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Fake ecumenical harmony based upon nothing but a culturally vogue philosophy that unity must be maintained at all costs and doctrine divides emasculates the testimony of the Church. Paul agues rather for unity resting upon the solid foundation of doctrinal exclusivity, “4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph 4:4 – 6). If God’s Church is to rise it will be because the Holy Spirit has stirred the hearts of believers through the faithful teaching of His word.
It is a travesty that South African pastors are ill equipped to exposit the Word of the Lord and edify their flock. Pulpits around our country turn a blind eye to the proliferation of doctrinal inaccuracies and heresies. The Zion Christian Church, with “10-15 million members” (Wikipedia 2010a), teaches that “senior officials in the ZCC … can use the power of the Holy Spirit to perform healing” (Anderson 1999); Rhema Bible Church, with a “45,000 strong congregation” (Wikipedia 2010b), continues to propagate the Prosperity Gospel (Carew 2001); high profile pastors lobby for the recognition of same sex unions. Our pulpits are no longer anchored to God’s Word but rather the fleeting philosophies of the world.
For this reason our Shepherds need to feed their flock sound doctrine. Paul’s words to the young elder, Titus, echo in my head, “be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers” (Tit 1:9), and his commission to his protégé, Timothy, ring out, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ … Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Ti 4:1 – 2).
The early church converts were characterised by their unquenchable thirst for sound teaching. Luke records that they “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42a). It must be so with our congregations. Much of the focus of pastors needs to be spent in preparation for preaching and teaching so that when the church leads it will do so with the banner of our Lord Jesus Christ and the immutable, infallible, sure and trustworthy Word of Holy Scripture at the forefront of the procession.
The criticality of teaching is not limited to equipping the church but also to protecting it from attack. As pursuers of the truth shepherds are to guard their flock against imminent danger from all around,
The church of our Lord Jesus Christ is refined as we rely upon “the primacy of the teaching of the Word” (Swartley 2005:74).
As leaders exemplify the truth of God’s Word his people are called to holy living; not through passionate pulpit pleas but by edifying and exemplary example. As Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Co 11:1). As the church is purified so she stands apart from a world sunk in sin’s mire, her testimony is elevated and God is glorified.
God’s people live on the bread of life. God’s Word is to us food, necessary for life itself. As we minister we must pursue it diligently, hold to it tightly and protect it ferociously. The unity that truth brings stands strong in the face of the evil one as the Holy Spirit binds us together with cords which cannot be broken.
God’s shepherds, those men who faithfully serve the local church as under shepherds of Jesus Christ, are charged to exemplify the truth of God’s Word and be pursues of that truth. As we yield to the Holy Spirit and God’s Word we become useful to our master. A handful of uneducated, unrefined fishermen did just that and changed the world. My God grant us the same service.
This two part series considers the following statement, “Christian leaders must be both exemplifiers of truth and pursuers of truth.” Did this resonate with you? If so go and check out the series African Leadership Pitfalls.
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