“The Greatest Need in the Church Today”
by Rodney J. Nidever, Ph.D., D.Min.
The Church of Jesus Christ worldwide and locally has many needs today, such as, the need for pastors, teachers and workers, not to mention the never ending need for equipped missionaries to spread the Good News and plant biblical churches. As a former pastor and mission director of Antiochia Teams, I would hasten to add the constant need for finances, which make the ministries of the Church possible. That being said, I must contend that there is an even greater need than the above.
I believe the greatest need in the Church of Jesus Christ today is the spiritual nurture of those, who have entrusted their lives to Christ! Jesus’ last personal words to Peter were essentially his ministry calling. Jesus had been raised from the grave and spent many days with his disciples. They were together at the Sea of Galilee and after a fish breakfast, Jesus turned to Peter and asked three times if he loved him, to which Peter replied each time, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus unexpected reply each time was (note the imperative mood), “Feed my lambs!” “Feed my little sheep!” and “Shepherd my little sheep!” (see John 21:15-17).
Peter and the other disciples had heard Jesus refer to himself as “The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus was the master of metaphor, which was a very appropriate teaching style for a rural audience! These people grew up with sheep and understood the love and commitment of a good shepherd. Later, if not immediately, Peter understood, that Jesus was talking about his apostolic ministry of teaching Scripture and praying for the Church Christ had purchased on the cross (see Acts 6:4).
One wonders if the present leaders of the various denominations and many churches have ever understood this high calling of Church shepherds. One finds instead of Christ’s flock being nurtured by the Word of God and prayer, almost everything else. One finds, for example, pastors, who don’t believe in the authority of the Bible, so they “preach” to peoples’ emotions, or some social project. Others seek to “preach” their experience, rather than the “old”, “dry” Word. For them, it is all about their experience. Others (including some Evangelicals, unfortunately) think that taking something out of Scripture is actually preaching Scripture, but it may not be. Topical messages are often more a study of a concordance than the text itself. Verses taken out of their context are often used as a pretext to teach something other than their intended meaning.
Many years ago I was invited to speak in an Evangelical Church in Germany. When I asked if there was a particular passage I should speak on, the elder told me, they were going through one of Paul’s letters and I should teach on a particular section. He said, “Just pick out something in the passage that you find interesting and speak on that.” I told him, that I would do my best to teach the meaning of the passage in its context. He said, “OK”, but I’m not sure he understood what I meant.
The situation, in my opinion, is somewhat more desperate in Europe than in North America, due to the influence of many lifeless state churches and the godless universities, but the spiritual needs on both continents are significant! Should we, then, despair because the needs are so great? Heaven forbid! Rather, it is time for men and women of God to renew their commitment to nurturing the Church of Christ through biblical preaching/teaching and prayer!
The assessment of Missiologist, Dr. Donald McGavran, many years ago is still true today: “What Germany needs today is 20,000 new churches.” That is, of course, if those churches proclaim the truth of Christ to a lost world and nurture those, who come to faith in Christ through biblical teaching/preaching, and earnest prayer. May HE give us grace to follow the example of the first shepherds of the flock of God!
Side note: Rod developed a training program for elders in expository teaching and preaching during his D.Min. program at Westminster Theological Seminary.