these are a few of my unfavorite things: “The Bible-Teaching Church”
- disclaimer: whenever I write these kinds of potentially controversial posts, please keep in mind that these thoughts are my own and do not reflect anyone else’s! I am not aiming to offend or demean anyone or any organization. I welcome your thoughts and responses but please don’t try to start a fight with me on this website. Please. Since we’re on the topic of the Bible, let me just say for the record that I believe in the authority and complete validity of Scripture. It should be read, studied, meditated-on, memorized, etc. but most importantly, applied. A heretic or renegade is something I am not so please spare those types of reactions. Heed the words of a classic song: “free yo’ mind. . . don’t be so shallow!”*
As you may already know, there are many things about religion, “Christianity,” and church that really irk, disturb, and annoy me. (You can read about some of these in my “Imaginary Interview with Bono” post.) Some of you may see this as an issue given that I work at a church as a worship pastor, but let me assure you, I am still passionate about what I do and I love Jesus and people with all my heart. I want to be a part of the solutions while calling things out for what they are. Thanks for allowing me the chance to vent some of my frustrations and pet peeves, a series of entries I will call “these are a few of my unfavorite things”.
Just the other day, I drove by a church with a tagline that read “A Bible-Teaching Church” and I was reminded of one of the phrases and mentalities that get on my nerves with churches throughout America. It’s the selling point, “we teach the Bible here” and any variation of the sentence. The phrase itself may be honorable but it’s more of the attitude behind it that is lame in my eyes. This gets on my nerves because:
- it seems a bit redundant to me. Unless you are part of an alternative spiritual tradition or cult, I would think that the Bible is taught at your church. Save yourselves the cost of ink and additional signage to state the obvious. What if Blockbuster Video’s tagline was “We Rent Movies Here”? Helpful perhaps, but completely unnecessary.
- nothing seems more presumptuous and arrogant than when a pastor at a conference brags that his church “teaches the word.” I’ve seen this firsthand. It’s almost his way of saying, “all y’all churches suck. My church has it right. . . so bow down . . . suckas.” (total paraphrase)
- what about the other aspects of church? (this is a big one.)
I think it’s great that people want “more of the Word” in their lives and seek churches that fill this need. It shows a certain level of spiritual hunger and a desire to grow to take the next step in their faith. However, I know people who have been Christ followers for years and years yet their critique of churches is always the same: “their messages are so watered down,” or “I just need them to preach the word. None of this post-modern interpretation/action stuff.”
I’m not going to quote Scripture here to try to prove a point. Instead, I want to pose a few “questions” that may help convey my thoughts:
- So the “Word” is taught and the pastor just performed an incredible exegesis on Leviticus. You’re inspired, brought to tears even . . . now what?
- You’re a scholar of the Word, you meditate on it day and night but that’s all you do and will do until your dying day. Really?
- Speaking of the Word, what did Christ focus on during his time here on earth? Was it Bible study and mere “sound preaching”?
- Wasn’t Christ more concerned about the state of the heart, action, and application? Was he not more concerned about loving and healing people? Did he not call out (rebuke) those who knew the Word like the back of their hands yet had little transformational focus? (that was 3 questions, I know)
There is nothing wrong with wanting more of the “Word” in your life but if that knowledge is not met with heart transformation and a bigger heart for people (which leads to concrete action), I’d say you might as well read the encyclopedia… you’ve missed the point of Scripture entirely.
The saying “knowing is half the battle” applies in this conversation. It’s actually easier to know and study the Bible than it is to live it out. I think people want “more Word” to be preached on Sundays because it gives them something to check off their to-do-list and also gives them a false sense of Spiritual accomplishment. The harder work is done after the Bible is preached. Some people have had the Word preached at them for decades yet their lives show very little evidence of this knowledge!
God speaks in many other ways in addition to the Bible. Yes, Scripture is the ultimate textual authority but God can communicate with us through dreams,
movies, conversations with friends, street-signs (this happened to me before), and so-on. Let’s not limit God by putting him into a box….yes, even the box of Scripture. He’s alive today, relevant, and even technologically up-to-date (I’m convinced God inspired the iPhone).
Finally, I leave you with a statement I just made up that I will copyright and make millions off one day: “we worship the God of Scripture, not the god of Scripture”. Let’s live out what we know.