I attend an independent Baptist church, and I know a lot of preachers. Some are good preachers, some are not so good, some are goofy, some are grave. I’m telling you, I know a lot of preachers, and I’ve noticed over the last few years a rather odd prejudice among some of the preachers I know. That prejudice is against ‘teaching’.
Now the problem with addressing this issue is I have to use specific examples so that everybody understands what I’m talking about, and I don’t want to name names. So I have to be specific, and non-specific all at once. Let me try it this way.
Surely all of us have seen a movie or TV show that announced at the onset that it was ‘Based on actual events’. I have also seen where a program or movie claimed it was ‘Inspired by actual events’. My understanding of the difference between the two is that to be based on actual events means that you tried to stick the original event, but may have added some things or removed some scenes for narrative effect. ‘Inspired’ by actual events means I got the idea from something that happened, but felt no need to stick to the facts. For example, a movie based on actual events would have the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor, but focus on some ridiculous ‘love story’, simply using the historical event as a backdrop. An ‘inspired’ movie would have Martians bombing Cincinnati and maybe a few ninjas thrown in. I have rarely seen a movie that couldn’t have been made better by the inclusion of ninjas.
Now back to the preaching. Some preachers base their material off of the Bible, and some preachers have material that is merely inspired by the Bible. I really don’t have any issue with either approach except when a person who prefers one approach is critical of a person who leans towards the other approach. What does this have to do with ‘teaching’? Keep reading, you’ll see.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I was going to preach on alcohol. I could take the time to show you what the Bible says about the subject. I could cover all of the relevant passages, giving their context, and not only explain the Bible position on it, but also address the most common complaints against the Bible position. That can be done with passion, with eloquence, and under the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, as far as I can tell, that’s pretty much the job description of a preacher. That would require from me some studying, some laboring in word and doctrine. It would also require some spiritual discernment to keep the message free from my own opinion , interpretation or spin and God’s power to make it all bearable for the listener. That would be a message that was ‘based’ on the Bible.
Or I could quote half a verse and then put on a series of theatrics designed to stir up the crowd that already agrees with me and shout down anyone that disagrees with me. That would be a message ‘inspired ‘ by the Bible. Keep in mind that my half a verse may be correct, and in the midst of all my showmanship I may actually be taking the Bible position on the subject, but I would be remiss in not presenting to my audience the ‘whole counsel of God’ on the matter. Does everybody do this from time to time? Absolutely. Do the constraints of time sometime force us to take shortcuts in our explanations? Sure. But do preachers that I know that are friends of mine use theatrics as a substitute for preparation? You can bet your sweet bippy on it.
Here’s the real irony of it all. The ‘inspired’ crowd will then run to the Bible to prove that the ‘based’ crowd isn’t really preaching, they are teaching. Some will say that a proclivity towards ‘teaching’ ( as they define it) is a sign of apostasy. And after all EVERYBODY knows that there exists this huge chasm of difference between the two. Or is there?
Well, for starters…
• The word ‘teach’ occurs 107 times in the Bible
• The word ‘teaching’ occurs 25 times
• The word ‘taught’ occurs 79 times
• The word ‘preach’ occurs 47 times
• The word ‘preached’ occurs 59 times
• The word ‘preaching’ occurs 27 times
I encourage you to look into this, because due to the enormity of the topic we would be hard pressed to cover it all without it being both exhaustive and exhausting, but we will hit the high points to get the discussion started.
In Exodus 4, God tells Moses he will teach him what he must say to Pharaoh. Moses is entrusted with teaching the children of Israel the statues of God in Exodus 18 and 24 as well as Leviticus 10 and 14, and Deuteronomy 1 and 5. The children of Israel are commanded to teach future generations in Deut 4, 6, 11, and 24. God teaches people in Psalm 25, 32, 34, 51, and 132 as well as Isaiah 28 and Jer 32. Jesus Christ teaches in Matthew 4, 9, 11and 21, as well as in Mark 4, 6, 8, and 11. His teaching is also mentioned in Acts 1 .Jesus taught daily according to Matt 26. The Holy Spirit has a teaching ministry according to Luke 12 and John 14. Believers are commanded to teach all nations in Matt 28. The apostles taught in Acts 4, 5. Paul claimed to be a teacher in 1 Corinthians 4. He commanded Timothy to teach in 1 Timothy 4 and 6. One of the qualifications for bishop is an aptness to teach according to 1 Tim 3 and 2 Tim 2. Women are entrusted with teaching other women in Titus 2 .
Teaching in and of itself, cannot be bad. The issue appears to be what is taught. Teaching does not appear, in and of itself, to be an indicator of apostasy. In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true in light of Hosea 4:6 . But for some reason the ‘inspired’ crowd runs to 2 Timothy 4:3 to make their case that , having defined a systematic explanation of the bible position as ‘teaching’, teaching is an indicator of some sort of apostasy. This may work for church members who never look down at their lap to see what the book they are hearing quoted actually says, but hopefully anyone that has made it this far in this posting won’t mind if we just quote the whole passage, for contexts’ sake.
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove , rebuke , exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Tim 4:1-4
Notice a couple of things. I am to reprove, rebuke, and exhort, but I am supposed to do all 3 with longsuffering and doctrine. Not theatrics, not clever stories, but rather doctrine. This falls under the heading of ‘preach the word’. Moving on we see that people some people will not endure sound doctrine, but rather embrace false doctrine. The issue isn’t that people are being taught, the issue is what they are being taught. As ministers of the gospel we are told to not only be apt to teach, but to instruct those that oppose themselves. To do less and waste precious time with showmanship and silly nonsense that we picked up from our favorite preachers ( Gal 5:20) is bad enough, but to take the position that by doing it wrong we’re actually doing it right and replacing diligent prayerful study with passion or zeal is almost a criminal misuse of our calling. I think preachers will give an account at the judgment seat of Christ as to how they neglected the command to study and prepare.