Restoring Health to an Unhealthy Church: What Principles Should Guide You?

After a several week hiatus, I return to this series of posts on working for biblical reformation in a local church. Previously I addressed why this should even be attempted and what the goal of such an effort is. With this post I want to start thinking about the principles shat should guide our efforts in restoring health to an unhealthy church.

1. Remember that the church belongs to Christ and you are His steward Though we speak of “my church” for the sake of convenience pastors must never forget that the church is God’s idea and every local church belongs to Christ. Paul told the Ephesian elders that they must “shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Pastors must remember that the particular church that we serve has been paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. He has promised to build His church. Our responsibility is to carry out the duties of undershepherds and to do so as servants of stewards of Christ.

This thought will help a pastor remember two important truths. First, the glory of Jesus is at stake in how the church lives. Seeking to restore spiritual health is about more than merely the welfare of the individual members and certainly more than the ease or reputation of the pastor. It is about the honor of our Lord and the display of His greatness to a watching world and to unseen principalities and powers.

Second, though opposition and resistance may be packaged in personal attacks, the issues are not personal. Pastors must guard against seeking to build their own kingdoms or establish their own agendas. We must be clear that the agenda we adopt and pursue is revealed in Scripture and not simply our own personal preference. Only then can we take comfort in the knowledge that if the messenger is attacked it is because of the message. When a soldier is shot he bleeds just as readily whether he is fighting in the name of his king or in his own name. But it is commendable to God if you suffer for doing good (1 Peter 2:20-23).
The Word of God is sufficient

People need to be taught before they can be expected to change

Learn to pick your battles

Work of reformation does not exclude regular, ongoing ministry

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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