This will be my turn to brag a little about my dad. He is the most talented musician I have ever met. However, I have watched him sacrifice personal acclaim for the service of Jesus. This past Sunday night he taught from Psalm 118 at his church. If you are familiar with SBC churches you might understand how rare it is to find a “Music Minister” who is genuinely qualified and gifted to be a pastor.
When I was in high school I was tired of “church.” I was sick of people who called themselves Christians and demonstrated the opposite in their living. It was only the consistent example of my parents at home and in public that reassured me that Christianity was for more than just “show.” My dad has always modeled a servant’s heart, a scholar’s mind, and genuine commitment to the Lordship of Christ in all things.
The Bible is clear that the home is an essential component in the discipleship of children. I once heard a youth pastor say about the role of the church, “we can’t fix in four hours what you screw up in seven days.” Maybe not the most sensitive statement, but definitely true. Parents provide the framework for Christianity and the way they live and parent will either affirm or deny the legitimacy of the gospel in the life of their children.
October 23-25 Nansemond River Baptist Church (Suffolk, VA) hosted a D*Now weekend for young adults (“Disciple Now” for those unfamiliar). I wanted to bring in a few good teachers so I convened the “unlikely disciples” triumvirate. All of the Bible Study materials and worship services were directly focused on Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The result was a chance to hear, explain, and apply the gospel while modeling how to read a meaningful unit from the text of Scripture.
Below are the four main teaching times from Bryan and Andy (apologies that Bryan’s second message was truncated due to technical difficulties on the recording end).
01 The Gospel Matters (Galatians 1_1-10) 1
02 Gospel Confrontation (Galatians 2_11-16) 1
03 Do I Have a Story to Tell_ (Galatians 4_8-11) 1
04 The Gospel for All of Life (Galations 5_1-6) 1
How do I describe the impact of C. J. Mahaney’s message this weekend? I have yet to hear a teacher of the Bible who so accurately understands his own shortcomings yet so clearly magnifies God. Mahaney taught from 2 Timothy 4:1-5 and encouraged faithfulness to the gospel through the content and character of the preacher.
Mahaney made clear that the Word of God is essential to the church. Before being overwhelmed by the obvious he traced out the implications of such a thought. For example, the primacy of the Word of God should be reflected in the schedule of the preacher (i.e., I should set aside adequate time to unhurriedly exegete, applicate, and illustrate the text of Scripture). I cannot let lesser duties overwhelm this primary concern nor can I allow sinful procrastination to cripple my Bible Study.
I was also reminded during this time that a pastor/elder is most adequately equipped to teach the Bible at a particular church because preaching requires pastoral skill and discernment to teach and apply the Bible. A pastor should know the struggles and victories of his congregation and, therefore, know the appropriate use of admonition and exhortation. I would not want to admonish the weak and encourage the unruly! This requires an atmosphere of community that is conducive to openly sharing life.
Mahaney pierced my heart with his encouragement to preach “with all patience” (2 Tim. 4:2). It is sometimes easier to give a weekly monologue than be patient with people. I must always keep in the front of my mind God’s patience with me. Further, I cannot expect my listeners to immediately understand and apply everything I preach. God has been slowly working on my heart and I have been “living in the text” for weeks. How foolish of me to think that what took me weeks and years to understand will immediately be fully grasped by my audience. Further, it is the height of arrogance to think that I am such a good communicator as to condense years worth of Biblical study and personal sanctification into a single hour-long sermon.
All-in-all I must persevere in the careful and consistent teaching of the Word of God and “be grateful and surprised” that anyone shows up to hear me speak at all!
In evaluating my ministry with high school and middle school students I am continually depressed by their understanding of the Bible. Many of these young adults have been going to church for years. Most of them are self-professed Christians. However, if I ask them to quote 5 verses from the Bible, I suspect few of them could. Most of them could not give even a basic description of entire books of the Old Testament such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, or Judges (just to name a few). I have come to the realization that the deficiency is more in the teaching of the church than the ability of the students. Here are some reasons I think our young adults are largely Biblically illiterate.
1. Emphasizing character traits more than Christ. In the desire to teach young adults morality we often miss Christ. We treat the Bible like a playbook (sorry Joe Gibbs and Tony Dungy) and look for principles of successful living. As a result we have considerate students who do not know Jesus. We get to a passage such as Luke 4 (the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness) and teach students how they can use magical Bible bullets to defeat Satan while neglecting to mention how Jesus (the second Adam) passes the test where Adam failed. We forget to show how Jesus’ time in the wilderness is a reversal of the Israelites’ failures in the wilderness (that is probably why all of Jesus’ quotations to the devil are from Deuteronomy 6 and 8). The result of character overemphasis is the creation of virtuous pagans.
2. Relying on literature about the Bible more than the Bible. My new goal in equipping gospel ministers is to free them from shiny Sunday School quarterlies. If I am unable to explain “the gospel according to the Scriptures” then I cannot teach it. I want to understand and articulate the gospel according to the Scriptures and use Bible helps only as a secondary study tool. If we imply that the Bible is not sufficient and perspicuous (+3 points for a seminary word) then those we teach will feel ill-equipped to study it on their own.
3. Not modeling good Bible-study. When teaching I must not only communicate the truth of a meaningful passage of Scripture I must demonstrate good tools of Bible Study that can be reproduced in the lives of those I am teaching. While I might not walk them through my hermeneutical method explicitly they should absorb a method of faithful exegesis.
4. Unnecessarily low expectations. Each Christian is a fully capable minister of Christ. Further, many of the adults in my church are more intelligent and educated than I. The young adults in my student ministry spend their days studying Trigonometry, Latin, and Physics. The people I teach are more than capable to grasp the things of God. It is arrogant and incorrect to treat them as if they cannot understand the “deep” truths of Scripture.
I am still trying to work out the implications of these suggestions but my basic goals are to trust that the Bible is sufficient, clearly articulate the gospel, and focus on discipleship rather than entertainment in my model of ministry. Jesus is compelling and relevant. I must give students every opportunity to know, follow, and obey Jesus.