A Challenge to the Leaders of the Church Today
John W Gardiner was Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson. He wrote and said: – “An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
- This he could have easily said in the context of “sound teaching, clear, regular and systematic doctrinal teaching” in the Church of Jesus Christ today.
Before we move on let’s ask ourselves the question – “What Is the Bible?” the question needs to be asked and answered because it forms the very “seed bed” of faith and all things relating to our journeys of faith as the Bride of Christ (The Church.)
What is the Bible?
- The Bible is the Word of God.
- The Bible is the means whereby every child of God is “thoroughly equipped for every good work” “2 Timothy 3:16-17”
- The Word of God is “inspired” meaning that it is “God-breathed.”
- The Word of God, the Bible affirms God’s presence in our lives.
- Interestingly, there are some folks who falsely claim, “we don’t need the Bible because we can feel God’s presence in our lives.” But how do they know that, if they do not know who He is from His own revelation?
- The Word of God declares God’s nature.
- The nature of His goodness and His greatness.
- It reveals God demonstrating His personality and attributes.
- The Word of God shows us that He is “love, merciful and forgiving but also Holy and Righteous.”
- The Word of God reveals how we can be saved from sin. “What must I do to be saved?” This question is asked and answered in the Word of God.
- It is without a doubt that without the Word of God the Bible, we would know nothing of God’s plan, God’s purpose in Jesus Christ, and God’s offer of peace and pardon through the cross of Calvary.
- The Word of God provides our blueprint for Christian living.
- The Word of God shows us the “real purpose” of the first commandment to love God, and the second which cannot be separated from the first how to “truly love our neighbour as ourselves.”
- The Word of God provides the revelation of the eternal destiny of creation.
In light of these things, we should consider what it has to say as of paramount importance. That’s unfortunately “where the rub comes” as said in Shakespeare’s Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1. Unfortunately, though, we live in a day and generation where the “paramount importance” is underestimated, undervalued, and diminished. We are left with in many places the “paramount importance” stretching no further than the “weekly motivational speech” or “weekly inspiration sermon” or “spiritual social gatherings” in all of these containing only smatterings of actual “biblical and doctrinal teaching” within any of them.
We have come into a situation in so many places where “false teachers are in growth patterns, there is an inconsistency of correct priorities along with and insipid evangelism” and where “being evangelical has replaced evangelism.”
I recall with great fondness that from the time of conversion on the 4th April 1968 at 21:50hrs right up until I went to Bible College being in a regular Tuesday evening Bible Study evening in which Biblical Doctrines such as – The Atonement, Justification by Faith, Penal Substitution, Gods’ Sovereignty, Sin, Repentance and the realities of Heaven and Hell – amongst others were clearly taught. On a Sunday Evening direction was given on how to live out what was taught and then on a Sunday Evening seeing it all outworked through the proclamation of the “real preaching of the Gospel.”
My conviction is that in order to live according to the tenets of the faith which has been handed down to us that we must be aware of what they are! There is a dilemma facing the Church of Jesus Christ today, in so many places which for the most part is either being ignored for an easy life or isn’t even being recognised.
In the past two decades and especially manifesting itself during the pandemic we have and are going through many church goers have fallen by the wayside and in many cases are not returning to church and may never do so again.
My fellow Leaders and Pastors – We are to blame for this present predicament we find ourselves in. Over the past 40yrs even though it’s been a slow progress of decline and the importance of foundational doctrinal teaching has diminished. Now many between the 25-40 age group who are also known as the “millennial generation” are in church organisation leadership roles and the mindset of millennials is significantly different from earlier generations. It’s an interesting concept to muse upon further. The Millennial Generation is the generation born between 1981 and 1996.
We need to once again come face to face with what the Scripture tells us in “Jeremiah 23:1-4” – “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.”
We may be tempted to say – “Oh! I have a growing church congregation and there are time constraints” or “The culture today is not orientated in that way anymore” or “Societies and members of our churches priorities are different now” the answer to all of these is – “Re-organise Time for that which is of paramount importance, Change the Culture of our church congregations by emphasising once again that which is of paramount importance and teach once again what are the right priorities that we as God’s Children should have.” Let’s recognise afresh my brethren that it’s not “Renovation, Reformation or Reorganisation that we need its Rebirth both inside and outside of our congregations.”
What is it that we hear so much of today? Here are some common statements and sentiments which are banded about both “In and Out of Church circles.” However, we need to ask ourselves the question “are they either Biblical or acceptable if we truly claim to be Children of God?”
- “I don’t need theology. Just give me Jesus!”
- “No creed but Christ.”
- “Deeds, not creeds.”
These statements amongst the many others reveal an intrinsic misunderstanding of what doctrine is. What is Doctrine? Well! Doctrine is simply a set of accepted beliefs held by a particular group. Biblical doctrine defines the parameters of Christian teaching on a given topic, such as God, sin, salvation, etc.
Every Child of God is called upon to study doctrine, and to learn essential theological truths for the purpose of embracing them into their lives. The Scripture tells us plainly that we are nourished by doctrine in order to be good ministers of Christ – “1 Timothy 4:6” – “If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.” This is aimed at those in the “ministry,” but the fact is that we are all called to be “good ministers of Christ.” In addition, we are hold that we must hold on to what we have been taught “Titus 1:9” – “…hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.” Also, that we should avoid those who promote false and incorrect doctrine “Romans 16:17” – “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.”
All of these present a significant problem which is clearly apparent – If we do not fulfil “1 Timothy 4:6” as those in leadership then “Titus 1:9” cannot be carried out and there will be a blindness, ignorance and an impossibility of “Romans 16:17” relating to the proponents of false teaching that are abounding.
When people repeat mantras such as “Christianity is a life, not a doctrine” – “We don’t need to know all that theological or doctrinal stuff. We just need to know Jesus.” Or “Well, I am not a theologian and never expect to be. I just love Jesus.” it’s then noticeably clear that they are either adopting a “Christian Pop Culture” indicating a distaste for claims to truth that are absolute or they by their actions are saying that what they are hearing is a dry, academic approach to the God’s Word.
What do I say to this? I say that, if we view the Christian life as one of “merely loving Jesus and loving others,” at the expense of understanding theological truths, we then are and will continue to be ill-equipped to guard the doctrine that has been handed down to us. We will not be able to stand in the “day of adversity” we will be as so many “tossed around by every wind of doctrine” – “Ephesians 4:14”and find ourselves led down a road of heretical beliefs by the “many false prophets that are finding their ways into our gatherings” because we remain infants until the edifices we have and are perhaps building collapse around our feet.
Interestingly there was survey carried out by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research. It was shocking to discover what they discovered: – It found that of Protestant Evangelicals.
|1||11% strongly agree that Jesus was the first creature created by God.|
|2||17% believe that the Father is “more divine” than Jesus.|
|3||35% believe the Holy Spirit to be a spiritual force rather than a personal being.|
Sure, it was an American survey, but it reveals the disease that it is filling the globe in which we live.
The Bible makes plain the importance of adhering to sound teaching. But how can we be faithful to that which we are not familiar? Knowing and loving Jesus in truth is absolutely dependent on the teachings of the Word of God.
The Danger of Forgetting Doctrine
The Church over this last two decades has begun to look at doctrine in much the same terms as the world that’s why I used the phrase earlier “Christian Pop Culture” an opinion whose authority can be questioned on the basis of new realities; shifts in culture and thought.
As long as we still tell people that Jesus loves them, what does it matter how we go about it? In today’s world simply preaching the Gospel doesn’t work is what we are told – Oh! we need and have got to offer them more. That’s the mindset of a substantial majority of the Christian Church and unfortunately, it’s Leaders today. That’s also the reason why many of our congregations are growing only at the expense of other congregations rather that seeing people come to Christ and discovering saving faith.
The anti-intellectual, anti-authority society, that we all live in and have grown up in especially when it comes to religious matters is one for the most part built upon an existential experience driven journey. We love the “warm fuzzy, feel good” meetings and teaching and why? Because they feed the “Selfie, Facebook and especially Narcissistic” attitudes and Self-centred Mentality. Testimonies are “Good and Essential” but will never replace “Teaching” that comes out of the realities of our walk with God.
Why Doctrine Matters
We live in a day and age, when perhaps more than ever before there is an urgent need stand up for the message of Jesus Christ as set forth by the Word of God. In this “anything and everything goes” culture of both the World and the Church we need to both “Know and stand for the truth.”
What the pagan and much of the Church congregations are saying is “We do not need doctrine. We don’t want boundaries, just leave us alone and let us do our own thing.
However, more than ever before we certainly do need doctrine and our Churches need to be once again filled with “Bible Teachers” who will regularly teach their congregations, re-organise their ministries to give time to it and stop sitting on their fences and declare openly “What they believe.”
My Brothers and Sisters let’s not denigrate or belittled strong Biblical Doctrinal Teaching. The truth has not changed because new realities; shifts in culture and thought have arisen.
To finish let me once again remind us of what John W Gardiner said “The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will neither have good plumbing no good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
God Bless You my Brothers & Sisters in your Journeys of Faith