Ten years ago today, I preached my first sermon as pastor at Farmdale Baptist Church. I preached a sermon titled “Jesus Christ: The Builder of the Church” from Matthew 16:13-19. I focused on verse 18, where Jesus says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I said in part (and still say):
The word Jesus uses that is translated church in Matthew 16:18 is the Greek word ekklesia which is a compound of two words in Greek ek “out of” and kaleo “I call.” The church is a community of people called out from the world who have received the revelation from God that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s ultimately what unites us here at Farmdale Baptist Church. Not because we’re all natives of Central Kentucky, we’re not. Not because we’re all UK fans, we’re not. Not because we all have the same hobbies and interests, we don’t. We’re united here despite our differences because of a common faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the foundation of the church, the rock upon which Christ builds His church: the confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God!
Jesus is the one building His church. He is the One who is calling out people to be a part of His ekklesia. I recently received in the mail an advertisement from a company whose slogan is “We build Christ’s church!” No, they don’t! They may build buildings, but they don’t build the church. Christ alone builds the church.
I’ll never forget hearing John MacArthur describe his response to a reporter who asked him about his desire to build the church. He said,
When a reporter asked me once if I had a great desire to build the church, I told him, “No. I have absolutely no desire to build the church. That’s not my job. Jesus said, ‘I will build My church,’ and I would rather not compete with Him. I simply want to allow Him to do that through me in a small way in one location.
I don’t want to be in competition with Jesus! Do we think we can do better? Our job is to be faithful to do what He has told us to do in His Word. As Mark Dever has summarized what the church is to do: Read the Bible, Preach the Bible, Pray the Bible, Sing the Bible, See the Bible (through the ordinances of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism). As ministers of the gospel, we are called to faithfulness, not success.
Whenever people have encouraged me by telling me how that God has helped them through my ministry, those words mean a lot to me. But if you want to know what I’m thinking when I hear those encouraging words, without fail it is amazement at the power of God’s Word simply proclaimed. I don’t have any great plans or programs to implement here other than preaching God’s Word verse-by-verse. If anyone is helped by my ministry it is a testimony to the power of the Word of God and not my abilities. This is what I’ve always desired. I desire that the testimony of the German Reformer Martin Luther would be mine:
I simply taught, preached, wrote God’s Word; otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept, . . . the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that never a prince or emperor did such damage to it. I did nothing. The Word did it all.
Christ is building His church!