How to Choose a Church

Today I came across an article written by my Doctor of Ministry mentor, Haddon Robinson. For decades, Haddon has been a voice encouraging and instructing preachers to preach from the Bible and apply it to real life. I wish I knew how many students he personally instructed and encouraged and how many more improved their preaching by reading and applying his book Biblical Preaching. I know this: my life has been deeply impacted by his teaching, his love for God and for preaching, his character, and his wit. I never knew him well, but he always remembered my name and key details about me and my life. When Haddon talks to you, he makes you feel like you're the only thing on his mind, the only person in the room, the only thing that matters in that moment. You always have his full attention.

In this article, Haddon explains what Christians should look for in a church. Because of the influence of Haddon and others on my life, this is the kind of church we're striving to become here at Calvary. Just a brief excerpt from the article:

First, look for a church where the minister preaches from the Bible.... Good preachers don't merely refer to the Bible. They base their sermons on it. This is vital! You'll not grow much as a Christian if you do not have a regular input from the Scriptures.

Second, look for a church where the pastor applies the truths of the Scripture to your life. After the sermon is over ask yourself, "Do I know what I am supposed to believe, or change, or do as a result of that sermon?" Effective preaching takes place when flint strikes steel. When the flint of your problems strike the steel of the Word of God there's a spark that can set your life on fire. Teaching and application are both ingredients to look for as you listen to the sermon.

From some sermons you may receive a rebuke. Don't resent it or get upset by it. Consider it and determine whether the rebuke clearly comes from the Scriptures and then heed it. Other sermons will guide you into changing something in your life that needs correction. Still other sermons will provide specific, down-to-life counsel from the Bible about your family, your job, your relationships that will help you to live your life the way God wants you to live.

Great advice. I encourage you to read the whole article.


Convictions about inspiration guide application

In his commentary on 2 Peter and Jude, Doug Moo writes:

It is obvious, however, that the bigger problem in our day lies in an imbalance in the other direction—giving the human element of Scripture so much attention that the divine element is eliminated or constricted. For many, the Bible is “inspired” in only the loosest sense—as, for example, some might think Wordsworth was “inspired” as he wrote The Prelude. But among confessing Christians also we sometimes encounter those who insist that God must have “accommodated” himself to the human writers of Scripture. The result, they suggest, is that we still have errors in the Bible. Writers such as Paul Jewett suggest, for instance, that we need not take as authoritative what Paul says about the ministry of women in 2 Timothy 2:11–15 because Paul was reflecting the male prejudice of his day. Here, I would argue, we have an imbalance in which the divine author of Scripture is given too little place. God, by nature, does not lie; he cannot utter a falsehood. If, then, the words of Scripture are genuinely God’s words (cf. our survey of the biblical evidence in the previous section), then the words of Scripture must be without error.

And this debate is no mere academic quibbling, for the authority of Scripture to challenge our beliefs and actions is directly dependent on its full truthfulness. Allow mistakes in the Bible (even in matters of history, dating, geography, etc.), and we have no way of limiting those mistakes. We possess no “red letter” editions of the Scriptures that highlight those sections that are really true. If we did, people would inevitably view the truthfulness and authority of Scripture through the lenses of their own culture and personal tendencies. Homosexuals seeking to avoid biblical condemnation for their lifestyle will suggest that the biblical authors were simply reflecting the homophobia of the Jewish culture and will dismiss the texts in which we find such condemnations. American Christians, wanting to maintain their luxurious and wasteful lifestyle, will suggest that biblical passages about wealth reflect lower-class prejudices. The list can be extended indefinitely.

Douglas J. Moo, 2 Peter, Jude, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996). 87-88. 


Teaching Pastors

I considered calling this site "Teaching Pastors" because I think word "preach" distorts our perception of what we're trying to do on Sunday morning. Over time we have developed a distinction in our idea of what a preacher is and what a Bible teacher is; and this distinction is unbiblical and unhelpful.

I also decided to write about subjects wider than just teaching and communication. But i do have some thoughts about communication that I will share here from time to time. The bottom line is that I believe God gave pastors to be teachers NOT preachers. For more about this, see my opening essay: "Teachers NOT Preachers.

To see everything I've posted on this subject, click here

Teachers NOT Preachers

Ephesians 4:11-12 says, "So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up..." 

Where does the word "preacher" appear on that list?

It doesn't; so why do we call ourselves "preachers?"

Why do we call what we do every Sunday "preaching?" 

The answer is that we have allowed the tent revival meetings of the past to turn pastors into preachers. In my background and upbringing, "preaching" was aimed at the will. Preaching was designed and calibrated to move people down the aisle at the close of the service either to make a decision to trust Christ or (more often) to get Christians to kneel at the altar and "do business with God." Great preaching, then, was passionate and loud, it was forceful and direct. It was measured by decisions. It assumed God's people are stuck in their Christian lives and need to make a crisis decision to get back "on fire for the Lord."

Teaching, on the other hand, is what went on in Sunday School; no respectable pastor in the churches I grew up in thought of himself as a teacher. No, he was a preacher; he was there to jolt people out of their sin and spiritual lethargy and get them down the aisle to get right with God. Preachers are the heroes in this scenario; teaching is for wimps.

Time to expunge all of this kind of thinking.

Study the New Testament passages that describe pastors/elders/overseers. Look at 1 Timothy 3 where these leaders of the church are to be "able to teach." Look at Titus 1:9 where pastors "encourage" others through sound doctrine. If you are a pastor like I am, then these passages detail our job description. These words describe what we are supposed to do with the Bible on Sunday. As you visualize "preaching" in your head, do the words "teach" and "encourage" fit? When you prepare to deliver the word on Sunday, are you trying to get them down the aisle or are you trying to instruct and encourage God's people as they follow Jesus Christ?

If your mental picture of "preaching" matches mine, then, our conception of preaching comes from the revival meetings of a long-gone era. The pastor who gets highly emotional, raises his voice and gets red in the face week after week on Sunday morning is acting like a revivalist (frequently known as an "evangelist," but that's a misapplied term).

If I'm right, how has our revivalistic conception of the word "preach" warped what we do on Sunday morning and why we do it? In my view, too many pastors act like revivalists and not like teachers, but teaching is the dominant description of what pastors do in the New Testament.

Christ gave "pastors and teachers to the equip his people" not preachers. It's time to get some clarity on what New Testament leadership is supposed to be doing to serve God's people.

That's one reason I created this site and that's the main reason I titled it "Teaching Pastors" not "Preaching Pastors."