Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Brought Bible?

Hachita Baptist Church, Hachita, New Mexico, U.S.A.
Brought Bible?

I’ve looked at this old-fashioned board for years now. The only time I really pay attention to it is when I’ve been gone (to get an idea of what went on the week before). A few weeks ago, though, the “BROUGHT BIBLE” caught my attention (though I'm not sure they update that particular number).

“Do they need it?” I asked myself. As I preach or lead them in a Bible study, do they actually need the Book? Do I direct them back to it often enough? Do I inspire them to read further? Do I lift up its vital importance for their daily lives in this world as disciples of Jesus Christ? I was burdened by this. Challenged. How can I encourage them in the Word more than I do? If, by my preaching/teaching, I can get them to look at the Book in their hands, point to the words and really look at it, actively engage the weight of the thing, then the corporate moment in the Bible will cease to be passive. I’ve only got a few brief moments. Got to drive them into the Word more and more.

Then I thought about “stewardship.” It used to just be called “giving,” but somewhere along the way it got replaced by a more spiritual-sounding idea (not that I have a problem with changing words every once in a while...makes us think, which is always good). Anyway, stewardship. If you give to the church, then attending the times of preaching/teaching of the paid preacher is stewardship. You are paying to support the man of God, and are present when he does what you pay him to do. Seems responsible.

“The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says [in Deuteronomy 25:4], ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,’ and [in Luke 10:7] ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’” (1 Timothy 5:17,18). We learn at least two things in this passage. First, “honor” means financial support, and not just respect (verse 18). Second, the evaluation of the “rule” of “the elders” is on how well they are determined to have worked “hard at preaching and teaching.” How can this evaluation be made if the evaluators aren’t present at the preaching/teaching of the Word? I’m not sure it can. How can you be sure that your giving to the church is being wisely spent, if you are not present to participate in one of the main reasons the New Testament says we must give to the church (in addition to the support of the poor, help to widows, and assistance to other churches)?

On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter preaches one of the greatest sermons recorded in the Bible. In response, “those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:41,42). “Continually.” Does one hour a week count as “continually”? A lot of preachers regard preaching twice a week (twice on Sunday, and three times if there’s a mid-week service) as a lot. Considering Acts 2:42 (“continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching”), I wonder if I’m doing enough. I mentioned last fall that I was considering adding a small-group Bible study to my schedule in response to a need that had been expressed to me. A church member admonished me that it might be too much. Is it too much? There’s only a little time: “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15,16). We’ll give an account for how we spend this small handful of moments, and if we’ve got something to do that is higher on our priority list than gathering to read the Word together...

Our confession says that Scripture “is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union” (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, 1). My greatest prayer request is that God will make this more and more a reality in our lives, beloved Church. More and more into His Word. Together.

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