Preaching With the Eleven
The demise of doctrine. The death of learning. Such is the sad state of affairs in our churches today.
Where teaching happens to be present it is often plagued by idiosyncratic doctrine. Preachers go “solo,” preferring to say “what the text means to me” rather than standing on the doctrinal shoulders of the great saints of the past. We do not first inquire, “Lord, what does this text mean?” We make a show of seeking the truth but it is His stamp of approval upon our own ideas that we are after.
The collective wisdom of the ages stands at our doorstep but the door remains shut. Paul wrote, “Look, the ear can’t say, because it is not the eye, you don’t need me! Nor can the hand say to the foot, I don’t need you!” No, no, says Paul, “everyone needs everyone! No inferiority in the body, and no superiority; we all need each other!”
“Big” Christians are always saying, “I don’t need you, but you need me.” They forget that relationships in the body of Christ are two-way. We ministers must be willing to have others minister to us. It is important that we not only give advice, but that we also ask for it and receive it gladly.
Are you a teacher? There will be little power if you “fly solo.” Steep yourself in the theology of the Reformers. Surround yourself with friends who will challenge you and correct you if necessary. Keep your relationships in the body two-way.
Acts 2:14 says that Peter “stood up with the Eleven … and addressed the crowd.” I have often asked myself, How could Peter preach with the Eleven? The answer is actually quite simple. Peter knew that he had no right to say whatever he pleased. He recognized that his preaching had to be united with the “Amen” of the whole church. He was speaking on behalf of the other apostles and so he had to correctly reflect their doctrines and views.
Tom Ascol has said (Founders Journal, Issue 32):
Early Southern Baptists took for granted that Christianity is essentially doctrinal. To know Christ and follow Him faithfully demands we understand and believe the essential tenets of the faith. Must one, then, be a theologian in order to be a Christian? No. But every Christian ought to be as theologically informed from the Bible as possible. Such an attitude was once commonplace in Baptist churches. Doctrine was not regarded as dry, boring, or unimportant, and neither was it relegated to the domain of “professionals.”
Ascol is right. It is because of our failure to take theology seriously that our churches are plagued by a non-biblical emphasis on pragmatic reasoning, youth culture, consumer-driven marketing, and feminism.
A great assembly of humble, Scripture-satiated Christians can know more of the truth than all the professors trying to get their latest views published in the world’s prestigious journals.
July 22, 2004
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. His latest book is Why I Stopped Listening to Rush: Confessions of a Recovering Neocon.