Guest Posts

Guest Post: Be Part of the Solution – Preach the Whole Counsel of God

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in my “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs in the blue menu bar at the top of this page) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com, and let’s chat about it.

 

Be Part of the Solution:
Preach the Whole Counsel of God

by Andy de Ganahl

“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

An honest assessment of what passes for Evangelicalism today is depressing. Individual Christians are vastly ignorant of the Scriptures, churches that teach verse-by-verse are few and far between, and whole denominations are apostatizing left and right. The reason for this massive downgrade is simple: once a departure from Scripture’s authority has commenced, total destruction is imminent.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4

We are even now living in a time when “Christians” desperately desire to have their ears tickled. They want people to tell them what they want to hear and have no stomach for anything outside of that small circle.

We conservatives are quick to point the finger at men like Joel Osteen or Steven Furtick who deny redemption from sin in favor of redemption of personal circumstances. The damning errors of Beth Moore and Rachel Hollis who preach empowerment instead of submission are easy pickings. These are ear-ticklers who have a vast following. But what are we doing about it?

The cancer of heresy is easy to spot once it manifests, but we must address the source of this sickness rather than only treating the symptoms. Generally speaking, we know the problem. We have departed from the Word of God. When you confuse the gospel of grace with personal wealth and individual independence, you’re clearly off the reservation. But where did this start? How far back do we have to go before we find the root of this problem? At what point did we become those who desire to have our ears tickled? It is my opinion that this sickness has infected many more of us than you may suspect.

What Is The Problem?

If you’re like me, you may associate that phrase “wanting to have their ears tickledwith heresy. Clearly what Paul is talking about is a gross misrepresentation of the gospel that might include things like:

  • Denying Christ’s divinity
  • Denying Christ’s humanity
  • Denying the need of repentance
  • Denying human inability in salvation

We could go on and point out the heresies of various cults and false teachers, but Paul’s point is broader than that. All that the phrase means is that people want to be told what they want to hear at the expense of everything else. This does not mean that the thing that people want to hear is necessarily contrary to Scripture.

Paul contrasts ear-tickling with sound doctrine. The Greek literally means healthy/wholesome teaching. It brings the idea of a complete and filling spiritual and theological diet. There is no room in a whole diet for sweets and fluff. But we also need more than only steak, only bread, only broccoli (Praise Him!).

Christians must hold certain convictions with an iron grip. There are many things that a true Christian will never budge on. But that iron grip must hold the totality of God’s Word and not only those convictions that we personally adore more than others.

Some beloved believers, while holding fast their biblical convictions, are ignorant to other important doctrines. Not only are they ignorant, they’re indifferent. They’ve no time for these matters nor do they desire to submit to them. They only wish to hear about the things that are most concerning to them.

We hot-blooded Protestants are eager to rally to the cry of Sola Scriptura! Yet that slogan means that we stand on the totality of Scripture alone, not that we only stand on our favorite passages and doctrines.

I’ve noticed a trend in the various posts that I write. The majority of my writing reflects a careful exposition of Scripture. I write like I preach, verse by verse. But occasionally it is necessary to address issues and topics in light of current events (case in point). Those topics are still presented and studied under the light of Scripture, but they remain topical in nature. It is these kinds of posts that receive the most attention, views, and shares on social media. This trend follows the trajectory of the larger problem. In general, the people of God are more interested in topical discussions that tickle their ears than enduring wholesome teaching. If I am honest, I find this discouraging.

If I were to write something rather controversial like the clear demonic influence of the Democratic National Convention or the apostasy of the Southern Baptist Convention, these sensational topics would likely be well circulated. But these are crumbs. The truths of these propositions are so utterly basic to the Christian faith. To feast on these things is to ensure spiritual starvation. To prefer sensational topics to steady exposition is the very definition of wanting to have our ears tickled.

Please understand me. I am not suggesting that pastors should not address topics that intersect with our surroundings. The sheep need to hear the clear voice of the Shepherd in all things. But it grieves me that there is a genuine lack of appetite for meat while the crumbs are quickly gobbled up. The true child of God loves all of the Word of God and not only the parts he finds to be sensational.

This is a problem of our own making. It has become the standard operating procedure of most churches to completely avoid vast portions of Scripture. We are grieved when we see churches adopt atheistic presuppositions about the origins of the universe and deny God’s literal creation. We marvel and shake our heads when we hear that churches no longer teach homosexuality is sin in both practice and desire. We are shocked when we see mainstream denominations promote blatant violations of 1 Timothy 2:12. But all of these are only the fruit. The root is much deeper.

We have been giving lip service to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture while practically denying that “all Scripture is God-breathed and is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and exhortation” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In plain language, the problem is a departure from the totality of Scripture.

What Is The Solution?

The solution is as simple as the problem. We must cling to and submit under the totality of Scripture. But what does that simple solution look like?

As a people, we must soundly reject the false understanding of doctrinal triage. We cannot survive another decade if we continue to treat the church like a 1950’s dinner party where are certain topics are off limits. There is simply no such thing as secondary or tertiary doctrines that pale in significance or even lapse into insignificance when placed alongside “primarydoctrines. The biblical authors never divide the Word of God into degrees of significance and neither should we. The solution to biblical fidelity will never be found in arbitrary divisions of biblical teaching. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

As a church, our pulpits must proclaim the full counsel of God and not only the portions that are palatable. The teaching must be only the Word and must consist of the totality of the Word. Careful verse-by-verse exposition takes a very, very, very long time. It took John MacArthur almost 50 years to preach through the New Testament. But there are still 39 books in the Old Testament that need to be taught. Precise verse-by-verse exposition is the only way to preach. But that means the church must provide more than only the pulpit ministry. The people need the whole story. Their diet must contain the totality of God’s bounty. The solution to biblical fidelity requires the totality of the Bible to be taught. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

As an individual, you must feast upon the totality of Scripture on a daily basis. There are many Bible reading programs out there. I have my opinion as to how to make your daily Bible reading and communion with God most profitable, but at the end of the day you must be familiar with your ENTIRE Bible. When is the last time you read through Leviticus, or Habakkuk, or Philemon, or (heaven forbid) Revelation? If you own a Bible and possess the ability to read, there is no excuse to be biblically malnourished. This is akin to starving do death with a full pantry. The solution to biblical fidelity requires that we are familiar with our Bibles. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

Helpful Suggestions

Find a church: The individual Christian is never truly an individual but a member of a larger body. If you find yourself floating from church to church, or just not going to church, then repent of your sin and attach yourself to a faithful body. But be wise to what you attach yourself. There is only one thing that should look for: does this church teach the Bible? Sequential exposition is not just an effective way to preach, it is the only way to preach. The style of music, the quality of the sound system, and the presence (or lack of) children’s church does not amount to a hill of beans. Does the pastor open up his Bible, read it, explain it, and then exhort obedience to it? Find a church that does this, attach yourself to her, bless her and be blessed by her.

Redeem the time: There are portions of our day when our minds a free to wander. Whether we are driving to work, getting in a work out at the gym, or doing some mindless chore around the house. These are fantastic opportunities to engage the mind as well as the hands. We live in a day when we have countless resources full of sound teaching at our fingertips. Many faithful ministries have apps free to download on your phone (Search for Grace to You and S.L.J Institutes in the app store). Stop wasting your time with pointless and Godless music or simply allowing your mind to wander and feast upon the Word of God.

Be selective: Make a conscious decision between what’s good and what’s best. There are many teaching resources out there that seek to teach biblical truth, but are not necessarily teaching the Bible. Is it good to learn about God’s good creation and the scientific discoveries that assume Genesis 1 is true? Is it good to listen to men discussing current events from a biblical worldview? Absolutely. But what is best is to feast on the Word itself. Why waste your time listing about the Bible when you can hear the Bible being taught?

Conclusion

Apostasy and heresy are running rampant in our land and we are partly to blame. We have the audacity to be shocked at the fruit of unbelief when the root of biblical infidelity has been growing for decades. What did Paul command Timothy before he warned him? Preach the Word! (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

He doesn’t say, preach the primary” doctrines, or when it’s convenient. Preach the whole counsel of God and preach it all the time. There’s no room here for private convictions held within small circles. He says reprove (give correction), rebuke (call out sin), exhort (call for obedience) with great patience (people need to hear it over and over again) and instruction (TEACH IT!).

The problem with the church today is that we have neglected the totality of Scripture. As a result we must be chained to, immersed in, and fully submitted under all of Scripture.

This is our battle cry. This is what Sola Scriptura means. This is the path of fidelity. This is the solution to the problem. But if we’re not part of this solution, then we’re part of the problem.


Andy de Ganahl is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Burley Idaho. Andy’s burning desire is for the people of God to know the Word of God so that they can more accurately worship the God of the Word. You can check out If You’re Not Part of the Solution, Then You’re Part of the Problem (from which this guest post was excerpted), and other articles by Andy, at The Pastor’s Brief

Testimony Tuesday

Testimony Tuesday: Stories from Several Sisters 5

On today’s Testimony Tuesday,
several sisters in Christ share their stories.

Tiffany’s Story

My husband and I and family were first at a word of faith/prosperity church, and thankfully God granted us and we continually prayed for wisdom and discernment. We then moved on to an AG [Assemblies of God] church and again, just like the last church, we got heavily involved. The more we read and the more we talked, we realized they weren’t on the same page as us, and it’s only been 3 weeks but we have found a Reformed Bible church. I continually pray that the people in our old church will have their eyes open and begin seeing the truth in the Word. I’m so grateful and thankful to the Father for the journey He has us on. We continually learn and teach our children.

 


Latoya’s Story

As some other women on your site have said: “Yay, women like me! Who believe in The Word! I’m not weird!”

I was born and raised in a Pentecostal church…but have REALLY been having a relationship with God for over one year now.

Thank you for teaching me what a Godly, Bible-based church looks like. . .

One particular article spoke of expository versus topical sermons. I am reading though the Bible (for the first time ever) since last summer. Wow! I can’t say enough of how awesome The Word is! It’s my favorite thing to do: study His Word! Anyway, that article spoke to me. I thought: I’ve never been under an expository preacher, but it sounds amazing! So, out of curiosity (..and because I do feel led to be at another church…although I do not know where yet) I looked under the “searching for a new church?” tab. I found a church one hour away. The sermons are listed. Each Sunday they take a handful of verses in order from each chapter. ((Jumping up and down that this even exists!)). I never knew.

 


Christine’s Story

I grew up as a Catholic. I prayed to God but didn’t understand anything of the Bible or the significance of why Jesus had to die. I attended “church” weekly growing up, but knew nothing of the Bible. I lived a life with no clarity in why I needed a Savior and like so many, thought I was a pretty good person, so I would be fine. In the meantime, I met my husband in college. He also grew up Catholic and led a similar life of sin and confusion. Just before we got engaged, my husband was saved at a Christian service that I did not attend. We got married and continued to go to Catholic service while he was growing in his faith.

My husband then led us to a non-denomination church, which I reluctantly attended. They shared the Gospel regularly and taught from the Bible. It wasn’t until years later, after we had two boys and after my dad passed, that I was saved. It took several years of me hearing the Gospel before I truly accepted Christ and repented of my sins. I am beyond grateful for what Jesus did for me, opening my eyes to His Truth and saving me from my sin. I am also so thankful he saved my husband years earlier before I even realized what that meant. My husband and I have become passionate creationists and are looking forward to an upcoming trip with our boys to the Creation Museum and Ark in Kentucky! Although we continue to be sinners, I hope I can continue to live my life glorifying God and sharing the Gospel of what Jesus did for us, dying on the cross to save us from our sins and reconciling us back to our perfect God.

 


Michele’s Story

When my husband and I moved to a new city 13 years ago, we spent almost a year searching for a new church. We settled in a church that seemed to affirm the authority of Scripture while honoring the freedom we have in Christ. We attended faithfully and served in many different capacities. This past year, as we have grown in our knowledge and love of the Bible as well as in biblical discernment, we have realized we were in a purpose-driven, seeker-sensitive church.

We met with the pastor and associate pastor many times, but they were defensive and unhearing. After many months of continuing to serve, to cope, to adapt, we knew we had to leave.

I almost dreaded to process of finding a new church. In our small town, there didn’t seem to be many (if ANY!) realistic options, and I just didn’t want to church shop. I longed to be planted quickly into a fellowship of like-minded believers. I prayed, “You know my desires, Lord, but Your will be done.”

I clicked on your “searching for a new church” tab and scrolled through the items. There were few suggested churches for [my state], and none for our city. Then I clicked on “churches recommended by my readers” and saw the one listing for our area.

I would like to say that it was love at first visit! However, I had been so pampered and pandered to that I didn’t have much patience for the longer service and deep, expositional preaching. However, I was encouraged by the Lord to persist. Our first visit was in April and earlier this month we became members.

I am so very grateful to the Lord for directing us to this precious little church and to your resources. I mean, really.

 


Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His Word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Your testimony can be as brief as a few sentences or as long as 1500 words. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Expository or Topical Preaching: Which is better?

 

I would like to read your thoughts on expositional vs. topical preaching. I know we can benefit from both but is one superior to the other and why?

Great question! You’re right, both forms of preaching can be beneficial as long as the pastor properly exegetes (rather than eisegetes) Scripture.

For readers who might not be familiar with the terms, expository preaching is basically when a pastor preaches through books of the Bible from beginning to end carefully explaining what each passage means. He might go through only a few verses each week, or maybe a chapter each week, so the time it takes to work through a book will vary from pastor to pastor.

The term topical preaching can have a couple of different meanings depending on who you’re talking to and what she understands the term to mean. Some people understand “topical preaching” to mean a sermon series, usually in a seeker driven church, that centers around something in pop culture. (For example, popular movies or the Olympics.) Normally, these sermons are very shallow, biblically – sometimes nothing more than a pep talk or self-help tips. This type of preaching is unbiblical, and if it makes up the bulk of the preaching at your church, I’d recommend finding a new church.

There is, however, a biblical form of topical preaching that can be very helpful. If a doctrinally sound pastor sees an issue in the church that needs to be addressed, there is nothing wrong with his taking a break from preaching through a certain book (or when he’s between books) to teach on this issue from the pulpit.

For example, pastors in Parkland, Florida, might wish to take a few weeks right now to preach sermons on “Why does God allow tragedies to happen?”, “How can I biblically comfort the families of the victims?”, “Are the victims of the shooting in Heaven?”, and so on. One great topical sermon concept I’ve seen is for the pastor to give the congregation the opportunity to submit biblical questions and then preach sermons answering those questions. Other times a pastor might address a biblical topic for several weeks, such as peace, the gospel, the Fruit of the Spirit, or parenting. As long as these topics are driven by “let’s look at what the Bible says about X” and the pastor handles Scripture correctly and in context, topical preaching is both biblical and beneficial.

My personal opinion (this is not law and there may be plenty of perfectly doctrinally sound pastors who disagree) is that the majority of a pastor’s preaching should be expository with occasional breaks for (biblical) topical preaching as needed. Why?

✢ Expository preaching usually covers a wider spread of Scripture and a wider variety of topics. Topical preaching is, by definition, very narrowly focused on fewer passages and fewer topics.

✢ Expository preaching models for the congregation the proper way they should study the Bible at home. Most of the time, in your daily Bible study, you should be working your way through books of the Bible systematically. (That said, topical preaching done properly is also helpful for demonstrating to the congregation how to correctly find and apply Scripture to various topics and situations which arise in their lives. We need to know how to do both, but the former is primary.)

✢ Expository preaching helps a pastor better preach the whole counsel of God. He doesn’t have to worry that he’s neglecting to teach on a certain issue and wrack his brain trying to think of what that issue might be. With expository teaching, Scripture takes care of that for him.

✢ I have to think that expository preaching is easier than being forced to come up with a new topic or series every week or few weeks. I’m not a pastor, but the Bible studies I post each Wednesday are nearly always expository. The articles I post each Friday are nearly always topical. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t fret over coming up with a topic for the Friday article and struggle against writer’s block. But I know exactly what each week’s Bible study is going to cover: whatever the next passage of Scripture is in the book we’re studying. Exposition eliminates “forced creativity stress” for me, and I’m thinking maybe it’s similar for pastors.

✢ Expository preaching pushes pastors to tackle hard and unfamiliar passages as they come up in the text, making them more biblically knowledgeable and well-rounded, and allowing them the blessing of depending on God in prayer to open their eyes to understand His Word.

✢ Expository preaching should keep the Old Testament and certain books of the Bible from being neglected as much as they usually are. There are only 66 books in the Bible to preach through. Eventually you’re going to have to get to the minor prophets, Leviticus, Jude, Philemon, Song of Solomon, and the really long books of the Old Testament. Ostensibly. I’m sure there are expository pastors out there who have preached through the more neglected books, but I’ve never sat under a pastor who preached through Nahum or Zephaniah or Ezekiel. Just sayin’.

✢ Expository preaching gives the congregation a better grip on the overall story arc of the Bible and the culture of the period being studied. If your pastor preaches a topical sermon on leadership from Nehemiah one Sunday, you’re not going to understand the post-exilic period of Israel’s history or the culture of that time nearly as well as if he preached through the entire book over several weeks or months. That knowledge and insight is something you can stick in your pocket and hang on to for studying other post-exilic Scripture at home or in Sunday School, or listening to other sermons dealing with that period of Israel’s history.

✢ Expository preaching better lends itself to encouraging the congregation to prepare for Sunday worship during the week. If you know what passage your pastor is going to be preaching on this Sunday, you can study, and even memorize verses, ahead of time to prepare your heart to hear your pastor preach it.

I just have a couple of caveats (still just my personal opinions) about expository preaching:

I don’t think it’s wise for a pastor to be so rigidly stuck on expository preaching that he ignores the leading of the Holy Spirit to preach the occasional biblical topical sermon when it would be a benefit and a blessing to his congregation simply because he sees himself as an expository preacher. Preaching a topical sermon or series from time to time doesn’t mean you have to turn in your expository preaching card.

Also, while verse by verse preaching is an excellent way to teach the text thoroughly, I once heard someone talking about her (very good, doctrinally sound) pastor who had been preaching through a particular book of the Bible for seven years and still had several chapters to go. I don’t think it’s a good idea to take that long on a single book. At that point, several of the aforementioned benefits of expository preaching are gone: the pastor has ceased to preach the whole counsel of God, he’s neglecting bibilical topics not found in that book, he’s neglecting other books of the Bible, he’s not helping his congregation learn the whole storyline of Scripture and the customs of various historic periods and cultures, and he’s not covering as wide a spread of Scripture as he could if he’d limit himself to a year or two, max, to finish one book and move on to the next.

Expository and topical preaching are both helpful in their own ways, but the most important thing is that the pastor is “rightly handling the word of truth.”


Additional Resources

Why topical preaching can never build a healthy church by Mark Dever

The Sheer Weightlessness of So Many Sermons—Why Expository Preaching Matters by Albert Mohler

What is topical preaching? Does it have a place in the church? by John MacArthur

Can Topical Preaching Be Expository? by Timothy Warren


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Bible, Bible Study, Church, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ Context Message Me

Originally published December 3, 2013gettysburg-veterans-public-domain

Yesterday, I saw several friends and organizations re-posting this article (and others like it) on Facebook. The gist of the article is about teaching the Gettysburg Address to students in a “stand alone” sort of way without teaching that it has anything to do with the Civil War.  As a teacher myself, this seems utterly ridiculous to me. How can students grasp the full meaning, depth, and impact of the Gettysburg Address without knowing the history and events that led up to it, who wrote and delivered it, the people to whom it was delivered, and why it was delivered? Yes, a few things can be gleaned merely from the text itself, but is that all we want our students to learn about the Gettysburg Address? Are we satisfied for them to merely skim the surface of this document and leave with a superficial (and likely, incorrect) understanding of it, or do we want them to dig in and learn all they can about it?

And then it hit me:

What many of us would not abide in the classroom,
we embrace in the sanctuary.

Week after week, many Christians sit under pastors and Bible teachers who fail to preach and teach God’s word in context. A verse from one book is thrown in here, a half verse from another passage, there, like so many sprinkles on top of an ice cream sundae.

No mention is made of the historical (pre-Exile or post-Exile?) or cultural (Was this written to Jews or Gentiles?) context of the passage.

Prescriptive (thou shalt/shalt not do X) passages are conflated with descriptive (here’s what happened to this particular guy) passages, leading to confusion over law, grace, and precisely what it is that God wants from us.

Promises that were never meant for 21st century Christians (because they were written only to a specific person(s) at a specific time) are ripped away from their intended audience and plastered, bait and switch style, onto you and me. (I’ve always wondered why Jeremiah 29:11 is preached as applying to today’s Christians, but verses such as Jeremiah 29:17-19 are not.)

Pastors and teachers treat individual Bible verses and brief passages as “stand alone” items rather than showing how they fit into the immediate context of the surrounding passage and book, while simultaneously neglecting to show how those Bible tidbits fit into the broader, complete story of the gospel revealed across both Testaments.

Pastors and Bible teachers, myself included (and, believe me, I’ve failed many times in this area, too) are to care for those who sit under our teaching by doing our best to handle God’s word correctly (2 Timothy 2:15) and by preaching and teaching, as Paul put it, “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). May we as teachers not merely skim the surface of God’s word, but proclaim the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. And may our hearers demand nothing less.

Church, Complementarianism, Throwback Thursday, Worship

Throwback Thursday ~ Six Questions for a Potential Church

Originally published March 27, 2015church questions1

Have you ever had to look for a new church? Even with recommendations from godly friends, it can be hard to know which churches and pastors are doctrinally sound, and, of those doctrinally sound churches (because you certainly don’t want to go to one that isn’t doctrinally sound), which ones would be a good fit for your family.

There are lots of great articles out there with good, probing questions you should ask about the theology and doctrine of a church you’re considering. (I would recommend this one, this one, and this one. Also, make sure you understand these doctrinal issues and that the church you’re considering lines up with Scripture on these issues.) However, there are times when the answers to these types of questions don’t give you the whole picture of what is actually going on in a church on a day to day basis. In other words, sorry to say, a church can give you all the right answers on paper (or on their web site), but their practices don’t mirror those answers. Additionally, there are some non-doctrinal issues that are important to know about that questions about soteriology, baptism, biblical inerrancy, etc., won’t give you the answers to.

My husband and I are currently looking for a new church for our family. Since we are Southern Baptist and somewhat familiar with the handful of Southern Baptist churches we’re looking at, we already know the answers to the most important questions (the inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, the way of salvation, etc.) But I want to zoom in a little more on the finer points of belief and practices of these churches, so here are some questions I might ask the pastor of the church we would potentially join.

1. Which Christian authors have had the biggest impact on your life, beliefs, and ministry?

When I ask this question (and look over the pastor’s shoulder at the titles on his bookshelf), I’m listening for the names of authors and pastors, living or dead, that I know are committed to sound biblical doctrine. If I hear a name like Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes, Andy Stanley, Steven Furtick, Perry Noble, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, or any Word of Faith or New Apostolic Reformation personality, I’m going back to ask more probing doctrinal questions. If I hear multiple names like those, I’m outta there.

2. Are you/this church complementarian or egalitarian?

Now you may not be familiar with those terms but any Christian pastor should be. It is a current issue in evangelicalism, and it’s part of his job to stay abreast of such things. I’m not looking for a pastor to be an expert on this topic, but he should be familiar with the terms and have a working understanding of the issues at play as well as the applicable Scriptures, and he should embrace and practice complementarianism as the biblical position.

Because I have been given the right “on paper” answer to this question in the past only to find out later that the church’s practices didn’t match up with its profession, I will probably ask the follow up question: “In what positions of leadership are women currently serving? Do any of them hold authority over men or instruct men in the Scriptures?” If I hear that women are (or would be allowed to in the future) teaching co-ed adult Sunday School classes, giving instruction during the worship service, serving on committees in which they hold biblically inappropriate authority over men, etc., that’s problematic.

3. Can you give me some examples, from any time during your career as a pastor, of church discipline issues that have arisen and how you have handled them?

I’m looking for three things here. First, what does this pastor think constitutes a church discipline issue? If he thinks it’s necessary to discipline a female church member for wearing pants instead of a skirt, that’s an issue, because he’s disciplining someone who’s not sinning. If he doesn’t think it’s necessary to discipline church members who are unmarried yet cohabiting, that’s an issue because he’s not disciplining people who are sinning. Church discipline should only be exercised over unrepentant sinful behavior.

Second, is he afraid to exercise church discipline? Generally speaking, someone who has been a pastor for many years and has never handled a church discipline issue is either woefully ignorant of the biblical requirement of a pastor to rebuke those in sin, or he is afraid to rock the boat because he might get fired. Both of these are huge red flags.

Third, how does he exercise church discipline? Does he follow the steps outlined in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures with a heart to see the church member repent and be reconciled to Christ and the church body? Is he harsh and condemning? Is he firm enough in his resolve to carry all the way through to disfellowshipping a church member if necessary?

4. How much oversight do you (or an associate pastor or elder) have over the women’s ministry at this church?

With this question, I’m trying to find out how much the pastor knows about what’s actually going on inside the women’s ministry (if they have one) and how much responsibility he takes to make sure all teaching and activities are in line with Scripture. Does he research and approve all teaching materials before a women’s Bible study commences? Does a women’s ministry director have complete autonomy over all materials and activities? Are all of the women in leadership positions in the women’s ministry godly and spiritually mature? Would any of the women’s ministry leadership raise a stink if someone showed them from Scripture that a Bible teacher whose materials they use or a women’s ministry activity they enjoy is unbiblical?

5. Does the music ministry at this church follow a minister of music model or a concert model?

There’s nothing wrong with Christian concerts per se, but my husband and I feel strongly (notice, I did not say “the Bible says”) that the worship service is not the place for one. We believe that a minister of music, preferably one who is ordained to the ministry, should lead and take responsibility for the church’s worship in a pastoral role. He should be trained in the Scriptures, preferably at seminary, in order to rightly handle and apply them to the music portion of the worship service and other music programs. He should also be trained in music theory and conducting so that he is able to lead in the practical aspects of music.

By contrast, we do not believe that making the music portion of the service like a concert, in which a band gets up and plays in a dark room with a laser light show and a smoke machine and the congregation can sing along if they want to, if they happen to know the songs, and if they are able to follow the ad libbing of the lead singer, is conducive to worship. We believe this tends to make the worship band into entertainers and the congregation into spectators, whereas the minister of music model fosters an atmosphere of “we’re all pulling together to do the work of worship as a unified body.”

This is not about contemporary music versus hymns, it is about one worship model versus another. It is our conviction (again, not a biblical mandate, but our strongly held conviction) after more than two decades in music ministry ourselves, that the minister of music model – regardless of the genre of worship music used – is the one most conducive to strong, biblical congregational worship. So this is something we’re going to want to know about, even though it is not necessarily a doctrinal issue.

6. Do you preach topically or expositorily or both?

Topical preaching is when the pastor selects a topic to preach on (parenting, money, etc.) and uses biblical passages that apply to that topic to form his sermon. Pastors who preach expositorily usually preach through a book of the Bible from beginning to end before moving on to the next book.

Both are valid forms of preaching as long as God’s word is rightly handled and applied. However, it has been my experience that pastors who preach exclusively topically have more of a tendency to lift Bible verses out of their context in order to make them fit the topic they’re preaching. This is usually not as much of an issue for pastors who preach expositorily because they are simply preaching the Word, verse by verse, in its context.

Additionally, expository preaching gives church members a better understanding of Scripture and how it fits together, and exposes them more thoroughly to a wider range of biblical truth than exclusively topical preaching does. Therefore, I am looking for a pastor whose preaching style leans mostly towards expository, but who isn’t afraid to preach topically if he believes the church needs instruction on a certain topic.

 

So, those are some of the questions I’m thinking about asking. What questions would you ask when considering a new church?