ANAHEIM, Calif. (BP) – “Is it possible that the reasons our congregations have been so thrust against the winds and the waves, is because we have not ground them in the Word of God?”
Juan Sanchez posed the question in his June 15 convention sermon to Southern Baptists gathered at the 2022 SBC Annual Meeting.
“The church has been tossed about by every wind of doctrine, by human philosophies, by conspiracy theories, by worldly opinions,” said Sanchez, senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. “Pastors, if we want to ground our members, we must ground them in the Word of God. Church members, receive the Word of God in your church. Are you growing in maturity and Christlikeness? Are you growing to look more and more like Jesus?”
Sanchez posed that many have a view of the church that is too small, as he himself once held.
“The apostle Paul blows up our small view of the church. He helps us to see that God’s eternal plan is to exalt His son Jesus Christ as King and Lord over all things in heaven and on earth,” Sanchez said, referencing Ephesians 1. “He helps us to see that in Christ the Father is uniting all things … in that He is placing all things under Christ. … We (the church) are the fulness of Christ on the earth.”
Christ unites all things that have been fractured by sin, Sanchez said, especially a fractured humanity.
“In Chapter 2, he talks about Jew and Gentile coming together as one new man. And this multiethnic assembly, we’re told in Chapter 3, verses 8-11, that as we live together as this unified, diverse church, we display to the cosmic powers the manifold wisdom of God, the wisdom of God’s eternal plan in exalting Christ, and bringing together this fractured humanity under Christ, and under His authority.”
With Ephesians 4:11-16 as his main text, Sanchez encouraged pastors to build congregations on the Word of God.
“Here’s my argument for us this morning. A healthy church is built on the Word of God, that we might look like the Son of God for the glory of God. And we see this laid out in Ephesians 4:11-16,” Sanchez said. “First of all, we want to look at the structure of Word ministry, in verses 11 and 12. Secondly, we’ll look at the goal of Word ministry in verses 13 and 14, and thirdly we’ll look at the practice of Word ministry in verses 15 and 16.”
God has structured the church for its work, Sanchez said, placing spiritual gifts in the church body for jobs including a foundation of apostles and prophets, evangelists to spread the Word and pastors and teachers as shepherds of the Word.
“We cannot build the church on any other foundation,” Sanchez said. “If our primary end is merely church growth … we will be tempted to build on other foundations. We’re tempted to build our churches on the foundation of music styles or age-graded ministries or even politics or social justice or even our own personalities.
“Growth that comes by something other than the Word of God and about Jesus is not lasting, nor is it God-glorifying.”
He encouraged churches to build their worship and programs around the Word of God by singing, preaching, praying and teaching the Word and seeing the Word in the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He commended many faithful Southern Baptist pastors whom he said are in fact building their churches on the Word. He encouraged pastors to serve without comparing their congregations to others, having faith that God will grow the church in His own time.
“You don’t need to be known outside your town. You don’t need to write a book. You don’t need to be on a conference platform,” he told pastors. “If you are faithfully preaching the Word, the Father knows who you are and the Father is pleased. So trust the Lord and preach the Word.”
The goal of the ministry of the Word, Sanchez said, is that the church be transformed to the image of Christ and mature as Christians.
“If you go to church but you look more like the world than you do Jesus, it is possible that you’re not a Christian,” Sanchez said. “It’s important that we understand, genuine Christians, God has given you a new heart. He’s given you His Spirit. He is forming you to the Son. You hate sin and you grow in your hatred of sin, and you grow in your love for Christ. You grow in your love for His Word. You grow in your love for His Spirit.
“It is on this foundation that Jesus is building His church.”
In encouraging the practice of the Word ministry, Sanchez painted a picture of the Word influencing every area of the church. Pastors preach the Word from the pulpit, the Word reverberates throughout the church with lunches, small groups and one-to-one study. Members disciple one another and build up one another in the Word.
“Paul puts this all together in verse 16. He says rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him Who is the head, into Christ, from Whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love,” Sanchez said. “This will look like a thousand different ways in your congregation. It will look a thousand different ways in your life.”
Sanchez shared a personal testimony of having grown up in a Roman Catholic church in Puerto Rico, moving to Florida, hearing the Gospel, accepting Jesus and being discipled by many at various stages of his life through people he encountered at churches.
“The church is the display of God’s wisdom to the world. We are bringing to light God’s plan to exalt Christ and bring everything under Christ and unite all things in Christ,” Sanchez said. “To Satan and to hell, we are displaying God’s victory over the demonic realm and exalting Christ and uniting all things in Christ. How? By building Jesus’ church on the Word of God, that we might look like the Son of God, to the glory of God.”