ANAHEIM, Calif.—Juan Sanchez, pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church of Austin, challenged messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention’s 2022 annual meeting to enlarge their views of a healthy church during the convention sermon Wednesday morning in Anaheim.
Preaching from Ephesians, Sanchez said, “The apostle Paul blows up our small view of the church” in the epistle. Throughout Ephesians, Paul reveals God’s “eternal plan to exalt His Son as king and lord,” placing “all things under Christ” (1:19-23) uniting “a fractured humanity”—Jew and Gentile—into “one new man” (2:12-16).
Through this unified, diverse, multiethnic assembly, believers show “the cosmic powers the manifold wisdom of God” in whose eternal plan Christ emerges victorious over Satan and hell, rescuing for Himself a people from every tribe, nation, and language, Sanchez said.
A healthy church, he continued, is one in which “members are walking together in a manner that is worthy of our God” and that is “built on the Word of God” that believers might “look like the Son of God, to the glory of God.”
Churches must embrace the ministry of the word, Sanchez urged, explaining from his main text, Ephesians 4:11-16, the structure (4:11-12), goal (4:13-14), and practice of Word ministry (4:15-16).
Paul lays out the structure of Word ministry in Ephesians 4:11-12, with apostles and prophets the foundation, evangelists the missionaries or “spreaders,” and pastors and teachers, the shepherds.
“We cannot build the church on any other foundation,” Sanchez said, not “music styles or age-graded ministries or politics or social justice or even our own personalities,” for “Jesus is building His church on Himself.” All else is transitory, liable to collapse when a ministry is tested by fire.
Sanchez challenged pastors to order their Sunday services around the Word of God and to exposit whole books of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, where the “Holy Spirit chooses the topics, not the preacher.”
The goal of Word ministry is “Christ-likeness,” Sanchez added. This is accomplished corporately in the church as members grow to Christian maturity and are no longer children tossed about by human cunning, craftiness, or deceit.
He cautioned that today it is all-too-common for churches to be distracted by “every wind of doctrine,” human philosophy, conspiracy theories, and worldly opinions, perhaps because pastors have not ground their flocks in the Word of God.
“What trellises are you providing your church for the ministry of the Word to flourish?” he asked, offering examples of things like small groups and the sacraments that encourage spiritual growth and the development of discipling relationships within a congregation.
Indeed, discipleship is at the heart of Word ministry as is daily life enmeshed in Scripture, Sanchez said, describing the cycle: “Pastors, preach the Word from the pulpit. Church, receive the Word from your pastors and let that Word reverberate throughout the life of the congregation.”
“Prioritize relationships,” he urged.
After church, ask your children about the sermon, he suggested, or have a group of singles to your home or eat lunch with some young couples or host a small group and discuss the sermon.
Develop relationships that have an eternal impact, he said, describing his own personal experiences in which kindly believers invited him to church as a young Navy recruit far from home or asked his wife and him to their dinner as young marrieds.
“This is what the whole body working together looks like,” Sanchez said, describing himself as a “former Roman Catholic Puerto Rican kid” who once was lost but now is found in Christ because of the discipling efforts of “faithful Southern Baptists” who poured their lives into his and enveloped him into their lives and homes.
“Our view of the church is way too small. I know mine was,” he closed, exhorting listeners to imagine a convention of faithful churches where the Word is preached, new churches planted and missionaries sent, mirroring the spiritual vibrancy of the early church in Acts.