In the sports world, the teams that build legacies are teams that build on the fundamentals of the game. Some of the great teams in the past decade that have won multiple championships are known for their fundamental play. Other teams have failed because they tried to win by employing fancy gimmicks that have not been tested. Whenever you look at a winning franchise, you will always see that it was built upon the fundamentals of that sport.
When I was a young man and played sports, we spent time in every practice going over the fundamentals of that sport. If it was basketball, we practiced dribbling, footwork, and shooting technique so that we would not pick up bad habits that could cost us a game. Those fundamentals helped us to perform better in the games we played, and they also helped us to win a championship.
It seems today that our independent, fundamental Baptist preachers and churches have forsaken the fundamentals that were used to build the great works of the past. When I was a boy, my father and I would regularly take trips to hear some of the great men from the past preach. When I go through my mind and remember what these men preached, it is amazing how most of their messages were based on the fundamentals of Christianity that build strong churches and great Christians. These men whom I heard preach didn’t seem to be fancied with the new fads in Christianity, but they kept preaching the same old fundamentals that were given to them by previous generations. They were not afraid to “ask for the old paths,” and walk in those paths for their entire ministries.
It seems as if today we have preachers and Christians who are more concerned with politics, psychology, self-help and motivational sermons than they are with preaching and living the fundamentals that build great Christians and solid churches. It is becoming increasingly harder to find preachers today who preach like those from yesteryear, and then we wonder why we are not producing the works and the Christians like those preachers did. The focus of today’s preacher seems to be quite a bit different from the preachers of yesterday. We will never build solid churches and great Christians until we get back to the basics.
One of the things that impressed the Apostle Paul about Timothy was that his faith was exactly like the basic faith of his mother and grandmother. 2 Timothy 1:5 says, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.” Timothy turned out to be a solid Christian and a great asset to Paul because he kept doing what his mother and grandmother taught him to do. He knew that the fundamentals built strong Christians.
We will never build great Christians or solid churches until we get back to the basics and continue preaching, teaching and practicing the fundamentals that build strong Christians. The basic fundamentals of the Christian life build a solid foundation that can weather any storm. These fundamentals are living by faith, walking with God, having a daily prayer life, being a soul winner, being filled with the Holy Spirit, training others, and being faithful to church. These things build great Christians. Maybe the reason so few men of God are talking about these things is because they struggle in these areas themselves.
I can often remember hearing Dr. Lee Roberson in his sermons preach on the importance of faith. Anyone who has ever been under his ministry for even a short time would remember him constantly talking about, “Three to thrive.” He would talk about the importance of going to church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night. He taught his preacher boys that every service was a big service. It was those basics that Dr. Roberson practiced that helped him build the great Highland Park Baptist Church, Tennessee Temple Schools and send out hundreds of pastors and missionaries around the world. His ministry was nothing fancy, but it was led by a man who understood the importance of continually going over the basics with his people, and in return God used him to build strong Christians.
Dr. Jack Hyles was my pastor for many years. He was used by God to build the great First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana, and to start and build Hyles-Anderson College, the largest independent Baptist college in his lifetime. Though he was a great pastor and pulpiteer, his ministry was strong because he never strayed from the basics. He was known for his emphasis on prayer, the power of God and soul winning. He constantly impressed upon the church to have a daily walk with God. I remember him saying that sin would keep the Christian from the Book, and the Book would keep the Christian from sin. Yes, he was a great principled leader, but what truly epitomized his ministry was how he stuck to the basics, and those fundamentals built a strong church and produced strong Christians.
The men from yesteryear built strong churches and some of the greatest Christians because they understood that these fundamentals will save a nation, build churches, and strong Christian lives, marriages and homes. If we are going to be a part of building strong Christians, solid churches and send out young men to be preachers and missionaries worldwide, we are going to have to get back to the basics. Let me give you a few reminders that will help you to stick with the basics.
1. Staying with the basics takes a determination not to change.
It is not for the light of heart to build and continue with the basics. Paul challenged the church in 2 Thessalonians 3:13, “But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing.” He knew they would get tired of doing the same thing over and over again, so he dared them to continue on when they got weary. The preacher is challenged in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” To “stand fast” is to be determined and unmoveable. You will have to be determined not to stray from the basics when you see others around you running to change.
2. Don’t be quick to take on change.
Proverbs 24:21 says, “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:” There is nothing wrong with change as along as change doesn’t contradict scriptural doctrine, principles or methods. What I have seen throughout my life is that many are always looking for the newest and biggest thing when they need to stay with the basics that build Christians and churches. Don’t let the desire for the “new” deter you from the basics. Living by faith, prayer, studying the Scriptures, soul winning and being faithful to church will do more for a Christian than anything else. Reminding Christians of this regularly will not hurt them in the least.
3. Basics need to be repeated.
Training takes repetition. Throughout your schooling, you will remember that much of the time was not spent learning new topics, but most of the time was spent repeating what you had already learned. Deuteronomy 6:7 says, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” You will notice the repetition of teaching that God stresses in training children. That same repetition works in with the Christian as well. You will constantly have to repeat the basics if you want Christians to continually follow them.
4. Keep the basics palatable by dressing them differently.
The truths of the Scriptures never change, but God certainly dressed them differently to keep them from becoming mundane. The challenge for any person will be to keep the basic of the Scriptures the same but change the presentation of them so they stay fresh. My wife often helps medicine to taste better by giving something sweet along with it. That sweetness has helped my daughter to take the medication she needed to make her healthy. Certainly, we should deliver the basic medicine of the Christian life, but you could make them more palatable by putting something sweet along with it.
Recently, my pastor did something like this for the teens in our church. Our church is a soul-winning church. It has been a staple of the Longview Baptist Temple for years. To help soul winning stay fresh for the teens, he recently had a youth activity on a Sunday afternoon when they went soul winning first, and then he brought them back to the church for hamburgers and fun activities. That helps the teenagers from looking at soul winning like a spoonful of distasteful medicine.
Find ways to change up how you present and practice the basics without changing them. Challenge people to pray by finding different things for which they should pray. Make church attendance exciting by keeping the services exciting and the sermons content fresh. Keep soul winning compelling by having different times throughout the week to go soul winning. Find ways to keep the basics fresh, yet the same.
5. Give the basics time to work.
Galatians 6:9 reminds us, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” The basics work, but you have to keep performing, practicing and teaching them until the reaping season. Don’t be discouraged by the wait to see the fruits of your labors. If you keep doing the basics, you will find that they will work just like they worked in the past.
Friend, if you were to look at the sermons and truths that have impacted your life the most, you would find that most of them had to deal with the basics. Preacher, instead of getting wrapped up in the latest ministry fad, keep teaching, preaching and practicing living by faith, walking with God, having a daily prayer life, being a soul winner, being filled with the Holy Spirit, training others, and being faithful to church. If you keep emphasizing the basics, you will find that God will use you to build strong Christians who are bearing fruit for many years to come.