Rainer: Simply love God, love others

ARLINGTON?Preaching from the book of Philemon, LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer illustrated a model of a simple church based on Paul’s instruction to Philemon concerning his slave Onesimus.

Rainer, author of the book “Simple Church,” said there are reasons that can only be put in the hands of a sovereign God to explain why nine out of 10 of the 400,000 evangelical congregations in the United States are declining or growing at a rate slower than that of their cities. But he said he found some guidance from Philemon to describe a simple church as one that loves people, loves the lost and loves God.

“Paul was writing to a simple church, a group of believers who had not gotten so much clutter or diversion that they were not doing the main thing,” Rainer said.

Referring to verse 8, Rainer spoke of Paul’s appeal Philemon to go beyond the law’s requirement and do what is right based on love concerning his bond-slave Onesimus.

Based on extensive research in studying church effectiveness, Rainer found correlation between the degree to which a congregation is evangelistic and whether their pastor is personally evangelistic.

“One of the reasons they’re not out there sharing the gospel is because we’re keeping them so busy doing busy work that they don’t have time to do the main thing,” he added. “Give your pastor one of the greatest gifts you can?the gift of time.”

A simple church’s testimony of loving God is demonstrated through Christlike sacrifice, Rainer said.

He compared Paul’s willingness to send Onesimus back to Philemon so that he might be of further usefulness to God’s sacrifice of his own Son, “that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”

He encouraged pastors to question whether they are doing what really matters.

“The gospel must be told to lost people because people without Jesus are bound for Hell and we are the messengers. May it be so that we will have simple churches.”

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