One of the key areas in which I train young leaders in how to handle the Bible well. This is essential training. Its essential because without the right approach to scripture we probably wont see the sufficiency of the gospel. We'll focus on minor details and miss the big picture. But there is a danger. It's my greatest fear in training leaders. That we rob them of innocence by giving them essential skills.
Let me explain. I think it's very easy to teach good technique for Bible handling without applying it. It's very easy to help people to see what passages don't say. It's very easy to foster a critical attitude in Bible reading. It's only a short step from this to loving the truth and longing to apply it. But it is a step. Without it we rob people of their life in Christ. Sermons that once fed them no longer do. Study notes that were once daily bread to them cease to be. And keen hungry young Christians can easily turn into ugly judgemental critics. Bible handling ought to lead them into better food. It ought to lead to greater fellowship with Jesus in the word.... we just need to watch that it does!
True handling of God's word is only done when it is applied to life. When it is responded to. Its easy to process the word of God into a neat structure and set of doctrines. Its a whole other matter to apply it and see our lives changed. A bloated head does not glorify God. Let us digest. Let us move.
Charles Simeon says
"A nominal Christian is content with proving the way of salavation by a crucified Redeemer. But the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the very thought of glorying in anything else."Mere knowledge is not enough. It's not even close.
We risk building ugly monsters. I risk developing the most highly trained assasins only for them to be cold and lifeless. I invest about 100 hours of gospel-centred training in the small group leaders I work with each year. Training ought to benefit them but it might not.
Elsewhere I see young students stepping out in faith. I see them stand to teach their CU each week. Speaking not out of good technical training, but from the heart. They share regurgitations of messages that have deeply affected them. I could stand and pick wholes in them - but what I see is the fruit of lives that love Jesus perhaps more than I do. These often clueless fanatics may actually demonstrate the marks of true gospel leadership.
Training is clearly useful. I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it important. But it has to impact life. It has to grow joy in the Lord. It has to transform lives. And that is a work of God by the gospel. The gospel is God's power to change lives and so I can persist. I can persist with arrogant leaders. I can persist with them because they remind me so much of me. A sinner being changed by God. A sinner saved by God.
Ian Stackhouse says that when we lose sight of, and cease to enjoy the gospel of Christ then life is futile. And that is true however technically proficient we are. What we need, says Stackhouse, is to be continually evangelised by our gospel. So, let the sound doctrine of the glorious gospel of the happy God ring loud in my soul and refresh me. And you too! Let it change us. Let is be aircon to our souls on a summer day.
Aircon for my Soul Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3