Parsing Your Preachers
"Funnel head syndrome."
That's my name for an illness affecting our culture today--even in the church. "Funnel head syndrome" is the tendency to be open to having anyone pour anything into our brains and then to adopt it as fact.
We listen to the news on the major networks and accept it as reality, for instance. If we thought about it for just a second, we'd recognize that most of it is biased and little more than socialist political commentary with some half-truths mixed in just to give it the appearance of credibility. Instead, we stick a funnel in our heads so-to-speak, and tell the media to "pour-away."
More dangerous is our tendency to absorb and adopt anything taught by anyone claiming to be "Christian." I'm not suggesting that any preacher is or should be perfect. On the other hand, I long for a more "Berean" culture where God's people "search the scriptures daily" to see if what is being taught is truly biblical (See Acts 17:11).
In I John chapter 4, John gives us 3-4 solid tips on how to choose our teachers. There are some who we just shouldn't receive or pay attention to. Others, while not perfect, will teach us in a consistently credible way. Which is which?
How can we tell? Let's explore John's counsel:
1. They teach the whole truth about Jesus (verses 1-3). I could go on a long rant here about the early roots of Gnosticism hinted at in John's letter. Instead, let me summarize by saying that any view of Jesus that downplays either his humanity or divinity will lead to the errors of either legalism or liberalism. I would also add that the gospel message is everything Jesus taught, all that He did, all that He is, and all that He will be from His return to eternity. A diminished or defective view of Christ should be reason enough to unplug and thus ignore those teachers entirely. Teaching that we just give intellectual accent to Jesus as Savior and then live as if nothing changed is evil. Jesus is also Lord, thus we live and obey based on real faith (Rom. 10:8, James 2:18, etc.). On the other hand, teaching that we can be saved (or remain there) by obeying the Law or some church-prescribed rules is just as evil. A proper view of Jesus leads to the truth being taught and lived out--nothing more, and nothing less.
2. They preach/teach the whole counsel of scripture (Verse 4-6). I love John's bold statement in verse 6, "We are of God. He who knows God hears us." John is speaking of himself and by extension, the other Apostles. He's saying that solid, trustworthy prophets and teachers will pay attention to what the Apostles have taught. They will teach what they taught. In our context, this means that good teachers appreciate and use all that scripture offers, whether written by John, Jude, Luke, Paul, Peter, Isaiah, or Moses, etc.
3. They teach and live-out the Great Commandment of Love (Verses 7-16,20-21). If a preacher doesn't clearly love God and others, we need to proceed with caution. If he/she is selfish, cocky, greedy and makes little or no attempt to "practice what he preaches," watch out! In fact, RUN! I have no patience for preachers who own multi-million dollar mansions, private jets, and custom-made suits. I believe making a good/fair wage is appropriate. Still, with so much poverty in parts of the world where the gospel hasn't been preached--how can someone truly filled with God's love hoard cash? Truth is, he/she cannot!
4. They see God as Good--not evil--and thus boldly preach His truth (Verse 17-19). This one may get me in trouble with some of my Calvinist friends, but so be it. I John 1:5, James 1:17, John 3:16, and Hebrews 11:6 make it clear that God is 100% good and has no darkness or evil in Him at all. Thus, to ascribe to him acts of evil--such as the murder or untimely death of a child under the guise of "sovereignty," misrepresents Him and His Word, the Bible. John says that true believers aren't afraid of God. They respect/fear Him, but they recognize his goodness and love. They see evil in the world as the result of man's sinfulness, not God's will. They see Gods as powerful yet approachable, just yet merciful, mighty yet loving--and lovable! This emboldens them and helps them teach and preach all scriptures with power based on the cushion of God's grace.
Obviously, there's more to say here. Still, if you gain nothing from this article aside from the challenge to be more discerning of your disciplers and thus you begin to parse your preachers--then I'm happy. Let's take the funnel out of our heads and, like the Bereans, search the scriptures to be sure that those teaching us are helping--not hurting--our spiritual growth.
To that end,