I have written in the past that I have been struggling with health issues, but over the last couple of months, I have not blogged because I haven’t felt like writing , reading, or even thinking about anything of significant complexity. Hopefully, I am getting over that, given that I feel like writing today. The feeling of not wishing to do anything more complex than staring at the tv or doing simple things around the house is something I have never experienced before, and has given me experiential insight to how others feel about certain aspects of life.
There are times when thoughts have been bouncing through my head, which I would wish to comment on. One concerns an aspect of a favorite verse of those believers in simple, organic church, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, where it states that the believers in a church are to comfort and edify each other. Oftentimes, in the writings I read, the point of the comment on this verse is on the words “each other”, and the point that the traditional western way of one person (pastor, priest, or whatever) doing almost all the speaking makes the “each other” part practically impossible. One thing that I have noticed, but not seen commented on, is that a very large part of what is being called teaching, or edifying, is not so much teaching, but merely entertaining or inspiring talk. Further, a large portion of what could be called teaching is blatantly unbalanced, in that the speaker asserts a point, but does little to factually back up his/her point, or deal with those who would maintain a differing point of view as to the topic’s understanding, but merely asserts his/her idea (which can sometimes be way off track from the historical understanding of believers over the centuries, or even most learned believers today) and supports the assertion with clever phrasing, and anecdotal stories. Once one sees the difference between the two, it is amazing how much teaching has little true teaching in it, according to the way your local school teacher understands the word “teach”.
Therefore, more than ever before, I am coming to believe that the participatory Bible study, as implied in Acts 20, is far superior to sermons in teaching believers about faith in Jesus. Sermons, like other speeches, are totally dependent upon the speaker for the quality of teaching within them, and most persons giving sermons have concerns such as protecting their position, and using the point to increase support of their organization’s program. My feeling is that oftentimes that reaction is so buried underneath their previous experiences that they have no idea that they are even doing that.
Just in case this sounds too vague, let me give a few examples that I have seen. I know of a famous tv preacher that usually goes by “Doctor _____”. Strangely, he nor his organization will state where he got his doctorate from. Also strangely, he has written a book about integrity, and in this book, they somehow failed to put Dr. in front of his name. I further think of every sermon I have ever heard on tithing, in comparison to Bible commentaries clearly teaching that there are two tithes, at the least. Yes, I’ve heard that John McDonald does teach that the tithes are part of the completed Old Covenant, but I didn’t personally hear that, as one just can’t listen to everyone. I could go on and on, but it would sound like I have some kind of vendetta against all kinds of traditional organizational leaders, and I don’t. It’s just that they don’t usually have the intellectual check on them that the professor (including secular schools and subjects) has on him/her to keep their facts straight.
There is something I learned many years ago, when I was in college. I saw it in the college fellowship I was part of, and also in a revival trend I was involved with, and an institutional church I was part of later that would have an “open mike” night such that anyone could share. That is, that more learning as to how to function as a body of believers came out of someone occasionally standing up and saying something incorrect than from the rule of many institutions that allowed only those certified speakers to speak. The person getting up and saying the wrong thing taught those listening how to discern teaching, how to lovingly correct someone, and how to present the difference between correct and incorrect teaching. Opposingly, I have been part of institutional systems which had certified speakers who still taught incorrectly, and, even more than then, I see no practical means of correcting such a person, particularly if such a person is more concerned with holding onto position over following the Spirit.