Obviously, no one would anticipate going into ministry and ending up there for fifty-five years. As you heard, that’s very rare. The average pastoral length is four years across this country, and that means there are a lot that never last four years, to make that the average. So it’s a very unusual thing to find that—people who are that patient with one human being that they would allow over half a century of ministry to be shared together. So I understand the privilege. I understand the joy. I understand the purposes that God had in unfolding the ministry over these fifty-five years. I never ever would have imagined anything like the ministry that the Lord has raised up.
I could think of a lot of things when I was young. I still am always thinking about ways to minister. But Ephesians 3:20 was on my mind when I came out of seminary: “Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all [you can] ask or think.” And I meditated on that and thought, “How can the Lord do beyond exceedingly, abundantly, beyond what I can ask or think, when I can think of so many, many things?” Well, the Lord has far exceeded my wildest expectations for my life and my time here at Grace Church.
There are a lot of ways that the story of Grace Church could be chronicled. I can look back over fifty-five years and follow the history of this church by just following the development of my own family. Patricia and I and our children and all the milestones and landmark events in our marriage and our family and children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. That’s one wonderful, rich approach to the history of life at Grace Church for us.
And I thought about the fact, too, that we could look at a couple of milestone events, Mark mentioned one of them, that had to do with legal issues. You all know about our lawsuit with the state of California and Los Angeles and the Health Department and all of that. What you may not know is that in 1978 we were sued. I was sued, along with Grace Community Church, for clergy malpractice. Never been a lawsuit along that line. There was a young man in the church who had committed suicide, and his family decided that the reason he committed suicide was because we exacerbated his precondition toward depression by telling him he was a sinner by preaching on sin and righteousness.
And this case was called the Nally case. It went into the courts in 1978, and it didn’t come out until 1988. It was ten years of litigation at every level, back and forth, and finally ended up in the United States Supreme Court, that upheld the decision of the California Supreme Court that we had no culpability at all. It was an assault on the church’s right to preach sin, and it was an assault on the pastor’s right to give counsel, spiritual counsel. There were cobelligerents in the trial against us who wanted to make sure that churches couldn’t offer any counsel at all, that if we did offer that counsel, be culpable for a lack of expertise. That lawsuit would have been the foundation for such culpability.
As it turned out, the people who were supporting the plaintiffs in that case were many in the psychiatric and psychological field, who wanted to have exclusive control of all counseling. But the Lord was kind, and this is a huge case. He was kind in giving us the victory. And eventually, the final disposition was that we could preach from the Bible, we could preach what we believe, and we could give counsel. It was probably the only time in my duration here when we were supported by priests and rabbis, who had a lot at stake in that trial.
You could also look at the history of Grace Church from the vantage point of theological issues. When I first came, obviously I wanted to establish one foundational truth; and that was that the Bible was the Word of God, and it was without error, and that we fall under its authority as the church of Jesus Christ. And so early on, I did series on why I trust the Bible: “Why You Can Believe the Bible.” I did a lot of preaching on that not only here, but even across the planet all the way through Asia, India, all kinds of places where I was majoring on the authority, veracity, inerrancy of Scripture. That was foundational to our ministry here, as we were battling liberalism that had denied the inerrancy of the Word of God. So that was a battle in the early years, and some books were produced on that.
I was a part of a group called the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. That was another ten-year chunk out of my life in which we were doing research with other scholars. There were a hundred scholars invited into that group on inerrancy, went over those ten years. Two of us were pastors: myself and Dr. Jim Boice, a great, great warrior for the faith who’s now in the Lord’s presence. And so that was a very important issue. For ten years we wrote all kinds of documents, all these principles, did that so that we could defend the inerrancy of Scripture.
Wasn’t long after that that I felt the Charismatic movement was making strides that were a very serious danger to the church, that were confusing, that were misrepresenting Scripture and misrepresenting the work of the Holy Spirit. And so I did a series on the charismatics. It became a book. A few years later, another one called Charismatic Chaos. We continued to address those subject through the years until finally, in 2013, we had here a conference called Strange Fire, out of which came the book Strange Fire. And the messages from that conference circled the globe and continue to do so.
It wasn’t long after I came here that I realized that the evangelical church was unclear about the gospel—of all things to be unclear about, to be a church and not understand the gospel. So I decided to write a book called The Gospel According to Jesus, which—a simple, straightforward look at what Jesus taught about salvation, and what saving faith involves, and what repentance is, and what is required for one who comes to Christ. And it turned out to be a very controversial book because there were lots of people who had the gospel wrong, even in the church. And so we fought that battle.
Following that book I had to write another book, The Gospel According to the Apostles. Eventually another book, The Gospel According to Paul. Eventually another book, Ashamed of the Gospel. Eventually another book, Hard to Believe. Eventually another book, The Gospel According to God, on Isaiah 53. Always battling for the clarity and truth of the gospel.
And as much as we have done that through the years, the other day I turned on YouTube, and there was a man standing behind a pulpit who was a preacher, and he said, “I’m going to give you the true and pure gospel.” And I thought, “Well, this will be good,” as I watched a little YouTube video. And his next line was, “And it’s not what John MacArthur teaches.” OK, we’ve dispensed with him. Wow. And then went on truthfully to give a sophomoric, inadequate misrepresentation of what the New Testament teaches about salvation. So that’s an ongoing issue to fight with, because the gospel is everything, right? You don’t get into the kingdom unless you get the gospel right. So there’ve been a lot of battles on that front.
And then, of course, we had an era when pragmatism moved on the church, and churches started redefining themselves away from Scripture, redefining themselves in cultural terms under the pragmatic notion that if they were a lot more like the world, the world would be a lot more interested in them. And so the church lost its way and was in some ways indistinguishable from a sort of a religious pep rally designed for unbelievers. And so we addressed that with a book called Ashamed of the Gospel, and a lot of direct preaching as well.
All through these years preaching in all kinds of conferences and pastors’ meetings everywhere on the planet, the Lord allowed us to help the leaders in evangelical circles to discern these movements. They haven’t gone away, they stay with us. They sort of morph and redefine themselves and hang around because the enemy, obviously, wants to deceive. That’s his stock and trade.
But I could look at the history of our church in these 55 years just going from one controversy to the next, to the next, to the next. One of the early ones was the issue of what is a church, and how should a church operate? And that really got crystallized early on in my ministry here, but even more focused during the years that the pragmatic movement developed, in which churches were looking and sounding more like the world and less like the church.
And so I began to think very early in the ministry here, “What is a church? How am I to view the church? If I’m going to be a pastor, if there’s anything I need to understand, it’s that. I need to understand what God has designed for His church. What should His church be?”
And so very early on, the Lord directed me in my study of Scripture to some foundational truths that I believe explain why Grace Church is what it is today. These have been the non-negotiables for us for over half a century, and they are the defining, foundational realities of the church that clarify its identity, and that’s the point at which you begin everything. You make sure that the church functions and operates in the way that it is defined in Scripture.
Through the years, there has been a loss of identity among church. There have been all kinds of angles, all kinds of strategies, all kinds of approaches to doing church, as if it was malleable and you could shape it any way you wanted. But from the beginning, I was aware of one very, very important foundational truth. It is this: Christ is the head of the church. Christ—not me, not a committee, not an author who writes a book, not a strategist—Christ is the head of the church. And He desires to rule His church, and He rules His church through His Word faithfully exposited and proclaimed by His messenger.
He is the Great Shepherd; we are undershepherds. Our job is not to invent the message; our job is to take the message from Him and give it to His church. When Jesus said to Peter, “Feed My sheep,” He summed up what ministry is: “Feed My sheep.” And you feed them, of course, the only bread, and that bread is the Bread of Life: “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth God.” I knew that, so I knew I had to go into the Scripture and go through all of it.
Expository preaching was rare. I didn’t know too many people who went through books. Some did it, but at a superficial level. And I said, “I just want to settle in and go through books slow, methodically, patiently, phrase by phrase, verse by verse, chapter by chapter,” and my objective was to try to do the New Testament. I didn’t know how long they would tolerate me around here. That was going to turn out a thirty-five-year or forty-year proposition to begin with. And I remember what amazing satisfaction it was in 2011 when we finished with the final chapter of Mark and had gone through the whole of the New Testament.
This is because Christ speaks through His Word. So to simplify, we are told by the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 10 that ministry is to destroy all ideas raised up against the knowledge of God. It’s to destroy all anti-God—therefore anti-biblical ideas, philosophies, psychologies, ideologies, religions, whatever—and then to bring every thought captive to Christ, every thought. The minister’s responsibility is to take his people to the Word of God so they know how Christ thinks about everything.
You say, “Is that possible?” Yes, it is, because it tells us in 1 Corinthians that we have—and this is so important—the mind of Christ. “What do you mean by that?” I don’t mean by that that somehow supernaturally I think like Jesus. To say you have the mind of Christ means you have a Bible. That’s what it means. I know how He thinks about everything. I’m not confused by anything going on. I never have been confused by anything going on in the world. And one of the reasons that we fight the battles is because we understand the battles. How is it that we understand the battles? We understand the truth, so we recognize that which assaults the truth. So we have this mind of Christ. We know how He thinks. The job of the pastor and the calling of the church is to be submitted to the mind of Christ in Holy Scripture. He is the head of the church.
So ministry in that sense is simple: one Book, one Book. Sometimes it takes lots of books to effectively get at the meaning of this one Book, but the one Book is the only revelation of the mind of Christ inspired by God in heaven.
So I knew from the very beginning that I would have to submit myself to Christ and to His Word, whatever that would mean, and that I would have to do that relentlessly, and that whatever my theological conclusions were, whatever my doctrinal beliefs were, they had to be the product of my exposition of Scripture. If your doctrine doesn’t hold up to the test of Scripture, you’d better change it because it’s wrong.
And I’ve said that to people through the years, after fifty years. My doctrine, the things that I believe, the propositional truths of doctrine, have had to stand fifty-five years of intense scrutiny in Bible exposition. So when I say to you I believe a certain thing, or when we put out a book like Biblical Doctrine, you need to know that that is the product, essentially, of nearly fifty years of examining Scripture and determining this is what Scripture teaches when it’s articulated in a sense of a propositional truth.
So I just want you to know, from the very outset, I knew what the church was, biblically defined; I knew who was the head of the church, Christ; I knew the message that He wanted me to disseminate was the Word of God and His mind, so I could bring everyone’s mind into conformity to Christ and bring all of us to the obedience of Christ. I knew all that. So it was only a question of being able to discern how to faithfully handle the Word of God, because if I didn’t handle it accurately, Paul says I would be ashamed, right? We handle the Word of God accurately so that we’re not ashamed.
So from the beginning, it was simple to me: the Bible, the Bible, the Bible—get its interpretation right, draw the theological conclusions, draw the broad implications, and then the direct application of Scripture. And that’s how Christ rules His church. His mediated rule comes through His undershepherds. And if you’re not bringing your people the true Word of God rightly understood, then you are a barrier between the head of the church and His church.
This is a dire and serious situation. You can’t come into the ministry and play fast and loose with that responsibility as if you could in some cavalier way design it whatever way you choose to design it. No. You are to submit completely to the head of the church, and He commands you through His Word. So that was clear to me, and that foundation was really the undergirding subfloor to everything that we’ve ever done here.
And as I was thinking about this and how I could sort of go back and look at the years behind us, I couldn’t do justice to all of the many incredible things the Lord did here through the years. I would leave, perhaps, the most important things out. And we’ve all had marvelous experiences here, and your history of Grace Church is different than the person next to you; and the rest of us, we all have our own wonderful story about what God has done in our lives in this church for as long as we’ve been here. But I think what would be most helpful is to go back and tell you beyond what I just said—the headship of Christ over His church, mediating His rule through His Word, faithfully exposited, delineated, and proclaimed—there were some things that I was clear on with regard to the church. I’m going to give you a handful of them very quickly.
Number one: The church is the only, the only institution our Lord ever built. The church is the only institution our Lord ever built.
There’s a bizarre conversation I had with a man in Hollywood, probably fifteen years ago, who said to me, “You know, you kind of have a look like a politician.” I didn’t take it as a compliment. He said, “In fact, have you ever thought about running for president?” I’ve thought about running from a president. I have nothing to do with the kingdoms of this world. The only thing our Lord is building in this world is His church, and I am His servant to serve the building of His church.
A reporter asked me one time many years ago, “Do you have a desire to build the church?” and I said, “No, I don’t have a desire to build the church because Christ said He would build the church. I don’t want to compete with Him. I’m not building the church. I can’t build a church. I can’t save anyone. I can’t sanctify anyone. I can’t control providence.”
No, I have no desire to build the church. But I don’t need to because, as you heard earlier, Matthew 16, Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of hades will not overcome it”—or “prevail against it.” The Lord will build His church. This is a very, very important truth to understand. I don’t think I could preach for fifty years if I thought that people were saved or lost based upon the effectiveness of my sermons. That’s way too much responsibility for me. I’d rather fade away than carry that weight of responsibility. If you told me that somebody would go to everlasting hell because I was a poor preacher, that’s way too much for me to bear.
And so you can understand what a foundational comfort it is to understand that Jesus said, “I will build My church.” And then in John 6, He said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and I will lose none, but raise him up at the last day.” In other words, the Father has already chosen those who will be in His church. He gives them as love gifts to the Son. The Son receives them, and the Son holds them, and the Son raises them to eternal glory. And this is an election and a process that from the beginning was designed for glory. In other words, God didn’t choose somebody to be justified and hope it holds, or maybe sanctified a little bit and hope that holds. No, everyone He chose, He chose for glory. He chose the end. The justification and the sanctification are realities that will take place in the lives of the elect because they are chosen for glory.
This takes all the fear, all the anxiety out of ministry. I can’t get anybody into the kingdom. I can’t keep anybody in the kingdom. I don’t have that kind of power. But the Spirit of God and the Word of God does that. So my responsibility is to faithfully teach the Word of God and pray that the Spirit of God accompanies the Word of God to redeem the elect church of God for their ultimate glory. And what is the ultimate glory? Romans 8:29. Eventually, those whom He chose will become His church, will be conformed to His Son, Christlike forever. John says we’ll be like Him because we’ll see Him as He is. So God has a plan to choose and glorify a redeemed church. And the Lord is doing that. In John 17, He refers to the church several times again, like in John 6, as “those whom the Father has given Me,” “those whom the Father has given Me.” This is the most encouraging of all doctrines to someone in ministry because, again, the weight of being responsible for the eternal salvation of souls would be way too much for anyone to bear. You know, if you said, “Well, he’s in hell because you couldn’t preach well; he’s in hell because you didn’t do your homework on a text; he’s in hell because you didn’t have a good enough illustration or application,” who could live with that? So just knowing that Christ is the head of the church and He mediates His rule in His church through His Word taught by those who are faithful undershepherds, with the additional reality that He will build His church, that all those that are chosen will come to salvation and eternal glory, therefore makes ministry joyous because the end is already written in heaven.
That is a very, very important foundation for me so that I could minister with joy. And if there’s been a reason for joyful ministry for this half a century, it lies in the fact that everything that happens here the Lord does. He saves, He sanctifies, and He’s doing what He promised to do with those whom He chose before the foundation of the world; and we’re just, in a sense, little instruments along the way.
There’s a second foundational truth that was very important as I came to Grace Church and it is this, an obvious one: The church is the most precious reality on earth. It is the most precious reality on earth.
I’m not interested in being a president. I’m not interested in politics. I don’t even know what a Christian nationalist is—hear that phrase all the time. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” I am not trying to fix America or fix the world; I just want to be a part of what the Lord is doing. And I want to live in the life of the church. And this has been—I can’t imagine a better church than this one, for anybody to live with. I just want to live in the full richness of that, and I don’t want to get distracted by things that go wrong in the world, as if the political scene is bad, somehow the church is harmed. No. No.
We don’t like what’s going on in the world, but why should we? All that is in the world—want me to define it for you?—lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, the pride of life; and it’s passing away, 1 John. Why would I invest in that? It’s not that I’m indifferent to that, because I understand the evil of the day has an impact on people. And that’s why I wrote the book on The War on Children—because the enemy is the world. But the precious reality is this: The church is the kingdom of God on earth. This is where I want to live and move and have my being. We are a people who are bound together—I guess to simplify it—by life and love and truth. It is the truth that brought us into life, and this life is the life defined by love.
Jesus said in John 13, “My command to you is that you love one another as I have loved you.” And He had demonstrated how He loved them because they were competing with each other, the disciples. Somebody should have washed the dirty feet, and nobody did because nobody wanted to stoop down and take a lowly place at that Last Supper. And Jesus rose from dinner, put a towel around His waist, and started washing feet, which was horribly embarrassing to them. And then He said, “I want you to love the way I love you.” How did He love them? He loved them enough to wash their dirty feet, to stoop and serve.
That defines life in the church: “By this shall people know you’re My disciples, if you have love for one another.” First John, John goes over this again and again and again: God loves us, and therefore we love Him. If you don’t love, you’re not born of God.
So this is a family of love. And I have seen that. I have seen that every day for fifty-five years in this church. You people love. You love. I see it every time I come here. I mean, just this morning, walking around looking at all the posters and all the things you do and all the food. Who’s doing this? Why are people doing this? Because their hearts are bursting with love for their church. And it doesn’t mean the buildings; it means the people.
The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart. If people are sitting under the Word of God, the product of that is going to be love. And that is what really defines this church. So I would say, first of all, this is the most precious reality on earth to us. There’s no other reality. I’m not interested in the Kiwanis Club. I’m not interested in that. I’m not interested in any other club. My life is in the church. It’s the most precious thing to me.
But I want to add, it’s the most precious thing to the Lord. Yeah, that’s what He says in Matthew 18 when He said, “You’d better be careful how you treat those who belong to Me, because if you cause one who belongs to Me to stumble, you’d be better off to have a millstone around your neck and be drowned in the sea,” which is to say, “How you treat another believer is how you treat Me.” This is precious to the Lord.
You were not redeemed with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish and spot. He paid the price to redeem you. You now belong to Him. And He is so concerned about you that He says, “Be careful that you don’t cause one who belongs to Me to stumble. You’d be better off to die a horrendous death by drowning.” Careful how you treat each other because the church is precious to Christ Himself.
So I was struck from early on how precious the church is to the Lord and to His people. And I honestly don’t believe that the love that we experience here comes easy or fast. I think it comes with spiritual growth and maturity, developing relationships, ministering to one another. But when it goes on for over half a century, it is amazing how deep that love is.
I’m observant. I see it in your little children who run up to me and hug my leg. They don’t know me; but what that communicates to me is mom and dad love me, and it’s being passed down to that little guy. One little boy this morning, “Can I please shake your hand?” I don’t know, maybe he was six or something. He wanted to meet me. He didn’t really want to meet me. I know he wanted M&Ms. But his parents love me, and so he had that in his little heart. It’s wonderful to see that, generation after generation.
When I came here, probably the guy who was most involved with me was Burton Michaelson, who is a builder—built this beautiful place, our campus. And he should have been here this morning, but he’s in the hospital. He’s ninety-four, I think. And I get more love notes from he and Dolores than anybody else, and I wonder, “How can they endure me for half a century and still send me love notes?” I mean, I’ve been hammering on them, you know, from the Word of God. But it is the most precious reality on earth to the people who are part of the church and to the Lord Himself.
Another thing that’s foundational to me is: The church is the only earthly expression of heaven. It’s the only earthly expression of heaven. It’s the only place you find saints. It’s the only place dominated by praise of God, exaltation of Jesus Christ, the love of what is righteous, the hatred for what is sinful. It’s heaven on earth. It’s as close as it’s going to get. And when a church isn’t that way, oh, how tragic that is. How horrible that is, when a pastor falls into some moral disaster or when there’s a cheap superficiality to the church and there’s a tolerance of sin.
This is the earthly expression of heaven. And what is going on in heaven? Praise to God, honor to Christ, service, ministry in the presence of holiness and purity. That should mark the church; and that, our Lord said, to the degree that, Matthew 18, “If you know someone who has sinned in the church, you know them, go to them, confront them, call them to repentance. If they don’t repent, tell two or three witnesses to go with you. If they still don’t repent, tell the church to call them. If they still don’t repent, put them out because they will stain the purity of the church.” That’s the first instruction in the New Testament given to the church: is deal with sin in the church.
I sat down with some pastors just when I was coming to Grace and said, “I never knew a church that did this. Anybody ever heard of a church that did this?” And they said, “No, you can’t do that. You can’t do that.” “So it’s Matthew 18. What do you do, just ignore it?” I said, “We’re going to do it, and we’re going to believe.” They said, “No, you’ll drive people out. People won’t tolerate those who are concerned about their sin.” Well, I said, “I don’t have a choice.”
So all these fifty-five years, as you well know, you have been concerned about each other and about righteousness and sin. And sometimes it even gets to the pulpit, doesn’t it, in a Communion service. But this is heaven on earth. And there’s not going to be any sin in heaven, so we want to get as close to that as we can.
Another truth, and this kind of piggybacks on what I said already, but the church will triumph over all opposition. I hear so many times about pastors—from the very beginning of my time here—pastors who had what they call “burnout.” There’s all these surveys all the time about pastors leaving the ministry because it’s too much burnout, they’re unappreciated, whatever, whatever, whatever. They get so easily discouraged.
How can you get discouraged when the end is already written, and we win? What is there to be discouraged about? Second Corinthians 2, we always triumph in Christ. We’re a savor of death to death to some, but we’re a savor of life to live to others. And who’s adequate for such things? That is to say, your life matters to such a profound degree that your life has an everlasting affect on people. You think you know who’s important in the world. The media would tell you who they think’s important. But there’s only one profession, in a sense, that does eternal work, and that’s those who proclaim the gospel. We win. We will triumph in Christ.
I can’t fix the world. I’m not trying to fix the world; that’s folly. There is one who’ll fix the world, and it’s Jesus. And when He comes, He’ll set up His kingdom, right, and He will reign for a thousand years, then He’ll reign forever in a new heaven and a new earth. I’m not here to fix the world. I’m not here to fix society. I’m not here to remove all inequities in the world. I’m not here to do that. I’m not here to balance out the economics of the world. I’m here to proclaim the gospel until the great King comes and makes the world the way He wants it to be. And He’s coming, and so I have nothing to worry about.
There’s another principle, and this has already been alluded to in my opening remarks, but, the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. The church is the source of divine truth. The church is where the truth prevails that basically destroys all ideologies and falsehoods and deception and brings everything into obedience to Christ. “The church,” 1 Timothy 3, “the pillar and ground of the truth”—not speculation, not opinion. It’s not about spiritual inspiration, spiritual feelings, spirituality. People say, “I feel spiritual,” whatever in the world that means. It’s an illusion.
What the church offers is not spirituality; the church offers the truth, the objective truth, and it teaches you how to be discerning. And once you know the truth, Paul says to Titus in chapter 2 that you need to speak these things with all authority and don’t let anyone escape that authority.
Obviously in our world of subjectivism and our crazy, insane world where people think they can make up truth—no human being ever invented truth. Nobody invented truth. People might discover something, but they’re not inventing truth. You’re not the source of truth. God is the source of truth, and that truth is in His Word distributed by His church.
Just two other quick comments; time is gone. The church has to be understood as a gathering of worshipers, a gathering of worshipers. We are those who worship Jesus Christ, Paul says in Philippians 3:3. The Father seeks true worshipers who worship Him in spirit and in truth, John 4.
It is not a gathering for the purpose of making non-Christians like us. It is not a gathering to entertain people. The church gathers to worship. We are a worshiping people.
What does it mean to worship? Well first of all, in order to worship God, you have to know Him, and you have to know something about Him for which you can extol Him, right? Worship is simply declaring His glorious nature and attributes. So if you have very little knowledge of the nature of God, you have very little capacity to worship Him. But as that knowledge increases and increases and you become more and more aware of God and His nature, your capacity for worship expands.
It’s understanding who God is, His nature. Secondly, His works, His works. His nature and His works. And again, all of His nature is laid out in Scripture in myriad ways, and all of His works are laid there as well.
So it’s when you know what God has done, you know enough of redemptive history as laid out in the Bible, and you know enough of His nature because the Scriptures are familiar to you, that you are a true worshiper. And so acknowledge God for who He is and what He has done, and that’s all bathed in an attitude of thanksgiving. That’s worship. It’s not an emotional feeling. It’s not swaying back and forth with some mood music. It’s a knowledge of the truth about God. So we come together collectively to celebrate that.
I had people ask me early in the ministry, “If I was going to have an emphasis on worship, would I have to preach, like, twenty minutes instead of an hour?” And I said, “No, because the most important thing in worship is that you understand God and His revelation: who He is and what He has done.” That’s what builds your comprehension and enhances your capacity for worship.
One final word: I understood the church had to be a place of mutual ministry, fellowship, spiritual gifts in one another. We have gifts that we minister to others. I have a spiritual gift for you. My gift is not for me, it’s for you. You have spiritual gifts—speaking gifts, serving gifts, Peter said. The gifts are listed in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12. Every one of us fits into the body of Christ in a way that the Spirit of God has designed for us to have a ministry that is critical to the life of the body: the church.
Grace Church has always had that. In the early years, the first article ever written on Grace Church—and I’ll close with this—was written by a writer from the Midwest who came out and said, “I want to do an article on your church.” And we were still in the chapel. We didn’t have the gym, we didn’t have this building. And his article came out, and it was titled “The Church with 900 Ministers.” And that was kind of a clever title. We had 900 people at the time. And what struck him was these were not spectators; these people were really caring for each other. He picked that up on his own.
“The Church with 900 Ministers.” That article got a lot of traction because people didn’t think of churches in that sense. But we were heavily on a bent on giving instruction on the mutual ministry of God’s people to each other in a church so that we’re not spectators. That was an amazing moment and a wonderful compliment, “The Church with 900 Ministers.”
It’s still that way here. Things that go on around here, you could never ever imagine that I did them. When I come here, I’m as shocked as you are at everything. Who does all this? This church has always understood fellowship, mutual ministry, caring for each other.
Well, those are some of the foundational things, as I look back, for which we need to praise and thank our Lord. Let’s have a word of prayer.
Father, thank You for meeting with us this morning in such a marvelous way, the beauty of worship and music, and the blessing of sweet fellowship around the campus and even together here. Thank You for Your truth. Thank You for leading us. Thank You for helping us set a right foundation. And Lord, keep us faithful. Give us many more years until Jesus comes, in His name we pray. Amen.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.