I wore leisure suits to church. That’s right. I wore brightly colored, polyester suits with flowered, open-collar shirts right in front of God and everyone. On purpose! They were still common in my teenage years, way back in olden days. Thankfully, those things are now out of style.
There was another common fad during my teenage years. It was the antichurch phenomena. It went something like this. “I’m okay with Jesus (after all, the Doobie Brothers sang ‘Jesus is Just Alright with Me’) but I don’t want anything to do with the church.” This one, unfortunately, is not out of style.
You can sort of understand the sentiment perhaps. After all, the church is made up of people and people can be so very human. Mankind is sinful and selfish and broken. But the problem with this sentiment is that Jesus is the one who formed and founded the church and he did so for a reason.
The church matters deeply to the Lord and, therefore, ought to matter deeply to us. Ephesians 5:25 instructs husbands to love their wives “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” Colossians 1:18 reminds us that Christ “is the head of the body, the church.” Many other bible verses point us to the importance and value and power of the church.
The following are three ways you can enhance your preaching on the doctrine of the church, generally and Baptist ecclesiology, specifically. Consider each of these as you plan your sermons.
First, make application to the church as well as to individuals. Application of the text is telling hearers why the scripture being expounded should matter to them. It answers the question, “So what?” Our modern preaching often applies scripture to individuals but not to the church as a whole. Tell your hearers not only how it applies to their lives but how it also applies to their community of faith: the local church. Apply the text to the individual church attender, the small groups within the church and to the church as a whole. Make application broad as well as narrow.
Second, remind hearers of the importance of connection. The church is the means by which God connects believers with each other. It provides accountability and encouragement and assistance and, when necessary, rebuke. Fellowship is God’s plan even for the greatest of introverts. God made us to connect and certainly saves us to connect. The connection of the church can keep us from undervaluing gifts we don’t have, ignoring the things that don’t come easily to us and missing insights that come from others. We need each other whether we recognize it or not. “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Third, don’t take Baptist ecclesiology for granted. Having lived most of my life outside the bible belt has taught me not to take for granted even basic biblical understanding. But never has a church culture known less about Baptist ecclesiology– even those located next to the buckle of that belt. Issues like regenerate church membership, the meaning and purpose of believer’s baptism and the Lord’s supper or the priesthood of the believer are too important to be assumed. Assumptions make poor instructors. Teach doctrine clearly and faithfully because it is true and because it matters and because you may have a surprising number of hearers who don’t understand it.
Leisure suits went out of style long ago. Teaching on the doctrine of the church and Baptist ecclesiology, however, will always be needed for every generation.
About: Dr. Doug Munton serve as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, O’Fallon, IL. He is the author Immersed: 40 Days to Deeper Faith and adjunct seminary professor with Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary Online. Dr. Munton is a graduate of Wheaton College and a two-time graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. and PhD). He currently serves as the 1st Vice President of the Southern Baptist Convention.