In my previous post I discussed briefly the importance of turning up the right kind of sound in the church…the sound of doctrine. It seems as though in many churches, everything else gets turned up first. We turn up our programs, our advertising, our events, our ideas and many other things and often times doctrine gets turned down…way down…and sometimes it even gets turned off. Churches today need to first and foremost make sure that sound doctrine stays at the center of their planning, programming and most of all, preaching. Anything less is simply unacceptable!
As I mentioned in my last post, in 2 Timothy 4:3, the word for sound translates from a form of the verb “hugiaino”, which means to be healthy, and is the term from which we derive the word “hygiene.” In essence, what Paul was saying in 2 Timothy 4 was that a time would come when people would reject healthy doctrine for unhealthy, where people would rather hear what pleases their ears than what pierces their hearts. Without question, this is happening all over North America today. When the pastor of the largest church in North American openly admits that he does not preach on sin or repentance, and yet over 40,000 people attend weekly, what does that say? To me, it says much! It says that when the God’s truth is not given, people will invent and embrace their own. When teachings such as the “health and wealth” gospel, which are in such clear opposition to the truth of God’s Word, are so widely accepted, it tells me it is time for churches to “turn up the sound”. What the church needs more than anything else today is healthy doctrine (teaching). Pastors and teachers must be willing to lead their churches to embrace God’s truth. Instead of giving into the cultural trends and desires of society, pastors must rise above the temptation to water down the truth. It is time we stop worrying about losing our crowd and rather give something of substance to the crowd we have. God has not called us to “make converts,” but rather to “make disciples”, and the first way you do that is by making sure the sound of doctrine is turned up loud and clear. Here are a few ways to practically turn up sound doctrine in your church:
(1) Preach expositionally!
What is often interesting to me is that many pastors save their deeper, more expositional preaching for their smaller crowds, perhaps those that come on Sunday or Wednesday evenings. What kind of message does that send? If we believe Hebrews 4:12 which says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart,” then why don’t pastors give their largest crowd of the week, their Sunday morning crowd, the Word of God verse by verse? When I stand to deliver God’s Word on Sunday morning, knowing that will perhaps be my largest audience all week, there is only one thing I know they need…a passionate, clear and faithful exposition of God’s Truth. Why would I or any pastor give them anything else?
(2) Teach the fundamentals of the faith!
Churches must find a way to teach core doctrines to their church members. This can be done on Wednesdays nights, or in specified discipleship classes, but regardless of where the venue is, it simply must be done. New members to the church should be introduced to the core doctrines of the faith and existing members should be continually refreshed in their understanding of the fundamentals of the faith. Teaching the fundamentals not only promotes healthy doctrine, but it also builds unity, equips church members with a good understanding of God’s Word and it empowers believers to be more effective witnesses.
(3) Be intentional with discipleship!
Good doctrine should always lead to better obedience! If teaching doctrine does not fan the flame for obedience in the church, those who are teaching need to look at exactly what they are teaching. For instance, a healthy understanding of the Gospel will always fuel the fire for mission and evangelism. One cannot get close to the Gospel, especially when it is studied in depth, and not be compelled to do something with it. Pastors and teachers must find ways to intentionally invest in others. This can happen through men’s and women’s ministry; it can be an overflow of the churches Sunday School or small group ministry; or it can happen simply through a one-on-one approach to discipleship. Church leaders simply must evaluate its discipleship strategy and seek to be intentional and creative with its approach to making disciples.
(4) Think long term!
Churches must not settle for short term results that will lead to long term failure. A trend that seems to be developing in many postmodern churches today is doing whatever it takes to gather an audience. Many sermons I hear are simply good motivational speeches with just enough Scripture throw in to qualify them as sermons. Pastors should not lower the bar for their audience, but rather, they should raise it. Instead of appealing to man’s fleshly desires through entertainment driven worship services centered primarily on subjective experience, churches should seek to find ways to penetrate man’s sinful desires with the objective truth of the Gospel. This approach might initially cause crowds to be smaller in the short term, but it will inevitably produce more faithful disciples and effective evangelists in the long term.
(5) It starts with the Pastor!
Never forget that healthy doctrine in the church begins with the pastor. A church should expect their pastor to be a man of study and discipline regarding the handling of the Word of God. Today’s pastors are pulled in many different directions, but one direction they should not be pulled in, is away from their study. If churches want the sound of doctrine to be turned up, they must be sensitive to their pastor’s time and not put expectations of him that might cause him to forsake the discipline of study. Pastor’s today need to be excellent in the pulpit and that excellence does not mean, slick delivery, flashy presentations, and smooth talking. It means, as the famous Puritan pastor Richard Baxter once said, “I preach as though to never preach again, as a dying man to dying men.” Preaching is not, as one has said, “Counseling on a group basis,” it is faithful, systematic, passionate, careful preaching of the Word of God. Churches should pray for their pastor in regard to this matter, encourage them to study, help them to build their personal library with resources that will enhance their study, etc. A church that wants the sound of doctrine turned up must remember where it starts and then do whatever they can to make sure it stays!
There is obviously more that could be said, but the bottom line is that the sound definitely needs to be turned up in the church…the sound of doctrine that is. Remember, to love doctrine is to love God! We cannot say that we love God and yet despise His teachings! We prize doctrine because we love God and we want to be as faithful to His Word as possible. Churches that truly love the Lord will always have the “sound” turned up loud and clear! Church…let’s turn it up!