Matthew 22:36-40; Acts 1:8
THE NEXT LEVEL
Prepared by Dr. John 3:16 Marshall
for First Baptist Church, Dexter MO, August 28, 2004

In order to take our churches to the next level, we church leaders must first climb to a higher level, totally committing ourselves to the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Here are twelve lessons I’ve learned about “worship, serve, and go” in my uphill climb.

WORSHIP (MATTHEW 22:36-38)

Lesson One: Holiness

From the first, I have been a holiness preacher. I have always believed holiness matters most.

Wesley said, “My one aim in life is to secure personal holiness.” Ambrose claimed, “If I were standing on a wall between hell and sin, I would leap into hell rather than into sin.” Pray often the prayer of McCheyne, “Lord, make me as holy as a saved sinner can be.”

Do you have a prayer folder? Do you have a strong private devotion time? Are you reading the whole Bible annually?

I set out at the ripe old age of fifteen to call America back to God. That passion has often been repressed, but through the years has always bubbled to the surface again. I have pursued other things, but this initial passion has never left me. It is now swelling again, this time at an intense level.

God seems to be bringing me back to this first calling on my life. He had to teach me many lessons to make me ready to do this right thing in the right way.

Lesson Two: Humility

I had to be humbled. My battle against ego continues, but in one fell swoop, God stripped away the bulk of my pride.

I went through the agony of a church split. Much of it was my fault. I repented.

I went from being pastor of a large church to being pastor of a small church. Those two positions are not treated the same.

Lesson Three: Mental Healing

I had to unload bad baggage. Depression and other mental and emotional issues had to go by the wayside. It was essential that I let God heal my mind.

We all share the common lot of humanity. We all have strengths and weaknesses.

Play to your strengths. Bolster your weaknesses. How far we go in the ministry will ultimately be determined by what we do with our greatest weakness.

SERVE (MATTHEW 22:39-40)

Lesson Four: School

I had to go to school. Our culture worships at the altar of education. My degrees helped add credibility to my pulpit ministry.

My people are often blessed by the body of knowledge I was forced to ingest in seminary. The purpose of school is to help us learn the habit of submitting to rigorous discipline, and then to put on ourselves an even more rigorous discipline.

Lesson Five: Organization

I had to develop organizational skills, how to trust others, how to delegate responsibility. I’m doing better, but micro-management remains a temptation. Much of the problem here is my ego and insecurity.

Read books on leadership and management. Have a working knowledge of both.

Leadership deals with effectiveness, management with efficiency. Management builds the ladder. Leadership makes sure it’s leaning against the correct wall.

Many organizational weaknesses can be overcome by tenacity. Glue the seat of your pants to the seat at your desk till the day’s work is done. Keep a
“To Do” list. Have a tickler file. Maintain only one calendar.

Lesson Six: Local Church

I had to learn the infinite value of the local church. It truly is, as Bill Hybels says, the hope of the world. If we waver on this, we’ll miss our best chance for eternal impact.

The potential latent in a local church, if unleashed, can change the whole world, and alter the landscape of an entire city. If many local churches join arms, a city can grow dependent on them, and be unable to thrive without them. This irresistible influence is what we are seeking at Second.

Rather than trying to determine what your city needs, listen to city fathers and hear what they say needs fixing. We in Springfield are going to tutor grades

K-3. In some areas, the size of new prisons is based on the number of third graders who cannot read.

Lesson Seven: Money

I had to quit being squeamish about preaching on tithes and offerings. Everything we do is in some way connected with the one dollar bill. Speak up. Don’t blink. Even if your stomach is in knots, act bold.

Lesson Eight: Team

I had to learn the power of a team. The Lone Ranger can’t get it done. The cavalry is needed. God has assembled at Second a remarkable team.

My ideas at first were directives I expected people to implement. Later I saw them as dowel rods from which beautiful arrows were formed.

Now my ideas are skeets. They get shot down a lot. That’s okay. People who have to implement the plan should help plan the plan. Be looking for people to do things, not for things to do.

Lesson Nine: The Old

We have to take care of old people. They should be rewarded for their years of service. They give stability, provide wisdom, attend, pray, and like it or not, they pay the bills.

GO (ACTS 1:8)

Lesson Ten: Prechristians

We have to find a way to reach lost people. Otherwise we are going out of business.

It grieves me to see how few church people seem to understand the seriousness of our situation. People are obsessed with “me, my four, and no more.” We need reproducible models.

Lesson Eleven: Missions

I had to learn about the Great Commission. The USA is vital, but only one part of a much larger picture.

I had to get the size and fit of the USA puzzle piece right. I had to overcome ethnocentricism.

People are in danger of everlasting fire. We all must find our place in a bucket-brigade to convey living water.

When I first saw an antique water bucket that was actually used in fire-bucket brigades, I was surprised to see its bottom was round, not flat. Each time I sat it down, it fell over, it wouldn’t stand up.

I got the message. When a fire’s going on, you don’t put your water bucket down. Folks, a fire’s going on, an everlasting one. We need to be in the fire-bucket brigade.

All must pray, drawing water from God’s well of protection and anointing. All must give, passing buckets hand to hand, making sure money is given to those seeking to extinguish flames of lostness.

But, even after we all pray, drawing power from God’s well, and even after we all give, conveying support, the whole bucket brigade is useless unless we go stand at the end of the line to throw water on the fire.

We all must go, some short-term, some long-term, some to our city, some to our state, some to the USA, some to the uttermost. There has to be contact with the people we seek to save. We all need to deliver the living water in person.

When the missions revival at Second began, we went from seeing the Great Commission as given to the International Mission Board to seeing it as given to the local church. Two years later, we passed the torch to Sunday School classes.

Another two years later, we came to see the Great Commission is given to individuals. We call this evolution in our thinking the concept of the tightening noose.

The Great Commission is not given to mission boards and societies, nor is it given to local churches or Sunday School classes. These are all support groups, existing to help individuals, the ones to whom the Great Commission is given.

The mission of every Christian is missions. Let’s fulfill our reason for existing.

Lesson Twelve: The Young

I had to learn the future hinges on the 16-29 age group. They are the vanguard of the next 50 years of USA culture, which will be marked by Divorce, Day Care, Digitalization, Death, Drugs, and Despair.

If we learn to reach people 16 to 29, we will figure out how to do church for half a century. If we don’t solve the riddle of how to reach them, the next 50 years will see a continued and accelerated dismantling of the North American church.

We may fail, but we must try. If all we retain is a lamb’s two legs and the piece of an ear, at least the devouring lion will know he had a battle on his hand. Satan is a formidable foe. In Christ we too are formidable.

Even as the culture collapses around us, we must hold the standard high. When the enemy comes in like a flood, a standard must be set up by the righteous.

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