But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it (2 Tim. 3:14). In this scripture Paul is supporting his insistence that Timothy keep with the Word of God by reminding him about who he had learned that Word from, This instructs us that the character of those who teach us the Word gives extra reason for us to believe that Word.
This is not to say that if the Word is brought to us by someone who we know to be an infidel, or afterwards proves to be an infidel, that we reject the Word. Our Lord said in Matthew 23:2-3 that The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. The Word must be obeyed because it is the Word of the Lord.
Nevertheless we should be doing what we teach. The Word that we teach should be modelled in our lives. This is a big issue for parents and all who teach the Word to others. But it is also a critical issue in our witness generally. It is the power of a godly life which lives out the gospel, that gives credibility to that same gospel when it is shared with others. And thereby there is effective ministry which attracts people to our Lord. It may even be that someone’s sweet testimony for Christ led to you seeking the Lord.
The implication of this is that we must be aware of our proneness to hypocrisy and be vicious in rooting it out in our lives.
This also has implications for the manner in which we conduct our affairs before God. We live in an age of the all-pervasive internet and social media. It has became easy in this digital age, to meet in cyber churches or to get our spiritual food from our favourite Bible teacher online. In such a situation we very likely have no knowledge of the charachter of those who are teaching us. It should not be this way. Knowing the charachter of our teachers is a God-ordained way in which he verifies His message.
This, therefore, gives strong impetus to the need for us to be based in local churches. And in those churches we need to have leaders who do not “ivory tower” themselves. We need those who move among the people so that their lives can be seen. Paul speaks in 1 Thessalonians 5:11 about Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. The leaders were among the church in Thessalonika and that is the way it should be. If you are a church elder you need to be among the people so people can see your character.
This also cautions us against churches becoming to big. If church members are not interacting with those who teach them because the church is simply too big, then means should be put in place to resolve this situation. That may mean refining the organisation of the church,or planting another church.
……………………..frustration. I want to address this matter specifically in the context of church leadership. However, the principles also play-out in other realms of life whether that be business, family or community.
For any group of people to function well there has to be good communication. Particular responsibility for providing this communication, and exemplifying it, is with the leadership. When communication is bad by a church leadership then the church starts to malfunction; bad communication leads to frustration. When people are not been told what is going on then they start to get frustrated. Some of the evidences that the communication is bad are:
- People having to approach the elders to find out about what is going on regarding a specific situation. Now there will be times when such an inquiry is just busy-bodying. Also there will be times when information is confidential and cannot be shared. Generally though, elders should be regularly be keeping all the people who need to know about a matter informed.
- People say “nobody told me”. This is when certain church members believe that they are not a party to information that others have been given.
- People start murmuring among themselves about what is going on in a situation.
When these things starts to occur you end up with a frustrated church and the consequences will be:
- People are deflated. They don’t know what is going on. They feel things are not being dealt with.
- People are distracted. The duty of church leaders is to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up (Eph. 4:12). Rather than people being released to works of service, they are being distracted by having to spend energy figuring out what is going on with other stuff in the Church. And this is all because they have not been communicated with.
So church leaders need to:
- Always veer towards over-communication rather than under-communication.
- Be sending out information at the same time to those who need to know. A bit here and there to different people can cause upset.
- Make sure all communications are sufficient so all know enough. Long-winded documents put people off.
- Communicate with warmth and encouragement. Being too business-like and curt can offend some people.
Here is an interesting article by Chris Green. He writes about those who have made shipwreck of their ministry. One common feature of those who have fallen in this way is that they have all previously withdrawn form active involvement in church life. Essentially they have been carrying on with church ministry, but have withdrawn from the church.
One way of preventing us moving in that direction is to be reminding ourselves that we are church members before we are anything else in the church. I have written about that here and here
Although specifically directed to those “in ministry”, by Mr Green, this principle of the need to be bolted into the life of a church for fellowship and accountability is essential for us all. How it is that Christians can remain outside a church is baffling. And it is baffling in this context because it is so dangerous. So fellow believer if you:
- are not a church member, why not? You just must be.
- are a church member, make sure you stay central to church life. To fail to do this is to put your life in peril.
What kind of people are being bred and produced in our churches and families. This is a big issue to challenge parents and church leaders.
The big danger we face is of producing those who have an outward conformity to accepted standards, but their heart is not in it. They conform to the standards that are presented to them out of obligation or respect, but if they had their own way they would be doing differently.
The issue is an issue of leadership and teaching. Are we law teachers and demonstrators or grace teachers and demonstrators?
Law teachers basically present the rules and say that if you keep them all will be fine. But if you don’t keep them then things are going to go bad.
Those who teach grace are continually drawing their students into the wonderful news that there is acceptance. Naturally we are wrecked and written-off because of our sin. However, there is acceptance with God though our Lord Jesus Christ who once died to take away our sins. In leading this way we present the true way as a way of delight where we can know that we are with God. In teaching this way we want to draw hearts into an appreciation of how much good God has demonstrated in Christ. We, of course, need to be demonstrators of this. Children need to see that their parents are livers of grace.
As grace is presented in all its richness to our congregations and children then we long and pray for a heart response. Such a heart response will lead to lives that are wanting to go on and know the Lord and live to please God.
They live to please God not just to keep the standards, but because they love the One who gave the standards.
Parents, church leaders and all involved in discipleship must remember this.
It must be noted though that law teaching is not excluded by the need to teach grace. In fact the law if properly handled shows the need of grace. So in that sense the law when used properly is a means of grace.
This post from last week leads me to think about how leaders should demonstrate their leadership in repentance. This is essentially counter-intuitive because the thinking of the world is that you have to prove yourself to be strong and in control if you are a leader. However the godly leader is not of that ilk.
The model of our leadership is a Saviour who was humble and lowly of heart. Now our Saviour never had to repent of any sin. However for us who are weak in our beings and prone to wander from the ways of God there should be the readiness to repent.
This so important because it is how we display the gospel into our family and into our church. Parents and church leaders who are not repenters set a bad example to those under their care. The gospel we affirm, after all, is a message which has its fulcrum in repentance. Gospel grace swings into our lives when there is repentance. Forgiveness is experienced when there is repentance.
So parents and church leaders make sure that you are a leader in repentance. Children and church members who see their leaders ever proving their strength and refusing to face up to their sins are hindered from seeing the gospel clearly displayed before them.