“The Bible is the ultimate authority and infallible, not the pastor and not the elders. And it doesn’t mean that you believe everything he says without examining it.”
– John Piper
In teaching college students, there is one thing that is highlighted for any speech or presentation: the bibliography. A bibliography is a document that demonstrates the research. However, the one thing it should always include is reliable sources. Teaching students to recognize reliable from unreliable sources can be a challenge, but the reward in a well-research project is invaluable.
This skill is important for anyone to have. When we go on Facebook, there are so many “news stories,” that we need to verify what happened. In 2015, there were many death hoax stories on Facebook (i.e. Cher passed away). Yet, with a quick checking sources and verifying the information these claims were proven false.
Checking Sources and the Church
Checking sources and verifying information is very important for the church. It is not making sure the Bible is true and verifying the Bible. Instead, Christians should make sure their pastors and leaders are faithfully teaching the Bible.
Paul condones and encourages this mentality. Acts 17:11 is our source. Here, Paul comments on the people of Berea. He explains that this church has noble character and it is demonstrated by their actions: they received the word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures daily to see if what was being taught was true. It was not a questioning of the Bible, but a questioning of the teachings they were receiving. Did it match up with the Scriptures?
In the New Testament, there are numerous references to guarding the doctrine, clinging to what was taught, examining teachings and seeing if it aligns with God’s Word. 1 John 4:1-6 is a key passage. This is not directed to “leaders in the church,” but to all Christians. It states to test the teachings of everyone that claims Christ to see if it matches what they were taught. Therefore, it is a responsibility of the entire Church to check what is being taught in the Church.
Is it that Big of a Deal?
But, is it necessary? The average person in the church doesn’t need to do that, does he?
Let’s give some real examples that have been said by pastors:
Teaching on the life of Joseph from Matthew 1: “One of the applications we can see from the life of Joseph is not to hang around an angry man.”
Sermon on John 8:12: “Christians will never struggle with depression, because Jesus is the Light of the world.”
Sermon on Ezekiel 47 and the rivers out of the temple: “The levels of water are an allegory of the Christian life. God wants us to start out at ankle level, but He wants us to, eventually, go all in.”
Talking about being a pillar for God: “Let’s turn to Genesis 19. Here we have Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. She became a pillar of salt on the earth for God. Just like we need to become.”
Each of these statements have been taught inside a church, and all of these statements do not follow passages faithfully. Yet, many of the people did not question their pastor, because he was the pastor.
Again, Paul has something to say about this: Galatians 1. Verses 6-7 exclaim Paul’s astonishment that the churches in Galatia were abandoning the doctrine taught by Paul for another doctrine from a false teaching. He is saying that the people should have realized this was false teaching. To Paul, this is a big deal, and to us, as believers, we should share the same attitude.
How to Implement this Attitude
This is, unfortunately, not the majority attitude inside the church. How can we change this?
Leaders in the church need to teach how to properly study the Bible. It will take work, but if Paul was serious about this, we need to match his mindset. Take steps by starting with classes on hermeneutics or Bible survey. Study the Bible in order to keep the Church accountable. It takes time and energy. But, just like in seeing well-researched projects, the reward is invaluable.
What would happen in the church if the leaders began to train people to have a biblical studies knowledge equivalent to that of a Bible major?
To the Layperson and to the Pastor
To the layperson: Are you studying your Bible? Do you know if what your pastor says is true? You have the responsibility to make sure the Church is faithfully clinging to what the Bible says and not wavering from that.
To the pastors: Are you willing to open yourself for people to keep you accountable to make sure you are teaching what the Bible says? Are you willing to teach people the working knowledge they need to study the Bible at a level you study the Bible? Because, doesn’t that mature the people God has given you stewardship over?
“But, he’s my pastor!” Yes, but that does not make him God or on the same level as God’s Word. He is to be God’s servant. He follows what God’s Word says, not what he wants God’s Word to say. Paul was passionate about this and we should be too. Let us, as believers, work together with our church leaders to keep the church accountable to following God’s Word faithfully.
For everyone who lives on milk is unskilled
in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.
But solid food is for the mature,
for those who have their powers of discernment
trained by constant practice
to distinguish good from evil.
*Just a quick thought to get the mind thinking for future posts