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The Church Growth Conference Jesus Taught
Part 3
Be Prepared for Resistance
By Tom Brown

            When you have practice the first six commandments of evangelism then you will make great progress. Success however will be met with resistance from the established religious hierarchy as well as the government.

            7. Be prepared for resistance.

             “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues” (Matt 10:17). The resistance is a sign of your progress. The first group to hurt you will be religionists. The synagogues were ruled by the Jewish brothers of the apostles. You can imagine how surprised the apostles were when they were accused of introducing a new religion. They were simply showing the continuation of the prophets. Jesus was the Messiah and His rule was the rule of the true God, but the religious leaders rejected it.

            The same will happen with you. Christianity in most cities is lukewarm. Most churches are dead. Yet when you follow Jesus with passion you will see success and the success will bring persecution. The current religious leaders will be jealous over the success you have in the city. I have experienced this. The lukewarm believers have not “flogged me” but they have removed me from Christian radio and television stations in El Paso. I am sure they think they were following Christ in doing so, but they were deceived. They removed me from the small low powered Christian stations but I simply moved to three of some the largest TV stations in the area.

            The battle will spill over from religious institutions to civic institutions. Jesus said that eventually, “On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt 10:18-20).

            Why would the government care about your preaching? It’s simple; your message is now changing governmental policies. You are now influencing more and more people. Government will then become concern over your influence

            I have experienced this in my city and have been privilege to debate on television one of the leading City Council men. I was able to show the fallacy of his policies and his misunderstandings of the Bible. By many peoples’ accounts, I won the debate. Why would the media take a lowly pastor like me and have me stand in front of civic leaders; it’s because of the success God has given me in the city. The success could not have been possible if I had not followed the first six commandments of evangelism. Today, politicians want my support and endorsements. This could only happen by the grace of God.  

            8. Don’t take the criticism personally

        All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt 10:22).It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!” (Matt 10:25).

            It is easy to feel personally insulted as people speak badly of you. I have had to deal with protestors at my church holding signs that say, “Pastor Brown is a Bigot.” “God loves homosexuals too.” “Would Jesus take away benefits from anyone?” All of these signs are meant to dissuade me from speaking the truth in love to my community. It would be easy to get personally offended at what I read in the media, but I remind myself that it is not really me that they hate; it is the Word of Christ they despise. I am only the messenger. Messengers do not take ridicule personally.

            Too many ministers have a lot of insecurity. They want to be loved by everyone. Jesus said that His true followers were going to be persecuted, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt 5:11-12). He reminds us of our heritage. What prophet in the Bible did you ever see who was accepted by his generation? They were all persecuted. It was later generations that recognized these as true prophets. So we must accept the fact that people will speak falsely about us. They will question our motives, judge our tactics, but we must continue to speak the truth and reach people for Christ.

            There will be a temptation to try to make peace with God-haters:You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men” (Matt 5:13). Jesus warns us not to compromise. It would be easy to say what people want to hear just to avoid the persecution, but you must stay faithful to the message of the gospel. Why, because Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:14-16).

          One final important point is you must do more than preach; you must let the world “see your good deeds.” A pastor I knew was very discouraged. He had developed a bad reputation of being greedy. He knew he was not greedy, but people perceived him to be greedy. Then the Lord asked him, “Would your city care if your church closed?”

            He had to be honest that his church had not done much for the city to make the community miss him if he left. That’s when he realized he had to shift focus from just “preaching” to “doing”. He immediately shifted his church funds to a benevolence program. His church has fed and clothed thousands in his city. This action turned his reputation around. Yes, there are still others who question his motives, but there are more that came to see him as a good person. This is why eventually we can’t just preach, we have to do things to make our community a better place.

            9. Be faithful to preach the Word.

          So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs” (Matt 10:26-27).

            Many times a minister, knowing the critics are listening, will change their message to avoid persecution. This is wrong. If the truth is the truth, then you proclaim it to anyone. If you are willing in private to tell someone what you believe, then why don’t you do it in public?

            “But pastor, some are not ready to hear what I have to say.” Really? “Yes, they will get offended if they hear me say what the Word really says.” Well, if it is the Word, then preach it. If it is your opinion, then I understand to keep it to yourself. But if God is speaking in your ears, then the message must be proclaimed. It is deception to give only half of the truth to the people, because you think they will be hurt if they find out what you really believe.

            During one of the membership classes, a prospective member argued with my wife who was giving the class. The person said they didn’t agree with our statement of faith. My wife answered, “Well, then you either have to agree with it to be a member or find a church that agrees with you.” I loved her boldness. We did not want to lose this person, but we have to be honest and tell the whole truth about what we believe than for people to later find out what we believe.  

          If you compromise to get the favor of the world, then who will be the light in city? No one will be the light. Don’t let the world get you to turn off your light. The light is the knowledge of the God. Don’t be tempted to “put it under a bowl.” Another way to say it is, “Don’t just share the light with those that agree with you; be willing to share the light with those in darkness.” 

            I was interviewed by an opponent of mine. He is host of a hard rock radio station. He had teased me on radio, lied about me, and basically ripped me apart on his station. However, he has the most popular radio show so I agreed to go on it to promote my book, “Breaking Curses, Experiencing Healing.”

            He and his co-host tried everything to get me to compromise my beliefs. They were sure I would make some concession to succor their favor, but I did not. I spoke with compassion and intelligence, but never wavered from the Word of God. After the show was over, the co-host came up to me and said, “I may not agree with you, but I have to admire your courage to say what you believe.” This is my point, what good are we when God gives us a great platform to speak to the city, yet waver in speaking the truth? We lost the influence we could have had in the community; now we have become like them. Some think the only way to grow a church is to “lighten” the message of the gospel: delete some parts of the Bible from our preaching, but this is not true. You can grow the church by faithfully telling the gospel.  

            “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:44). People will come out to hear the word of the Lord. I know this from experience. More and more skeptics have come to my church than ever before. My boldness in the city has not kept people from attending my church. They come to my church knowing they are going to hear the Word of God. This is influence. You can grow your church by preaching the Word. You do not need to change the message to get bigger. Many churches have watered-down the message to attract more people; and while they do grow, the growth is superficial. People should be coming to church to “hear the word of the Lord.”

            “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:28). This is ultimately why ministers buckle under the pressure of the world. They are afraid in some way of losing their lives. It may not be fear of being put to death, but it could be fear of losing popularity. Fear of losing members. Fear, however, is not of God. In the end, you are going to be afraid of someone: will it be people or God. Jesus said, “Be afraid of God and not people.”

            In the end, you will have to give an account of your life and ministry to God. You will not stand in front of the media or in front of gay activists or in front of abortionists. You will stand before God. His opinion is the only One that will matter in that day. So why be afraid of what people can do to you?

            10.  Do not show special favoritism toward your family.

            “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt 10:37).

            Every minister would love to promote and eventually pass on the baton of their ministry to their children. But the children must be worthy and capability of taking your ministry to a new level. It is not enough they share your physical DNA; they must share your spiritual DNA as well. They must be qualified to take over your church or ministry.

            I have seen many problems when it comes to transferring the ministry to a new generation. Let’s face it, you will not be the pastor forever; you will not be the head of your evangelistic association forever. You will have to hand it over to a new generation, and who will inherit your ministry?

            Jesus makes it clear, “Do not love your son or daughter more than me.” As much as you love your children, you must love Christ even more and be willing to promote, not just your children, but those that are truly deserving of promotion. It is wrong for faithful members, who are much more qualified than the minister’s children, to be bypassed for promotion simply because they are not the physical DNA of the minister. A pastor will ruin all that he built if he shows favoritism toward his children.

            It is true that the minister’s children should be more qualified than others because of their close relationship with the minister. They, after all, have likely been raised in the ministry. They know how the ministry functions. They have a lot of experience. It would be ideal for the minister to give his children more responsibility and hand over the reigns to them. In fact some of the best pastors are preacher's kids, so I am very much in favor of pastor’s children taking more responsibility in ministry. However it does not always work out this way.

            A very huge television ministry has shrunk from mega status to struggling to pay their bills. They have had to sell properties, get off many TV stations and lay off employees. The problem was simple: the pastor wanted to promote his children as the successors of his ministry. But they did not have same anointing and gifting as their father. Sooner or later, he will have to come to grips with the reality that none of his children are ready to be the head pastor of his church.

            This is the same mistake that is played out over thousands of churches. Pastors are constantly showing favoritism toward their children. Eli’s great problem was his sons. Though the priest Eli was a great man, his children did not follow in his footsteps. His sons ruined the good he had built for the nation. It is amazing how children can destroy the things their parents have built.

            I think this final teaching of Christ was meant to caution every minister from being blinded by his own desire for the progress of his children. It is natural and normal to want to see your children be successful, but it is better to want to see your church and ministry be successful. Do your best to use your children in ministry, but recognized at the same time that you have many spiritual children that are capable as well. Use them too.

Conclusion

            I hope these series of messages have helped you as a minister adjust your life and ministry to fit Jesus’ teaching on evangelism. You obviously have a great desire to see your ministry succeed. You have a great compassion for lost souls; otherwise you would not be reading these articles. However, it is not just zeal that will get the job done. It is wisdom as well. I trust you have received the wisdom from God through Christ’ “Ten Commandments for Evangelism.”

            If I can be a help to your ministry do not hesitate to contact me. I truly love and respect you, my fellow laborer in Christ.  

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