Is the Word of God no longer efficacious? Is it ineffective when it comes to bringing people into Christ’s church made up of all who repent of their sins and trust solely in Jesus Christ and His blood shed upon the cross for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting? Looking at how churches operate, one would certainly think so.
What do I mean? Just consider all the programs and activities promoted by churches to bring people through the doors and make them members of local congregations. Churches offer everything from bingo to psychotherapy and counseling to draw people in. Instead of using sound, Scriptural music and song, churches sing the latest and most entertaining songs and seek to have the best-known “contemporary” performers so that people will come. Some build their churches around activities such as sports, horsemanship, motorcycle riding and more. Some churches meet in cathedrals and others in barns. Most, it seems, try to find programs and offerings to draw in the multitudes.
In some cases, churches practice “bait and switch” tactics by trying to draw folks in with offers of free food, fun activities, exciting music, interesting programs and projects, all the while having a hidden agenda of trying to convert them and make them church members by throwing in a little preaching and sharing of personal testimonies on the side.
Yet, all this is not what Jesus commanded His disciples to do. They were to disciple the people of this world by going out, baptizing in the name of the Triune God, and teaching all that Jesus taught and commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). They were to preach repentance and remission of sins in Jesus’ name (Luke 24:47). And that’s what they did.
If you look at the New Testament churches in the Book of Acts and in the New Testament Epistles, you won’t find a thousand different programs and activities to draw people into the church. Instead, the apostles and the believers went out into the world and proclaimed the Word of God to the people. Those who heard that Word and were moved to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus were brought into the churches where they were baptized and taught the Word of God.
And according to the Bible, the Word remains powerful and efficacious yet today. Just listen to what the Bible says of itself:
• Isaiah 55:10-11 — “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
• Psalm 119:130 — “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”
• Romans 1:16-17 — “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”
• Romans 10:17 — “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
• Ephesians 1:13 — “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.”
• Hebrews 4:12 — “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
And, should we be surprised at the power of God’s Word? Not at all when we remember that He created all things by His almighty Word! He said, “Let there be….” and it came into existence. So also faith in Christ is the result of God’s working through His Word. By God’s word of law, the Holy Spirit shows us our sin and guilt before God; and by His word of the gospel, He shows us the salvation God provided for us all through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
Indeed, there is no other way given whereby we can be brought to faith in Jesus and be made a part of God’s everlasting kingdom. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
So why do churches neglect the preaching and teaching of God’s Word? Why do they try to bring people into the church in other ways and count the Word of God as ineffective? Perhaps they don’t believe God’s promises to work through His Word. They don’t believe it is efficacious!
And what is the result? Yes, congregational membership may increase; but, if the Word of God is not faithfully taught and Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are not administered according to Christ’s own words and institution, those brought into congregations will not be brought into and preserved in Christ’s eternal kingdom, and there will be weeping and sadness at Christ’s return!
Randy Moll is the pastor of Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rogers. He may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.