CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Whatever Happened to Teaching in the Churches?

Feb 17, 2015

Once the regular teaching of the Word of God, of doctrine, of theology, and its application in the Christian life was a mainstay of any evangelical church. It was pretty much the core activity. Yet there seems to be such a dearth of good, solid teaching in so many churches today.

Instead of proper instruction in which believers are fed with the solid meat of the Word, with emphasis on biblical doctrine and proper exposition of key biblical themes and teachings, all we seem to get in so many churches today are topical sermons.

These are often little more than pep talks with one or two verses thrown in along the way. Most of our Sunday morning sermons tend to be feel-good, how-to chats, emphasising how the Christian can be successful, happy, confident, and have a good time.

bible 11We promise folks their ‘best life now’ and give them motivational speeches, upbeat homilies, and the like. The systematic instruction and teaching of the Word of God, its core doctrinal truths, and basic Christian doctrines are almost never heard any more in so many churches today.

Perhaps I am spoiled, because I think of my home church in the US and what was offered there, after I was first saved, way back in the early 1970s. What we had on offer there was typical of most Bible-believing churches back then. There was non-stop teaching, doctrinal instruction, and biblical exposition.

Back then this is the amount of teaching I got in one week at just this one church:
-adult Sunday School where various doctrinal and practical Christian living classes were on offer
-Sunday morning teaching in the sermon
-Sunday evening teaching in the sermon
-more teaching and Bible exposition at the Wednesday night prayer meeting.

Thus my old church offered at least four major events each week in which we got plenty of doctrinal teaching, teaching on key subjects (such as Old Testament survey, New Testament survey, various books of the Bible such as Romans, basic Christian doctrines, the cults, apologetics, ethics, etc) and regular Bible instruction and exposition.

Where is all that today? I know a few churches still do this to some extent. Some of the Presbyterian churches for example still put a very strong emphasis on doctrinal teaching and expository preaching. But the majority of our evangelical churches today simply no longer offer this.

At best there is one time only each week where the sheep are fed: the Sunday morning sermon. But as I just mentioned, this is seldom proper biblical teaching and doctrinal instruction. Almost always it is topical preaching with a minimum of scripture, more in line with secular or New Age motivational pep talks than anything else.

Thus it is clear to me that a major reason why Christians today are so biblically illiterate, have little or no understanding of basic biblical doctrine, and are so easily swept off their feet into error (be it heterodoxy or heteropraxis) is because of this basic lack of Christian instruction.

They are just not getting it in their churches. Unless they pick up a bit of Bible teaching elsewhere (say in books, or online, or listening to CDs or watching DVDs) they are simply being starved of the essential biblical information which they must have to be true disciples of Jesus Christ. No wonder the church today is so anaemic, so ineffective, so carnal and so salt-less.

But how can this be, given the overwhelming emphasis found in the Bible on the essential importance of teaching and instruction? Hundreds of times in the New Testament alone we read about teaching and its importance for the believer. In the gospels we constantly read about Jesus teaching the disciples. The same in the book of Acts where we see the disciples teaching others.

Teaching was the very foundation of disciple making for Jesus and the early disciples. Yet it is all but lost in so many of our churches today. No wonder the church has lost its way. No wonder believers are falling into theological and behavioural error so often. They simply have never been taught properly.

Let me look at just some of the New Testament verses on teaching. That God gave teachers to the Body of Christ is clear from passages such as 1 Corinthians 12:28: “And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.” We find the same in Ephesians 4:11: “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers”.

And this regular ongoing teaching ministry is exactly what we find in the early church. As but one example, consider Acts 2:42 which discusses the fellowship of the believers: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”

I wish we keenly devoted ourselves to teaching as well today. Because there is so much biblical material on teaching, let me offer a few more verses, but only from the Pastoral Epistles. There are dozens of verses about teaching in these three short books. Here are just some of them:

1 Timothy 3:2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,
1 Timothy 4:6 If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed.
1 Timothy 4:11 Command and teach these things.
1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
1 Timothy 5:17 The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.
2 Timothy 1:11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.
2 Timothy 1:13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
2 Timothy 2:24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
Titus 2:1 You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine.
Titus 2:2-3 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good.
Titus 2:7 In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness
Titus 2:15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

A major reason why so many believers are falling into the hands of the cults and into heresy, and are engaging in sinful lifestyles is because of this lack of teaching. While all believers should take it upon themselves to learn, to study, to grow in knowledge, and to master the basics of the faith, our leaders have much to answer for if they are neglecting this vital and sacred calling of teaching and instructing.

Let me conclude with a few quotes on the importance of all this:

“The visible church in our generation has become astonishingly tolerant of aberrant teaching and outlandish ideas – and frighteningly intolerant of sound teaching.” John MacArthur

“Bad theology dishonors God and hurts people. Churches that sever the root of truth may flourish for a season, but they will wither eventually or turn into something besides a Christian church.” John Piper

“Secularism cannot be blamed on the secularists, many of whom were raised in the church. We are the problem. If most churchgoers cannot tell us anything specific about the God they consider meaningful or explain basic doctrines of creation in God’s image, original sin, the atonement, justification, sanctification, the means of grace, or the hope of glory, then the blame can hardly be placed at the feet of secular humanists.” Michael Horton

“If we go astray in our doctrine, eventually our life will go astray as well. You cannot separate what a man believes from what he is. For this reason doctrine is vitally important. Certain people say ignorantly, ‘I do not believe in doctrine; I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; I am saved, I am a Christian, and nothing else matters.’ To speak in that way is to court disaster, and for this reason, the New Testament itself warns us against this very danger. We are to guard ourselves against being ‘tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine’, for if your doctrine goes astray your life will soon suffer as well. So it behoves us to study the doctrines in order that we may safeguard ourselves against certain erroneous and heretical teachings that are as rife and as common in the world today as they were in the days of the early Church.” Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“I am convinced that there is an urgent need in the church today for much greater understanding of Christian doctrine, or systematic theology. Not only pastors and teachers need to understand theology in greater depth – the WHOLE CHURCH does as well. One day by God’s grace we may have churches full of Christians who can discuss, apply and LIVE the doctrinal teachings of the Bible as readily as they can discuss the details of their own jobs or hobbies – or the fortunes of their favorite sports team or television program.” Wayne Grudem

[1707 words]

48 Responses to Whatever Happened to Teaching in the Churches?

  • Amen! I live in the suburbs of Seattle and expositional preaching is extremely hard to find around here. I had to get my spiritual nourishment from dvd’s and cd’s until I discovered a church with expositional preaching one year ago. Unfortunately it’s a long drive so I can’t participate in many activities, but at least I am fed solid food every Sunday instead of watered down baby food.

  • Thanks John. Yes it is a real worry that so few churches today still offer solid teaching and expository preaching.

  • There is plenty of evidence these days that most teaching and preaching in the Assembly is doctrinally and morally lightweight… At least where a traditional Liturgical Calendar is observed, we are saved from mere recourse to a pastor’s whims as the balanced treatment of the major Christian themes from the Old and New Testaments is guaranteed by the Scriptures read at public services. However competent and edifying exposition of these Scriptures is still also required (- and this is what the faithful are definitely entitled to expect!)

  • Here in Brisbane my wife and I attend a church with solid expository preaching but the services are ho-hum boring. They could easily send me to sleep. The pastor does not know how to get and retain people’s attention with his teaching (he preaches through books of the Bible).

    As for the reason for this, thank Bill Hybels, Rick Warren and the seeker-sensitive marketing approach. I engaged in an email exchange with a pastor of such a church locally and he told me that I would find his church too contemporary. I visited once. It is not that being modern is the problem; it’s the lack of biblical content. There was no Bible reading in the entire service and to call the topical ditty a sermon is to redefine the word.

    My nephew and his family attend one such church in my suburb of another denomination and his 8-year-old son told me, ‘We get a concert every week’.

    Turning it around will take a revival, I believe.

  • Thanks Spencer. Yes repentance-based revival is the need of the hour.

  • Hi Bill

    Here is some great expository preaching from Melbourne.

    http://cityonahill.com.au/media/sermon-series

    Lots of great teaching series on whole books of the bible.

    Hope people find it a blessing

  • To Presbyterian churches I think we could add most of the Anglican churches in Sydney Diocese. We are very well-off here in that regard.

  • It is so true the Church of Jesus needs solid biblical teaching as well as expository preaching of the Word. However expository preaching without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit will not give power to the message of the preacher. Expository preaching can be mechanically flawless but completely lifeless, cold, dry, and dead if the Spirit of the Living God does not empower it. Book such as ‘Anointed Expository Preaching’ by Dr Stephen Olford & David Olford would be helpful to the preachers of the Word. I listened to several sermons preached by Dr Stephen Olford and I feel that this man of God really was anointed by the Holy Spirit. Dr Oldford emphasizes preaching as “Spirit-empowered explanation and proclamation.” Preachers need to spend more time in prayer in the presence of the Lord seeking his face at any cost until they know within their souls that they are anointed and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Without prayer, we have no power to proclaim God’s Word. I believe that we do not simply share or teach the Word, we need the anointing of the Lord to proclaim it with thunder, passion, power from on high – supernatural power. We need to preach it in the power and authority of the Lord with fervor, earnestness, intensity, and fire.

    We need to preach it with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, and all our strength just as we are commanded to love the Lord our God in this way. We need to have a conviction and the truth of who the Lord our God really is and the power of His holy word – The Scriptures. The Church needs powerful preaching today more than ever with Christ’s authority so that whoever walks into the Church, they will feel that the Lord God is truly living among his people. May the Lord richly bless his messengers and preachers and anoint them to proclaim His Word with thunder and fire in the power of the Holy Spirit.

  • Thanks Christian, Yes it goes without saying that when I plea for solid preaching and teaching, it must be Holy Ghost empowered.

  • David,

    I attend one of those churches with expository preaching and services, in my view, that are mostly dry and lifeless. Being Presbyterian or Sydney Anglican does not solve the problem.

  • I can’t find one in Brisbane also. It grieves me.

  • Were doing it at MCC Bill, thanks again for a great article, keep firing.

  • I visited a church after Christmas (after not going in nearly 8 years), starving to hear the word of the Lord and the sermon was entitled “How to reach your potential in 2015”. I have not been back to that one. If I was after ‘self help’ I’d go buy a Dr Phil book.
    Bill can you please recommend a good devotional/bible study book? Cheers!

  • Thanks Linda. It depends on what you are looking for, but around two decades ago ago D A Carson put out a terrific 2-volume daily reading guide. It combines a devotional with great theology and biblical studies:

    http://www.amazon.com/For-Love-God-Companion-Discovering/dp/1581348150/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1424174102&sr=1-1

  • Thanks Bill. I will check that book out. Thanks again 🙂

  • Another great article, Bill. I live in England – one of the most ungodly countries in the world. Practically no biblical preaching, tradition over doctrine, personalities over Christ.
    What a satanic place.

  • Thanks Thaddeus. Yes I was there again last year and it is bad news. And just think of what great preachers that used to be there: Charles Spurgeon, G. Campbell Morgan, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Stott, etc.

  • Bill, you will appreciate this rant on the same subject: http://drmsh.com/2014/05/17/why-you-dont-learn-much-bible-in-church/

    I, like most others who want to learn something, have to go elsewhere than the church for content. In that vain your readers might be interested in the re-start of the weekly Naked Bible podcast. You will definitely learn something here: http://www.nakedbiblepodcast.com/naked-bible-36-acts-112-26/

  • I have to put in a word for the Poms! For eighteen months of the last two years, I have been living in England having moved here from Canberra. I had stopped going to church in Canberra simply because of the content – or lack thereof – of most sermons I heard.

    Perhaps to my surprise, we have found a brilliant church just south of Manchester where the majority of the sermons are expository and the preacher would have to be one of the best I’ve ever heard!

    Ironically, some of the congregation complain there aren’t more topical sermons! What I have found with the bulk of topical sermons I have heard is the the Bible, when quoted, is merely a launching pad for the pastor’s own views. Equally, few are truly memorable.

    As with some of the other recent articles on hyper-grace, it is simply too easy when citing a verse out of context as the ‘biblical basis’ for a topical sermon to make it mean anything you want.

    As I once heard it said, if you remove the ‘text’ from ‘context’ you are left with a ‘con’!

  • It is disappointing that many Christian church leaders have lost their voice, fading into the shadows with mumbled platitudes just as the Islamic State is starting its march for world domination of Sharia law. Unsuspecting infidels are spontaneously beheaded, crucified or hurled to their death to exact submission to Islam by terror. The teachings of Jesus Christ have been eroded over time, including the atheist influence since the Sixties of Bishop John Robinson’s book “Honest to God”, We need an Early Church revival.

  • Bill, in the context of your timely call for sound teaching amongst Christ’s people, it is significant that the third chapter of James begins with this admonition to those who would teach others: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. (James 3:1). Faithful teaching from God’s Word is serious business, not a “religious sales pitch”.

  • Hi Sharon, Here are the details of a biblically solid church in Brisbane. I highly recommend them 🙂

    http://www.mcc777australia.org/mcca_brisbane_102.html

  • So Bill, when the church is in such a bad place, and the preaching is theologically terrible, … do you keep going or do you just stay at home, study your bible, read commentaries etc, and try and keep in touch with others who are following the Lord wholeheartedly? In both scenarios, I believe you would still pray heavily for a change. I am interested in your opinion. This is something I am struggling with and am finding it hard to make a decision.

  • Bill, you say a lot of sermons/teaching are topical. Most I have heard keep on safe topics and avoid controversial topics.
    You rarely hear about Islam, abortion, homo marriage, cults etc.
    The required Christian response [backed up by scripture] to these sins/problems is rarely put forth. Easier to preach on the poor, starving children and refugees.

  • Thanks Ella for the link. When I clicked on it, it appears that there is a woman pastor. Is that correct? If so, that is a heresy and one of the main reasons why it is difficult to find a church that will actually preach what the bible teaches. Have a look at your bible, at the biblical role of women and who is allowed to teach in a church meeting. I too had to have an education by the HS on this topic. It led to a lot of repentance on my behalf.

  • I am a bit concerned that some of the comments are restricting the ways the Holy Spirit works when someone is teaching/preaching the Bible. If a preacher is empowered by the Holy Spirit or not it may not be outwardly obvious, assuming that he is speaking the whole truth of Scripture in the passage before him. The crucial factor in the effectiveness of the preaching is the work of the Spirit in the hearer, and whether the preaching is “dull” or dynamic may not indicate whether or not the Spirit is at work in either preacher or hearer.

    I don’t want to write at length, but I do think we have to very careful when evaluating teaching that is clearly scripturally sound. I would even go so far as to say that even if the preacher is not a converted man the Holy Sprit can and almost certainly at times does still work in the hearts and minds of the hearers.

    There are examples of people being converted in very uninspiring circumstances. My main point is that genuinely spiritual men may preach in very different ways and still be very effective.

  • Amen.

  • Hey Servaas, for what it’s worth, yours is the 50,000th comment to appear on my website. Congratulations!

  • Sharon,

    I urge you not to accuse women in ministry, even pastoral ministry, as engaged in the promotion of a heresy. Here’s an article by N T Wright that deals with some of the controversial passages and concludes differently from your position that it is ‘heresy’. See N T Wright, ‘Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis’, http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Women_Service_Church.htm

  • Bibles are not read, hearts are not right, heads are more interested in man made thinking.

  • Look at how many ‘ ministers’ are in 2nd, 3rd adulterous marriages and how many 2nd and 3rd adulterous ceremonies are conducted! When head and heart are not Godly, sin flows.

  • Hi Spencer, I have heard it all before and I still disagree because there are quite a few holes in his arguments. I have written extensively on this in my blog but if you want an expert, have a listen to David Pawson.

    As for me, like many Christian woman, I embrace biblical womanhood and throughly enjoy it for what it is. I fasted and prayed over this issue for 3 years before it all became clear. Never been happier. I will still call it heresy. You have to do biblical gymnastics to make the other way make sense.

    Most men I know have never really fasted or prayed over it – maybe because it doesn’t really effect their obedience to the Lord. The women I know who have… they seem to end up at the same position as myself.

  • Sharon, I agree with you wholeheartedly, however what do you do when the men aren’t there? Isn’t it better to have a woman preacher who speaks the word of God in truth than leaving a vacuum? God is the law maker and sometimes we need to allow that He will work with what He has as in the case of Deborah being the judge of Israel. But of course wherever there is a woman pastor filling the gap our prayer needs to be, “Lord, provide a godly man to take her place”.
    Thankfully we are in a church where the minister preaches faithfully to the word of God, though I haven’t heard a sermon on Mat 19 in a long time.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  • Sharon, we can’t have a logical conversation when you generalise like this, present yours as the elevated spiritual position (prayer and fasting), and denigrate men as not complying with your spirituality.

    Bill, this raises another issue related to teaching in the church: Even if we can find a church that engages in teaching, how are people to respond when the views from the pulpit might be contrary to what some in the congregation consider is biblical teaching? How are contrasting interpretations dealt with by the pastor and elders? What forum is available for people, in Christian love, to air their different understandings and engage in constructive discussion? My experience is that what comes from the pulpit is regarded as the Protestant version of speaking ex cathedra. As my pastor has been preaching through 1 Corinthians, I’ve had no opportunity to share my pro-charismata views with him as a cessationist.

  • Hi Spencer, I wasn’t trying to speak in generalities – what I was trying not to do was have a large, lengthy discussion on Bill’s site, back and forth. This is far too lengthy a topic to discuss on someone else’s site. That is why I referred you to my site. You can click on my name and it will lead you there (when people post who have a website their name is a link to their website.) 🙂

    I also wasn’t trying to take the elevated view as you call it. I simply stated the facts as I know them – that most christian men I know have not fasted or prayed on this issue and when I asked them why they believed what they did, they couldn’t give a logical answer that correlates with all that scripture has to say. Most just told me to accept it!

    When I asked a senior lecturer at Malyon (Baptist Bible College) why he believed in women pastors (he had just preached on this topic but completely ignored Timothy and Corinithians) he told me that it was because the words of Paul are to be put on a lower level to the words of Jesus. According to him, Paul apparently had it wrong. He must not agree with “all scripture being inspired by God”…I went home and cried that day at the apostasy in the church.

    So that has been my experience. My husband and I are in agreement on this issue. He leads in our family. 🙂

    I think we all need to keep praying for unity with God on this issue as it seems to me we can’t all be right when our opinions differ so much. That was why I started the prayer and fasting in the first place. It was not to elevate myself into a higher spiritual position. It more like 3 years of weeping and fasting and praying for the church in our nation, agonising over the state it is in. Begging God to reveal truth to me. He did. That’s all. There is a lot more I need to learn but what I have learnt I will share and speak out.

  • Spencer
    I agree with your basic concept that it would be nice to have a forum whereby theological topics could be debated ‘constructively’.

    However, there are some topics that I have found over the years – and the issue of women in ministry is one – where I am loathe to make any comment because of the nature of how the ‘debates’ go together with the treatment I have received when daring to make any comment.

    Twenty years ago when this debate was in full swing, I was required to do a paper on this topic at Bible College where the ‘yes case’ was being promoted. Our instructions were to stick to the biblical arguments and keep emotion out of it. The one woman in that course (the class was quite small) sought exemption from these instructions and produced a paper which was pure emotion (plus liberal amounts of psychology of self) – and received a very sympathetic hearing.

    Meanwhile, I presented my paper which was based on extensive reading of the books available at that time and all the arguments for and against – although, from memory, I don’t recall the ‘Paul was wrong’ excuse which Sharon has encountered. I was then abused by the lecturer in front of the whole class for daring to oppose his view with my biblical exposition and then later by the head of that College when I complained about that treatment!

    Like Sharon, I do not really wish to open up the debate here other than to observe that I personally believe that this particular debate – like others more recently – has been driven more by secular viewpoints from outside the church than biblical ones from within. The very fact that I feel the necessity to add “I personally believe” merely adds to why I am so sensitive to even commenting here – as a male – without such qualification!

    Suffice to say that it is my very firm belief that regardless of whether we have ‘forums’ for debate, in the context of Bill’s article above (i.e. Whatever happened to teaching in churches), there are certain topics where ‘debate’, or teaching from the pulpit is effectively closed down either by, or by the fear of, ad hominem attacks using non-biblical words such as ‘sexist’, ‘homophobic’, ‘fundamentalist’, ‘Islamophobic’, etc.

  • Roger,

    Based on your response to me, I’ll observe a few issues in discussions in the evangelical churches (my background) over controversial issues:

    (1) Some of those who discuss controversial issues use logical fallacies to close down debate – often without knowing – (not just ad hominem). I do wish Christians would examine these, see how they use them, and quit using them. When we use logical fallacies, we are using illogic and logical discussion is impossible. This application applies to me as well. For a list, see: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/.

    (2) Some denominations, groups and people are more doctrinaire than others, http://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/doctrinaire. My wife and I attend a church that is very doctrinaire in its advocacy for certain doctrines. I attend a growth group of another denomination that is very open to biblical discussion about divergent views. In my 3 years in that group, nobody has judged another for taking a different view. Sadly, debate is closed down on controversial topics in some denominations and groups. The one church we attend would not dare to consider women in pastoral ministry while the other (not a liberal but an evangelical denomination) actually ordains women.

    (3) Dedication to prayerful study through exegetical, contextual and cultural hermeneutics of the text is not inferior to those who engage in prayer and fasting to reach an answer to the controversial issues.

    (4) My son is an MDiv graduate of Malyon College, Brisbane. I asked him about he ‘Paul was wrong’ view and he does not know who would say that but he said that the principal, John Sweetman, has gone on record plenty of times as having a complementary view of marriage and an egalitarian view of ministry.

    I have moved from a traditional anti-women in pastoral ministry (taught by the Baptist church in which I was raised) to a pro-women in ministry position through a thorough study of the controversial biblical texts. It is possible to change one’s view. I know from personal experience. I have some biblical reasoning on this in articles on my homepage, ‘Truth Challenge’ including one I wrote on 9 January 2015 (before this discussion) on ‘The heresy of women preachers?’: http://spencer.gear.dyndns.org/

  • Spencer
    I basically agree with the four points you raise. However, in trying to stay on-topic about what is being taught in the church, I’d like to add the following.

    Both by Sharon and yourself made reference to Malyon College. I was surprised by Sharon’s original comment since, even though I’m not a Baptist, I both studied and lectured there for several years (in biblical Greek) but while it was still QBCM. I had the utmost respect for the people who taught there who instilled into me a love of exegesis, an ability to think critically and also an understanding of how to ‘do’ theology. By the way, I should stress that it was not QBCM where I was subjected to the abuse referred to in my earlier post.

    Bill’s article has covered how little ‘solid’ teaching we get in the church these days and the consequences that flow from that.

    It should be noted that even in Bible-believing, evangelical circles where there this is good teaching, we still find different denominations and differences of opinion on individual topics and that doesn’t worry me.

    However, where you have made reference to looking at the ‘cultural hermeneutic’ of the original text, the point I was trying to make – perhaps poorly – was that many otherwise ‘good Christians’ when reading the Bible are becoming increasingly open, in the absence of solid teaching, to adopting the ‘cultural hermeneutic’ of our modern secular society which is driving the current anti-Christian agenda.

  • Roger,

    Thanks for engaging with me. Yes, there is the danger of a biblically illiterate church that is not being taught sound exegesis and contextual-cultural hermeneutics to resort to feminism and its egalitarianism. However, I’m in the final stages of my PhD (should finish April-May) in NT (with a NT Greek input), so I’m interested in a prayerful, sound exegesis of the text. That is what has led me to an openness to women in pastoral ministry. Gordon Fee’s commentary on the Pastoral Epistles and especially 1 Tim 2 has been an especial help, as has N T Wright’s expositions.

    It’s interesting that Qld Baptists do not yet ordain women, but they do in NSW and Vic. That’s probably related to the independence of Baptist churches and denominations.

  • Thanks Ursula. Deborah is often brought up as a justification for women being pastors. However Deborah though a prophetess, was not the leader of the ‘church’ at the time. Hers was a governmental position – the levitical system was still ruling the ‘church’ or worship, in the line of Aaron.
    You see the same with Miriam, another prophetess often quoted to justify women overseers of the church. She too was not leading the worship. It remained with the Priestly Levites who were all men.
    It was the same for all the women prophetesses in the O.T. At no point were the women running the sacrifices etc.

    In the NT it’s the same – the role of prophetess is outside the role of church leadership. That is why both exist simultaneously. You can have a prophetess and have men leading the church. They are not mutually exclusive as some teach.
    Many women in NT times, opened their homes for church meetings to be held there, but they did not actually lead the services and oversee the church. The NT is quite clear that a ‘husband of but one wife’ was to oversee the church. Women primarily were to be busy in the home, raising the children and teaching other women how to love their husbands and children.

  • Sharon,

    I must be reading a different Bible to yours. Judges 4:4-6 (ESV) states, ‘4 Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. 5 She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the people of Israel came up to her for judgement. 6 She sent and summoned Barak the son of Abinoam from Kedesh-naphtali and said to him, “Has not the Lord, the God of Israel, commanded you, ‘Go, gather your men at Mount Tabor, taking 10,000 from the people of Naphtali and the people of Zebulun’. Therefore, Deborah, the prophetess, most certainly had a leadership role in judging Israel.

    You state, ‘Many women in NT times, opened their homes for church meetings to be held there, but they did not actually lead the services and oversee the church’. How do you know that? That doesn’t explain the possibility of Junias/Junia being a female apostle (Rom 16:7).

    You state that ‘the NT is quite clear that a ‘husband of but one wife’ was to oversee the church. Women primarily were to be busy in the home, raising the children and teaching other women how to love their husbands and children’.

    Let’s check out how ‘quite clear’ it really is. The elder must be the ‘husband of one wife’ is from 1 Tim 3:2 (KJV, ESV, NASB), but the NIV translates as ‘faithful to his wife’ and the NLT, ‘He must be faithful to his wife’; REB, ‘faithul to his one wife’. The Greek is literally ‘to be of one wife husband’. There could be four different meanings of this statement. The issue in Ephesus (where Timothy was when Paul sent this letter) was promiscuity (marital infidelity and a low view of marriage, see 4:3; 3:4-5) and not polygamy. When we examine the context, Paul is talking about an overseer’s character qualities in 1 Tim 3:2-5. So the meaning leans towards that of the NIV, NLT, REB since they are dynamic equivalence (meaning-for-meaning) translations.

  • Hi Sharon,

    Women were in ministry during the New Testament. It is not a heresy to have women pastors. The issue is with the translation of the Greek word for servant being only used as servant to describe the women whilst the same word was translated as ministers for the men! (See Romans 16:1 when Paul refers to Phebe)

    In 1 Corinthians 14, the context of women not being allowed to speak in the churches was in relation to the members of the congregation disrupting the services, similar in effect to when I watch a movie with my wife and she asks me “What just happened”, therefore making me miss more of the film 🙂

    Even in 1 Timothy 2, the context is more in relation to husbands and wives, as opposed to women in ministry. Keep in mind that Paul actually commends to Timothy his mother and grandmother for having taught him the faith! 🙂

    This is in no way is a command that women cannot be in ministry.

  • Thanks guys, but I might mention that the article above was on the general issue of the absence of sound teaching and good doctrine and theology in so many churches. The more particular issue of women leadership in the churches is a bit different. it is an important issue, and a highly controversial and oft-debated issue, which is why it deserves its own article to even begin to address the topic properly. So when I do write on it, we can continue the debate there. But for now we may try to get back on track here thanks.

  • I can’t help but agree with your article. Just came home from church, 45 minute service, 10 minutes worship (a bit too short in my opinion), 10 minutes announcements going over the same stuff in the bulletin, should take 2 minutes then offering, then a 20 minute message with all of two verses one in Leviticus and one in John, 5 minutes or so for communion.

    What strikes me so bad is the emphasis on “Man’s Wis-DUMB” vs the “Word of God”. I can’t help but understand why one of the biggest warning about the end times is “Do not be deceived…” Yet so many Christians I talk with have some really poor understanding and knowledge of the Bible and God.

  • Sharon and Spencer,

    I noted from your comments that you’re both from Brisbane, and hopefully, if you’re following this thread, you may be able to point me to a church in the greater Brisbane area, where the pastor is an expositor of the Bible?

    I would be most grateful.

    Sincerely
    Deb

  • You may be interested in the following article also:
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/07/25/on-expository-preaching/

  • Very interesting article. I’ve noticed the drifting in American churches away from sound, bible teaching the last 20+ years. And this will continue as new Televangelists, Megachurch Pastors and even average sized Emergent churches are growing in numbers. These are all signs of the End Times and we just keep praying and fighting the good fight to Honor God’s Word with other believers & the Lost.

    Just a footnote on Romans 16:7, the key to the verse about connecting women to apostles is the Greek Word ???????? episemos {ep-is’-ay-mos} (meaning of note). Word for word translations use ‘who are well known to the apostles’ or ‘are well known to the apostles’ but not ‘are apostles’ or any similar verbiage. So in the NT there really is no Proof Text to support Women as Preachers/Pastors.

    Shalom!

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