Prayer: The Place to Start
I Timothy 3:16-17—All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
When our pastor, Andy Harkleroad, came to our church, he came with a sentence that underscored and defined his whole life and ministry. He said, “We must think biblically if we are going to live godly.” That Bible-based agenda was modeled in the way he lived, did family, taught, preached and shepherded.
Thinking biblically seems like a given, but the truth is that in the busyness of ministry and in the heat of the battle, we forget. In the flurry of body life, the church can often substitute biblical thinking with emotional, traditional, denominational, preferential, political, human, selfish, and/or organizational thinking. Every church must develop chapter and verse eyes for its ministry.
The foundation for allowing Jesus to lead our churches must be laid with the objective truth of God’s Word. A church that is built on the Son of God (I Corinthians 3:11) by the Son of God (Matthew 16:18) will be the pillar and ground of the Word of God (I Timothy 3:15) which dictates how the people of God are to behave in the house of God.
The Bible is clear; we are what we think (Proverbs 23:7). The adage, “We may not be what we think we are, but what we think—we are” is true. Many a church has been undermined and divided by “stinkin-thinkin.”
Jesus makes it clear with His direct statement to the Pharisees, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). Paul instructs the church at Rome that the road from conformation to the world of transformation in Christ is by the renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2). So let the church be a thinking church. Think God’s Word. Think God’s will. Think God’s ways.
Sometimes as we look back over church history and the history of our own ministries, we sadly have to say, “What were we thinking?” But there is hope if thinking is changed and minds are renewed, and repentance becomes a lifestyle for the people of God.
Preach the Word
Following Timothy’s admonition about the Word itself, he was charged to preach the Word.
“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (II Timothy 4:1-2).
Timothy was commanded to:
Preach the Word.
Preach the Word urgently—forcefully (like a soldier going to battle).
Constantly (no matter the environment)
All of this is to be done publicly before the congregation and before God who is always evaluating our ministry of preaching. For me, this truth is both frightening and invigorating, but it must be done.
Learning to preach the Word as a worship to an audience of ONE (God) who will then break it and bless it and feed the sheep, is a task to be mastered by waiting on God, in His presence while pouring over a text. But preach we must.
Remember we are feeding Jesus’ sheep with Jesus’ word so they will have Jesus’ mind (Philippians 2:5) and think Jesus’ thoughts (I Corinthians 2:16).
Let me share Haddon Robinson’s definition of expository preaching here.
“Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a passage in its context which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through him to his hearers” (Biblical Preaching, page 20).
In this definition, the passage governs the sermon and the power to live the text is found in the text. And, of course, context is everything. A case can easily be made that this framework for sermonizing is a most effective way to develop a biblically thinking flock.
After the Word is preached, many other approaches can and should be employed in order to nurture the Word amongst the flock. Teaching sessions, discussion groups, one-on-one discipleship, Bible studies, etc. can all be used to help develop a biblically minded people. Knowing who they are in Christ, who Christ is in them, and how to nurture that relationship as a group is especially strategic for them to be a healthy church.
Be patient; everyone who comes to Christ has started their lives with a nature that is rebellious and autonomous and must be convicted and taught by the Holy Spirit. God’s truth and God’s Spirit in time will alter and strengthen their attitudes and beliefs toward God, His Word, and other individuals, resulting in their lives being transformed into the image of Christ. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Truly He who has begun a good work in us will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ, and we are agents of truth to build a people of truth. Be encouraged when people are in the Word—Jesus is in the lead.