By Brian Nixon, Special to ASSIST News Service
ALBUQURQUE, NEW MEXICO (ANS – March 11, 2017) — When a student at a local ministry school walked into my office with a question about some popular pastors, asking, “What do you think of so and so?”, I have to confess that I was saddened by my answer.
“To tell you the truth, I can’t endorse any of them,” I said.
Why would I give an answer like this? It’s not like the pastors he listed aren’t popular and trendy, with best-selling books. Most of the pastors he stated are considered hip, making an impact with entrepreneurial skill and social media style. Nor did my answer question the role that some of the pastors he mentioned have on the Christian world. I’d say that a few he stated are making an impact on the church, the question is: will it be lasting? Nor was I saying that the pastors he cited were abhorrent Christian leaders, involved in some unorthodox teaching; they’re not, at least to my knowledge.
So why did I say I couldn’t endorse them? The reason is simple: they’ve lost sight of Biblical exposition, and in doing so have lost the muscle of their message. They’ve become a brand independent of the Bible, a product absent of any power. In short, they are not systematically teaching Scripture, relying upon dazzle over depth, publicity over principles.
A few years before his death, I co-wrote a short booklet on Biblical exposition with Pastor Chuck Smith, the then senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. The booklet was entitled Line Upon Line. In the work, Chuck likened pastors that don’t teach the Bible to someone providing candy to a congregation. At first the people may say, yummy — all the sweets taste good, but later their tummy will be hungry, wanting more. The person in the pew lacking Biblical teaching will become paltry, sick with sweets, whereas Biblical exposition provides food for the famished, meat to the malnourished. How we need the younger generation of pastors to feed the sheep, not just provide grazing to galvanize a Twitter feed.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not downing the use of social media or other outlets to evangelize and teach. In today’s world it’s a must to further the kingdom of God. However, when social media begins to take the place of serious study, we’ve got a problem. 140 characters will never replace years of concentrated prayer and pondering, with the outcome of a commanding presentation of God’s truth. And speaking of truth, Jesus pointed out that truth leads to holiness and that truth is His word (see John 17: 17). And if you ask me, I’d believe Jesus over any modern gesturing telling me otherwise.
Remember A.W Tozer’s challenge: “You win them to what you win them with.” Modern updates on the quote put it like this: “What you win them with is what you win them to.” And if we are winning people to Christ barren of truth, we are winning them to a cowardly Christianity, void of veracity.
The bottom line is that we live in a culture that is turning from the truth — be it in media, the arts, education, and politics. Heaven forbid that God’s people follow suit. We need to be as Augustine said, people who “submit to truth.” Why? Because as Sojourner Truth reminds us, “Truth is powerful and it prevails.” God’s people need to be truth-tellers, and part of telling the truth (along with reason) is teaching the Bible.
Without judging the hearts of the pastors the student mentioned to me, I’m afraid that some in the pulpit today are what Augustine warned us of: “Those who love the flattery and respect of men…, and act out of selfishness instead of love for truth.” Maybe a modern translation of this would be: “Those who love the flattery of many Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram followers, wanting social and media clout over Scriptural clarity.”
Truth is powerful — that’s why the church for years has proclaimed it and preached it, both in general revelation (natural theology) and specific revelation (Biblical theology). And truth will prevail — even with the current cultural and Christianity-lite move away from it.
But instead of bemoaning its loss, learn a lesson from its’ lessening: teach the truth and watch truth triumph.
Nothing less will do.
Here’s some links for helping some in the church get back on track (whereas others never left):
John Stott: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3b17TGbzDA and Between Two Worlds
JI Packer: http://www.bible-researcher.com/packer1.html
Norman Geisler: http://normangeisler.com/festschrift/ (see the chapter on “The Task of Bible Exposition” by Johnson)
Albert Mohler: http://www.albertmohler.com/2013/11/11/expositors-summit-2013-general-session-1 / and https://www.sermoncentral.com/pastors-preaching-articles/albert-mohler-al-mohler-expository-preaching-is-the-antidote-to-anemic-preaching-1741
R. Kent Hughes: http://www.preachingtheword.com/kenthughes.asp
Ligonier/R.C Sproul: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/necessity-expository-preaching/
Mark Dever/9 Marks: https://9marks.org/article/has-preaching-changed-since-the-early-church/
And as a helpful history lesson, check out the ministry and works of the following: Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Hooker, Charles Simeon, C.F.D Moule, G. Campbell Morgan, F. B. Myers, Martyn-Lloyd-Jones, J. Vernon McGee, and Chuck Smith.
Photo captions: 1) Line Upon Line by Chuck Smith and Brian Nixon. 2) Expository Preaching. 3) Between Two Worlds by John Stott. 4) Brian Nixon.
About the writer: Brian Nixon is a writer, musician, artist, and minister. He’s a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus (BA), Veritas Evangelical Seminary (MA), and is a Fellow at Oxford Graduate School (D.Phil.). To learn more, click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Nixon.
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