Every pastor notices dangerous tendencies in his own flock, remembers weaknesses in the churches he grew up around, and watches disturbing trends in his own tribe or church tradition. Appropriately, he brings God’s Word to bear to correct or adjust these dangers and point people in the right and Biblical direction. However, there is a danger here. Too often pastors thunder against a current weakness as though nothing else matters. Sometimes our language and vocabulary is not true to the full complexity of Biblical teaching. Sometimes we summarize the Bible in terms of our current burden, rather than allowing the Bible to speak on its own terms.
God’s Word is timeless, perfectly addressing every generation and every problem in the church. If we summarize the Bible inaccurately, in an attempt to add weight to our current burden, we will only train people to look to us, rather than to the Scriptures as their source of authority. Here are a few ways we might do this.
1. Because my church is legalistic I’ll say, “The Bible is against law keeping and all about receiving God’s grace.” (The Bible is about receiving God’s grace and the Bible also calls us to obey God’s law in Christ.)
2. Because my church is worldly I’ll say, “The Bible is all about holiness and tells Christians to be separate from this world.” (The Bible is about holiness, but also tells Christians to love unbelievers and to care for them spiritually and practically.)
3. Because the worship in my church is dry and formal I’ll say, “The Bible commands passionate and loud worship and our goal is to have an exciting worship experience.” (The Bible is about passionate worship, but also commands reverence and order and peace in our meetings.)
4. Because there is a weakness in evangelism in our church I’ll say, “The Bible is all about missions and everything we do should focus on reaching the lost with the gospel.” (The Bible is about missions but is ultimately is about God’s glory and also commands worship and loving other Christians.)
5. Because there is a weakness in parenting in our culture I’ll say, “The Bible is all about family discipleship and our church only exists to serve the ultimate church in each home.” (The Bible does command and celebrate family discipleship, but also tells us that our ultimate family is God’s church and that Christians in the church are called to disciple one another.)
The greatest danger of these hyperbolic summaries is that they disconnect the church from the actual teaching of Scripture. The Church is rendered vulnerable to teaching that is unbiblical because they have become used to teaching that is imbalanced. They are forced to reject contradictory or complimentary verses outright, or they simply get used to only reading the parts of the Bible that agree with their current emphasis. Both are deadly over multiple generations in the church.
Pastors and Christians must guard against this tendency. Every generation will need pastors and teachers to highlight specific aspects of God’s truth to resist the latest trends of wrong thinking. But all of us should have the next generation in view, and insure that our summaries are fully Biblical, that our accents do not become our authority, and that the Bible is not muted in our church when the weakness swings in the opposite direction.