Deeper in Faith
Keep Them From Falling
by Patsy Gwartney
My husband stood, walked toward the pulpit, and fell flat on his face! I assumed he fell because he was extremely tired. After all, it was one of our last deputation services. After planting a Free Will Baptist church in Mesa, Arizona, 25 years earlier, we were anxious to complete deputation and return to Arizona to start another church in Pinal County. As my husband struggled to get up, the congregation gasped, and the pastor and several others rushed to assist him.
Suddenly, I saw his face and knew the fall had been staged to grab the congregation’s attention. He stepped to the pulpit and said, “It’s terrible to fall, isn’t it? It’s awkward. You feel foolish and helpless. Today, I would like to speak to you from 2 Peter 1 about how to keep from falling.”
While traveling to raise money, we spent a great deal of time in the car. We planned, discussed, laughed, and cried about what we would do differently this time, and what we would do the same. We were determined to do all we could—not only to get people to attend services, but to give the gospel a chance to make a difference in their lives.
We set about the task of settling in Pinal County. We began to make friends and share the gospel with people to help them become Christ followers. Foremost in our minds was the thought that we wanted to do our best to see their lives transformed, to make disciples, to keep them from falling.
As we discussed how to make disciples, we decided to base our discipleship on 2 Peter 1:5-11:
“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.”
These key concepts of faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity became the basis of everything we do in church planting to make disciples.
We must teach converts to put faith in Christ alone for salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear we are not saved by works, but by grace. Yet, sometimes we forget the part of verse 8 that says we are saved by grace through faith. Repentance includes faith in Christ, turning from sin and the world and to Christ. As believers grow in grace, we must teach them how to live by faith through the Holy Spirit.
Church planters demonstrate faith by trusting God to meet the needs of the new church—a place to have services, workers to carry out the work of ministry, and funds needed to accomplish these goals. Converts need to see us trust God to keep us on the field and to stay with it when things get tough.
Moral excellence has virtually been lost in American society. Teaching people about virtue includes biblical character qualities of holiness, honesty, faithfulness, and modesty. Church planters should lead by example, teaching converts to live holy, hard-working, and happy lives. We must do our best to restore dignity, honor, and excellence in both church and community. Succumbing to laziness and apathy in our lives will not help us make strong disciples.
The Bible must be the basis of everything we teach. It is amazing to see where people turn for guidance and counsel. They seek knowledge in the wrong places. Every discipleship class, church activity, and worship service must be based on learning what the Bible says and its practical application to daily life.
The people to whom we minister are prisoners of Satan’s war against them. They are victims to lives controlled by out-of-control passions. We are a society of over-spending, over-indulgence, and the resulting depression. Heeding God’s Word and listening to the counsel of the Holy Spirit will help new believers develop self-control instead of chaos, peace rather than turmoil, and patience in the place of anxiety.
Nothing develops patience like church planting. Dealing with people and their problems helps develop patience. You can’t plant a church without dealing with people. It cannot be avoided. Church planters should not only demonstrate patience in dealing with church people, we must show patience with unsaved neighbors, business owners, and difficult county and city officials.
Christlikeness can be demonstrated through the life of a church planter. Teaching by example to be like Christ in what we say, how we dress, where we go, and what we do will allow us to be salt and light where God has placed us.
It has become increasingly important to please the Lord in our services. If our music, message, and methods cater to unsaved attendees or carnal Christians, but offend and grieve the Holy Spirit, we have accomplished nothing as church planters. Christ called us to make disciples, not just attract a crowd. People must be transformed by the power of Christ and become new creations in Him.
One of the greatest problems church planters face is helping converts forgive those who have wronged them and rid their lives of bitterness. If a new Christian does not learn this key concept, he will stumble and fall. Learning to forgive others, being kind to them, and avoiding resentment that leads to bitterness will cause a new Christian to be a light shining in a dark world to draw others to the Savior. Church planters must set the example daily by living out the gospel in kindness, extending forgiveness to others.
Dysfunction plagues most homes in America. Only a close walk with Christ and time spent in His Word will enable families to become a happy, successful unit. The marriage relationship we model should teach converts to love their spouses as Christ loves the church. We must show them how to love their children, discipline them in a godly way, and teach them character qualities that will keep them from falling into the numerous traps Satan sets for them.
These simple concepts from 2 Peter will help us teach people how to change direction in their lives…from Hell to Heaven. We can rescue them, keep them from falling, and make disciples.
About the Writer: Patsy Gwartney and her husband Howard are planting a new Free Will Baptist church in Florence, Arizona, the “Cowboy Cradle” of the Great Southwest. Learn more at www.homemissions.net.