When Richard Baxter arrived on the scene in the town of Kidderminster, England, in 1641, he found a congregation in spiritual and numerical decay, but he eventually turned the entire community into a vibrant spiritual force.
What was Baxter’s secret? His philosophy was three-fold: Preaching, prayer and discipleship. He was a long-winded preacher who preached with passion and conviction and who called people to follow God in holiness. He also understood the power of prayer, commenting once that preaching with passion is useless if the pastor “prayeth not earnestly for them [the congregation]” (The Reformed Pastor, p.123.).
Most students of church history understand this part of Baxter’s ministry, but few recognize his emphasis on discipleship. Baxter was convinced that the decline in the church was the result of poor leadership—men who lacked zeal for truly shepherding God’s people.
Discipleship is the gasoline for growing the fire inside the church.