Ingredients of a Great Church


Pastor, North Valley Baptist Church, Santa Clara, California (Preached in 2001 at Mountain Empire Sword Conference, Bristol, Tennessee)  


I wish you could come to Santa Clara and visit us. At North Valley Baptist Church we are right in the middle of a residential area. The houses in our church neighborhood are not fancy and are about forty years old. I live just three blocks from the church. There are only five feet between property lines. The houses are pretty small—1,180 to 1,200 square feet. And they sell for $550,000! When we took over the church, it was just six months old. We had our twenty-sixth anniversary on July 15, 2001.


To begin with, we had two-thirds of an acre and a tiny church building, which has since been torn down. We bought two houses next door, fifty feet by one hundred feet, just to tear them down. We have thirty-eight parking stalls, the most we’ve ever had. We shuttle people. We have beautiful airport shuttle buses with power doors and air conditioning. But our people have to park at a computer company, Sun Microsystems. Then they are bused to church.


I feel sorry for you guys who have fifty acres or forty acres. That must be depressing! It must be like bees in a boxcar. But at our place, it’s activity.   


I live three blocks from the church. Three blocks in another direction is the college. It has six and a quarter acres. We bought a 40,000-square-foot computer company and remodeled it.


Now to the message. My subject is “The Ingredients of a Great Church.” I thank God for the church. As a five-year-old, forty-five years ago in a tiny building with lanterns glowing, I walked forward. Christ reached down His hand and saved me.


Walking out into the back, the first person I saw was my dad. I said, “Dad, I got saved tonight.” He was so happy for me. For some time now I’ve been my dad and mother’s pastor.


I’m glad I’m saved.


Then I’m thankful that God put us in a good, sound Baptist church. Sweeter gets the journey every day. I’m not planning on getting out. It’s wonderful to be the pastor of a New Testament Baptist church.


I was sitting on the plane next to a fellow from Scotland. He said, “I think I’m going to retire at age fifty-six. When do you plan to retire?”


I said, “Never.” I want to be pastor of my church as long as those people will let me and as long as I have the physical health to do it.


Some necessary ingredients need to be given priority in a church for it to be a great church. I know the word “church” is a New Testament term, a called-out assembly, yet that church in the wilderness was called out of Egypt. I want to look at this church in the wilderness and see if the ingredients of a great church can be found therein.


Turn to Joshua, chapter 1.


“Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,

“Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.”—Vss. 1, 2.


Then He describes the land:


“Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.

“From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.”—Vss. 3, 4.


I.       The Land

God is saying that one ingredient of a great church is land, not acreage, but area. To have a great church, pastor, you need to claim your area “from the wilderness… unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun.”


People say, “Well, bless God, there are 343 Baptist churches in our area.” (I counted them last night in the Yellow Pages.) Thank God for every pastor who is doing something. Don’t preach against them nor be mean to them. But don’t think, Well, bless God, we’ll work together to get it done. It’s my job and my church’s job to claim my area for Christ. You won’t make everybody happy, but claim your area.


We started our bus routes twenty-six years ago in about a twenty-five-block area. We said, “This is your area. Route one, capture that area for Christ. Route two, this is your area. Capture that area for Christ. Route Ten … Twelve … Fourteen … Eighteen — ca p t u re your area for Christ.”


When I see someone in my area who doesn’t belong there, it bothers me. When I see these Jehovah’s Witnesses in my area, it bothers me.


Right next door to our church is a rest home. Earl and his wife wheel over to church. They are members.


On a Saturday I was out soul winning. All of a sudden I saw Jehovah’s Witnesses talking to Earl in his wheelchair.


Friend, when someone with poison is speaking to one of my members, it bothers me. I pulled alongside, rolled down the window and asked, “Earl, what are you doing?”


He said, “Preacher, it’s okay. They’re trying to peddle their garbage, and I’m not going to take it.” I like that spirit!


Santa Clara, San José, Silicon Valley—that area is mine. You say, “Well, what about another brother who’s going to preach the Gospel?” I’d never work against him. But I’m not going to give my responsibility over to the next guy and say, “ Well, bless God, go ahead and work that area.” That is my area to reach for Christ.


Until you get the conviction, “That area is my area,” you will never build a great church.


I took a young boy home from church on Sunday night—a high school boy; big, tall basketball player; a junior in our high school, about six-foot-four. As we turned the corner, I said, “Jake, in that house right there [and I pointed] was the very first family I led to Christ twenty-five-plus years ago when I came here. I was out knocking on doors during an afternoon, and I won James and Diana to Christ that day. They came and were baptized.


“They moved away. Another fellow moved in that house.”


I told Jake the story about the next guy, who worked at the rest home right next door to our church. One day that fellow didn’t go to work. He listened to acid rock music all day long. That night a little voice kept saying to him, “Go get a knife and kill somebody.”


After listening to that music, he got up and slaughtered with a knife his mother, his dad, his aunt, his uncle and his sister. I said to Jake, “Do you know why my heart is aching? I reached the first family, but I missed the second family.”


That area is my area. I’m responsible for it.


There is little crime in our area. But a place about twenty-five minutes away where we have the bus route was crime-ridden: number one murder capital in America. T h e re we re a lot of little storefront Baptist churches in that area at that time; different ethnic groups—but the number one murder area. We went in there with our buses some fifteen years ago. Every Sunday we brought over a hundred people from that area to church. Murder has stopped in that area.


Those preachers from those other churches say, “The reason the murders stopped is North Valley Baptist Church.” We’ve been bringing boys and girls, men and women, moms and dads to church. It’s amazing. Since the area has been changing, they have come in with redevelopment funds and are redeveloping that area.


That area is our area!  


Go home and claim your area for Christ. Go home and say, “That street belongs to us.” You may not be able to start a bus route there yet, but call that area your area. By God’s grace put a bus here and one in there and another here. I know the bus ministry is a thing of the past, but it still works.


On Sunday there are seven services on our property. Then we have a service in the afternoon over at the other property. I preached on Sunday morning and gave the invitation, and the first primary church came down the aisle. All the different services come in, and we explain, “Here’s a person who got saved in this ministry and in that ministry.” The primary kids came walking down the aisle and lined up—fifteen or sixteen of them. I thought, Thank God, we sent the bus!


We have men and women in the ministry from the bus ministry. A pastor in Virginia is married to a lady who rode the buses twenty-some years ago. There’s a lady on the mission field today who rode the bus to our church. Scores are pastors and missionaries and evangelists who we re-reached through the bus ministry. Men on this platform were reached through the buses years ago. It works! It’s hard work, but claim that area and take in a bus.


It’s hard to get buses in California now, so we buy them in Kansas. Last year they brought ten to us. The year before, another ten. It’s a big headache trying to keep those things going, keeping them insured, keeping them running and filling the gas tanks, but it’s worth it!


Claim that area. Say, “It’s my area. It belongs to my church. I’m going to reach this area for Christ.” Not only does a great church need land, but we absolutely need


II.    The Lord

Too much is being done in the flesh.


“There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”—Vs. 5.


I remind you of John 15:5: “For without me ye can do nothing.”


“Well, I’m not very smart,” you say. But with God’s help, He can use you to build a church.


I was in Bible college in the late sixties. I went to college. I wanted to go to Viet Nam, but my dad said, “Son, you owe me one year. All you kids should go to school thirteen years. Go at least one year to Bible college.” I went to Bible college.


I didn’t try to break the rules, but I just didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be in the military with my buddies in Viet Nam. In that freshman year I wanted to get out, but I knew I’d be running from God.


I went back that sophomore year. God started working on my heart. I knew He was calling me to preach. I wasn’t trying to be rebellious; I just knew I couldn’t preach. I told the Lord, “You have the wrong man. I’ll do anything else. I’ll be a bus director, a youth director, but I can’t be pastor of a church. I could never stand in front of people and speak.”


My junior year I said, “It’s too late now, Lord.” Then came my senior year. Then I graduated and went into the ministry as an assistant pastor. All that time I knew God was working on my heart.


Finally I said, “Lord, I’ll go wherever You want me to go.”


My wife and I felt as if God were taking us to India as missionaries. He opened a door in a school in India that William Carey had established. In 1975 we had made provision. I told my parents on a Wednesday night after church, “Now, I’m going to resign and go to India as a missionary.”


I did resign. Then when the war with Pakistan broke out, doors were closed, and I was told I couldn’t go.


I was twenty-four years old. A church in northern California with thirteen members said, “We want you to candidate for us, in view of becoming our pastor. You and your wife will live in one of the nurseries at the church, also cook here.”


The week before I was to candidate, I got a call. The man said, “We heard you’re twenty-four.”


“That’s right.” They said,


“We heard you’ve never preached before.”


“I’ve preached three times: once on the radio and twice in public.”


The caller said, “We need someone with more experience.”


I thought to myself, You only have thirteen people. Whom can you get?


A church in Colorado called. It had nine members. “We want you to come, but we can’t pay you. You need to live here and get a job.”


I was all lined up to go there to candidate, when they called back and said, “Hey, Brother Jack, we found out that you’re twenty-four.”




“ We found that you’ve not preached before.”




The caller said, “We need a more experienced man.”


Two down; three strikes and you’re out!


North Valley Baptist Church in Santa Clara, where I am now pastor, was six months old. It was a brand-new little church with twenty members. The one man who called said,” We want you to come and candidate.”


I told him, “Number one, I’m twenty-four. Number two, I’ve preached only three times before.”


I’ll never forget what that wonderful, godly man, Brother Brownley, who’s with the Lord now, said to me: “Brother Jack, if you’re God’s man, we want you.”


That day in February of 1976 I taught Sunday school from Acts 12. In the early morning service I thought, I don’t know many texts. How about preaching on John 3:16?


I preached that morning, and two people walked forward and got saved. That was the first time someone had gotten saved under my preaching.


Sunday night I preached from Ephesians 6 about the armor of God. I went home that night so excited! I said to my wife, “Honey, I could do this the rest of my life! I don’t know if I was any good, but I sure felt right at home preaching!”


The church called me to come as pastor.


I’ll never get over it—that God would take a man with no ability nor experience, who did not learn hermeneutics, homiletics and apologetics, and say, “I want to use you in the Silicon Valley.”


Someone asked me, “How in the world can you preach to that crowd, the brainpower capital of the world?”


It’s hard to get a hotel in this area. They fly in every single day from around the world to learn the computers. The Silicon Valley chip was created there. I don’t understand all that brainpower. They ask me, “How do you preach with all that great intelligence around you?”


You know, I don’t even know how to turn on a computer! I have one on my desk. All my staff have them. All the computers are networked to all the ministries. Everybody has e-mail. All our college boys have to work the computer. With a computer, you can get by without a secretary.


I don’t know about any of that stuff. Someone says, “I sent you an e-mail, and you never answered.”


I’ll say to the secretary, “Pull up all the e-mails.” I find some months old.


It’s not my responsibility to know how to be proficient in the computer. It’s my responsibility to know this Book.


It’s an amazing thing. Try to walk with God in the light of His Word and fellowship with Him and pray on a daily basis, then stand up in the pulpit and look at people who are so very smart, so intelligent!


This bunch will say, “Look what’s happening in the stock market.” What’s happening? I don’t even know how to read the thing. I don’t know what all those little numbers are.


You ask, “How much money do you have in stocks?”


Zero. I have my stock at North Valley Baptist Church, 941 Clyde Avenue, Santa Clara, California.


We have depended upon earthly wisdom too long. We need the Lord. D. L. Moody said, “Put a fire in the pulpit, and people will come watch it burn.”


To see a great church established in our area, we need land, and we need the Lord. Depend upon God! Depend upon the Lord Jesus Christ! Depend upon the Holy Spirit! Depend on Him! Let your faith in Him be the foundation of your ministry!


III. The Law

Certainly we need the Law, the Word of God.


“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee….  

“This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”—Vss. 7, 8.


One of the great ingredients missing in the churches is the Word of God. Sunday School teachers stand before their classes with quarterlies. Get rid of those quarterlies and open the Bible. Sow from the Word of God. Tell the people what it says.


“It’s a different era,” you say. Yes, a different era, but the same heart. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9). A little fifth-grade boy today has a wicked heart just like a little fifth-grade boy two thousand years ago had a wicked heart. Give him the Word of God.  


I see so many of these youth groups, young and fresh, kids with orange hair and earrings. That’s not so with the youth group in our church. We have standards and convictions! We are separated. Ours don’t wear little necklaces, have punk hairdos nor earrings. Preach the Word of God. It will do its work in them.


We had our youth conference last week. Young people came from around the nation. They packed that auditorium and sat up on the stairs and down the sides, with chairs everywhere.  They packed all three balconies and the lower floor.


We had activities in the afternoons, but we had a lot of preaching —hard preaching. I told all four preachers, “Go for the jugular vein every time. We’re looking to see young people get saved, for young people to get separated, for young people to say they will serve the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t namby-pamby. The harder you preach, the more they will like it.”


I watched these kids. They get into it. The preacher will be preaching. They’ll raise their Bibles and say, “Amen!”


You say, “It’s just a bunch of emotionalism.” Go ahead and say that while your youth group is dying and while we’re trying to figure out how to build more buildings to house these young people.


I’m not being proud and arrogant, but I’m telling you that God’s Word still does the work today.


What do we need? We need land, the Lord, the Law, and


IV.  A Leader

“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.

“Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people.”—Vss. 9, 10.


If we had a leader in every pulpit in America, a man of God who loves God, we could see great things happen—such a man who gets up Monday morning and says, “Lord, my people need something from the Word of God on Wednesday night, Sunday morning and Sunday night. They need a man of God who walks with God.”


Read the Bible, study the Bible, get ready to preach the Bible. The man of God says, “Bless God! come what may, here is where we stand.”


You say, “That’s easy to say.” Yes, but harder to do. When you say, “Rise up and build,” the Devil says, “Rise up and oppress.” There is always some woman or some man or some couple who are against you. It’s been that way my whole ministry. You preach hard. You love people. Most of them love you and care for you and respect you and pray for you and are kind to you. But, oh, when you cross somebody through preaching, through standing for what’s right, through not allowing a kid who’s done wrong to stay in the school, you have to pay the consequence. Trouble breaks loose!


What are you going to do? Are you going to cower down? God knows I’m not mean to my people. But I preach with love in my heart and say, “Here’s where we are going. This is the way. Walk ye in it.”


Can you imagine Moses’ saying, “Well, let’s just get everybody together, and then we’ll figure out what direction we’re going”? Can you imagine Elijah’s saying, “Let’s convene on Mount Carmel, and then we’ll see if we can figure out what we’re doing”?


We’re trying to build a 2,750- seat auditorium. We’re raising money. We want to pay cash for that building. At the same time, we’re trying to raise money to build a men’s dorm. With all these and other projects upon us, I said, “Folks, we needed the auditorium five years ago. The early morning service is now filled. The lower floor is packed. The second service is jam-packed. The balcony is full. We’ve taken the kids out. We’re having youth services elsewhere. We have all these things going.


“But, folks, I’m not going to hurt the church over this. If it means preaching twice on Sunday morning and twice on Sunday night, I’ll do it. I just believe, though, that we need that auditorium.”


A leader has to be sensitive. A dad can’t just say, “Hey, I’m the boss! Sit down, shut up and listen to me, kids!” A man can’t look at his wife and say, “Hey, the Bible says submit!” Don’t use the Bible to attack your wife in submission.


But we also need leadership. Leadership charts a course and says, “Here is where we’re going.”  


V.     Loyalty

“And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.

“According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hear - ken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee.”—Vss. 16, 17.


We need the land, the Lord, the Law, the leader; and we need loyalty.


Church member, don’t fight a man of God. Don’t fight the preacher’s wife. If you ladies keep the pastor’s wife encouraged, she’ll keep her husband encouraged, and he’ll keep the church encouraged.


Courage is Pedigree’s child. Courage is Partner’s wife. Courage is Position. When your pastor says, “Bless God! We’re an old King James Bible, separated church,” encourage that position.


You are doing great things here in Bristol, but there is no telling what could happen in this beautiful area if a band of people in one of these churches would say to the man of God, “Go forward. We’re walking with you, Preacher.”


I’m so convinced that what this nation needs is not a better president, better governors or better school systems. What we need is better men of God, men who know God and walk with God.


Here they are, the ingredients of a great church—the land, the Lord, the law, a leader and loyalty!


Whatever size your church is now, and wherever it is located in God’s earth, why don’t you plug in these simple but necessary elements and set out to have a truly great church!