Pews and Pulpits

A certain man experiencing severe chest pain was rushed to the hospital. Upon arrival, the medical staff placed him on a gurney and frantically rolled him back to be examined by a doctor. The doctor came into the room and after quickly performing several preliminary test, he concluded that the man was experiencing a heart attack. Open-heart surgery was the only option for saving this man’s life. After having the patient anesthetized the practitioner is readyto begin the procedure.

“Scalpel!” The doctor yells. The nurse, fumbling over the operating tray, grabs the sharp instrument and hands it to the physician. The surgeon cockily begins to make the incision on the forehead of the man placed under his care. “What are you doing?” One of the assistants shouts. “This is heart surgery not brain surgery!” Either this doctor knew something his staff didn’t know or he was ill equipped to handle the task before him.

It’s safe to say that no one would put their physical body under someone who does not know the difference between the heart and the brain. Nevertheless, many will put their souls under someone just as confused as the doctor in the aforementioned analogy. The preacher should be a holy man. The church should have a sacred pulpit. The preacher should be an educated man. The church should have an educated pulpit. What I aim to convey is this: There should not be anyone in the local church that is more equipped to handle spiritual matters than the shepherd of God’s flock. I am conveying these sentiments as laity and not as a pastor (though I am a pastor in training). Therefore, what I am expressing has more to do with what the congregation should pray for as it pertains to the shepherd, namely, more of the word of God.

For a pastor to feed the flock takes a calling from God. Where things go awry is in the perception of what God’s calling looks like. Some have narrowed a call to ministry down to having a “vision.” Normally, that means they have their own vision and desire to build their own church instead of serving the people of God in Christ’ church. For the record, Jesus will build His own church (Matt. 16:18). A minister’s job is to care for those whom the great Shepherd (13:20) places under his care (Heb. 13:17). The question from the pulpit and the pew is the same. How can we best serve God for the glory of Christ?

Jesus made it clear that people are sanctified by the truth (John 17:17). I submit to you that a preacher best serves his people as he exemplifies and accurately expounds the whole counsel of God to his respective congregation. Both the living out, and the preaching of the Holy Scriptures take an intense devotion to knowing Biblical truth (Acts 6:2, 4). Yet, this is the only way for us to grow as the body of Christ. As one renowned preacher stated in commenting on 1Peter 2:1-2, “Spiritual growth is always marked by a craving for and a delight in God’s word with the intensity with which a baby craves milk.” As babies crave milk, so the Christian longs for Biblical truth.

From my observations, I have noticed that some look for churches based on the charisma of the leader and the popularity of the church. Surely, no one desires a boring preacher. Nevertheless, what a church has to offer, if it is not the word of God, should have little bearing on our decision to worship at a certain church. Is the word being preached? I don’t mean some man or woman running around spouting cliché’s about how “God is about to do something”. I mean is there Biblical preaching? Does the guy know his Bible and does he articulate the truths therein? Here are some questions you can begin to ask to see whether or not you are getting Biblical preaching:

1. Has your pastor ever preached through a book of the Bible?

This is called “expository preaching.”  Some refer to it as “systematic” or “sequential” preaching. What is meant by these terms is the verse-by-verse preaching of the Bible. I have not found a more effective way of handling God’s word than this. For the parishioner, it allows them to walk through the scriptures, gathering a holistic understanding of the truths that scripture teaches. It also allows them to hold their pastors accountable. For instance, no verse or topic can be passed over as less important. This also, keeps the preacher from preaching his agenda. In the truest sense, God sets the agenda for the church.

2. Do you have an understanding of the scriptures when you leave church?

It is a fact of the matter that many will not remember from week to week what was preached. However, the only way you should not remember what was preached immediately after service is if you were asleep. Shame on you if you fell asleep! The word of God is a means of grace, whereby the Christian fellowships with the living God. Man lives by the word of God (Matthew 4:4). If we do not understand the scriptures, what is the nature of our fellowshipping with God? We can shout well, sing great songs of praise, and give our money, but if you don’t understand the Bible, you have erred (Matt. 22:29; Mark 12:24)

3. Does your pastor speak on wrath as well as grace?

The gospel of God is twofold in this way. It acknowledges the grace of God, but it equally if not more so acknowledges God’s Holy Hatred for sin. Sin is the sickness that kills. To barrow from our opening analogy, our “heart” is the problem (Jeremiah 17:9). We come to church to worship and give thanks to our God and KING. We also come to hear how the hearts can be renewed to a love for Jesus. If the preacher/physician chooses to give us cough medicine for cardio ailment, we may die without a cold from a heart attack. My point is that God’s wrath works in us a reverence that brings about repentance. All grace is of no benefit and neither is all wrath. There must be a balance.

4. Is your life being transformed by the truth?

Error will never sanctify the believer. I know people can make the Bible say many things to line their pockets and build their buildings. My concern is for the reader that answers “No.” to these questions. I do not recommend that you leave a church without trying to work through these issues with your pastor, first. However, our spiritual lives depend on the accurate handling of the word of God from those who exercise authority over us. Christ is set apart “in” the truth. His life is radically different – holy. If we are to follow Him and be holy, it will be by His truth alone.

My prayer is that we will know and love Christ. He is the end all and be all for the Christian. The glory of the Triune God is all that counts. Apart from Him, we are nothing. He loved us to the point of sacrifice (John 3:16). Then, He gave us His word as if to say, “know Me!” Jesus prayed in this manner, “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3). We will know Him by gleaning in the field of His word and grow thereby. Both pew and pulpit is responsible for such a glorious task.

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