Why Pastors Need a Vacation

August 2, 2012

You may or may not have missed this blog too much. I missed connecting with you folks, but of course, but one of the reasons this was not updated was because I was away on vacation. And, in all honesty, I was glad to be away from this blog and the other burdens of pastoral ministry.

Please don’t get me wrong. My family and I are happy to be serving our little church and love them all. But just as everyone needs to get away for a little bit to rest and recharge, so does the pastor. And while we as pastors never “turn off” (we’re always thinking about the church and its needs), the change of venue and schedule can be just what we need in order to be even more effective as a minister of the Gospel. Let me give you a few reasons why it is so important for the pastor to “get away”.

 Rest

Frankly, all people need rest. And pastors are no different. The burdens of ministry weigh down on pastors in some ways, like no other job. As administrators, public speakers, public relations specialists, researches, counselors, and various other hats, we have lawyers educations, work doctors hours, and generally do not receive similar benefits. The minimum we can do is take some time away to rest and detach from ministry for our own sake and for the sake of our families who put up with a lot less attention because we are devoting our attention elsewhere. Sitting in our little cottage in the Finger Lakes, we could do as we please: go swimming, go to the park, go to the zoo, or simply stay in and read and relax. What a blessing it is to do so!

 Reflect

It is true that pastors never truly “turn off.” We don’t have a profession like others who don’t have to think about it when they aren’t doing it. If you work in a factory, I doubt you worry about your machine working properly while you are away. Yet, pastors do not have true replacements. We are always thinking about the life of our church and how we can grow and improve. Yet, it is in a different context. Without all the routine of regular church life, we can focus and think about the big picture and the situation we are all in and how to make improvements and adjustments. We might not have major epiphanies but we often can think differently about our ministry while away to the benefit of all.

 Relax

The burden of Sunday’s can be exhausting. Planning and executing, preaching and reading. It’s hard sometimes as the pastor to actually enjoy the worship service. When we are away, we attend other churches and we are able to sit, and participate like other believers and be fed. All too often, despite all the reading pastors do, we don’t get fed enough because we’re always busy feeding others. Being away in another church allows us to be fed so we can be strengthened to be able to feed you further. Plus, there is the benefit that you will able to be fed by a different person than me. While consistency is good and having the same person preach each week is the best idea, it’s good for you to hear other people as well, especially people in our own flock. I am thankful for the men of our church and their excellent job in filling in for me. I think if the Lord ever took me from this Church (God forbid!) you would be in capable hands!

 Recognize

Lastly, what this allows us to do is to recognize just how blessed we are. Even though we get to hear other preachers and be with other Christians, we are always reminded how much we miss our own people when we are away. We were glad to get away on vacation, but we recognize where we want to be is with our church family. Thank you everyone for providing for us the time away to sit back and relax and rest and review. The greatest benefit of all, is that it, Lord willing, makes me a better husband, father, and shepherd of God’s flock!

 We’re glad to be home!


9Marks Journal – The Mindset of the New Evangelical Liberalism

January 15, 2010

9Marks has their January/February eJournal available now on the subject of “The Mindset of The New Evangelical Liberalism.” Writers include Carl Trueman, Al Mohler, Russ Moore, Greg Wills, Michael Horton, D. G. Hart, and Phil Johnson. This looks particularly helpful as pastors and churches continue to understand the theological and cultural milieu that they find themselves in. What is an evangelical? What must someone believe to be an evangelical? Who should churches cooperate with? These are excellent questions and I highly recommend this series of articles on the subject.

You can access this material here.


Not a Failure

June 25, 2009

In this post, Ken Davis, Pastor of Thistletown Baptist Church, Etobicoke, ON addresses the issues of success and failure in the ministry.

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I am not happy about the number of conversions in my church. I want to be baptizing genuine believers on a weekly basis. I want the community where my church does its work to know that we are here and know they are welcome and that we care for them. I want a budget that enables us to get more pastors on staff, maintains more ministries to the needy, and has evangelism programmes that makes the Gospel known in the marketplace. I want the walls of our church building to bulge on Sundays because of the people pushing to get in. I want my life and my church to be the vehicles used by God to bring large, significant, life altering change to the community. In short, I want to be successful.

Success in the ministry. Who doesn’t want that? No one, not pastors or anyone else, plans to be a failure. And this is not wrong. Paul told the Thessalonian church that his work among them was not a failure (I Thessalonians 2:1). The issue is hardly one of success versus failure.

No one wants, or should want, to fail. God does not call people to fail.

In fact, a large part of the Gospel message is that God never loses. He loses none of all that He gives the Son (John 6:39). He is going to totally vanquish all His enemies and all who belong to Him shall be victorious with Him. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (I John 4:5). The reward of eternal life is for those who conquer (Revelation 2-3). Jesus promises great reward for those who triumph over their opponents and temptations. God is the ultimate winner and He never fails to achieve what He sets out to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11). To be on the side of the triune God is to be gloriously successful. It cannot be otherwise. No, the issue is never “Does God want success?” the issue is always “Is this the success that God wants?”

The trouble with so much of the contemporary North American church in this matter, is that success and failure are defined somewhat differently than God defines them in the Scriptures. Various arms of Christ’s church will speak of success in their ministries, churches and denominations in different ways. Meeting the financial goals is a common one and in churches that practise believers’ baptism the number of baptisms performed can be set as a standard for success. Many evangelical churches will measure success in the number of converts, or worse, in the “decisions” made.

Those of us in pastoral ministry face incredible pressure to produce results in our work. Pastors can be blamed for everything from a lack of conversions to the faulty plumbing. Too few converts, too few baptisms, too little money in the plate, lack of attendance Sunday night, Wednesday night and a general lack of interest in spiritual things can all be traced back to the pastor and therefore make him to be the failure. Like the sports team that fires it coach for its lackluster performance, churches are most likely to blame its pastors for its lack of success. This is not to be unexpected and it is not always wrong.

People expect much from their leaders and quite often we who lead are far too willing to give them the impression that we can perform a respectable evangelical not-contrary-to-nature miracle in the form of increased attendance, increased baptisms, increased conversions, increased giving, increased influence in the broader community. Just as the sheep are prone to blame the leadership for the lack of results in the desired area, so too the leaders are prone to blame the lack of commitment, the lack of vision, the refusal to buy into our flawless vision, as the real reason for the lack of success. This is human nature and, sad to state, it is thriving in the church. Failure is always someone else’s fault. We are the perfect children of our first parents:

“the woman you gave me…”, “the serpent deceived me” (Genesis 3).

Pastors should be at least willing to consider that there might be some justification for the church’s expectations of its spiritual leadership.

Paul’s comment to Timothy that if Timothy watches his life and doctrine closely then he will save both himself and those who hear him is a text that we who are pastors need to treat very seriously and adjust ourselves accordingly if the fruit that Paul guarantees is not present.

In defence of the pastor in light of that text, Paul does not say how many converts there will be and we know that he does not mean everyone who hears the preacher will be saved. Nor does Paul say when these converts will be realized. We all know that William Carey laboured for many years before he saw anyone come to a saving knowledge of Christ.

And if that one convert after Carey’s eight years in India was the only one that he got the whole time he was there then the promise of Paul to Timothy would have been proven accurate.

This, of course, is where much of the contemporary North American church in many circles is simply patently unbiblical. It often crosses the line from wanting success in terms of converts, doctrinal soundness and holiness of life to wanting to be what other churches, pastors, denominations and ministries that have a successful track record are.

The next step after that, is to conclude that we can be like them if we do what they did. If it worked for them, it is reasoned, then it will work for us and we will have the same results as they did. The Scriptures then cease to be the standard of behaviour or success. The successful church/ministry/denomination is. This is idolatry. It is faith in a plan, a programme, an idea or someone’s philosophy of ministry. It necessarily credits the skills and gifts and genius of those who developed the plan. It is the plan that is to be credited and so the plan is canned and sold to frustrated, discouraged and maligned churches and leaders as the answer to their fruitlessness. It is the non-prosperity Gospel version of the prosperity Gospel that evangelicals enjoy slamming so much. We would never say that God’s will for everybody is health and wealth and we will preach the opposite, but we don’t mind preaching that the necessary evidence of being in the will of God for a church is conversions, big budgets, multi-pastor staffs, building programmes and exponential growth. “And you can too, if you adopt our plan”.

This is a horrible thing to do to a pastor whose heart aches for converts and longs to know that what he is doing matters for eternity.

It is like putting a dish of food just beyond the reach of the hungry, chained dog. The poor creature will do almost anything to get at that food. And the poor despairing pastor will just about do anything to become something that matters, because it has simply been far too long since he tasted the succulence of real success. And far too many denominational leaders, magazine articles, books and church boards believe that dangling that meat is the right thing to do.

Again, all this is not to say that the absence of conversions, growth, money and multi-pastor churches are the sign of God’s blessing either.

That is the point being made here. Let’s define success differently.

How then, should we define success?

The answer lies in the Scriptures. “You know”, Paul said to the Thessalonians, “that our coming to you was not in vain”. How did he know that? Let’s look at the text.

1 Thess. 2:1-10 (ESV)

For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. [2] But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. [3] For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, [4] but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. [5] For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed— God is witness. [6] Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. [7] But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. [8] So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. [9] For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. [10] You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers.

How could Paul say that his work was not in vain?

1) Verse 2 – He was bold to preach the Gospel in the midst of much conflict, and with a record of suffering everywhere he had preached, before he got to Thessalonica. In fact when we look at the record of Paul’s travels through Asia and Macedonia in Acts 14-17 we are taken, not so much with the fact that Paul suffered whenever he preached, but that he dusted himself off every time and went to another city to do the same thing all over again. If you leave a situation because of the trouble you got into and then go to another place and do the very thing that got us into trouble before, knowing that it is going to do the same thing again, you may be called a lot of things, but successful will not one of them. But that is what God calls it. We need to reacquaint ourselves with a solid biblical doctrine of suffering for the Gospel.

Most of the Christians in most of the world have to deal with horrific costs to their belief in Jesus. The West has, at least up until now, been spared much of that. With the clear teaching of Scripture that we are only heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ if we suffer with Him (Romans 8:16-17), and the fact that all who live godly will suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12), we ought to be wondering about the validity of our faith, more than how we can become more successful. We are failures if we do not suffer for Jesus Christ. We are successful if we continue to give the Gospel knowing that it is going to cause others to oppose us, hurt us, ignore us, ridicule us and relegate us to the fringes of society.

2) Verse 3-5 – Paul’s goal was to please God. He spoke the truth, his life was pure and he was absent of deception. Paul reminds the Thessalonian Christians of this by stating everything in the negative.

He was not impure. He did not speak error and he did not deceive. The reason he was not those things is because he was far too busy trying to do and be something else – one who pleases God. The absence of those unacceptable traits was because of his God centeredness. He went into Thessalonica with the goal of pleasing God. The question he asked himself as he made his plans for Gospel penetration of Thessalonica was “What does God want?” Failure is when the horizontal takes precedence over the vertical. Success is keeping the vertical in the first place.

The primary reason for declaring the Gospel is the glory of God. God is glorified in the salvation of sinners. We should of course be motivated by compassion for the lost, for the social improvements that true conversion brings and the love that results. But ahead of them all is the glory of God. Our goal is specifically not to please people. We seek to please God with the knowledge that we will have to give account for not only our work, but our motives as well. We have failed if we cannot look inside ourselves and claim to be pleasing to God because we know our motives are pure and have led to work that is right. We are a great success when we can go to bed at night and know that God has said, “well done”, no matter what the results are.

3) Verse 5-6 – Paul was not duplicitous. He was not trying to be one thing with people for the sake of impressing them or getting something out of them. Paul could look back on his time with the Thessalonians and find great encouragement from the fact that no one could justifiably say that he had bilked them of money or things. He was free of hypocrisy. He didn’t offer free gifts to people for the sake of getting money from them. In fact he refused to take money from them and worked at his trade in order to keep body and soul together rather than lay himself open to the charge of being into the Thessalonians for their money. No insisting on his rights being respected, his income being adequate to his education and experience, his need for four weeks a year holidays and two weeks of conferences. He avoided such things so that the Gospel would be what people remembered and fled to. Here is success; a clear conscience with God and men. To live and work in the work of the Gospel in such a way today that one knows he can recite II Timothy 4:7-8 when he is about to leave this life.

4) Verse 7-8 – The opposite of being duplicitous for the sake of getting things out of people is to give yourself to them at your expense. Paul knew his work was a success because his heart was burdened for the Thessalonians and he showed it with practical, on hands loving service for them. He loved them. We can identify with Linus, from Peanuts, who exclaimed “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand”. People can be very trying. They can be demanding, hard headed, hard hearted, dull, stupid, stubborn and unteachable. I can’t imagine anyone who has pastored who hasn’t encountered the depraved human nature in some form that demonstrated itself in opposition or unfaithfulness. It can be tempting to see simply surviving in some situations as the mark of success. We are not told if Paul encountered the kind of problems with the Thessalonians as he did with the Corinthians, but I doubt whether it would have mattered. Paul did not love the Thessalonians because of their wonderful personalities. He loved them because it was his calling.

Because of who called Him. You want success? Love your people; especially the hard headed, hard hearted, dull, stubborn, and unteachable.

5) There is one final mark of success hat needs to be brought out from this text. In the first verse of this chapter Paul calls the Thessalonians “brothers”. The Lord calls a man into the pastoral ministry because He is going to save one or more people through his ministry. The Thessalonians knew that Paul’s ministry with them was not a failure because they were saved. If he had not visited them, they would not have heard the Gospel. This does not mean that every pastor is going to have a mega-church with hundreds of converts being added to the church every year. It doesn’t even necessarily mean that the pastor will be aware of all the people he has influenced with the Gospel. But it does mean that someone whom God has called into the pastoral ministry will be used by God to lead or influence someone into the Kingdom of God. I Timothy 4:16 leads us to this conclusion as well 1 Tim. 4:16

(ESV) Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. So here is real success. Someone is going to live for God’s glory and get to eternal glory because God chose to use you to win Him.

The striking thing about all these marks of real success in the ministry is that they all are a result of the grace of God at work in the heart of the pastor. And since they are all the result of God’s grace they serve the purpose of drawing attention, not to the pastor who has exhibited them, but to the God of grace who has enabled him to exhibit them. This is truly the mark of success. When the people you preach to and visit and pray for; when they meet you and after hearing you preach, teach and pray; when they have been visited by you and been led through a meeting by you; their conclusion should not be what a great pastor they have. The conclusion should be what a great God they have.

I want to be baptizing genuine believers on a weekly basis. I want the community where my church does its work to know that we are here and that they know they are welcome and that we care for them. I want a budget that enables us to get more pastors on staff, maintains more ministries to the needy, and has evangelism programmes that makes the Gospel known in the marketplace. I want the walls of our church building to bulge on Sundays because of the people pushing to get in. I want my life and my church to be the vehicles used by God to bring large, significant, life altering change to the community. And I want my people, when such things happen, not to say, “Aren’t we blessed to have such a pastor who brings us such great success”. I want them to say, “How utterly amazing it is that God should allow us to know Him and be used by Him. He has done great things for us and we are glad.” And, like Paul, I will know that my work among them was not a failure.

Ken Davis has been Pastor of Thistletown Baptist Church, Etobicoke, ON since 1993.


Ministering to the So-Called “Generation Gap”

June 5, 2009

My wife, Tracy Mickle, who is a keen observer of how we do ministry, offers her thoughts here on “Ministering to the So-Called ‘Generation Gap.'”

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One of the significant challenges facing most churches is what many people are calling today “the generation-gap.” This generation-gap refers to those who are approximately between 20 and 35 years of age. Churches today find themselves concerned and perplexed as they seem to have a harder time drawing, connecting with, and maintaining this age group. Because I find myself within this age group, and have friends who are there too, I would like to comment on some of the methods churches have used to try to appeal to this group.

The usual wisdom of today in dealing with this enigmatic group has been to try to make church less formal, more approachable, and more relevant. In short, churches have tried to become friendlier and less austere. While some of this is probably appropriate and good, discussions I have had with many of my friends and acquaintances shows that this is not always the best way to reach out to these singles, students, and young professionals.

I have been very surprised to find that most people my age want the same things I want! They find church too informal with not enough hymn-singing; music that is too loud, and a real lack of reverence in many of our evangelical churches. Lest we think this is only coming from people who grew up in Christian homes and evangelical churches, I recently had a very interesting conversation with some friends who could be categorized as “seekers.” While they are attending a very contemporary church, they are disappointed in the overly relaxed atmosphere, informal dress of the congregation, and a general lack of awe and reverence they would expect to find in a church. After all, they believe church should look different then the everyday world in which we live. Among the population of “churched” young adults, one can find a similar sentiment. After a difficult church split at my home church in Pennsylvania, there are still young adults wandering around visiting churches and wishing they could find some place that “sings a few more hymns.”

What are we to make of all of this? After all, aren’t we giving people what they want when we try to “meet them where they are?” I am no church-planting or church-growth expert, but let me humbly suggest some points to ponder based on my own observations.

First, most people want to feel a sense of awe and reverence when they attend church. While we would all agree that everyday and every event in a Christian’s life is “sacred” (we must avoid at all costs the dichotomy of sacred verses secular in our lives), it is also appropriate to set aside the time that we meet with God’s people to worship corporately the living and all-powerful God of the universe as a special time. We want to approach and treat this time with the respect it deserves. Perhaps we all should consider entering the sanctuary with a more reverent attitude. Maybe we need to tone down our loud conversations and boisterous laughter and focus on preparing our hearts for worship. Fellowship and enjoying one another’s company is wonderful, but maybe some of the noisier parts of that should be left for after the service is over. Some formality in the structure of our services also gives people a sense of routine and tradition. It is a connection with the saints of the past as well as a foundation upon which to plant our feet for the future.

Second, in my experience it is not true that young adults only want to sing choruses. Most people I speak with would enjoy a blended service, but we typically find the blend to be rather out of balance. My experience with blended services is that there is usually a ratio of about 80-90% choruses and 10-20% hymns. While everyone agrees that there are some excellent choruses and modern worship music out there, we would like to see a more balanced approach with approximately equal time for both choruses and hymns. Expanding our hymn repertoire would also be wonderful. Our evangelical churches tend to love the gospel hymns of the late 1800s and early 1900s, but let’s not ignore some of the wonderful chorale hymns of the 1500s through the 1700s. Hymns like “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” and “All Creatures of Our God and King” speak tremendous theology which is much needed in our day. The bulk of our hymnals contain gospel hymns, so we may have to go searching for some of these older hymns, but I think we will find the search well worth the effort.

Third, let’s consider turning down the volume on the drums and guitars. While additional instruments are wonderful and can add much to the service when done well, they often are so loud they drown out the singing. The truth of the matter is that the louder the music, the less people will be inclined to fully sing out because they can’t hear themselves singing! Too much noise in the service is a distraction.

Fourth, let’s consider resurrecting the “king of instruments”—the organ. While the organ is not necessarily appropriate for every song we sing in church, there is nothing like it for inspiring reverence, awe, and wonderful singing from a congregation—again, when it is played well. Surprisingly, there is a longing for this standard “church instrument” almost every time I discuss these issues with people.

Fifth, people my age are hungry for solid, though-provoking, challenging sermons. We don’t want to hear pat answers or short, simple sermons. We want to grow and be changed. We live in a complex world with many challenges and difficulties. Young adults are longing for solid answers from the Bible on how to live a consistent Christian life in today’s world. Anything less insults peoples’ intelligence and leaves us without hope that we can grow and change and “work out our salvation” (Phil 2:12).

Doing church is quite a daunting task in today’s world and I hope I am sympathetic to the struggles. Everyone is concerned for the future of the church, and realistically it is the “generation-gap” of today that should be in training to take up the work of the church and be tomorrow’s leaders. It is important to reach out to this group of people and do what we can to bring them into our churches and hold them accountable to faithful attendance. For those who are in the household of faith, we need to realize that some tradition, reverence, and awe are good things and need to be resurrected in some of our churches. Even the “seekers” whom we are so desperate to reach innately realize that it is a serious matter to fall into the hands of the Living God (Heb 10:31).

By God’s grace, I believe we can maintain the best of what has been good in the past while we expand and use the best of what is good today. Let’s make sure that in the attempt to update our services and keep them relevant and spontaneous, we don’t lose the tradition and solemnity that has always marked the church and set it apart from the world. If we can keep these two extremes in balance, we may find that the very group we want so urgently to reach will find what they are looking for in our church services.


Is Too Much Bible Teaching the Problem or the Solution?

January 29, 2009

“We don’t need more Bible teaching. We’ve got so much Bible teaching that people cannot put it all into practice. We need help with application of that teaching.”

Have you ever heard this or a variant of this? I hear this kind of comment more and more in churches. And on the surface, it seems to make some sense. While some churches are down to one service on Sunday’s, many still have the typical big four: Sunday School, Sunday AM Service, Sunday PM Service, and Mid-week Prayer and Bible Study. Add to this a possible small group and you could have up to 4–5 teaching times from the Scriptures every week. This is a lot of Bible! Perhaps there is much to be said for those who claim that we have enough Bible teaching and what we need to do now is live it out.

I beg to differ.

Now, I am not a wise experienced church leader. I’m only 29. I have some theological education under my belt, I’ve preached and taught a lot, I read a lot, but I’m not in any way a mover and shaker in the Christian church today. But, I think I’ve been around long enough to notice a few things. Now I shouldn’t have to do this, but you all recognize I am not speaking to all people in every church but am broadly generalizing here.

1)      People Know Nothing About the Bible

Now, this may sound harsh but if you have been in most churches or even on a number of Bible college campuses you would have to admit that many people can hardly articulate the basic fundamental core teachings of the Scripture let alone something more complex like issues of perseverance and falling away. People could not explain to you why they believe the Scriptures are without error, why Jesus had to die on the cross, how the Holy Spirit operates in the life of the believer, and any other thing you can think of.

This is sad! With all our Bible teaching we should be able to quickly name the major themes of every book of the Bible, trace the progress of redemption from Genesis to Revelation, and articulate the core teachings of our particular local church. Yet, for the most part, your average Christian could hardly do any of this. This failure to know anything about the Bible shows how people are blown away by every form of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14) and cannot discern truth from error as in The Shack phenomenon.

2)      People Do Not Grasp the Connection between Knowledge and Obedience

Talk to most people in the pew and they will tell you that they need less head knowledge and a greater pursuit of God. At first, this seems to make sense and seems very spiritual. But at the base of it all, there is a failure to grasp a simple point: knowledge leads to obedience.

There is a process here. We know that the God of the universe revealed Him to us through the Scriptures. Apart from the Scriptures we have only a vague knowledge of God that is testified to us in nature. This is a non-saving knowledge, only a condemning knowledge. God gave us the Scriptures to teach us about Him and teach us about the way of life through Jesus Christ. Without knowledge of God we would have no love for God. Instead, our love for God grows in proportion to our knowledge of God. I remember my systematic theology professor in Seminary say, “you should love God more after a systematic theology exam than after you read some daily devotional ditty.” There is a lot of wisdom in this statement. As we know more of God, His character and his work, we grow in our love for Him. If we only knew God existed our love for Him would be rather blah. But when we know of the greatness and goodness of this God our love grows greater. As we learn and grow in our knowledge of Him, His word, and the Word, Jesus Christ, we grow in our love for Him. And out of love for God flows obedience to God. If we love God we will keep his commandments (1 John 5:3). Therefore, we need knowledge of God and His Word to move us to obedience.

3)      People Focus on the Lowest Common Denominator

Most of us have met these people. They are “all about Jesus.” They reduce the complete teaching of the Scriptures down into some sort of quasi-evangelical spiritual belief that the only thing that is important is Jesus and that should unite us together. We can unite together in all denominations because we all believe in Jesus.

If you know anything of history this is the same argument used by theological liberalism. Theological liberals knew that any kind of systematic document like a confession or a doctrinal statement could be used to prevent them from having control in the churches (think the fundamentalist-modernist controversy). They knew that if they could throw off the shackles of a systematic belief in theology and the Word especially manifested in a doctrinal statement, they could participate with any evangelical. So the mantra of “no creed but the Bible” became key in many denominations who are now bombarded with theological liberalism. This mentality that it is all about Jesus is a misnomer. Even theological liberals believe that and they deny the core teachings of the Scriptures. While Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, there is more to the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3) than “just Jesus.”

So what do we do? Where is the culprit?

The culprit is in most preachers and teachers of God’s Word.

Wait a minute! They’re the ones who are actually trying to teach their people! Why is it their fault?

The haphazard way of teaching and preaching in most churches is to blame. The failure of pastors and teachers to teach through the whole counsel of God so people can get a grasp of both the big and little picture is lacking. There is no scope and sequence in how we do our teaching. We go from one message to the next without much thought. Even if we do preach expositionally though books of the Bible we fail to think about where we are going with it or where to go next. We preach our favourite book and go onto another favourite without thinking how they all go together in the larger redemption story. We fail to teach and preach on issues affecting our churches today. We are for the most part the problem. So what do we do?

We teach and preach with scope and sequence. I mean that there is a logical formula for teaching people the whole word of God and integrating it together as a whole. Do not get lost in details but make sure you focus on the forest as well, especially on the forest of the whole progress of redemption. Do not hesitate to teach through and talk about issues like the Trinity, penal substitutionary atonement, the sovereignty of God, and other issues. Deal with issues going on around us like abortion, same-sex marriage, the economy and such. The Scriptures all deal with these issues and more. Expositional teaching and preaching is the main foundation of fixing this lack of Biblical knowledge of the people in our pews but not without thought and consideration as to how it all fits together into the story of redemption. Make sure you not only look at details of the text but you bring it into that grand metanarrative of redemption. Sure, apply the text in your teaching and preaching. That’s a given. But what we don’t need is less teaching and more application. We need more and more thorough and thought-driven teaching and preaching so people have the wisdom and the discernment to learn how to apply the Scriptures themselves to their lives.

Where does the solution start? It starts with pastors and teachers faithfully teaching the whole counsel of God (both the OT and the NT), teaching through systematic theology (if it was important for you to learn to systematize the truth in seminary then it is important for your people to learn it too!), address issues of the day and show how the Scriptures apply to it, and pray for your people and yourself in the process.

We don’t need less Bible teaching. We need more of it in a better form. I’m going to start today with my own teaching and preaching and hope I will be a reverser of the lack of biblical knowledge not a contributor to it!