As Dallas Bay has gone from mini to industrial strength I have discovered my responsibilities have changed tremendously. In the beginning I would load my lawn mower in the trunk of the Sentra and travel to church to mow the strips of grass around the rental space where our church was meeting. I also painted the first sign out front, taught the adult S.S. class while my wife kept the nursery. I even sang in a men's quartet. (Along with the other 3 adult men in the church.)
Now, most of those things are hired out or done by the dozens of wonderful volunteers. Ninety percent of my time is spent in two important tasks, administration and teaching. Don't think I have forgotten disciplining, but disciplining occurs as I lead the staff and teach the congregation. Because I spend so much time preparing messages and Bible studies I have accumulated a healthy foundation upon which to build public presentations of God's Word. Here is the secret to success, time. Time with the Word and time with the Living Word. And herein also lies the problem. Let me explain.
The praise of people who tell me, "Pastor, Ive read that passage before, but I have never seen that truth before. Thank you so much," is intoxicating to a preacher. Or, "Your sermons just get better every week" consistently sets the bar just a little higher and increases the pressure to perform a little greater. I begin to seek out just one more little known fact or pray for just one more nugget of previously unknown spiritual wisdom. Eventually, my pursuit of the Word leaves me further and further from the Living Word and I fear those I'm teaching are following.
This type of thinking has a name. It's called gnosticism. Gnosticism elevates knowledge as the ultimate goal of faith. In this culture of religion the more secret truth you obtain the more spiritual you are deemed to be. The quest is for the Word, known and mystical, not on the Living Word. I'm afraid I may not be unique. I may be just an example of what is happening throughout many evangelical churches. The ultimate result of introducing people to the Word while giving only momentary opportunities to fellowship with the Living Word is creating a world that is both more knowledgeable and impotent at the same time. Our services are orderly but sterile.
Why has this lean toward knowledge and away from an encounter with Christ taken place? Simply put: It's easier. It's much simpler to introduce someone to a text than it is to the unseen God. It's also more attractive to the fleshly desire of the preacher. We are more likely to be praised for hammering a truth home than to allow the Spirit of God to introduce some hurting soul to Jesus. It's also more structured. I can put together a sermon that will get people on their feet, but only the Spirit can bring people to their knees.
To say that I'm convicted is not enough. I'm compelled to do something. I want to embark on an adventure and I'm inviting others to follow. I'm not suggesting that I will study less or stop asking God for wisdom. I am going to continue to put great importance on knowing His Word, but from this day forward, I plan to pursue the Living Word with just as much enthusiasm. I'm praying to know what this pursuit will look like in my life and in the church I'm called to lead.
What are your thoughts? Are there others out there who feel the way I do? I would love to dialogue with others of you who are thinking like I am. Just comment on this blog or on Facebook.