I was “blown away,” as they say, by his lesson.
I recently attended a relatively large Baptist church’s Sunday night service. The church is, in my estimation, very healthy. The pastor didn’t so much preach but taught, and I was “blown away,” as they say, by his lesson.
A solid expository preacher on Sunday mornings, the pastor taught this night on a doctrinal subject related to the doctrine of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), as part of a Sunday night series on doctrinal subjects. My first reaction was that the subject matter (pertaining to the precedence faith as opposed to regeneration) might be over the head of most of the people in my circle of family and friends, though I personally was very interested in listening to his approach to the subject matter as well as his conclusion.
As I listened, several things struck me. Most Christians I know, including most pastors I have known, probably couldn’t intelligently even discuss the subject. This pastor (who is personable and engaging) is both a theologian and student of Scripture and is willing to do the hard work of taking an important, detailed, and difficult subject and preparing a lesson that is understandable to his congregation. He has, as an able teacher of Scripture, put his congregation in a place where they can listen to such teaching. He understands the primacy of Scripture and the importance of teaching the Bible and doctrine to his people. He is systematically “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,” as Ephesians 4:12 tells us. They are being built up in their faith, growing in their understanding of the teachings of the Bible, gaining the ability to live out their faith and answer the questions of those in their circles of influence.
This Sunday evening gathering wasn’t the sort of low energy afterthought that helped kill off Sunday evening services in many churches. It wasn’t a small group meeting devoted to chit-chat and sharing of opinions, or an entertaining video presentation. It wasn’t a silly motivational talk; it was solid, vital teaching. The pastor was not overly dogmatic or riding any sort of “hobby horse” in his presentation, but he discussed the clear teaching of Scripture as well as leaving room for disagreement on finer points, even charitably pointing out opposing views on some of the details of the issue. He was teaching people to study the Word. The minds of people were engaged as students of the Word.
Days earlier, I had been in a conversation with a person who had grown up in church and been in church for many years, but who seldom has heard solid preaching and teaching. The conversation broadly pertained to confusion and questions related to soteriology. Reflecting on the Sunday night lesson, I wonder if this person might have profited from hearing what that pastor said that night, and more importantly, hearing such solid teaching on a weekly basis. There is no substitute for preaching and teaching Scripture and doctrinal truth from Scripture.
On another recent occasion at the same church, I heard a speaker who had emigrated from China. As a youth in China, as well as after coming to North America, he had struggled with the question of “what is the meaning of life?” Post-modern Americans, at least when they allow themselves to think, struggle with the same question. Christianity has the Answer to that question! And so many other vital questions! But, churches will not help people find that Answer without an emphasis on content. Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).”