“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” begins Dickens’ classic “A Tale of Two Cities.” Regarding the present and future of the work of God’s people known as Baptists, many are taking a rather pessimistic view. Many pundits and pastors are lamenting the demise of our churches, convention, and gospel Christianity overall.
While there are significant challenges facing our churches, local associations, and state and national conventions, Christ followers must remember His clear teaching that we should not lose heart. Jesus Himself promised to build His church, and the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
Following His ascension, Christ did not leave his infant church vulnerable. He empowered it with the Holy Spirit. This was the same Spirit of God involved in creation and the resurrection. Through this Spirit, Christ left His disciples with the assurance that He would be with them always, and that certainly includes today. The Holy Spirit is more than enough to comfort the brokenhearted, convict the sinner, conform the saint into the image of Christ, and cultivate fruit that demonstrates a life of victory.
Jesus also equipped His church by giving them His word—the law, the prophets, the wisdom literature of what we now call the Old Testament, as well as the soon-to-be-finished Word through the writings of the apostles themselves. This God-breathed book is given that His people might grow in faith and be equipped for every good work.
Baptists are a people who believe the Bible. The reclamation of the biblical doctrines of Scripture’s inerrancy and authority has been a point of emphasis throughout my lifetime as a Baptist. However, I believe there is another biblical doctrine that is much neglected in today’s church. I believe this doctrine is not only the theoretical, but also the practical key to stemming the tide of despair and decline as we move forward to fulfill the calling of Christ. If we, as God’s church, are going to see God work in our midst, we must recover the doctrine of Scripture’s sufficiency.
Undoubtedly, most Baptists would verbally affirm the doctrine of sufficiency. However, one look at the methodology of many churches would practically show there is a denial that Scripture alone is enough. One has to look no further than our pulpits to see there is doubt about whether God’s word really contains all we need for life and godliness.
In many places, sermons are built around a felt need, a contemporary happening in the world, or even an illustration or quote the pastor finds “inspirational.” Blogs, conferences, books, and programs offer little biblical substance, but instead heavily focus on style and fads. Our children’s and youth ministries—even our worship ministries—seem to downplay the priority of Scripture for things deemed more “relevant.”
God has equipped His church for these days. His word still works. His Spirit is still powerful. By God’s grace, we have what it takes.
Andrew Dyer is pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in London and Kentucky Baptist Convention first vice president.