The Most Inexplainable Issue I Have Ever Faced In The Church

I have faced an issue that I just can’t quite figure out. I hope that you as the discerning reader will be able to help shed light onto it. It seems like a particular mode of reasoning is prevalent everywhere but the church.

Only in the church will you find people who constantly disagree and argue with someone who has devoted their life to diligently studying the Scriptures. Before you start thinking of a rebuttal, read this:

 

Let’s start with a biblical foundation for what I am about to say:

Jesus is the Architect that builds the church (Matt. 16:18). Jesus is the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet. 5:4) that cares for, protects, dies in place of and sustains His church. Every single other person that has been called into the ministry, specifically for the noble role of an elder (1 Tim. 3:1) is an under-shepherd (1 Pet. 5:1-4).

Scripture clearly explains that in the church, certain people have a specific role that they must undertake. This role Has been given to them in order that they may equip the saints by building up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11). These roles are more commonly known as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds (pastors/elders), and teachers.

Paul is clear that the people appointed to these roles have a primary task of laboring in preaching and teaching (1 Tim. 5:17). This means that they have committed their entire life to studying and searching the Scriptures, so that — they would love and learn to lead with love the people they care for — so that — they may perpetuate the growth of the people who have been entrusted under their care — so that — the people who sit under their teaching and preaching would become more like Christ and would gradually and steadily think like Christ and look like Christ. This is the chief aim and goal of any under-shepherd. Provided that he is a faithful one, this is the duty and role that he, empowered by the Holy Spirit, carries out on a daily basis — within the context of his local community.

This role clarity is graphically written about in Acts 6:1-6. The apostles realized that it was not right for them to do a task that they were not called to do. This is what they literally said: “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables” (Acts 6:2). Therefore, seven men were chosen for that specific ministry (Acts 6:3). The rest of the apostles who had a primary calling of preaching and teaching the Word said the following: “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). We see very clearly here that it is biblical for pastors and elders in a church to have their primary role and function as preachers and teachers of the Word of God.

So here is the issue that I can’t quite figure out:

How come then so many people put into question the person who Has been appointed by God to do  the work of laboring in the Word?

How come so often people are quick to say things like: “I do not agree with your interpretation of this text” or “I do not believe or agree with what you are teaching me” — even though you are a student/scholar of the Word and have fully devoted your whole life to this calling?

I want to qualify what I said above with this: I am referring to a situation in which a pastor or an elder is not of ill repute. I am referring to a situation where a pastor’s heart is bleeding over his people. I am referring to a situation where the under-shepherd is truly, faithfully and dutifully pleading with his people to love Christ and to have Scripture as the ultimate authority in their life.

Of course everyone needs to be like the Bereans. Of course everyone needs to study Scripture and see if what their pastors are teaching them aligns with the Word of God (Acts 17:11). Of course I am not advocating a blind following of a leader who is potentially leading the sheep to pastures full of poison. Of course there are cases where pastors fall and are disqualified from the ministry.

I am speaking here specifically of a person who has a shepherds heart, loves his people and is fully and wholeheartedly submitting to the Chief Shepherd, Christ Jesus.

Here is the mode of reasoning that is rather absurd that exists in the church and is conspicuously absent everywhere else in our culture:

1. Mechanic Mania: When I go get my oil changed or my brake pads switched, I am certain that the mechanic knows more than I do. Why am I so sure of that? Because I am very illiterate when it comes to these kinds of things. I do not go into the pit where they change the oil and offer suggestions on how to replace the filter. I do not offer my advice how the bolts need to be taken off of my wheel prior to the brake pads being switched out.

2. Music Mantra: When I hear someone play an instrument or sing a song, I admire their God-given talent. I admire that they have devoted an entire life to pursuing this craft — for the glory of God and the joy of listeners. I do not offer advice on how to tune a violin or how to sing in the right pitch. I just don’t. I realize that I do not know how to do that. Most other people seem to function in the same spirit.

3. Athletic Accolades: When someone is explaining to me how to climb a rock wall and where to hang on — I do not immediately start teaching this person how I think the tallest mountain in the world needs to be climbed — myself having climbed only a simple rock wall in a church camp. To most onlookers, this logic seems very simple. The guy decked out in Northface gear with calloused hands seems to know what he is doing — after doing it for at least a decade or more.

4. Design Domination: When I come into a home, I do not offer interior design advice to the homeowner. I simply do not because I did not devote my life to this craft. I did not go to school for it. I was not born with an innate sense of space with which I can make a shack look like a château. Again, most people have no issue with this.

5. Photo Fun: If my picture-taking skills extend to tapping the screen on my iPhone, I am certainly not about to run up to photographers at a wedding and offer them advice on lighting, poses or camera equipment. For some strange reason, everyone seems to be in unanimous agreement about my decision to restrain and keep walking.

I am almost certain that you are nodding your head in agreement to the above five examples.

It only makes logical sense right?

Both human and divine wisdom calls for this behavior right?

Does this mode of reasoning not apply to someone who is a student of the Word?

Why then when someone has devoted their entire life to studying Scripture — and devoted their whole life to learning how to apply it — and how others can apply it — why are they still being questioned that their interpretation of it is inaccurate — specifically when that interpretation is not about a controversial text — but actual close-handed orthodoxy that Christendom has unilaterally held on to for an extended amount of time in history.

Where is this kind of spirit coming from?

How come this mode of reasoning is used everywhere else but with people who are put as overseers and shepherds and leaders within the church?

Specifically, people who have been exclusively committed and commissioned to study the Word of God for the mutual edification of the people of God.

I believe there are some specific reasons for this. But before I share what those reasons are, I want to hear what you have to say:

What do you think is the reason that the logic in the five examples above is generally acceptable in culture?

What is the reason that people so quickly jump on to the bandwagon named “this is just your own interpretation of the text” ?

What is the reason that people have no problem trusting their mechanic, a musician, an athlete, a designer or a photographer — but quickly run into a huge issue when someone is pleading with them not about the next most exciting thing but the most important thing they will ever have to deal with — their life and how to live it for Jesus’ fame and for His glory?

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Comments

25 responses to “The Most Inexplainable Issue I Have Ever Faced In The Church”

  1. Lena Thomas Avatar
    Lena Thomas

    Interesting thoughts Bogdan! One reason is that there are so many denominations and divisions in the church and most happen because of interpretations of Scripture.
    Particularly in the Russian church culture, there is mistrust among the people. Those examples above are true, unless we are dealing with our own (no matter what our specialty is).
    Our particular generation has lost respect for the elders (in age and in calling). With technology at the finger tips, they think they know better.

    1. Lena hi — thanks for stopping by and commenting. What is the reason that you think respect was lost? Technology definitely plays a role as do “podcast pastors,” etc. But I believe there can be this stigma among people that if they are being taught or explained something that is not fully to their liking (although it will serve for their own benefit) they are hesitant receive it — but this type of approach is not at all practiced during any other normal interaction within the regular life cycle of a person — this is what is inexplainable to me 🙂

  2. Unlike being a mechanic, don’t we all study the Word? Don’t we all have Holly Spirit in us? Then why are you surprised that people disagree with the “professional preacher”? Also, as a fellow preacher and the teacher, I can say that I’m forced to follow in certain direction in my preaching, that is conforming (to some extent) to the general teaching / tradition of the church I’m serving in, even though I may have different opinion on certain subjects. Unlike me, bearing responsibilities of a teacher, the “students” are free to express their own opinion on any subject. And they use that freedom. And in many cases they are “more right” than I’m. And here comes the fun part: I think the greatest responsibility of us, teachers, is not to teach the Word, but to motivate people to study the word. And if people come to you with disagreements, this is the best compliment to you as a teacher, this is your true blessing: you have accomplished your call: people that you teach ARE MOTIVATED to study the word!

    1. Volodya: “Unlike being a mechanic, don’t we all study the Word?” do we?

      Also, “I think the greatest responsibility of us, teachers, is not to teach the Word, but to motivate people to study the word. And if people come to you with disagreements, this is the best compliment to you as a teacher, this is your true blessing: you have accomplished your call: people that you teach ARE MOTIVATED to study the word!” I have to agree with you 60 % on this — good angle you took with this — thank you! But before you can adequately motivate, you better spend some time in the study, including the prayer closet! 🙂

      1.  Avatar
        Anonymous

        do we? Oh, ‘cmon, Bogdan, don’t play this game with me.

        1. No games 🙂 that is my point, that biblical illiteracy is prevalent — therein is the goal of the teacher as you state — to motivate the listener to study the word — in order to think biblically and from a gospel-centered perspective 🙂

  3. Lena Thomas Avatar
    Lena Thomas

    Well, in some cases, respect was lost because the words don’t match the lifestyle. We don’t always observe powerful lives, but rather stale stagnant faith. I think the way the elders were respected in every area of life is not there anymore. It’s just not taught in our culture. And of course you are correct, it’s hard to receive the teaching that convicts you of your sin. Some people go around and look for teaching that will please their ears.

    1. Lena, good observation — thank you.

  4. Aleksey Fomichenko Avatar
    Aleksey Fomichenko

    Interesting, this morning I was watching R.C. Sproul discuss the principle and issues of “Private Interpretation”. There, he touches on this very subject. Often people in church dismiss biblical truths with “well, that’s just YOUR interpretation”. The terrifying reality is that many live by the falsehood of “Whatever feels good for me is true, or what works for me is true.”

    http://www.ligonier.org/rym/broadcasts/video/private-interpretation/

    1. Aleksey, thanks for the link — I will have to check it out.

  5. Brother Bogdan,

    I have some thots on this matter since I have a theological education (the same one you have!) and because I used to be a pastor.

    First of all, even the most humble of pastors will be found to have a pretty big ego. It’s all part of standing in front of others and having the audacity to tell them how to live! So even if they have prayed and studied diligently they still come to THEIR conclusion on a matter and then share that conclusion with the congregation. Many times they are dogmatic, not allowing any room for an alternate interpretation.

    Which brings me to my second point. You and I well know from our Greek studies at Talbot that on any given issue there are MANY theories with arguments for and against. These arguments are rebutted and counter theories are proposed. Endlessly. I still have thick notebooks with various interpretations of New Testament passages. Most laymen don’t realize the extent of the controversies that exist within the conservation theological community. Some things one just cannot know for sure in this life. That is why it is important for you preachers to “major on the majors.” That is, preach with fervor those thing that we all KNOW to be true. The greatness of God and salvation by grace. Etc. Etc. But hold off on being so dogmatic about matters that others with similar conservative views on the primacy of the Holy Bible may interpret differently!

    I always appreciate a preacher who explains WHY he holds a particular interpretation. And I appreciate genuine humility. If the preacher admits that there are various interpretations and then shares which one HE holds then I can receive it. Like most human beings I recoil from having views jammed down my throat as if I didn’t have a discerning mind and as if there were no other way but the preacher’s way! Respect for the audience is important.

    To end on a more positive note, I really enjoy YOUR preaching, my brother! And I appreciate the preaching of all the others at your church.

    1. John hi, thank you for the sharpening — and thank you for the encouragement — I always appreciate your insight — you have many years of experience — and I am happy that you are willing to share that here. Thank you for sharing the many pitfalls that may accompany a preacher/teacher. James 3:1 is always at the forefront of my mind whenever I preach or teach — or study to do those two things!

  6. Great post Bogdan!

    There is practically, I believe, only a few reasons why people hold to this mentality. First, there is a lack of submission to God himself, therefore a lack of submission to His word. People tend to seek their own will in scripture to justify their own long growing opinions without actually putting aside their “will” and submitting fully to the authority of scripture. “Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord, but everyone who does the WILL of my father in heaven” (Matt.7). There is an acceptance of Christ as Savior but not an acceptance as Lord. Authority is not perceived when the heart is not submitted.

    Second, since there is no submission to God and hence no authority, there arises the “this is your own interpretation of the text” phenomena. Psalm says that the word of God is purified seven times, refined like silver, and God has exalted His word above His name. If God has made such a high emphasis on his word and especially purified it seven times, then there is only one interpretation of scripture and there cannot be another. God made His word clear. It is absolute truth, and those who say otherwise, seek their own agenda.

    Thirdly, people just don’t spend enough time in the word. They could have already submitted, and are seeking God’s will but they have not studied the text long enough and carefully enough to understand what it is saying. Scripture does not imply, it is explicit.

    A whole 20 pages could be written on this topic, but I think we could stop here…lol

    Last comment: I have never seen anybody who preaches the pure truth of the word not be slandered. And, I have never seen anyone who is just speaking opinions ever be admonished. The hate is for the truth, not the preacher, for truth breaks our agenda and embraces God’s, and some wouldn’t want that.

    1. Denis – I agree with all that you said and I can’t add anything else — you have a God given talent in turning your thoughts into words — I love your passion that leaks through what you said — above all your supreme desire to honor Christ and stay faithful to the Scripture — thank you for the deep, insightful comment!

  7. Everyone who grades their own paper gives themselves an A.

    1. I don’t 🙁 Always striving for improvement

      1. Brandon — that is good — keep going!

    2. Yuriy hi — I am not sure I follow – do elaborate —

  8. I think what yuriy is trying to say is if you were to take a test the teacher would grade it according to the answer book. But if you would hand the test back to the test student he would grade his paper “A” regardless the answer book. The teacher = Pastor/Elder. Answer Book = Bible.

    1. Davi — thanks – I see that this is one way of looking at it –

  9. Nadia Grant Avatar
    Nadia Grant

    I am so very “happy” that someone has finally addressed this issue. Thanks for all the great post! You have been truely Blessed with a gift. 🙂

    1. Nadia hi — I am glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for the encouragement, all glory goes to God.

  10. Interesting post! I like it a lot, good job Bogdan for raising such topics!
    Blessings

    1. Lara thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it — blessings to you as well.

  11. Bogdan, I am glad I found your blog through an Evernote search lol.

    I have a few thoughts on this. I was a youth pastor for almost 10 years and now pastor a small church. I have a M.A. in theology and I only say that to qualify my post. I’ve been involved in ministry all my life and am still surprised by the attitudes that you’ve described. (I have actually been asked by someone to show my sermon beforehand!)

    As to the post, it is very easy for someone to say, “Pastors have egos and shouldn’t be so sensitive,” but your examples about other professions are appropriate. Would someone say that about their mechanic? Maybe, but then they would go to a different mechanic.
    Would they say that about their doctor? Then they would go to a different doctor. And so on until they find someone that says what they want. But eventually they will be faced with the truth.

    It all boils down to itching ears. People, Christians, even pastors, come to church with their own preconceived notions of who God is and should be. If in their study or discourse with someone that notion is shattered or challenged they have 2 options: accept it or deny it.

    It really is that simple. If it is raw truth and they accept it, they will allow themselves to be changed by the Holy Spirit. A truly humbling experience.

    If however they deny it (those God challenged pre-conceived notions), they will seek to be around others who are like minded for comfort or feel threatened and challenge the notion. This is all based on the assumption that it is raw truth.

    A personal example for me was the doctrine of predestination and the sovereignty of God. My preconceived notions to my “independent” Baptist thinking were challenged upon further study which has proved humbling.

    Quite simply, people want to hear what they believe God to be, not believe what they hear He actually is. Our challenge as ministers is that truth is truth. Unadulterated truth will challenge, divide, conflict and be generally messy. We are to preach it in its raw form, unfiltered, unmitigated by opinions and by doing so we risk its denial. Yet it is a risk we are required to take.

    This is the risk the Reformers were willing to take when seeking to provide the “common man” with the Scriptures to read at his convenience. The problem: Interpretation became readily available to the common man as well. Every man is now a theologian. And every theologian is a man.

    And ego has nothing to do with it. It’s all a battle over truth and I want to be on truth’s side. Even if I’m alone.

    Sorry for the long comment. Enjoy the blog.

    Sola gratia

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