Bottom Line: It Has Complications, Some Self-Inflicted

the bottom lineI know that we as pastors would like to believe that it is “expository preaching” / “preaching-teaching what the Bible teaches,” which should be is reason enough for God’s people to walk in its truths.

While God’s people are committed to what the Scriptures teach and it is their guide to faith and practice, they are not convinced that what you (or me) are preaching-teaching is taught in the Bible. . . .

  “Well, they should . . . . It says that right there in the Bible!”

√  Part of the complication is that God’s people have been unwittingly taught that what is stated “in black and white” may not be what the Bible actually teaches.  The words may not be, may not mean, may not be saying what they seem to say and teach.

I saw “unwittingly” because preachers and teachers state and/or imply that what is written is not what it actually says. The simplicity of what most Bible passages state has become complicated and indistinct because preachers and teachers of Scripture complicate and cloud that simplicity. [1]

While the Scriptures simply state . . . .

“And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint.”

. . . . The understanding and preaching of that parable can become so serpentine (in more ways than one) that the simple truth for which the parable was given is lost, or worse, questioned.

√  Add to that, the repeated announcement by a pastor/teacher that there are different interpretations of what a passage is teaching — not different applications, but diverse and even radically different meanings. [2]

Let me make a few points before the push-back . . . .

      • There are different interpretations or understandings of some passages.
      • Applications are not interpretations.
      • Pastors-teachers ought to repeatedly point out that the words are clear, simple, in black and white, and we know what they state.
      • Pastors-teachers ought to frequently make the point that some do not want to hear what this passage teaches because it cuts across their thinking and position.
      • There ought not be as many supposed interpretations as there are, involving far too many Scripture passages, which are clear and simple! [3]

Pastors-teachers create distrust by repeatedly interjecting their own contextual thinking about a passage, [4] and/or variant, and even bizarre, interpretations of simple and clear passages.  “Make the argument” for what the passage teaches by laying out the flow of the passage, not by turning the sermon into an announced argument for your position. [5]

When pastors call up the possibility of being wrong (or one-among-many) regarding what the passage teaches, more biblical uncertainty is the by-product.

After 2000 years and endless books and articles on this-or-that book of the Bible (or passage), it seems like some pastors and Bible teachers are still uncertain as to what most Scripture teaches.

√ A third complication is that people, no lest sinners, no less stubborn sinners who do not want to (or know how to) change, are not readily committed to believing that what is being said is true. If it is, that has some down-to-real-life and psychological (guilt, regret, shame, embarrassment) implications.

√  Another complicating factor is poor preaching, which so clouds and confuses the truth that the listener is not even sure what was said and/or if it has any value or application to life and living.

√  Add To That — Presently — at least in our age — the task of preaching is crisscrossed by many other voices.  Some are preaching and teaching what the Bible does not say, or what the Bible says but is applicational twisted, or what the Bible might say but sounds more self-serving than credible.

√  Finally — Bottom Line — all speaking and preaching is relational!  It is the personal relationship a pastor has with those listening which correlates with one’s influence in individuals and families [7]. Preaching is hard on the listeners’ ears when they believe that the ministry is about the pastor, not about them.

Caring pastorally” is what gives strength sermonically!

Surmount all the previous complicating factors — and most can and do — every week — and for years! There is a relational factor that outweighs all the above complicating factors and makes it all work at the end!

There critically is a human element, a relational factor, which is also operating in all preaching and teaching! The mere fact that one “turns on this channel and not that channel” proves that principle. Individuals and families voluntarily come and listen for hours a week primarily because of their confidence in and relationship with the pastor or teacher.

People do not follow what we are preaching-teaching if they do not regard the source of the communication as credible, authentic, honest, and/or genuine.  By “follow,” I mean change their thinking and their lives. The purpose of preaching is to instruct and exhort, correct, reprove, and rebuke.

It requires, as Scripture indicates, “long-suffering” because change takes time, experience, and exposure.  It does not happen because one is “exposed” to what the Scriptures say! — “It says it right there in the Bible!”  Change happens over time through the words of one who is credible, genuine, and who sincerely exhorts, corrects, reproves, and rebukes — week after week, year after year — with all long-suffering.

Your credibility, [6] as a speaker and as a pastor, matters!  If that were not true, there would be no purpose behind some of the qualifications of the office of pastor.  Some of the qualifications are included because “who you are as a person” impacts what you say and whether you are heard.  They affect and reflect your influence in the lives of those who are there, voluntarily listening!

COVID-19 will prove that far more true and accurate than words.  When the dust clear, the pews will reveal who really cared about God’s people, or who were those who were just mouthing the words, and/or unloaded that very personal responsibility of pastoral caring and concern onto the shoulders of others —  or not at all!

I am not a prophet, but I am an observer — Pastors, Brace Yourself For Impact!

There is going to be a significant “sea-change” when this is all past.
COVID-19 has been a reagent, revealing the pastors who are genuine and authentic.

Don’t complain when the results come out.  It isn’t their fault that they no longer care to listen.  The qualifications for shepherding were given to you, not to the sheep!

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— Lee Eclov, “Feels Like Home: How Rediscovering the Church as Family Changes Everything” — 

pgs. 23-24

1. Some of God’s people have been taught to believe that a pastor has “secret insights” into what the Scriptures teach because of their education and biblical experience — kind of like the Roman Catholic faith taught/teaches.  They cannot just read the Bible and know what it is teaching without a Bible teacher who actually knows what it is teaching.  Apparently, the layman is still in need of help when it comes to most of Scripture.  They have to know the Greek & Hebrew language to know what it actually says.

Obviously, there are some difficult passages of Scripture AND some Greek & Hebrew words which clear up some of the difficulties for this-or-that passage.  However, is that reflective of most of Scripture?

2. “Some commentators suggest . . . . ., other believe that the passage teaches . . . . . , I believe, and my position on this passage is, that it is saying actually that . . . . . ”

Again and obviously, there are some difficult passages of Scripture AND some Greek & Hebrew words which clear up some of the difficulties for this-or-that passage.

Also,  I would suggest that one of the most challenging tasks of preaching-teaching is not understanding what the passage teaches, but how to best communicate what it teaches in a clear and impacting manner.

3.  We say “one interpretation, and many applications.”

Some argue for a clearer and stronger original understanding of the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights, than for the clear understanding and wording of Scripture.  At times, what a book or article ways is subjected to less interpretation and/or debate.  At times, “letters” we receive from family, friends, or critics are deemed to be marked by more clarity than those of Paul, Peter, and John.

4. “I think Joseph never imagined that things would and could get even worse, that he might end up in prison when he began serving in Potiphar’s house as a slave in Egypt.”

5. I can be “making the argument” for what the passage teaches, without calling up the fact that there are different (and some crazy) Bible teachers and preachers who miss or twist what this passage is teaching.

For instance, some preachers have misread what “Mrs. Potipher” said to Joseph —  “Lie with me.”  It does not mean “lodge with me,” or “be buried with me,” or “to take a nap,” or “hugging for warmth,” or “to lay next to with no sexual intent,” or . . . or . . . .   — though the word is used those ways in Scripture.  It does not mean “to tell a lie.”  I do not need to bring any of those understandings into my sermon, but merely point out that it was a euphemistic statement of immoral behavior.

Just state what it teaches, without conflicting fanfare.  “Expose the truth” and obvious understanding of the passage.

6. In classical rhetorical theory, it is labelled “ethos.”  That is why, “caring pastorally” gives strength sermonically!

2 thoughts on “Bottom Line: It Has Complications, Some Self-Inflicted

  1. Amen on so many levels. Note: We had child #3 2nd (35 surgeries, 2 life flights and a few ambulance rides)… the 3 kids are mixed up but all turned out to Love the Lord thankfully.


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