Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Being a Pastor's Disciple

For many, church is also the only place they hear the Word of God.  For many of those, that time is spent competing with text messages and daydreaming.  To make matters worse, these people are usually the men.  Is it any wonder our church is in the shape it is in today? 
Blessed [is] the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight [is] in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.  Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV
It is really sad how many take no time to study the word on their own.  These same people find time for friends, video games, television, sports, shopping, and just about everything else in the world but they never find time to read the Bible.  What is even more sad is that they do not care.  The issue is not one of robotic obedience to get into the Word because we are supposed to, but that these people do not even want to study.  They have no interest in the Word.  They have no interest in what it can speak to them.  They have no interest in what God might have to say to them.  They may claim different, but the proof is in the fact that Bible study has zero place in their lives.  Everything that these people do instead of reading the Word is more important to them.  If that were not the case, they would find the time.  We always find the time to do those things that are important to us. 

Again, I am not saying that people should force themselves to study.  That would be of little benefit.  God is not after robotic obedience.  If He were, we would either still be under the old covenant or God would simply make it impossible for us to sin.  God has given is free so that we can make the choice to seek after Him.  God wants us to desire to read His word. God wants us to read His word with joy.  He wants us to have a hunger to learn all that we can about the God we claim to love.  If that is not your heart, then there is a real problem with your heart that must be addressed first.  The first check is to be sure you have ever made a personal choice to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior.  If you have, then you need to ask God to weed out your heart (and be willing to allow Him to do that work).  If you are living under the power and influence of the Holy Spirit then that desire and hunger will be driving your life.  If you are living under the power and influence of your flesh, it will not.  The fruit of your life will determine which of those is true. 

The other problem with the only Bible study being what your pastor shares on Sunday is that it leads one to be a follower of a pastor and not Jesus.  In a sense, that person becomes the pastor's disciple.  Instead of quoting Scripture, that person will quote that pastor and what he says about the Bible.  Instead of hearing what God has for him in his own study, he only hears what the pastor has for the entire congregation.  They eventually get to a point where their pastor's words are treated as though they are scripture.  If you disagree with this person, they will act as though you attacked the very Word of God.  There is no such thing as the pastor being wrong.  There is no such thing as another perspective.  There is no debate, there is only pastor and wrong.  This is bad enough with a pastor who is true to the Word of God, but what about those who go awry?  This person will have no capacity or discernment to know when the pastor is wrong because all they know of God's word is what the pastor says. 

The worst of the worst are those who not only do not study on their own but barely pay attention in church.  Quite honestly, I do not know why these even bother showing up.  They have no interest in being in church or the things of God.  They only go because its what they do.  It is tradition, it is obligation, it is for show, but it is not out of desire to learn.  They spend their time during the message texting their friends or playing games, but they spend very little time paying attention.  They remember a few words from the message, but that is about it.  If you asked them about it, they would barely be able to quote the pastor or even what Scriptures were covered.  It is no wonder that many of these have little to no fruit in their lives. 

Part of the blame is churches who allow this behavior.  Pastors need to emphasize the importance of personal study.  Many do, but many others do not.  Even those that do, there are always some that will never listen but there are many more who will be inspired.  I am one of the latter.  I have read through the Bible several times using several different reading programs.  I did not just wake up one day and decide to do this.  I had a pastor who emphasized its importance, shared how easy it is to do following one of many reading plans, and shared what it could do for our spiritual lives.  I took one of those programs and did it.  Churches should also offer home groups, men's groups, women's groups, or whatever other groups of people that can get together and talk and share on the Word of God.  Even if only 2 men show up, you still have two men talking together about the word of God, sharpening each other as iron sharpens iron.  I remember one time in my walk where I had a small group of friends and many nights there would just be 2 or 3 of us speaking about the Word for hours.  There also needs to be accountability.  We need to challenge one another.  We need to talk to each other about the Word.  If it makes someone who does not read feel uncomfortable, then all the better.  Perhaps the discomfort will inspire that person to begin to read on their own. 

I can not emphasize enough the importance of studying the Word of God.  God has so much to say through His Word to each one of us that it can not be covered in a 30-60 minute sermon given to an entire congregation.  You will not hear that message if you do not take the time to study His word and listen to what He has to say through it.  It would be nice if the few verses shared on a Sunday morning were the exact verses that God wanted to share with each and every member individually, but it is delusional to think that is in any way reality.  God loves you and has a word for you and you alone, but the only way you can ever know that word is if you take the time to read it.  If you wonder why you walk lacks any power, progress, joy, or fruit, the answer is not going to be found in television, video games, gossip, the mall, or anywhere else.  The answer is in His word and the many wonderful things He can speak to you through it. 
He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.  Psalm 1:3 NKJV

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