We all have experts in our lives, people who know more than we do about a particular subject. When we have a physical ailment that home or over-the-counter remedies will not cure, we go to a doctor – a medical expert. People see an attorney – a law expert – if legal issues arise. If the work needed is something we cannot do ourselves, we take the vehicle to a mechanic (another expert).
What about experts on God or religion? In the south, there seems to be a church on every corner. In the midwest, where I am from, in the county where I live, we literally have more churches than gas stations. Wherever you find a church, you find a minister – an expert on God.
Or so we think.
Quantity does not equal quality. Therefore, what is a good minister?
To answer that question, we must look to the one ministers represent – the person they claim to be an expert of – God. We cannot look at our feelings or inner self when we look to God. We must look at what God has said. We must look at His Word.
There are many ministers for whom God does not give a sound report card. Jeremiah 12:10, “Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.”
How have pastors destroyed God’s vineyard, the church? In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul tells Timothy to preach the Word with the instructions to “reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.” Reproof and rebuke are not things people want to hear, but they are necessary to live the Christian life. However, instead of preaching the truth or anything deep from the Bible, ministers started preaching what people wanted to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
Many self-proclaimed Christians with itching ears will hop from one church to another until they find a minister who preaches what they want to hear. The problem is that too many ministers are more than happy to accommodate.
Earlier in the book, Paul tells Timothy that when Timothy preaches, he needs to bring an upheaval to people’s hearts (2 Timothy 3:14). Then two verses later, the Bible itself tells us its purpose. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Notice what this verse tells us.
The Bible is inspired by God. The Bible is God’s Word. It is not the minister’s or anyone else’s duty to question it. It is our duty to take God at His Word and believe it. There may be doctors and lawyers you cannot trust, but God is holy, and His Word is true. Anyone preaching that there are errors in the Scripture is a false teacher. Anyone who waters down what it says is only preaching to itching ears.
The Bible is profitable for doctrine. Doctrine is what we believe. Every Christian needs to know what they believe and why they believe it. Preachers play a large part in teaching salvation, justification, redemption, eternal security, and other doctrines. Christians should self-study doctrine, but the minister should set them on the correct path. However, in today’s church, many find these topics boring, and preachers have yielded to the itching ears.
The Bible is profitable for reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. These three must go together for an effective Christian life. Reproof – being told what is wrong. Correction – being told what is right. Instruction in righteousness – being given practical ways to put the Bible into daily practice. Righteousness is grounded in the Christian heart. Christianity is not what we do. It is who we are. For example, being a Christian is not the act of giving help to someone in need. Being a Christian is a benevolent heart that causes us to help those in need. When the heart is right, a Christian cannot help but do the right thing. Every action of a Christian should rely on the Holy Spirit that lives in our hearts and the Word of God.
Sadly, many ministers leave out the reproof and correction, and the instruction in righteousness has a sandy foundation of feelings and emotions instead of the rock foundation of God. This type of preaching may lead a group of people to do nice things. However, in the end, life is still empty because we are filling our heart’s void with feelings that change in the wind, not an everlasting God that never changes.
How can we find a God expert – a good minister? Again, the Bible tells us. When Paul preached to the people in Berea, the people there did not take Paul at his word even though he was an apostle. They “searched the scriptures daily, whether those thing were so” (Acts 17:11).
Does a minister play on your emotions or preach proper doctrine from the Scripture? Is he unafraid of stomping on some toes with reproof and correction? That is how you know when someone is a God expert.
Preacher Tim Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. His weekly column “Preacher’s Point” may be found at: www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com