can they teach?


It was early in ministry and I don’ t remember the particular context but I think it was a deacon’s meeting.  I was young and green and thought I knew a whole lot more than I did.  I know more now but now I am becoming more aware of all that I don’t know.  And I don’t know what the issue was but my response was “What am I, the resident theologian?”  To answer that question years laters the answer would be a resounding ‘YES.’  I used to think that theology was for text books and not for the pulpit…how messed up was that?

We are into the final mark of a church moving in the direction of health and we’re wrapping up with a two-parter.  On Wednesday we started looking at biblical elders and how the elders should take on the scent of the flock by hanging with them.  Today we’re going to look at one of the other distinguishing marks of an elder.  1 Timothy 3:2 says elders should be able to teach.  And as you read on down in the chapter you’ll find out that that is the major distinction between an elder and a deacon.  So one of the qualifiers for an elder is the ability to teach, and if he can’t, he simply doesn’t qualify. 

The deal is sheep need food.  There is a touching moment at the end of the gospel of John between Jesus and Peter. 

[15] When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” (John 21:15 ESV)

And that is repeated a couple more times.  Peter’s love for the Saviour would be seen loud and clear in his willingness to feed the sheep. 

My assessment of the church in North America is that there’s a lack of love and that’s found in starving sheep.  Spiritual junk food is served up on Sunday morning that will have people leaving with goofy grins on their faces not knowing they were robbed of real food.  There is a famine in North American church world.  There is a starvation of God’s people who are feasting on cream puffs and missing out on steak.

Christian Smith has described the Christianity of our age as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.  What actually does that mean?  He breaks it down into five simple points.

1.  “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.”

2.  “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.”

3.  “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.”

4.  “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”

5.  “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

I would suggest that some elders or deacons serving as elders believe much of this.  They may not say it quite like this but if you were to pin some of them down they would not be able to articulate the gospel clearly.  And if you have a gospel preaching pastor and elders who just want people to be happy and just want people to get along, that train is gonna come off the track in a hurry.  Or if you have a non-paid elder who thinks biblically and the pastor/elder and the other elders don’t…the bus is coming and he’s gonna get smucked.

If your foundations are different amongst your elders or whatever you call your spiritual leaders, it’s going no place good.  But if you have guys who are students of the Book, they will agree on the majors and 1 Corinthians 15 reminds us that the majors are those beliefs closest to the cross.  When you have elders who are studying together and wrestling through Scripture together and caring for one another, you’ll have a rock solid board.  Churches rise and fall on leadership.  And when they are students of the Book that leads into being teachers of the Book.  And when you have a bunch of Bible teachers who lead your congregation, you can be sure that they are not going to be getting into steel cage matches over the stupidest things.  If you have a solid theological board there will not be non-teachers triple teaming and quadruple teaming the Bible teachers.  And if theres a thorny issue, they will take months of studying it until they arrive at a conclusion.  

So a couple of encouragements as we wrap this up.  A challenge to the sheep and a challenge with a promise for the elders. First for the sheep.  Be like the Bereans.  ESV says the Jews.  

[11] Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.  (Acts 17:11 ESV)

When the pastor brings it, have your Bible out.  Listen to what he says and what he doesn’t say.  Listening is hard work and a half truth parading as a full truth is a complete untruth.  If you are struggling with what’s being taught, go to the teacher with humility and prayer and teachability and an open Bible.  Come with his good and the flock’s good and  God’s glory on your mind.  And the last word is for the shepherd / elder.

[16] Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.  (1 Timothy 4:16 ESV)  

Elders, watch closely how you live and that will flow out of what you believe.  Be careful, be cautious.  Tweak and retweak.  And it says persist…keep at it long term because the fruit is coming.  God’s Word has a stunning impact when you unleash it over the long haul.


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