Exegesis is foundational to understand scripture’s application to our lives. The problem is that many in the church want to hear the application without doing the work of the exegete. In many cases this has also been translated into the way many preachers preach. In order to keep congregants happy, they are given large amounts of life application with little if any scriptural content. This puts both the preacher and the congregant in a dangerous position, because now neither the preacher nor the churchgoer is tethered to the text. Two major problems can arise in the life of the church member because of this. First, even if the application of scripture is correct, when it is challenged by those who disagree, the church member is left defenseless when it comes to defending this truth biblically. And second, if the application is not truly derived from scripture, then the church member has been sold some kind self-help scheme as if were a “biblical principle.” And when this self help scheme eventually lets them down, not only will they be disappointed in the church, but they may even start to believe scripture is no longer trustworthy. This is indeed a destructive trend.
This is a short quote by Charles Spurgeon to remind us that sometimes suffering is part of our ministry.
“One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, `My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself. On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, “I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.” By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay. I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge….You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds.”
Some people think that using labels like Calvinism or Arminianism is wrong. After all, shouldn’t we follow Christ, not men or schools of thought? This video takes a look at these questions.
There are many pastors that seem to have lost their way a bit by following hard after some kind of “seeker” or “emergent” model. They have such a desire for growth and relevance that they have lost their relevance, which makes their growth questionable. With them in mind, here are four common pitfalls which must be avoided by pastors who desire real growth and relevance. In other words, these are things they should not do.
1. Think that church is about reaching the lost at the expense of feeding the sheep, because you have failed to realize that a church of mature Christians can accomplish more for Christ than one shepherd with malnourished sheep.
2. If you do decide to go deeper into the scriptures for those in your church who hunger for it, give them a class on a weeknight night, because you mistakenly believe that the Lord’s Day is not for the Lord’s people, and instead think it is for giving the unregenerate things that will keep them entertained.
3. In order to emphasize relationship and de-emphasize the commands of God, argue that sin is not breaking rule, it is betraying a relationship, because you failed to understand that you cannot betray a relationship unless there are rules to relationships. Then proceed to make up new principles on how relationships are betrayed that have nothing to do with the word of God.
4. Believe that the church needs to be more experiential and less doctrinal, and think that experience is found by manipulating the lighting, music, and dramatic pauses, because you have forgotten that the word of God can cut to the heart with surgical precision and can comfort its wounds like a soothing balm.
I am sure there are plenty more, but these four seem to plague many churches. My prayer is that all pastors and their churches will experience growth and be relevant, but we must remember that a packed house does not necessarily indicate spiritual health. All we have to do is look at many sporting events or concerts to realize the using natural things to appeal to the natural man can fill a house. The Gospel and the word of God are what are relevant to a sinful world, and to sheep who desire to grow. May we all “preach the word.”
From Calvin’s Institutes…
“Whatever be the kind of tribulation with which we are afflicted, we should always consider the end of it to be, that we may be trained to despise the present, and thereby stimulated to aspire to the future life. For since God well knows how strongly we are inclined by nature to a slavish love of this world, in order to prevent us from clinging too strongly to it, he employs the fittest reason for calling us back, and shaking off our lethargy. Every one of us, indeed, would be thought to aspire and aim at heavenly immortality during the whole course of his life. For we would be ashamed in no respect to excel the lower animals; whose condition would not be at all inferior to ours, had we not a hope of immortality beyond the grave. But when you attend to the plans, wishes, and actions of each, you see nothing in them but the earth. Hence our stupidity; our minds being dazzled with the glare of wealth, power, and honours, that they can see no farther. The heart also, engrossed with avarice, ambition, and lust, is weighed down and cannot rise above them. In short, the whole soul, ensnared by the allurements of the flesh, seeks its happiness on the earth. To meet this disease, the Lord makes his people sensible of the vanity of the present life, by a constant proof of its miseries.”
Read the entire section here: Of Meditating on the Future Life.
This gentleman recently found out that he has a brain tumor. Pondering this, he wants to remind many Christians and churches how they may sound to someone who is looking for real answers, and not just wanting their ears tickled with prosperity preaching and superficial hype.
Let’s keep him in prayer,
Here is another video from the God and Governing Conference hosted by Trinity Law School.