managing Editor of LifeWay Pastors, and the co-host of Not Another Baptist Podcast.