Archive for the 'Pastor Teacher' Category

Designer Faith

I thought I was done with the Barna survey, but it seems I am not. Because in thinking about the last two bits of information, in addition to something else I came across yesterday, I find I’m being led to do at least one more post on this subject.

I was initially surprised to learn that the Barna Group’s numbers indicated that more than half of self-identified born again believers and almost three quarters of American adults don’t believe Satan is real,   then not so surprised upon learning how very few Americans — even among the born again Christians — hold to a Biblical worldview any more. The lack of a Biblical worldview in part explains the disbelief in Satan… but how is it that so many of our countrymen lack one?

The other thing I came across yesterday was an opinion regarding the controversy over whether the Bible is to be taken literally or figuratively, and that kind of clarified things for me, especially taken in combination with one last bit from the Barna Group’s research.

The writer of the opinion did not believe that basic Bible stories were to be taken as literal, real, historical events but were merely instructional tales. Or at least some were. Others might not be. In any case, the individual defended this viewpoint with the claim that there are many things that can’t be known and thus chose not to question everything and demand that all be defined.

This was not the first time I’ve encountered the opinion that spiritual things are not to be questioned too closely, nor defined in too much detail. It always sounds lofty and somehow more spiritual than the mundane, prosaic activity of trying to make everything fit.

But yesterday, it finally  dawned on me that a person with this viewpoint is primarily concerned with what they believe the Bible says, not what it actually says. And by choosing not to question or seek to define their terms, they pretty much cut off all chance of finding out what it really says.

Imagine  if a scientist did that!  

— Oops!  I forgot! Some of them do!

Okay but they’re not supposed to, and many of them don’t. The whole point of science is to find out about our world, and the way to do that has always been to question and define. The way to understand anything is to do that, even the word of God.

Especially the word of God, I would say.

Which is why I advocate learning from a pastor who has been rigorously prepared in the original languages, the historical settings at the times of writing, and the various categories of doctrines as they are found and/or developed throughout the Bible. You can’t just sit down and read it for yourself without knowing any of these other things and expect to really understand it in depth. Yet that is what many do.

Or so I had thought. In fact, it would appear that most don’t really read it at all…

Last year, an article in USA Today last year called Designer Faith  reported on another Barna Group survey which found that “people no longer look to denominations or churches”  for their theological edification but have made of it a do-it-yourself project. Or, as the article was subtitled, “are tailoring religion to fit their needs.”

“By a three to one margin (71% to 26%) adults noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church.” 

When it comes to the born again Christians, the number decreases, but not by much and still makes the majority for  61% of them favor an “a la carte” approach to the development of their theological beliefs. 

Worse of all, “leading the charge in the move to customize one’s package of beliefs are people under the age of 25, among whom more than four out of five (82%) said they develop their own combination of beliefs rather than adopt a set proposed by a church.”

As George Barna said, “America is headed toward being a country of 310 million people with 310 million religions.”

It’s kind of amazing and at the same time creepy to see things playing out as the Bible warns.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires… ”    ~ 2 Ti 4:3

Advertisements

NoCal Conference 2009

karen Golden Gate

Well, I got back Monday afternoon from the Northern California Bible Conference which was held in Burlingame, CA (just south of San Francisco on the Peninsula) and sponsored by Grace Bible Church but which my Pastor did not attend, and so, obviously, did not teach at. Instead it was taught by one of the pastors my pastor has ordained, a man who has started his own ministry out here in the west.

The subject was Authority — how it is the most important thing in the universe. The question asked was “Do you know who/what your authority is?”

The answer… it’s a threefold construct — a triangle of God, His Word and the Pastor Teacher God has assigned to you to communicate that Word.

We were reminded that God is not the author of confusion. (I Co 14:33)

That God does things in ones — One Lord, one faith, one baptism (Eph 4:5) — and that we each have one spiritual gift and one pastor teacher assigned at a time.

We reviewed the scriptures that document the fact that we are assigned a Pastor Teacher — Ephesians 4:12, 13 which tells us the gift of Pastor-Teacher is given for the training of the saints for the work of the ministry. I Pe 5:3 reveals that each pastor is assigned a specific congregation, and I Th 512 adds that each believer is assigned a pastor… and thus a specific congregation as well. The local congregation operates as a body in itself, and all the parts are needed by all the other parts. (I Co 12)

In times past the notion of staying loyal to an assigned pastor and local assembly was mostly unchallenged due to the difficulties of travel and the limitations of technology. If you wanted to hear someone you had to be there. Or perhaps, as in the first century, ou could rely on letters or books. Now with the explosion of printed material as well as internet technology which puts the works of thousands at our fingertips, and with transportation having advanced to the point you can travel thousands of miles in a day… this is more of a challenge. And that challenge was what the bulk of the teaching — and the conversation — at the Northern California Bible conference was about.

With the proliferation of prepared, doctrinal pastors in recent years, many of whom have their messages recorded and made available through the internet or other digitized means, it has become very easy to go “church hopping.” Don’t like what your pastor is teaching this week? With a couple of mouse clicks, you can see what Pastor B is teaching. Angry and offended because your pastor has dared to tell you the truth and thereby become your enemy (Gal 4:16), you can click out of his site and go to someone else who teaches more in line with what you want to hear. Do you just want to accumulate knowledge?  Feel good about your life and your self? Or are you simply curious as to what else is out there? Are you bored? Familiarity can be a subtle attack on your mental attitude with respect to doctrine which can cause you to become dissatisfied, restless or feel dry — though sometimes that dry feeling is just part of the Christian life, a test to see if you will proceed regardless or wander away in search of something new and more exciting.

The problem with this “spiritual adultery” (as the concept was taught this weekend) is that even prepared, experienced doctrinal pastors disagree in what they teach. Some say the rapture will occur at the end of the church age and other place it mid Tribulation. Some say we don’t need rebound (confession of sins to regain the Filling of the Holy Spirit) and others say rebound is central to the function of the Christian life. Some have taught that you can reach in this life a state of sinless perfection and others are aghast at such a suggestion.

All of them can support their positions scripturally because, as my pastor says, you can make the Bible say anything you want it to. So then, how does the congregant determine which is right? To think that you have the ability to discern through all the different teachers and pick out which one is correct here and which is correct there is really pretty arrogant. It assumes that you out of all of them are the one with the greatest knowledge and ability to see truth. It’s especially arrogant if you consider the fact that most of the men you are critiquing spend their days digging into God’s word, study the Greek and Hebrew and have spent years doing so, whereas the average congregant has devoted maybe only 20% of the same amount of time to their studies.

Actually, that mindset, the one of roaming about sampling from this and that source as you determine (or perhaps you think the Holy Spirit is guiding you… but not anyone else, apparently, or wouldn’t they be right?) is pretty close to today’s post-modernist thinking that says you don’t need an authority, someone to teach you, but that you can figure things out for yourself. It says that there is no absolute truth, either, that image is more important than words, that personal experience and emotion trumps reason.  A 2002 article in Christianity Todaypoints out that “when we speak of truth…our postmodern neighbors hear just one more opinion among many.”  I wonder if that might not also apply to some of our fellow Christians, their thinking influenced by the prevailing viewpoint of the times. 

But the Bible doesn’t hold that a man’s opinion or his experience is important. God’s ways are not man’s ways; His thoughts are not man’s thoughts. The fool is right in his own eyes. The ways of a man seem right to him… And pastors were given to train and instruct the saints for the work of service. Yes, the Holy Spirit is our ultimate teacher — we can’t understand a thing the pastor teaches apart from Him; nor can the pastor study and teach correctly apart from Him. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the gift of pastor teacher has been given for our edification and we need him. One pastor. One human authority at a time to respect, trust and submit to — not merely to the man himself, but ultimately to God, who provided the man and delegated the authority to him.

How I Found Col Thieme

I was saved in the fall of 1974, by the words of a man who taught the college class Sunday school at a Conservative Baptist Church in Tucson, AZ. Orville Smyth was a letter carrier, back in the days when they didn’t drive trucks but walked from door to door. During his route, Orville memorized scripture. He also taught himself Greek (although not, I think, while he was walking…). And he taught in the Sunday school — adults and young adults.

In addition to the college class, he taught a new believer’s class on Monday nights which I and my now-husband attended — salvation by grace, salvation by faith alone in Christ alone, eternal security, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, 1 John 1:9 and more.  In the college classes he worked from Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Major Bible Themes, and taught us… well, the basic doctrines of the church age — all the above plus the essence and character of God, the angelic conflict, the depravity of man, Dispensations…

I had about nine months with him before my husband and I were married and we moved to Northern Arizona. Orville gave me an excellent foundation for my spiritual life. But there were a lot of other things… I had so many questions. Especially over that summer as we sought to find a new church home and every place we went more or less struck out. They were either way off the doctrine we believed or weren’t interested in studying at all.

The tiny Baptist church we were attending in Heber was either searching for a pastor or having a revival — I can’t recall any more — but the speaker’s subject was “yielding to the Spirit.” I’d already heard about yielding, but no one could really tell me how that was accomplished or what it actually meant. I mostly thought of yellow yield signs when I thought of the word, and not driving into oncoming traffic. Which wasn’t terribly useful.

The temporary speaker suggested that to yield we write all our sins down on a piece of paper and then light a match to it. By doing that, we would be yielded.

So I did that. I didn’t feel any more yielded than I had previously. And worse, it wasn’t an hour before I was committing another sin again. So that whole paper burning thing didn’t seem to have done much good. Besides making me feel terribly silly.

Then my husband got a job teaching math and biology and coaching football at the high school in nearby Lakeside and started about two weeks later. About a week into his teaching experience, he didn’t come home for dinner, so I turned down the heat on my simmering meatballs and went to school to find him. Football practice had held him late, but he was about ready to go when I arrived.

Not to go home and eat the meatballs, however. No. We had been invited to a Bible study at one of his fellow teachers’ homes. So off we went. I was not in the best mood for new people, a new Bible Study (most til then had been extremely lame) and no dinner. Besides, what about my meatballs!?

Looking back it makes me laugh. Little did I know how great that meeting would impact my life. And there I was, like Martha, all worried about meatballs.

When we got there everyone else has arrived and instead of meeting in the spacious living room, we were ushered to a dimly lit back bedroom that had been converted to a sort of study. There were file cabinets, several Western saddles on stands, shelves and shelves of 8 track tapes and a reel-to-reel tape player, which was to be the source of our “Bible Study.” I thought it was all  terribly weird, including the people.

And then the Colonel began…His voice and his manner were both annoying and compelling. His doctrinal content was what I was looking for, but he was so in-your-face. He taught like a drill instructor! (given his preparations, no surprise!) And in that first lesson, he was criticising lots of things I held dear — environmentalism, being one of them. The rest is lost to time, but Stu and I went home laughing about his dogmatic, forthright manner, his critical words, and totally un-pastor like demeanor.

But there was truth there and we came back the next week. I don’t recall whose idea it was. I think it might have been my husband’s, but I’m not sure. In between the things I didn’t like were lots of things I did. For one thing there was this matter of yielding.

That, taught Colonel Thieme, was merely another way of saying we needed to be filled with the Spirit. He delineated between the Indwelling of the Spirit, which all church age believers have all the time, and the Filling of the Spirit which is transitory. The first time we sin after salvation, we lose the filling of the Spirit, which is where He controls the soul. 1 John 1:9, which tells us to confess our sins, brings back the Filling of the Spirit and temporal fellowship with God. A baby believer spends more time out of fellowship than in. But as we grow and as God’s word begins to transform our thoughts, we begin to avoid the more obvious sins and spend more time filled with the Spirit. It’s a long slow process.

But it made sense. And it works. I knew it was truth as soon as I heard it. Suddenly all the floundering around, all the vagueries of what “yieldedness” meant had been circumvented and I had a concept I could hold on to and actually apply.

Thus  began what was for a few months (or was it years?) of a love-hate relationship with the man. His personality was abrasive. He made an issue of his authority. He sometimes used “bad words”. And while none of that bothered me all that much, it sure did bother others.  And that did bother me.

But even so,  I couldn’t stop listening; it was the only place I was getting fed, and boy was I!  I ordered cassettes of the basics series through the mail and listened to three of the hour-long tapes a day — because I was so eager to hear the next one. I just couldn’t seem to get enough. Since I had no kids, no job and no car, I had time. Also no telephone, and no TV. And, it being Mormon country (almost all the teachers at the school were LDS), and us being new to the area, I had few friends as well. I listened, took notes, then copied them over into neat transcriptions with all the references. I also read most of the publications, and taught myself beginning Greek.  

 The Colonel’s teachings on Moses made him come alive. I saw him as a real person, with flaws and faults and foibles like the rest of us, even if he was the “humblest man in the earth.” It told me that sinless perfection was not the goal. That those people in the Bible were not “saints” in the sense of holier than thou individuals but people just like me, with very similar struggles.

I LOVED the story of Joseph, which is echoed in The Light of Eidon

Col Thieme’s teachings on the angelic conflict, which elaborated on what Chafer had uncovered, answered all sorts of questions and made so many things fit together into one understandable whole. The difference between the Indwelling and Filling of the Spirit, the concept of human viewpoint versus divine viewpoint,  the notion of mental attitude sins, the clarification of what a pastor’s job really was, why we need to get the word taught every day… everthing was so vital, so exciting and compelling and useable. The Christian life came alive as never before.

But of course, because we are in a battle with spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenlies, there had to be opposition, and there was…


Categories

My Online Church

Visit my Old Blog Here:

Music I’m Writing To

Transformers (Revenge of the Fallen) Soundtrack - Steve Jablonsky

Advertisements

%d bloggers like this: