Ask Your Preacher
I am leading a weekly Bible study. Yesterday was our first study, and we talked about why Jesus came to this earth. Now, I don't know how to incorporate the Gospel for new people and change the study for the people that have come multiple times. What should I do?
Bible Study Leader
Dear Bible Study Leader,
We aren't exactly sure what advice we can give you. One of the easiest ways to study the Bible is to study it expositorily. Take a book of the Bible, and study it from start to finish. This way you get exactly what God intended for mankind to learn. Being a teacher is a very solemn thing and puts us under a stricter judgment because of the power to lead people astray if we don't adhere to the Bible's teachings (Jas 3:1). If you aren't feeling that you have a comfortable grasp on the Scriptures, better to stick with an exact study of a book than to potentially veer into manmade doctrines.
(This question is a follow-up to “Blasphemous Preaching”)
Thank you so very much for the quick response. I left church early tonight and felt very guilty even taking communion to my Holy Father because I had to excuse myself right after communion, so I could leave. I just had to get out of there. The Sunday night service was worse than the morning. I am beginning to think that my pastor has serious mental problems, and I don't know what to do about it. I am teaching Sunday school, and I am able to teach one hour of truth, and I am able to sing worship songs to God. But the preaching is making my nerves shaky. He either tells news stories that he gets from the internet that are so far fetched it's like something from the Globe or the Enquirer, or he reads history books, or he shows videos on a big screen. This morning, when he said what he did about Jesus, it was about the worst! But nobody seems to mind. If they do, I don't hear it. I am wanting to get away and seek the Lord for wisdom as to whether or not to quit the church, but I am certain that the Lord has called me to work for Him. I just don't know what to do about this preacher. I e-mailed him the Scripture that proves that Mary and Joseph were married before Jesus was born, but he won't say anything about it. Would you please pray that God will show me what His plan is and what His will is? I need to sing, and I love teaching Sunday school. Thank you.
We appreciate your dedication to your congregation and your righteous indignation over false teaching. May we offer some thoughts on the issue? You have written to us on numerous occasions because of the unscriptural things that are coming from your church’s pulpit. You are trying to balance your desire to work for Christ and your desire to avoid false teaching. Have you considered that by leaving and going somewhere faithful, you would be doing both? God says that a faithful congregation should be “a pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). In your own words, the church you are currently a part of isn’t – and the membership doesn’t seem to care about changing that. Your labors (which you intended to offer to the Lord) are being used to support false teaching and unscriptural practices. Since it seems clear that the congregation is at peace with their preacher’s sermons and teachings… you are now in the vast minority and propping up a sinking ship. Looking at the character and honesty your letters have conveyed – you simply aren’t with a like-minded group of people. We know of faithful, biblically-sound churches all across America… churches you could feel comfortable in, grow from the teaching of, and use your zeal and energy to support. Would you consider letting us recommend one to you? If so, e-mail us at email@example.com.
My preacher teaches that Joseph and Mary were not married when Jesus was born, and today he said that Jesus was a "bastard". I am sorry to write that, but it's what he said. I teach Sunday School and had just taught that Joseph and Mary were married (Matthew 1:18-25), and I need to tell him we can not be teaching two different Bible teachings. Would you tell me please if Joseph was married to Mary, and should I correct my preacher about using such strong language when talking about Jesus? Thank you.
Joseph was definitely married to Mary, and the term your preacher used was both incorrect and vulgar. As you said, Matt 1:18-25 clearly teaches that Joseph married Mary. Joseph planned on putting her away before their marriage because he found out she was pregnant (Matt 1:19). Understandably, he was unwilling to continue their engagement. An angel appeared to Joseph and explained the entire circumstance to him and told Joseph to take Mary as his wife (Matt 18:20). After the visit from the angel, Joseph went forth and made Mary his wife (Matt 18:24). As further proof, Jesus’ genealogy describes Joseph as “the husband of Mary” (Matt 1:16). Ask your preacher how he reconciles his teaching with these plain Bible verses.
Who fires a preacher? The men's meeting or the congregation?
Finger On The Button
Dear Finger On The Button,
Preachers serve at the pleasure of the congregation. A preacher is supported when a congregation believes he is doing work worthy of his hire (1 Tim 5:18). If a congregation no longer believes that he is worthy of his hire – they cease supporting him and no longer give him the privilege of using their pulpit. This may be because he is no longer a good fit for the group, or it might be because he no longer is teaching the truth. In either case, the congregation makes that decision.
Now the problem is a congregation is made up of a group of people, and that group of people has to make decisions through some leadership structure. In a perfect scenario, the church leadership is a group of qualified elders (men who meet the standards of 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Tit 1:5-9). If a congregation has elders, those men would make the decision to support (or cease supporting) a preacher. If a congregation doesn’t have elders, they must make decisions as a unit – this often involves a men’s business meeting. If the men’s meeting is making decisions for the congregation, the choice to no longer support a preacher would fit under their purview.
If apostolic authority was meant to end with the last apostle, how are autonomous local congregations meant to settle doctrinal disputes? The sheer number of differing Protestant denominations only proves that leaving the church with the Scriptures alone only leads to division and fragmentation. Calvinists believe in predestination, Lutherans believe in baptismal regeneration, Baptists believe in symbolic adult full-immersion baptism, Pentecostals believe in speaking in tongues, the church of Christ believes in no musical instruments, and Seventh Day Adventists worship on Saturday. All of these local congregations are interpreting the same Scriptures, and yet, all are divided on any one of a number of important doctrinal positions. They can’t agree on the nature of baptism, the causes of salvation, the gifts of the Spirit, the study of eschatology, and so on. The differences are endless. Why would Christ leave His church with a set of Scriptures but no authority to properly interpret them?
Dear Needing More,
Religious confusion isn’t because of the Scriptures. The Scriptures aren’t the weak link; people are. If you look at the vast majority of religious organizations, they don’t take the Scriptures as their only guide. They allow religious tradition, personal whims, various creeds, etc. to sway them from basic Bible teachings. It is when people warp and pervert the Scriptures that they get the divisions and fragmentations that we see today (Gal 1:6-8). False teachers disguised as ministers of righteousness infiltrate churches and lead many astray (2 Cor 11:13-15). False teachers are described as “wolves in sheep’s clothing” (Matt. 7:15) because they pretend to teach Bible, but instead, they teach their own devices. False religions spring up when people are tired of the pure and simple Bible pattern and itch for a more comfortable message (2 Tim 4:3-5). The problem isn’t that we have too much emphasis on Scripture – it is the exact opposite! If you want to remove division and chaos, return to simply studying Scripture and expel all creeds, traditions, and personal preferences from religious discussion.
Your assertion assumes that the Scriptures alone aren’t powerful enough to teach and prepare people to meet their God. The Bible teaches that the Scriptures are the power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16). 2 Pet 1:3 says that the Scriptures provide every answer to life and godliness. Peter said that the apostles wrote down the wisdom God had given them so that long after they departed, we would still have it (2 Pet 1:12-15). When Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, He condemned them for their lack of Bible knowledge (Matt 22:29). Jesus believed the Scriptures were plain enough for anyone to understand if they had an honest heart and applied some effort… He believed it enough to be angry with the Pharisees when they didn’t know their Bibles. When Paul taught the people, he reasoned with them using only the Scriptures (Acts 17:2). The Berean converts were praised as being noble-minded for not accepting the apostle Paul’s teachings without first examining the Scriptures for themselves (Acts 17:10-11). The Bible is sufficient for our salvation, and there is no need for anyone to have modern abilities to “interpret” the Bible for us (2 Pet 1:20-21).