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SIMPLE CHURCH #1

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Thursday Evening, September 12, 2019


Turn with me in your Bible to Matthew 28:18-20 (p. 1044 Scofield). Please stand as I read it.

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Our vision statement was given last Sunday evening in the sermon. When I read it some of you closed your eyes and were not interested. I thought about that for the last three days. Why did they close their eyes and nod off? I believe there were several reasons: (1) It was not really a new vision – just the repetition of things you have heard me say before. But I am giving it again tonight, for the sake of new people, who have never heard it before. Here it is again,

      I have a dream. It is far too large a dream for us to understand it all at once. The dream is this – that our new Oriental church is to become a lighthouse of hope and a place of refreshment to struggling churches throughout the world.
      We were not defeated by the great church split which we have endured. The quislings and traitors are gone. The unfaithful and selfish are gone, along with conceited and deceptive friends. Are we defeated by their treachery? No! We are actually encouraged by it – because we know that Satan would not have wasted his energy on our church unless he knew what we cannot see at present. Satan sees our new church the way I see it – as a coming bastion of prayer and a bulwark of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Where we will, by struggle and perseverance speak to the whole world through our website, and through the missionaries we will send forth, to the world in the future.
      It is my vision, and my prayer, that we shall be an epicenter of revival and Truth to strengthen churches for all mankind.

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The second reason that this vision statement put you to sleep was because it was long and complicated. Therefore we also need a short “mission statement”:

“For the glory of God, the Oriental Baptist Tabernacle seeks to equip people to worship God, to reach people in San Gabriel, to reach the world for Christ.”

Still too long? How about this – “Our church seeks to help people to love God, to save the lost, to reach the world.” Let’s say that together. Repeat it after me, phrase by phrase.

I know that is still a lot to remember. But I hope to keep saying it and explaining it until it becomes meaningful to you.

The Eleven Disciples “got it.” They saw that they would not reach the world unless they made disciples of others. We have not done this very well in the past. This church started to die when I got sick with cancer. I could no longer stand up to preach a whole sermon. Also our method of evangelism got so ineffective that it took more than 15 people to bring in one or two names and phone numbers. Our church was dying. I did not know what to do to re-awaken us. Some of the leaders thought I was too old and sick to revitalize our church.

Instead of speaking with me, they started looking for new ways to re-energize our church. But since they were not called and qualified to lead, they made many foolish mistakes. They held secret meetings. They thought we should go back to street preaching (which never really brought in many of the lost). One man became so frustrated that he thought he could revitalize our church through a form of “lifestyle evangelism,” sitting on a bench at a college, waiting for people to come to him! Of course that did not work. Another leader decided to pull his clique out and start another church. Of course all these things did not produce new converts, and the church went right on dying.

I realized that I was too weak to lead our church out of this spiral of death. So God told me to do something so radical that our church would either wake up or quickly die. I said we should purchase a large Presbyterian church. I took the deacons and others through that building.

But this strategy did not “wake them up.” Instead it scared them. One deacon plotted to start his own church and pulled out all the people he could influence. That took us down to about 60 people. None of this would have happened if Chan and Griffith had come and asked me what to do. Instead they held “secret” meetings and pulled out so many people they came close to killing our church. I preached against the church split so hard that the split stopped. We moved to a small room in our downtown building. Dr. Cagan and I started praying and studying, asking God what we should do next. I read 18 books on replanting a church. There were many good ideas in those books. But the book that grabbed my attention is called Simple Church, by Dr. Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.

Based on the study of 400 churches, the authors give the reason for stripping down a church to a few basic things, and “returning to God’s process for making disciples” (Jacket Statement).

For the foreseeable future, I will be speaking on Simple Church in these meetings. All I have time for tonight is to say that “Simple Church” is an extreme makeover. As we move through this process, we will design a ministry that leads to spiritual growth and vitality. We will continue to preach the Gospel. We will continue to pray. But some of the things we do will be eliminated or changed. I believe you will love the results of Simple Church. I will speak again on this subject this weekend.

Please stand and pray for God to help Dr. Cagan and me to be given the wisdom to make our church a simple one that produces disciples and makes us more successful than ever before. Amen.