The Pastor’s Bible class
March 22, 2013 Leave a comment
In preparing to teach Bible class the other night these thoughts crossed my mind about Bible teaching in the local church. It is all too obvious that Biblical illiteracy among churchgoers is at an epidemic level. What have pastors been doing for the last thirty years? I know that you can’t browbeat people into attending Bible study, but you can at least show them from the Scriptures that knowledge of the Word is essential to spiritual life. Jesus prayed that his disciples would be sanctified by the truth. I remember preaching at a church years ago when I heard the host pastor say to the congregation, “If I am not your teacher, then I am not your pastor.” I never forgot those words because they captured the essence of the pastoral office. Every pastor should teach at least one Bible study class a week. A time when the flock sits at the feet of the pastor and is confirmed in the things that are “most surely believed among us.”
Here is something worth thinking about. People have become so use to having a “holy ghost party”, whatever that is, on Sunday morning that they just can’t endure cognitive reflection in worship. Where is it written in the Scriptures that a pastor has to be the ringleader of an ecclesiastical circus show on Sunday morning? Where in the N.T. is the work of the Holy Spirit identified with raw emotionalism? I am not against emotion in worship, but unless the emotions are governed by the cognitive faculties, truth in worship is impossible! Some people have sixty-seven books in their canon of Scripture, and although they call it “the holy ghost said” it should really be called by their personal name. And sadly this sixty-seventh book is the only one that they read!
The Bible must be viewed by the pastor as normative for doctrine, worship, and life in order to establish the congregation on the sure footing of Scripture. Wherever the pastor maintains the notion that continuing revelation is an option for the life of his congregation the Bible will not be taken seriously as final and normative for Christian living. When the pastor sees it as his job to make the Scriptures relevant and update them according to prevailing cultural norms, he will not bring his people under the authority of the Word. The pastors job as a teacher of the oracles of the Most High is first of all, ” Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV), and then to declare the mind of the Spirit as it is revealed in that word of truth. Most pastors would be appalled at the level of Biblical and theological illiteracy of their parishioners. A sure remedy for this malady would be a return on the part of the pastors to their role as teachers.
Since pastors complain about the low attendance level at the midweek Bible study, so then become creative and turn the Sunday morning worship service into a Bible class and give them a taste of what they are missing on Wednesdays. It is true that only the Holy Spirit can create an apatite for the Word, but at least the pastor can put it in the people’s face!
Another thing that hinders creating an interest in Bible study is the pastor’s lack of preparation. Let’s face it, most pastors don’t prepare as thoroughly for teaching as they do for preaching. When members ask questions about the Bible it is better to postpone an answer until you’ve had time to research the answer, than to mask your ignorance by making the question their homework for the week. The truth of the matter is our members rarely have the necessary tools to do Bible study. They are not encouraged to purchase Biblical reference tools, i.e., dictionaries, concordances, atlases handbooks, commentaries, and topical bibles. I know, I worked in a Christian book store for years! Sadly most professing Christians are just too lazy to study the Bible, and others don’t know the difference between reading the Bible and studying the Bible.
Finally when pastors give the impression, intentional or unintentional that their Biblical knowledge, if they have any, is not acquired through study, but is the result of their anointing or special revelation from God, then their members will never take Bible study seriously. A studious pastor will produce a congregation of Bible students. When the pastor gives the impression that his insight into the Scriptures is original and did not require the use of the tools of research and study, he will foster an undue reliance upon himself by the people, and destroy independent Bible study on their part. In all things we are to maintain the balance of the truth. There is a happy medium between the arrogance of not willing to be taught by your pastor, and the laziness of relying on him as your oracle because your too lazy to study.
When I entered the ministry thirty years ago Black pastors purposely withheld Biblical knowledge from their members out of fear of not being able to control them, or having their authority challenged. The key to a pastor keeping ahead of his congregation as a leader and teacher is to be, not just assume the role of “resident theologian” in the church. Make a habit of maintaining a rigorous study schedule. In every sermon and lecture give a Biblical and theological rationale for the church’s mission of worship, evangelism, education, and living. If you will do this you will stand “head and shoulders ” like Saul above your fellows. Endeavor to be the one person in the congregation with a profound knowledge of the Word of God and the ability to teach. Be didaktikos, skilled at, apt to teach. Be a theologian!
There is a somewhat humorous story told about Dr. B. H. Carroll the founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Pastor of First Baptist Church, Waco, Texas. Dr. Carroll was teaching his Bible class one day, when a lady in the class disputed with him about the translation of a certain passage. As the story goes, Dr. Carroll retorted with a certain twinkle in his eye. “Madam”, he said, “there is a difference in my Bible and your Bible. What is that, the woman asked, Dr. Carroll responded by saying, the difference in my Bible and your Bible is that my Bible is studied more than your’s”!