Our current sermon series at Wilkesboro Baptist Church is 1 Timothy: Guard the Gospel. In this pastoral epistle, Paul instructed Timothy to oversee the church at Ephesus. There were several false teachers who were distorting the gospel and disrupting the ministries of the church. Paul’s emphasis on leadership, gospel, and structure was intended to prioritize the mission and ministry of the church.

If you are reading this, then know that your church matters. The church matters because we are God’s family (Ephesians 3:14), the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12), and the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:32). Christ died for the church so we could belong to him and to one another.

In our Next Steps Class at Wilkesboro Baptist, we talk about six church member privileges.

  • Commitment. Church members commit to the gospel of Jesus Christ through interdependent relationships with a group of believers.
  • Convictions. Church members share the theological convictions of their local church and express them through the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s supper and regular participation in worship.
  • Care. Church members care for one another and experience the care of others through prayer, support, encouragement, growth, and accountability.
  • Community. Church members participate together in a community of faith acknowledging that we are not on spiritual islands, but that we need one another.
  • Challenge. Church members embrace the challenge of being on mission by leading our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus through worshiping, learning, serving, and replicating.
  • Connection. Church members are uniquely able to connect with other members in the decision making process by participating in church conferences where members have a voice in church decisions.

These are just some of the privileges experienced by the members of Wilkesboro Baptist Church.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be sharing more about the mission and ministry of Wilkesboro Baptist and things we can do as members to help our church grow healthy. Our sermons through 1 Timothy will address some of these items, and I will be writing on some of these topics as well.

Ultimately, we want the gospel to take root in our hearts and bear fruit in our lives.

We desire the gospel to take root in our hearts and deepen our faith in Jesus Christ. And as the gospel grows deep in our souls, we pray that it will bear the spiritual fruit of Christian maturity as well as the outward fruit of people becoming followers of Jesus.

If you haven’t found any of the privileges listed above at your local church yet, consider some of the following applications.

If you’re interested in building community in the life of WBC, Sunday school options can be found here at our website. Our Sunday school classes are open groups. If you’re interested in a closed discipleship group, let us know by emailing us

If you’re interested in learning more about what we believe and how our doctrine frames our faith, join us on Wednesday nights at 6 pm for Doctrine and Devotion: Theological Reflections for Spiritual Formation. We meet in the Sanctuary, and this doctrinal study is also available as a weekly podcast.

If you’re interested in more information about Wilkesboro Baptist, consider attending our Next Steps Class on April 3. You can register here. We overview our statement of faith, discuss our mission, and what it means to be a healthy church member.

If you’re interested in what we’re doing to serve our neighbors and the nations, then we have a group of mission partners we regularly support. In the coming weeks, we have an opportunity to support an ongoing ministry need. Samaritan’s Purse has developed a refugee resettlement ministry for those who were forced to leave Afghanistan. Our church is in the process of partnering with this ministry. We believe God wants us to go to the nations, but also believe that God wants us to share his love and gospel with the nations when they come to us.

If you do belong here at WBC, then would you participate in the life of our church through these prayers? Would you pray that we would care for those who are our church members? Would you pray that we would guard the gospel doctrinally and spread the gospel faithfully? Would you pray for those who lead and serve the church that we would guard our beliefs and our behaviors?

At our worship service on Sunday March 6, we baptized 5. When I baptize, I ask two questions of the new believers. One, “Do you believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of sinners?” Two, “Will you, with our help follow Jesus as Lord for the rest of your life?”

The second question focuses on the reality that trusting in Jesus is a commitment to following Jesus as Lord. It is for this reason that our mission at Wilkesboro Baptist is to lead our neighbors and the nations to follow Jesus. We definitely want people, young and old, to trust in Jesus as Savior. But our mandated mission from Jesus is to “make disciples;” to follow Jesus as Lord.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

In light of our mission and our baptism question about following Jesus, there is a real tension in the life of many churches. What about children, teenagers, and adults who professed faith in Jesus, but no longer exhibit any spiritual fruit as a Christ-follower?

There is hardly a week that goes by that I don’t talk to a church member whose adult child or adult grandchild has strayed from the faith. I could relate to you story after story from burdened parents and grandparents for the souls and spiritual condition of their children and grandchildren. Some of you reading this are those parents and grandparents.

In an article a couple of weeks ago, I addressed the reality that Jesus invites children to follow him. The tension I’ve been wrestling with is how to make sense of children/grandchildren who fall away from or reject the faith. Based on my conversations with parents and grandparents, here are some reasons why children who grew up in church fall away from the faith. These reasons are not intended to be exhaustive, but rather representative.

  • Some fall away from the faith intellectually. Culture, worldview, media, education (public and higher) promote values and beliefs that are in contradiction to a biblical worldview. When our children and grandchildren are not grounded in the gospel and biblical doctrine, it becomes all too easy for skeptical philosophical ideas and arguments to damage a once vibrant faith. Many I’ve talked to over the years are in this category.
  • Some fall away from the faith morally. Sometimes people stop going to church and fall from the faith because of sinful behavior. A mentor once told me, “When someone distances themselves from church and family, it can often mean that he or she has unconfessed sin.” It is difficult to consistently be around God’s people and the proclaimed gospel when living in rebellion and sin.
  • Some fall away from the faith gradually. Many churches have seen a gradual departure from parishioners during COVID. If a person misses one week, it is easier to miss a second week. If a family misses church for a month, then it becomes easier not to attend the next month. This happens in one’s personal life as well. Neglecting spiritual disciplines and a relationship with Christ eventually causes a fall from the faith.

As a pastor watching these reasons play out in people’s lives, it really doesn’t appear like Satan cares one way or another how he draws people away from Christ. He’ll use intellectual doubts, moral failures, and gradual departures to damage one’s Christian faith.

Let me offer a few suggestions for how we make sense of those who have fallen away from faith and how to help restore them to Christ.

  1. Remember, a faith that is real is a faith that will persevere. I was talking to a church member several weeks ago about his assurance of salvation. He shared about a time as a young adult where he strayed from Christ, church, and faith. Yet he returned. It would do us all well to remember that if someone has a genuine faith in Christ, then Christ will not let that person go easily.
  2. Falling away from faith can be a reflection of a spiritual experience that was not genuine or saving. Some people fall away because what they experienced was not truly salvation. Bible Belt culture is rampant with examples. Walking an aisle, taking a preacher by the hand, or praying a prayer can be responses that coincide with genuine faith, but by themselves, they do not equate with salvation. There are some among us and some who have fallen away who were never really genuinely converted. This means we must be clear with the gospel that we preach and burdened for those who have fallen away.
  3. Pray for those who have fallen away. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who seeks to save the lost. He left the 99 to find the 1. Jesus cares more deeply about those who have fallen away than we could imagine. He died for them. Whether they need repentance in returning to their faith or a genuine work of salvation, Jesus cares for their souls. We should bring our burden for those who have fallen away to the Lord in regular prayer. Have others join you in prayer for them.
  4. Be a sounding board for questions and doubts. This suggestion is important for those who have developed intellectual uncertainties about Christianity. For 2,000 years Christianity has been persecuted, alienated, marginalized, questioned, and attacked. Christianity is stronger today for all of the attacks it has faced. For those who have legitimate questions about the veracity of Christianity, listen, learn, and discover the answers that will help build their faith back doctrinal brick by doctrinal brick. As a professor of theology, history, and apologetics and pastor for more than 20 years, I’m more confident than ever about the philosophical and theological soundness of Christianity. Legitimate questions and doubts can be answered with patient and intellectually rigorous apologetic and theological resources. For example see Tim Keller’s Reason for God or C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity or Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth.
  5. Don’t preach at your loved ones. It is difficult for adult children and grandchildren to listen to their parents and grandparents, especially those who harp and nag. Those that have drifted away or fallen away do need preaching, but it may be that the preaching they need should not come from you. Invest in your children/grandchildren relationally even if they’ve drifted away from the faith. Pray for them. Encourage them. Keep the relational conversation channels open. There may come a day when the relational influence you maintain results in God using you to bring them back to faith.
  6. Deepen your own faith and help those under your influence to deepen their own faith. This might be the most meaningful suggestion in the list. You are never too old or too young to deepen your faith and understanding of Christian doctrine. Growing in doctrine and devotion serves as a framework for spiritual formation. The Christian who is growing to know God more deeply is the Christian who is increasingly less likely to fall away from faith.

At Wilkesboro Baptist Church, we’ve returned to a Wednesday night doctrinal study with the aim at helping us deepen our faith. Each Wednesday at 6:00 PM, we meet in our sanctuary for Doctrine and Devotion: Theological Reflections for Spiritual Formation. We are currently studying the doctrine of revelation (God speaking). If you are unable to join us in person, we’re recording the audio and sharing on our church podcast channel. You can listen here online. Or you can download our podcasts on your favorite podcast network.

Photo by Md Mahdi on Unsplash