This story has a good beginning. The other evening Elaine and I were at a small group we joined at the church. The leader was planning to show a teaching video, but there were problems with the sound, and in the end he (being my age) declared, “I’m just going to teach this myself!” And I was glad he did, because he was outstanding.
It seems to me there are three critical elements in the health of a local church: teaching, worship and community. Evangelism is of course essential, but what’s the point of evangelizing in order to bring people into a church where there is poor teaching, questionable worship and no sense of relationship? The best thing that could happen is for the convert to go in one door and out the other into a church in better shape.
As a fairly highly trained Biblical teacher, I have to be careful not to make judgments too quickly on the quality of other peoples’ messages.
But one thing stands out to me. If you could have left your Bible at home, what is the point of having teaching at all? And make no mistake, church leaders! An untaught people will very quickly find means of being taught somewhere else. They’ll look at whatever is on offer on the internet or television and pick up stuff that has little if any relationship to Biblical truth. Or they will take their cues from the society in which they live. That’s why we find lots of Christians who don’t see anything wrong with abortion, wrong sexual practices, lousy financial ethics or other things the Bible speaks pretty clearly about.
What do you make of the statement “Love wins”? A book of that nice-sounding title, but with very dubious theology, sold millions of copies a few years ago. If it’s a picture of Calvary, I can buy it. But if it’s simply a suggestion that to show love is to accept people as they are and require no change, no thanks. Why not? Because you cannot possibly understand the love of God without understanding the justice of God. Read Romans 3 if you don’t believe me.
But here’s the problem. What if you read Romans 3 and don’t understand it? You don’t get what passing over sin means, you don’t get how the wrath of God had to be satisfied somehow, you don’t get what it means when it says God had to do certain things in order “to be just and to be the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” And maybe you don’t really understand what justification means at all. And you certainly don’t get propitiation!
And in that case you won’t understand the full impact of Romans 1:17-18 where it clearly states that the gospel is equally the revelation of the love of God and the wrath of God. You won’t understand why there can’t be mercy without there also being justice. And you won’t understand why there can’t be heaven without hell. In the end, you won’t understand the gospel at all.
Some of us get pretty cranky when we look at school systems which don’t seem to have the ability to teach even the basics anymore. So why do we accept the same in church? What you get taught in church is in the end more important than what you get taught in school.
We were blessed to have a great Bible teacher at our small group. I hope you’ve got one too.