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Sunday, May 14, 2006

More on Teaching and Preaching -- Hindrance to Growth?

As I continue to look at the role of teaching and preaching in the church, I continue to wrestle with some thoughts about the role that these two activities hold, if any, in our church experience. I have not definitely proven anything in my previous posts, but I have headed in the direction of seeing preaching as more geared toward evangelistic purposes, and teaching toward discipleship. It doesn't bother me to admit that my study is inconclusive, at least as far as absolute principles being derived. And I don't want my continued use of as-yet unproven theories to be a hindrance to my readership's appreciation of these posts. But please understand that, for the time being, that is still my basic premise.

In this post, I want to examine a little more deeply the relationship of preaching (and certain types of teaching) in the church to the potential maturity of the listeners. A couple of days ago one of my dear friends, Raborn Johnson, wrote a post entitled "Who's the Priest?". In it, Raborn talks about the "clergy/laity" distinction, and the problems associated with such a distinction. A particular comment he made caught my eye. He wrote:

It seems to me that the role of a professional minister impedes the growth of the rest of the Body and contributes to many believers remaining in an infantile state of Christianity. Instead of letting God flow through me to others (and vice-versa), I pay someone to "do the work of the ministry" in my place.
It is this hindrance to maturity that I believe expresses my biggest concern about the structure we often utilize in our institutional approach to church. And, like Raborn, it was this observation that led me to first question what we are attempting to accomplish in church. Let's unpack this whole thing a bit, and see what we can find.

For the purposes of this post, I am sort of muddying the waters between "preaching" and "teaching" because this is the current state of the institutional church. Much as I have tried to separate the two (and several commenters on my previous posts have agreed that there should be a distinction), the reality is that for the most part, they are used interchangeably in the context of the institutional church. And so, in the typical "Sunday morning sermon", the congregation believes that they are being "taught", and that this teaching is crucial to their sense of maturity in Christ. And, to be fair, many preachers do more "teaching" than "preaching" in their sermons.

However, what does the Scripture say about the role of teaching in the ongoing life of the believer? Let's look at two Scripture verses that mention this.

First up is Hebrews 5:12. In the context of verses 11-14, we read (with verse 12 in bold):

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
There are a couple of things I want to point out about this analogy. First of all, the author of Hebrews seems to believe that maturity in Christ means that one is able to be a teacher of others. This is something that I rarely see emphasized in our churches today. We are told that we must evangelize others, but usually the emphasis is on getting them to come to church with us. In that sense, we fail to become teachers ourselves, but rather rely on the preacher teaching the newcomers or new converts.

Another thing to notice in this Hebrews passage is the progression from milk to solid food. I don't want to stretch the analogy too far here (or at least not further than is warranted by the text), but I do think that perhaps we can learn something from the analogy being used. When a baby is born, he is incapable of eating/digesting solid food. That baby requires milk. Everyone understands this part. As the child begins to grow, eventually his mother is able to feed him solid food, and the young child is capable of digesting it. Everyone understands this part, too. And I'm sure all of us agree on the need for Christians to move past being fed milk to being fed solid food.

However, this is where I want to point out something in the analogy. As a child continues to grow, he becomes (or should become) capable of feeding himself. Is that too much of a stretch for this analogy? Why else would the writer say that by this time his readers should be teachers?

Let's look at another verse that says something similar, but gives us even more insight. Here is 1 John 2:27:

As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.
Again, we see the idea that we "do not need anyone to teach" us. John says that the anointing that we have received from Jesus will teach us all things. This sounds a lot like what John wrote in his gospel (John 16:13) when he wrote, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." So, it seems to me that there should be a maturing process whereby the believer learns to receive teaching from the Holy Spirit and does not have to rely on teaching from a man in order to live life in Christ.

Teachers are originally taught by others, but there is a real point where a teacher needs to "own" the information himself before he is capable of effectively transmitting that information to others. Both of the passages being referenced here indicate a point of maturity where the one being taught begins to "own" the information, and is then able to teach others.

How would we view the maturity of someone who never completed their high school diploma, yet day after day attended high school classes and sat through the material being taught? Would we think of them as mature, simply because they were in their 20th year of going through the 12th grade? Hardly! Yet, we view Christians that way. They can sit in a pew for all their life, listening to the same sermons from the same preacher, over and over, and yet we will call them mature, just because they've been doing it a long time! They may be fully incapable of teaching others, though.

It is this true maturity (the ability to teach others and not require constant teaching themselves) that I believe is hindered when we operate within a system that emphasizes the word of one man (human preacher) and gives it center stage and full spotlight on a very regular basis. And it is the stunting of the growth of the individual believers that should cause us to question whether or not we should be highlighting such a practice as monologue-style preaching week in and week out.

Now, several of my regular commenters (and Gordon and Ray, you know I have a great deal of respect for both of you, and love you as my brothers) have said in past comments that they believe there is a place for this kind of preaching in the church. So let me open it up to you guys and anyone else who wants to answer. What is the place of preaching in the church, and how can we free people up to grow in maturity beyond the point of regularly sitting under someone's teaching? Or, for that matter, do you think I'm way off base in even implying that we should not be spending many years of our lives listening to another human teacher? Lengthy comments are not a problem, but if any of you would prefer to post a reply on your own blog, that's fine, too. Just post a link to your reply in one of the comments here so we all know to come read it!

Until next time,

steve :)

17 comment(s):

This is some thought-provoking stuff. Let me chew on it a while and then I'm gonna come back and get you. hehehe

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Sunday, May 14, 2006 7:19:00 PM  

Gordon, let's hope you make better on your threats than Frank Turk does ;) hehe

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Sunday, May 14, 2006 7:28:00 PM  

Steve, I am so glad that you picked up where I left off. I think that you have made some great points here. I really found this statement to be profound:
"They can sit in a pew for all their life, listening to the same sermons from the same preacher, over and over, and yet we will call them mature, just because they've been doing it a long time! They may be fully incapable of teaching others, though."
Well said! If growth came simply via more information, the Church would be 10 feet tall and bullet-proof:) It seems to me that a disciple is someone who can duplicate the ministry of Jesus and not just regurgitate someone else's convictions.

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Sunday, May 14, 2006 10:35:00 PM  

I really liked your analogy about the student in school, and the fact that we might think it kind of strange that he was satisfied just to sit in class and never graduate. I'm in the middle of a good book right now that sort of addresses this. The book is actually written by a minister who also questions these same mindsets. For example, he talks about how he doesn't understand why it is that when a doctor or lawyer come to church they seemingly turn off all reasoning faculties and are content to be spoon-fed. His point was that these people, by the mere nature of their occupations, are obviously very analytical in other aspects of their lives, every aspect except their faith. Interesting!?! I think we need to ask ourselves why this is the case for so many.

By Blogger Erica, at Sunday, May 14, 2006 11:01:00 PM  

Steve,

My comment is more corollary than anything else. I recently received a letter from a woman in prison in Georgia. She wrote me aksing to help her overcome being lesbian. I have had the opportunity to do this before and have some experience with people in this position---prison and homosexual feelings.

Typically her letter, though brief, demonstrated a limited education. I know very little about her from her two paragraphs, but I will make several guesses about her. She has come from a dysfunctional family that was either was not able to nurture or actively engaged in a failure to nurture her young heart. She experienced a great deal of failure in school and relates poorly or with little understanding to abstract thought. She has made many unproductive even self-destructive decisions in her life.

She most likely does not have an educational background that will make fundamental hermeneutics a meaningful avenue for growth even if a balanced and loving teacher is available to guide her study. She may, in fact, encounter in the prison's ministry to inmates a very legalistic explanation of God.

What sermon or sermons will reach her effectively? I would say none or at best, few. I have had the experience of overcoming what has trapped her. Sermons don't remove the anxiety, fear, selfishness and lusts that fuel these feelings.

Am I suggesting she cannot be taught? No. Yet anyone who believes she will be sermonized into new life does not have a grasp on the complexities of the deceptions that can rule a human heart.

She needs encouragement to accept by faith that she is a new creature. She needs acceptance from from Christian hearts who patiently walk beside her. She needs to be loved in the life of the Jesus for the words, "You are a new creature" to be validated by people's actions and responses toward her. Teaching needs to adjust itself to her immediate condition, daily. Holding high ideals in front of her with an elevated language and logic once a week will be more discouragement than empowerment.

Christians who walk in the spirit of Jesus are more than teachers. Teachers need to be more than a position or gifting. The world groans to see sons of God revealed.
Read that...people who understand how to love like God loves and do so. Sermons do not tend to reveal active Christianity.

Somehow, I got myself labeled as "anonymous" by this machine and cannot convince it to recognize me otherwise...oh well.

ded

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, May 15, 2006 6:24:00 AM  

Maybe its more of a tangent than a corollary.
8^)

By Anonymous ded, at Monday, May 15, 2006 7:49:00 AM  

Steve, I have been giving this some thought and I think I am ready to reply. I'll try not to make this too long, and I promise that if it seems I am rambling, I will get back on point by the end of my comment.

I want to begin by looking at the concept of the "institutional church". I think we can agree that God ordained at least a modicum of institutionalization in that He established the offices of bishop/pastor/elder (pick your term) and deacons. Perhaps both of these have evolved into something that is more than God intended, but at least we have a basis for structure.

I also do not think it is mandated in Scripture that we should "do church" in a particular way. No, we probably do not find an accurate reflection of the early church in the modern local church, but neither to we find the modern model forbidden. (Although I am sure there are some aspects of the modern model that may not be what God wants). By the same token, I do not think it is necessarily wrong that you have church in a house (or even the back-yard on a nice day).

I think we should be cautious about using the Corinthian church as a model. The Corinthian church was plagued by problems of carnality, focusing on the sensational rather than spiritual worship, and misuse and imbalance of spiritual gifts. Come to think of it, that sounds a lot like the modern institutional church. Maybe it is closer to the Corinthian model than you think. :)

Did these problems arise from the model of preaching/teaching that this church was following? I don't know that we can lay the blame entirely on that, but the contents of Chapters 12-14 would surely indicate that there was some problems with the way they were doing things.

After reading yours and Raborn's posts, I am wondering if the two of you are having an allergic reaction to what the practice of preaching has become rather than what it is intended to be.

I will be the first to admit, that there is a severe drought of the power of God in the pulpits of America. We have replaced an intimate knowledge of the Word of God with pop psychology. We have replaced "Thus sayeth the Lord" with systematic theology. Many pastors today are learning the Word vicariously through the writings of other men rather than digging out truth for themselves. (You understand I am not condemning reading books, it is just that you cannot substitute that for personal Bible study).
Worse, many pastors are plagiarizing shallow sermons from others, watering them down even further and preaching them as their own.

In the place where you quoted Raborn, he gave a good analysis of what the office of the pastor has become and caused in the church. I pastor a country church and often the expectation is that I should visit 10 hours a day, attend some kind of church or community function that evening and also on Saturday, and then get up and deliver a sermonette twice on Sunday and on Wednesday night. I think we can study church history and see, though, that expectations have not always been that way. At some point, the pastors either became so enamored with power that they conditioned that behavior, or else the congregations became so cold and indifferent that they forced it upon the pastor. Either way, we have reached a point where church culture has expectations of pastors that are unbiblical and unrealistic.

The result of this is that pastors are not preaching meat, but are preaching a processed dairy product and calling it meat. Worse, many in the congregation think that it is meat and are satisfied with it and the stunted growth it produces. The bottom line is, no amount of preaching or teaching will substitute for individual Christians studying the Word of God for themselves.

I honestly don't think we are that far apart in our viewpoints toward the problems of the modern institutional church. I think we probably differ somewhat on what we believe the solution to those problems should be.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Monday, May 15, 2006 8:59:00 AM  

Gordon, thanks for your gracious comments. I think you are correct in that we are identifying the same problems. And I do want to say that I agree with you on your point that there are some "offices" that are described in Scripture. "Elder" (that's the term I pick from the list!) is especially given attention in the New Testament, and I do not reject that at all.

Bear in mind that when I talk about "institutional" church, I am talking about the extra-biblical layers of heirarchy and positions that have been added to the very simple New Testament descriptions. Additionally, I think you would agree that the "authority" vested in church leaders today goes well beyond what Jesus talked about, and what Paul wrote about. We've talked about some of those things on this blog already, and I won't rehash all of them here, but again, I think that you are correct in that you and I are not far apart (if at all) in our observations.

There is one comment you made that I want to press a little bit further on. You are not the first to tell me that we need to be careful looking at the Corinthian church. And it causes me to ask in return a couple of questions:

Do you think that Paul's instructions in 1 Cor 12-14 are any different than he would have given to other churches? In other words, was Paul striking a compromise with the church in Corinth by saying, "Well, since you all are going real crazy here with your worship services, it's ok to let multiple people speak. Just keep it orderly." Or was he, instead, actually giving sound advice valid for any church to receive?

In other words, what are you cautioning against? Like I said, you're not the first person to make this kind of comment, so I wonder what I'm missing. Make no mistake about it that those of us who draw from 1 Corinthians in our ideas are not attempting to model the church in Corinth as it existed when Paul wrote the letter. Rather, we seek to learn from Paul's instructions as to what they should be doing.

It seems to me that 1 Corinthians contains the most clear and detailed explanations of what Paul instructed churches in, with regard to practice.

So, again, I'll throw it back to you. You've identified what makes you a little nervous (hehe) about the position Raborn and I are taking, but you haven't really offered alternative solutions.

Specifically, I'd love to get your thoughts on the following:

1. What is the desired goal of having one man preach weekly (in your case, three times weekly)? (I think it bears mentioning here that ded, Raborn, and I have all been on the other side of the pulpit ourselves. We all have been the ones preaching, so this is a question we have had to ask ourselves individually. It is far from rhetorical for me, at least.)

2. As one grows in their faith and matures in their walk, what should their relationship to that one man (the pastor/preacher/head elder, pick your term!) be?

3. If one is expected to remain under the preaching of one man continually, what is the desired goal of their own study of the Word?

4. Is it at all possible that our observations are valid that the method of preaching within the church actually does hinder maturity in the believer? Note that while I agree wholeheartedly with you that many men preach very milky content, I'm not questioning that per se. I'm suggesting that the practice of preaching, even if solid meat, still gets in the way of growth. And if you do completely disagree with our observations on this particular issue, spell out even more clearly why you believe that it should be the way it is (albeit with great depth of preaching, not shallowness, for the sake of discussion).

I appreciate your interaction, Gordon, as always. Thanks for your patience with me as we talk through these things.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Monday, May 15, 2006 10:03:00 AM  

ded, your comment may be a tangent, but I think it's one worth taking. There is a pragmatic aspect to discussions such as this that is important to keep in perspective.

I don't knock theological debates (in fact, I usually enjoy them, for the most part), but I do find it interesting that Jesus seemed to spend far more time ministering to people's needs and preaching the very practical truth of the Kingdom to them than He did debating the spiritual leaders of the day on the finer points of the Law.

In fact, when He did "debate" them (which usually was pretty much just a short answer from Him that sent them scrambling!) it was often because He was doing something that they came and questioned.

I don't want to run too far with that, but wanted to at least affirm the very appropriate nature of your comment to this topic at hand.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Monday, May 15, 2006 1:22:00 PM  

Wow, you certainly are hoping for a lot from me. I will try to type this in my deep preaching voice so that it won't be too shallow. :)

As far as I Cor. 12-14. I don't think Paul was offering a compromise. I think (and I emphasize think) he was giving them advice on how they could better apply the "style" of church they were employing. Some might say that this is a mandate for the way we should do church, they might be right but I am not sure this is direct commandment here as much as it is advice. There are certain underlying principles (which I think we discussed in an earlier post) of orderliness, charity, etc. which are the commands of these chapters. Understand that I am not prepared to fall on my sword over this interpretation. Like you, I am still hashing this out in my mind, but that is the way I am leaning right now.

I think ultimately the problem in Corinth was that their methodology was divorced from their doxology and that was producing errant theology. (How's that for a three-poing outline?)

Now let me try to answer the four questions you posed.

1. I am not sure the focus of preaching in the church should come down to "one man". I know that it usually works out that way, and I think that is probably because there are too few preachers and too many churches (but that is another topic). The current institutional church (and I can agree with your definition of that) has created a monster in the pulpit. I don't know that I can answer your question of what the goal is in having a pastor preach a specified number of services each week. In all honesty, it is probably just a result of the evolution of the church.

2. As far as the church-members relationship with their pastor, I think that the pastor should be a spiritual mentor to the people. One who watches for their soul, a shepherd, the N.T. uses a number of descriptive phrases. What I do NOT think a pastor should become is a chaplain or CEO. Unfortunately, the contemporary models of pastoring are reflecting those characteristics more than they are the biblical pastoral ministry.

3. I think the desired goal of one's personal study should be for God to reveal His truth to them through the Word, to prepare them to teach others, and ideally should reinforce what they are being taught at church. I routinely tell my congregation that they should never believe something just because I preached it (although I do try to preach the truth). I encourage them to study the Word for themselves and let God plant the seed of truth in their minds.

4. As to your fourth question, I think we are dealing with a matter of idealism vs. realism. I do think your concerns have a measure of validity to them as far as what preaching has largely become. As for what it is intended to be, I believe that it can be an enhancement to growth as opposed to a hindrance.

It is when pastors become dispassionate in their own walk with God and power-hungry, or when congregations place unbiblical expectations on the pastor that the position becomes a hindrance.

I hope these answers are a little clearer than mud.

Ultimately, I believe the solution to all of these problems is for the church to return to their first love, Jesus Christ. I am convinced that when we truly love Him with all of our heart as we are commanded to, the other pieces fall into place much more easily and the outcome is much more in line with what the Bible describes.

God bless.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Monday, May 15, 2006 4:02:00 PM  

Wow guys! This is a great discussion. Gordon, I have really enjoyed reading your comments on this topic. I appreciate your willingness to discuss these sensitive issues. A few questions:
You said:
"I am not sure the focus of preaching in the church should come down to "one man". I know that it usually works out that way, and I think that is probably because there are too few preachers and too many churches (but that is another topic)."
Why do you think that there are "too few preachers"? Could it be that the current model of discipleship that we have demands a person to be overly "qualified" before taking on such a role? It seems to me that just as one must go to medical school to be a doctor, the Church has conveyed the message that "qualification" only comes after intensive theological training. I beg to differ:) Jesus didn't exactly select the "pick of the crop" when He chose the men who would "turn the world upside down", and then, to beat it all, He left them after only 3 years of "training"! A far cry from our current model and expectation.
You also said:
I routinely tell my congregation that they should never believe something just because I preached it (although I do try to preach the truth).
I have said the same thing from a pulpit on several occasions. Yet, it seems while people will read the Bible for themselves, ultimately, if their own conclusions differ from those of the pastor, they end up "punting" to the pastor. After all, "isn't he the professional"? An example from my own life: When I take a car in for service, I begin by sharing my conclusions with the mechanic as to what the problem might be (as any good man should:)). But, ultimately, when he comes back and tells me the problem is something else entirely, I accept his conclusion instead because, well, he's the "professional". While most ministers (hopefully) do not ask for this kind of trust or deferment, it seems to come with the territory. This, in and of itself, would seem to stunt the growth of a believer and keep him/her from ever trusting that God wants to reveal Himself to them.
Last of all, you said:
"As to your fourth question, I think we are dealing with a matter of idealism vs. realism."
I agree that it can seem to be nothing more than "idealism". This is one argument that kept me from venturing outside of the "institutional" church. Even though many of my conclusions were the same during my time as an associate pastor, I could not "get over the hump" of seeing how it was realistic to think that the Holy Spirit would completely lead every member during a church meeting. (Granted, I never actually had this thought, but that is what it came down to) It just didn't seem "practical". Even if this idea is currently nothing but "idealism" (which I disagree with), should that keep us from pursuing it. Should we sit stagnant at base camp simply because the giants look to big?:)
Thanks for your time!

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Monday, May 15, 2006 8:06:00 PM  

Raborn--good thoughts and questions.

Why are there not more preachers today? I think that what you described is one factor. There certainly are times when an "elitist" attitude arises in the ministry discouraging those who may be called but not "up to standard".

I believe another factor is materialism. I hate to lay the blame on something as simple as this, but I believe it to be true. Allow me to explain.

When I was growing up, there were several years where I travelled with my dad in full-time evangelism. I can remember, as recently as the 1970's, it was not unusual to go into even a "small" church and find at least 2 or 3 "preacher boys" who were preparing themselves to serve in the ministry. In larger churches that number was even higher. As years went by I saw the number decreasing. The same demographic that once was heavy with ministerial prospects was now seeking after lucrative careers. Now, if God isn't calling someone to the ministry, we all know they are a fool if they try, but I can't help but think that some were following filthy lucre rather than God's calling. I don't want to judge, and I would never tell someone that is what they are doing, but I see that as a contributing factor as well.

As far as members reading their Bibles and letting God speak to them, I am not sure that it is necessarily the pastors who are the hindrance here. Indeed, there may be some cases where this is true, but most pastors that I know strongly encourage their people to read the Word. At some point, the people must understand that they are responsible for a portion of their spiritual growth and take the initiative. I think this goes back to what I said to Steve about us returning to our first love. I have found that Christians who are truly in love with Christ have a hunger for the knowledge of the truth and they are not satisfied with just what I serve up from the pulpit, or what they hear in their class.

In my answer to Steve's fourth question, perhaps I should have defined my answer more clearly. What I meant is, you guys have objections (I believe with some degree of validity) that are focused upon the reality of the way things are.

In the ideal sense, I don't think the pastor will be a hindrance if he is truly passionate about Christ, sincerely delivering the meat of the Word, and the people are receiving it with a ready mind and willing heart.

I call this idealistic because rarely do you find all three factors in play simultaneously.

I too am thoroughly enjoying this discussion. Good effects of iron on iron happening here. God bless.

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Monday, May 15, 2006 9:02:00 PM  

Gordon, thanks for taking the time to respond. Interesting point about materialism...I haven't really thought about that before.
You said:
"As far as members reading their Bibles and letting God speak to them, I am not sure that it is necessarily the pastors who are the hindrance here. Indeed, there may be some cases where this is true, but most pastors that I know strongly encourage their people to read the Word. At some point, the people must understand that they are responsible for a portion of their spiritual growth and take the initiative."
First, let me say that it seems people must understand that they are responsible for all of their spiritual growth, especially in a country where most Christians own at least 3-4 Bibles. What do you think?
Next, I'm not sure that I made my point clear. I agree that pastors are usually not the problem when it comes to people not reading their Bibles or letting God speak to them. Most of the pastors that I know encourage believers on a regular basis to read their Bibles and pray. To me, this is not the issue. Instead, I think that just by virtue of how a church meeting is set up, people are taught to defer to the pastor's interpretation/knowledge, regardless of how much personal study they do. The very apex of the Protestant church meeting has become one man giving a monolithic discourse for 45 minutes. We point all of the chairs in the direction of one "anointed" person, hanging on his every word. As I am writing, the last sermon I preached as an associate pastor comes to mind. I talked about how we as believers do not need to go to others seeking their "anointing". The first epistle of John talks about how the anointing abides within each one of us. John goes on to say that, because of this anointing, we don't have need of continual teaching, but says that this same anointing will teach us all things (the word "teach" is in the present subjunctive active case which refers to continous or repeated action, ie. we don't need someone to continually teach us). Later, the paradoxical nature of my sermon hit home. I was teaching people that they did not have need of a teacher! How ironic, don't you think? I am not throwing out the idea of teaching altogether. I just think that we have elevated this gift to a point that it completely overshadows all of the others. Not only this, but I question the very nature of how we teach. It seems to me that the Biblical model is more that of a dialogue than a monologue; more of an interactive discussion where everyone shares (kind of like we are doing here):) The very word translated as fellowship (koinonia) seems to imply that our times together should be marked by mutuality instead of singularity.
What do you think, Gordon? Once again, thank you for your patient endurance of my lengthy questions and comments. Steve, thanks for allowing this great interaction on your blog! You are an awesome blessing!

By Blogger Raborn Johnson, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 1:02:00 AM  

Raborn, I understand your perspective here. It is true that every believer has the anointing of the Spirit. The Spirit is indeed the one who guides us into all truth. I believe though, within the context of the church, that the pastor/teacher plays a role in this. Eph. 4:11-12 describes the pastor/teacher as one who equips the saints for the work of the ministry.

Now perhaps that doesn't have to always be monolithic teaching. But I certainly think that it does factor into it.

A big difference between the days of the early church and our day is that we have the complete canon of Scripture. (Don't worry Steve, I'm not going to open that one up right now). In that day, God often spoke directly to believers. I believe in our day God speaks through His word.

This makes the interpretation of the word subjective. I often tell our church that where two Baptists are gathered together there will be three opinions. Now this is not to elevate the role of the pastor back to the "elitist" level we discussed earlier, but you need someone who knows their Bible who can assume the role of leadership.

This should never become dictatorial or elitist, however. A pastor should be accountable in all things, particularly in doctrine. Neither does the role of pastor/teacher necessarily have to be confined to one man. I am convinced that the more people a church has who are involved in teaching others, the stronger that church will be.

How do you think the role of pastor/teacher as described in Eph. 4:11-12 applies to our day?

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 7:36:00 AM  

Great comments, Gordon. I'm enjoying this discussion very much.

I would really like to see you interact with the two passages I referenced in the post (Hebrews and 1 John). Raborn went back to the 1 John passage, but to date, I haven't seen you really address those particular comments.

The reason I am pointing out those verses is because I think what you are proposing is a strengthening of one particular component of discipleship. What I am proposing is a strengthening of the entire process.

Let me explain: The Ephesians passage that you brought up references the roles of certain gifts that are designed for the building up of the body. The question is, building up for what? For doing. It is this doing of the work of the ministry that is not happening in our churches.

I started to write more, but it's so lengthy, I'm going to turn it into a post. Check in a few minutes, if it's not there yet.

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 8:40:00 AM  

Steve, I basically agree with your take on the Scriptures you referenced. I definitely believe that Christians should grow in maturity to the point of being able to teach others. Neither should they feel that they have to rely on one man for their teaching, or as Raborn said, "punt to the pastor". (Great analogy) I think we would all agree that is the ideal objective.

I think, (and this might just be my defense mechanism kicking in here) that the way the role of pastor is currently being exercised may not be the primary cause of the lack of this.

The first three chapters of Revelation come to mind here. The warnings of the seven churches of Asia were addressed to the "angels" or "messengers" of those churches, yet the meaning of the warning was for all.

I believe that what we are seeing is the "luke-warming effect" of a decline of spiritual passion. This is why the church is largely ineffective in both evangelism and discipleship. You have Christians who have their focus on the world, loving pleasure more than God, not enduring sound doctrine, satisfied with the milk and not the meat, etc. On the other hand, the church has infused so many worldly and man-centered techniques into its function that it has ceased to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit, thus producing the "institutional church" to which you referred earlier. The pastors probably are the most culpable in this side of the equation.

I have been doing some thinking and theorizing on how the modern model of the American/British church developed. I want to do some more research before I speak to it, though.

On a sidenote, my verification code is: ibryt (I be right) lol, I couldn't pass that one up!

By Blogger Gordon Cloud, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:16:00 AM  

That is hilarious about your verification code!!! LOL Thanks for sharing that. Mine is "ibheretikl"...does that mean anything? (just kidding...it's not that!)

I think you definitely are right in the blame being on both sides. I do want to clarify, if I haven't already, that in these posts, I am not trying to put all the blame on the position of pastor/preacher. Granted, I'm picking on it quite a bit, but it's just one element in the mix.

The thing Raborn was trying to point out is what I've been trying to articulate, too. There is an element to which the way we play out the pastor/preacher model encourages this kind of immaturity. It may not be the sole cause of it (I agree with you that it isn't), but it doesn't seem to help! ;)

The aspect of physically arranging our church sanctuaries to put the preacher at the center and elevated sends a subconscious signal, not that the Word is central, but that the man is central.

The fact that our services are dominated by the monologue-style sermon sends a signal that this is the most important part of the Christian worship gathering. Note that I'm not complaining that the Word itself is central, or that teaching in general is central, but that the manner in which it is presented (lecture format) is central.

Finally, I have to keep coming back to the instructions in 1 Corinthians 14. Teaching was to be weighed by others. In context, it was weighed publicly and on the spot. This does not happen in our current model, and in fact, would not even be accepted if it were. No one in the so-called laity would even dare stand up and say, "What you just spoke is incorrect." So the model sends a signal to the "laity" that the speaker is authoritative, not the message. This is a crucial distinction.

Having said all that, I still don't think we're far apart at all. I'm not seeking to tear down anything (except maybe a few vain traditions), but to see a greater fulfillment of the gifts that have been given to us by the Holy Spirit for our maturity.

I do agree with you on the elder/mentor thing, because that is clearly biblical, in my opinion. This whole discussion really has to do with a particular aspect of that, namely the monologue-style lecture that is considered of prime importance, and is very, very rarely negotiable (except in the rare case of a guest minister, in which case, they usually do their own lecture). It's that very narrow thing that I'm talking about.

The new post is up for your further attack...uhhh, I mean, discussion! ;)

steve :)

By Blogger Steve Sensenig, at Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:50:00 AM  

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