He gave some to be teachers

LT reacts to yesterday’s post on preaching by suggesting that preaching isn’t biblical or helpful:

I see very few examples of anything resembling a sermon being preaching to those who have decided to follow Christ…I think most people are far better served by just picking up a bible and reading it themselves.

It’s not hard to see why people have negative views of preaching/teaching. As Haddon Robinson says, it’s has suffered more at the hands of its friends than its enemies. We’ve all endured preaching that is less than helpful.

As well, we may expect too much of Sunday morning in general and the sermon in particular. You can listen to sermons endlessly, but it won’t change you. Check out this post from D.J. Chuang on how good preaching (such as that by Tim Keller) can fail to produce transformation:

But as good a preacher as Keller is, he can’t break through and create life transformation. I know first-hand of avid Keller listeners who don’t seem to have totally changed lives. They listen to Keller probably more than I do, many listen to him live and person week in week out, quote him, promote him, and yet something’s missing.

Keller replies:

Listening to sermons and reading books – even very good ones – doesn’t really change character. It’s community that does that. You mainly become like those you hang out with, not those you listen to in a mass audience. For years I’ve seen this – “fans” who love the message but don’t get deeply involved in community don’t really change. They talk about the gospel but it doesn’t effect their lives. I’m glad you point this out. Yes, even if you like my sermons (and I’m humbled that you do) – preaching alone can’t “break through.”

That being said, it’s a mistake to devalue the role of teaching in the church. You can and probably should evaluate the form and the most effective way to teach, but don’t ditch teaching. As someone else said today, people generally lack “a biblical background and a theological grid from which to shape their lives.” The solution to this isn’t less biblical teaching; it’s better teaching as part of the church’s life. Our minds and our understanding of the world needs to be shaped by Scripture.

David Fitch may be more helpful. He argues that preaching should not consist of handing out more to-do lists. Instead, it should re-narrate the world and form our imaginations. At the same time, it is more communal, and the senior pastor is not everything. Preaching, he says, can only be “the tip of a communal iceberg.”

The Bible speaks highly of teaching all over the place, but it’s only part of the picture. “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 5:11). By all means, let’s move away from pastor-centric models of church life, and let’s move toward the ministry of the many, as LT says. There are more than teachers in the verse I just quoted. Let’s emphasize the others – but let’s not lose the important role of teaching as part of the church’s life in the process.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada