I have had the privilege of pastoring several churches in two countries. The most rewarding
experience was starting a new church - The London Baptist Temple - in the city of London, Ontario, Canada, in 1978.
The church has since changed its name. It is now known as Victory Heights Baptist Church.
I am going to relate some of the blessings of God on our work. I am not doing this to take credit
for what God did. On the other hand, I believe there were some definite reasons why God used us and blessed His
work. I want to relate those reasons. I believe that God will bless His servants who are willing to discard any and
all tradition that stands in the way of their obedience to the Lord of the Harvest.
Before moving to Canada, I studied the Book of Acts over and over. I wanted to learn everything I
could about the phenomenal success of the church in reaching the lost and growing. What was their church program?
What did they do that modern churches aren't doing? They didn't have any of the things we rely on today. They
didn't have air conditioned buildings. They didn't have buildings at all. They didn't have radio, TV or newspapers
to advertise their services. They didn't have Sunday Schools, PA systems, professional music groups or professional
athletes to come and give their testimonies. They didn't have much of anything. Yet they did more for God in one
year than most churches do in a century.
The more I studied, the more I realized what it was. Their program was very simple. First, they
were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). Then they obeyed God. What was their week to week church program? Over
and over - throughout the Book of Acts - you see them doing two things.
- Winning souls
They did other things, for sure, but winning souls and praying took precedence over everything
else. I determined we were going to obey God and depend on Him to give His blessing to the work.
What is a New Testament Church?
" . . . and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved."
(Acts 2:47, New King James Version)
I know of many churches that claim to be New Testament churches. What they mean is that they were
patterned after the church of the New Testament. As I studied the Book of Acts, it became clear to me that one of
the elements of the church was daily conversions. It became obvious to me that we could not claim to
be a New Testament church if we didn't have at least 365 people saved every year. We constantly prayed, believing
God to give us a great harvest of souls. We prayed for God to save a soul a day through the ministry of our church.
God gave us what we asked for.
The Bible says that God ". . . desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the
truth." (1 Tim. 2:4) It also says that God ". . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to
repentance." (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore we know it is God's will that people be saved.
Scripture also says "Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything
according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the
petitions that we have asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15).
These Scriptures tell us some important things. This is powerful -
- We know it is God's will for people to be saved.
- We know that if we pray for God's will, in faith, that we will see God move to answer our
- Therefore, if we pray fervently for God's will to take place, and if we are obedient to His
command to win souls, we will see results. That's what God's Word tells us.
Prayer was at the heart of the soul winning ministry in the London church. We had 2-3 prayer
meetings per week. Our Saturday night men's prayer meeting sometimes went very late as we prayed for people to be
saved and for the power of God to be upon the Sunday services. We were hungry for God, and we wanted to see Him
work in people's lives.
We never lost sight of two important elements in the salvation of a soul (1 Cor. 3:6-9)
- It is our job to go and take the Gospel to lost humanity (Mark 16:15).
- It is God's job to do the convicting and saving of the lost (Eph. 2:8-9).
We recognize the fact that no one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). As
we prayed for the lost, by name, we prayed for the Father to draw them to Jesus. It was exciting to watch God work
by drawing people to Jesus as we delivered the Gospel to them.
Obedience to the Lord
It's strange to see how the devil has God's people nitpicking on the things that don't matter and
ignoring the things that do. There is no excuse for disobeying God. There is no excuse for telling people to
disobey God until a later date.
We baptized people as quickly as possible after they were saved, just as they did in the New
Testament. We could not find any Scriptural justification for telling people that they should wait a month or a
year or more before obeying God. It is Scriptural to baptize people immediately after they get saved. It is
unscriptural to tell people that they should not obey God right away. We wanted to be obedient servants, and we
wanted to teach our new converts to obey God.
No, we don't believe that baptism has anything to do with a person's salvation. There are plenty
of unbaptized Christians in the world, and every one of them will go to Heaven if they are truly born again. The
Word of God is abundantly clear on two things -
- It is possible to be an unbaptized Christian.
- It is impossible to be an obedient unbaptized Christian.
It is amazing to me how people will argue with point #2, but they cannot give one shred of
Scriptural evidence to support their argument. It's important to teach and practice what the Bible says.
We kept the baptismal tank full at all times. We installed a swimming pool filter system so that
the water would always be clean. After prayer meeting on Saturday night, we would turn the baptistry heater on so
the water would be warm for the Sunday services. We were prepared to baptize at every service. For a long time we
were baptizing every Sunday morning. In addition, we also baptized sometimes in the Sunday evening and midweek
Preparation and Training
We established a new believers Sunday School class. There were 13 lessons introducing a new
person to the Christian life. We began the course anew at the beginning of each quarter. A person who got saved the
6th week of the quarter would be brought into the class on week 6 and would stay in the class for 13 weeks before
moving into the second class.
Once a new believer finished the 13 week New Believers Class, they would move into the next
The next class was a 52-week introduction to systematic theology. We set it up to be repeated
every year. As soon as a new believer finished the 13-week class, they moved into this class for 52 weeks. We
wanted our new believers to be grounded in the great doctrines of God. In this class we gave constant reviews. We
even had tests. God's people need to know what they believe and why they believe it. This is an important part of
the Great Commission - grounding our new people in the Word of God.
Our intent was for new believers to have 65 weeks of introductory training in the Word of God
before moving into the regular Sunday School classes.
Some churches specialize in music and entertainment. Others specialize in building their
denominations. Some specialize in particular worship styles. Others specialize in social work or political issues.
And many churches keep experimenting with new things to try to find something that "works" to build their church.
We specialized in obeying the Great Commission. That is what God has called every church to do. Churches that don't
obey the Great Commission will have to answer to God for their disobedience and rebellion against Scripture. There
is no excuse for not making the Great Commission the center of the church program.
We discovered that church is a very exciting place when God is changing lives, new believers are discovering
God's plan for their lives and people are being baptized every week.
People come to church expecting to see God do something. We had a sign on the front of the pulpit
that said, Watch God Work.
The Great Commission means that the church is to do 3 things in 4 places.
The 3 things the church is to do (Matt. 28:19-20):
- Win souls to Jesus
- Baptize them - AFTER they are saved
- Teach them to grow and obey Christ
The 4 places the church is to do these 3 things (Acts 1:8):
- Jerusalem - the area where the church is located
- All Judea - outlying areas (that's where church planting comes in)
- Samaria - the people that we would normally not feel like associating
- The world - everywhere else (that's why we have an active missionary program to send
and support those who are called to go)
Does your church specialize in the Great Commission?
Most churches are especially weak on the first 2 things and the first 3 places.
- Are people getting saved every week?
- How many people were baptized in your church in the past year?
(If your church is in the United States and you baptized less than 100, are you sure you are really serious
about the Great Commission?)
- Do you talk about soul winning in every service so that your people will be soul
- How often do you have soul winning training for your members?
- Are at least 10% of your people active soul winners?
- Do you have an ongoing class for new Christians? Do you have people joining the class
- How much of your church budget is earmarked for local evangelism? (If you spend more on
music or fellowship, something is wrong with your church's priorities).
- How many evangelistic events does your church sponsor or participate in each
- How many activities in your weekly church program are geared toward getting people
- Do you give an invitation for people to get saved at every
- What kind of training program do you have for your new believers?
- How many new believers do you have for the training program?
- Do you expect people to get saved every week through the ministry of your
When you start getting aggressive about soul winning, the devil takes notice. Satan does care of
you have the best choir in town. He doesn't care how talented your worship team is. He doesn't care much about most
of the activities in the average church. When you develop an aggressive evangelistic program, you're going to meet
the devil face to face. You are attacking his kingdom, and he will take notice.
My assistant pastor decided he wanted to take over the church. He, along with some other people
who had a history of causing church trouble, tried to sow a lot of discord in the church. They also started a
letter writing campaign to the Canadian Department of Immigration and Manpower, telling a lot of vicious lies to
try to get us deported from Canada. They succeeded, and in November 1980 - just 28 months after our first service,
we were forced to leave Canada.
We were baptizing every Sunday up until the time the church trouble developed. When we were
fighting to be able to stay with our church, our focus changed. We didn't have any choice. And that is what Satan
was trying to do.
A number of years later an article came out in a Christian magazine about the church of Satan in
London, Ontario, and their aggressive program of attacking the Bible believing churches in town. Obviously we were
one of their targets.
Do you have a New Testament church?
As you look at Acts 2:47, you see God's norm for the church. Daily conversions. That is what the
New Testament church is all about.
Some folks will say, "but that's talking about the "universal church." No, that's not talking
about any kind of universal church. Read the context. That's a description of the ministry of one local church -
the church in Jerusalem. Daily soul winning. Daily conversions.
"But," someone says, "you don't know how difficult it is to win souls where my church is
located." That could be true if you are trying to pastor a church in Kabul, Afghanistan or Paris, France. It could
be true if you have already won 80% of the people in your town. But it certainly isn't true in most places in North
A number of years ago, I had the privilege of spending some time with Rev. Willis, a preacher who
had gotten saved as a young lad during the Welsh Revival. I asked him what caused the soul winning to stop in his
town. He answered, "Everybody in town got saved. The soul winning stopped when there was nobody else in town to win
A New Testament church is a local church that adheres to the doctrines of the Bible, and that
follows the practices of the church in the New Testament. We make a big deal about the ordinances of the church.
And we should. We make a big deal about the music and the style of worship. Why don't we make a big deal
about the #1 job of the church? No wonder the church is in such a sorry state. We are not doing what
God told us to do. And that is SIN.