24 November 2014
Around the Region
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My observation is that there is a great lack of biblical teaching in many churches today. If a Christian has been born again by repentance and faith in Christ, has been sealed wiith God's Holy Spirit, the normal progression would be to have a thirst and a hunger for God's word and its teaching. To search out the sriptures and identify how they speak of Christ, from Genesis to Revelation, with the help of the Spirit, is a task that seems to be beyond many of those who occupy pulpits today, present company excepted, I am sure.
My comments were in no way personal to you. Also, I wasn't necessarily laying the blame at the other minister's feet, just interested to know why he was asked to reduce preaching time.
You are quite right that congregations will always have within them people at different stages of spiritual development and that is always going to be the case so nothing new there.
The length of time someone preaches is a separate issue to how deep or shallow it is. I have sat under preaching which has gone on for too long and lacked any real content and may even have been a bland internet-based instant sermon. Alternatively, I have listened to another preacher speak for just twenty minutes and deliver a sermon which was packed with valuable and well prepared content.
A preacher who doesn't have God's spirit within them has nothing to give and, at best, is simply delivering their own interpretation of Bible passages or, even worse, an already prepared sermon from another source. Even if that sermon cannot be criticised for error, it doesn't have any real effect.
I remember listening to a local man take an evening service. He was a fine Christian but was certainly not a public speaker and lacked vocabulary. However, despite him only speaking for about 10 minutes, it was one of the most lovely services I have ever attended as you could just see God's love flow from him. When that man prayed, he didn't need fancy words or computer printouts. His relationship with his Saviour was so evident for all those there.
Finally, I do give thought to the task ministers face. It is a tremendous responsibility and, as you say, impossible to keep everyone happy. It has been my experience though that the more a minister seeks to deliver a 'perfect' and well-polished' sermon, the less effect it will have. All it will achieve is to pander to those who simply want to listen to literately impressive public speaking. Neither do they want to be spiritually challenged.
I am not taking anything said personally. It has occurred to me in recent years that if listeners to sermons were willing to take time, and offer thoughtful, and even thought provoking feedback to the minister (preferably in writing), it might do everybody the world of good.
Instead the preacher or minister is either buttonholed at the door as a hobby horse is excercised, or a some other unrelated frustration is vented. But more often than not it is platitudes which do nobody any good, and can end up inflating egos!
John said, "My observation is that there is a great lack of biblical teaching in many churches today...is a task that seems to be beyond many of those who occupy pulpits today..."
I am interested to know how often you get to visit other churches/denominations to listen to other preachers?
Peter, I don't have the opportunity to visit many other churches regularly since I feel committed to our own fellowship and the numbers are not large. However we always try and seek out a church on Lord's Day when on holiday. After leaving the brethren denomination we tried a number of churches in our area and on that basis I formed my judgement. In one church I was asked to preach and at one of the services took up the subject of the Lord's Supper and what it meant to remember Him in His death. My exercise in doing this was because I felt that in the thanksgivings at the table there seemed to be a lack of understanding of the reason for this most wonderful sacramental priviledge and duty. After the service the two leading men (the pastor was not present) came to me and said that what had been preached was new to them! I asked them why they thought that we broke the bread and drank the cup. They admitted that they thought that it was "something we just did". Now one of these dear souls was the pastor's right hand man and the other was regularly asked to serve at the table where he read (sic) all his prayers of thanksgiving from a little piece of paper. I put this down to a lack of teaching. Until we found our present resting place we tried a number of churches in the locality but the preaching was mediocre and the teaching poor. Reference was made on the other discussion to the priesthood of every believer. This is a concept that is poorly grasped and seldom taught as far as I can see. The lack of such teaching results in a church becoming a one man band.
In one ofthe other churches that we attended for a time, the minister was actually a very good preacher when he took up a passage of scripture and used it to lift up the Saviour. On one Sunday his whole sermon and talk was devoted to an extension that was proposed at the front of the building. Various people who had a hand in the design and purposed works gave an account of what had been done and what was yet to be done. On that particular Sunday we had Christian friends staying over the weekend. I was disappointed and actually embarrassed and spoke to the minister about the service. I approached him in a very brotherly way but he took great offence that I had the temerity to question his service. It dawned on me then that this very large congregation thought that the building in which they gathered was the "House of God". Another example of poor bible teaching. How many ministers refer to the building as the house of God? It is very common, but entirely incorrect.
Thanks John, I am sure that you are aware of the danger of making broad sweeping statements, so I am pleased that you have put it in context. My limited experience within my own church group is very different.
Prior to being ordained I had the opportunity to preach in almost 30 churches from the north of Scotland to the central belt. By and large I found that although the priesthood of all believers is widely known, certainly amongst my own group of churches (we are not a denomination as such), getting people to put theory into practice is often a different matter, because there is often a prevailing attitude that the person up front is paid to do it. So, the lack of teaching is not always the reason, but rather that you get pew warmers in every church.
It is also the case that there is a gulf between knowing and practicing doctrines in far too many churches, if not why is there so much apathy, complacency and general spiritual malaise around?
There are undoubtedly a number of factors as well as distractions that keep us from reflecting on God's word, whether it be sermons or private devotions. There are also matters for preachers and listeners alike to address in order to keep things fresh.
On the preachers side, undoubtedly there is a need to keep sermons relevant and to the point. A balance between biblical truth, practical illustrations and relevant application is also vital.
On the listeners side, how many take notes, or even bother to bring a bible to church anymore? For those who do, how many cross reference and check the accuracy of what is being said in line with God's word?
How prepared are preacher and listener in prayer prior to the service?
In terms of private devotions what are the potential distractions? Multimedia (tv, internet etc), lack of appropriate space and time for devotional time, lack of willingness to rise early to devote time..?
These are not judgements, but observations. The problem for us all can be that the longer that we are on the Christian road, the easier it can be to let things slip, become apathetic etc.
So, how can we help ourselves and each others to be better disciples?
1 Thess 5: 11 "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing."
I agree with you Peter, but we must observe what is going on around us in the profession of Christianity. For instance, a new minister (C of S) has been recently appointed to the group of churches in our area. In the first newsletter delivered to all houses in the village since he arrived he introduced himself. In this article the name of the Lord Jesus was not mentioned once. When I began to read the article my intention was to email him by way of encouragement to preach the Gospel and bring God's word to the people in sound teaching, but having read the whole piece I had no heart to do so. In many places the Kirk and its ministers seem to be there now to provide a kind of social service in an endeavour to make people feel better. I do not deny that there are godly, devoted servants of the Lord here and there. Paul Gibson was a shining example of such, but what happened to him? By the way, he has kindly accepted our invitation to preach in our church over the Easter weekend. He will have three services D.V., one on Saturday evening and two on Lord's Day. We are looking forward to that.
This morning we were challenged as to our belief in Genesis 1:1. From how many pulpits in Scotland today would that challenge ring out?
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