The importance of having a sound understanding of Christian doctrine–our particular set beliefs–is one of my great burning passions. And I bet that most Christians, if asked, would agree that properly understanding and conveying what the Bible teaches on a particular topic is important. I am sure that most Christians would also affirm that solid Biblical preaching is an essential part of a pastor's job. That leads to a couple of closely related questions.
- What process does your pastor use to prepare his Sunday morning sermon?
- What process does your pastor use to maintain proper Christian doctrine?
I bring this up because a couple of the blogs that I follow wrote about a controversy involving James MacDonald and T.D. Jakes. To be honest I don't want to dwell on it too much because I really haven't been following all of the "Elephant Room" chatter. But the headline of one article caught my eye: How the Elephant Room is Redefining the Pastoral Office.
Tim Raymond's main point in the article is that the inclusion of T.D. Jakes–who is considered by some to fall outside of what has historically been accepted as proper Christian teaching–weakens the perception that sound and proper doctrine is an important part of pastoral ministry. Raymond says:
"And for the pastor, thinking that sound doctrine is insignificant is simply not an option...One of the prerequisites to the pastoral office is that a man be able to teach sound doctrine (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:5-9). Part of the basic job description of the pastor is to proclaim sound doctrine and refute error (Titus 1:9). Pastors are charged to train up their entire congregation in sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:13-16; Titus 2:1). Pastors are to preach the Word in season and out since the time is coming when those who do not tolerate sound doctrine will infiltrate the church (2 Timothy 4:1-4 [parallelism indicates that preaching the Word is preaching sound doctrine]; cf. Acts 20:28ff.). And the Lord’s stamp of approval on a man’s ministry is partially measured by his commitment to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6)."
So how do we know whether or not our pastors are teaching sound doctrine?
Through a lot of hard work. Acts 17:10-11 says:
"The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so."
We cannot simply be content to listen to a sermon–that is the easy way which can lead us down the dangerous path of false teaching. We must be like those in Berea and take the time to carefully search the scriptures to make sure that what is being taught is true. I think that it is also important for us to have an understanding of our pastor's process of developing a sermon and how they actively work to stay doctrinally sound. It is important for two reasons. The first is so that we can be sure that our pastor has a way of remaining true to the Word of God.
I understand that there will be some pastors that find this suggestion to be a bit too intrusive. They may feel like they are being unfairly watched or critiqued. They may feel like it is an added burden to an already heavy work load. They may feel like their process is a bit to lax to really share with anyone. But it is my contention that if someone is truly dedicated to sound doctrine that they should be willing to share and teach their method to others. Which leads me to the second and most important reason that we should take the time to learn our pastor's ways. We should do this so that we have a way of being doctrinally sound. Even if you are someone that already has a good method we should never stop learning. Being able to incorporate parts of someone's process will only make our own process better. And the results will be of a great benefit to the church.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.