We love to be entertained. We love it so much that we spend billions of dollars and vast amounts of time satiating our thirst for fun and amusement. The church exists in this culture of entertainment and has a choice as to how it will respond. Some churches put a big emphasis on entertainment, even if they don’t call it that. Pastors try hard to keep jokes coming thick and fast; the more stories, anecdotes and one-liners, the better. Lights, videos, drama, and loud music form the core of the “worship” experience. But hey, this is a whole lot better than a few dreary songs and a dry-as-dust doctrinal discourse, right?
Striking the Balance
It should be obvious that neither flat-out entertainment nor bored-stiff lectures are what is needed in the modern church. But what is needed? The ever-elusive concept we call “balance” is probably where we should go. Where is the “balance,” and what does it mean?
Understand, Adapt, Educate.
First, we must understand the people and culture within which we minister. A few generations ago, the parson was expected to be the most educated man in town, often doubling as the schoolteacher. As the modern church, we must understand the people with whom we work. We must know their educational level, their hobbies, their interests, and their careers. In this way, we can make appropriate adjustments in order to minister more effectively. We adapt. This isn’t about pandering to people’s appetites. It’s about intentional ministry effectiveness. Next, it’s up to us to education the people. They don’t need more entertainment upon more entertainment. They need instruction.
2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The church has the responsibility to communicate Scripture. Scripture is profitable for instruction. The word translated “instruction” is a Greek word that refers to “that which is taught.” Sounds a lot like education to me. Since the Scriptures form the core of what we do and say, it logically follows that we must teach the Scriptures. Education is imperative.
Boring. Boring. Boring.
Education need not be boring. If we think that imparting doctrinal truth has to somehow be boring, we’re wrong. Where Christianity in today’s culture has failed has not been so much in being too boring, but in being too entertaining. The feel-good nature of preaching and the surface treatment of Scripture run the risk of producing anemic Christians.
Mark Dever pastors a church in Washington D.C., and leads an organization called 9 Marks. The teaching of the organization is that every healthy church has nine characteristics, or nine marks, in common.
- Expositional preaching
- Biblical theology
- A biblical understanding of the gospel
- A biblical understanding of conversion
- A biblical understanding of evangelism
- A biblical understanding of church membership
- A biblical understanding of church discipline
- A biblical understanding of discipleship and growth
- A biblical understanding of church leadership
Every one of the nine marks begins with the Bible, and assumes education. A healthy church, then, is one which is being educated in biblical principles.
On the Path to Education
Here are four ways in which you can place the emphasis upon education.
- Read. Pastors ought to be readers, always learning and gaining more knowledge about the ministry.
- Learn more. Consider taking additional classes and benefiting from continuing education. Many seminaries offer distance learning opportunities.
- Understand and explain to your people the importance of expositional preaching.
- Stick to the Bible. In your preaching, if you explain the Bible, you can’t go wrong. Careful, systematic exposition of the Bible is what people need to hear.