As consumers, we tend to put a lot of energy into researching, narrowing down, and finally choosing any item we consume. I hear and read frequently that, as churchgoers, we aren’t called to be consumers, but servants or givers. If you’ve read any previous blog posts of mine, it’s been shared that our family has had some time away from attending church. That time came to an end about two months ago. In our search for a new church home many considerations are at play. Consumerism type considerations; put more succinctly, we are vetting this church and, I believe, there is a biblical case for being a consumer when it comes to seeking a local church body to be part of. We vet our political candidates and their parties and we most certainly should have the same mentality with churches and their leaders before diving in.
We are what we eat; we are what we consume. What we take in while part of a local congregation has extreme importance on what we end up putting out. Foremost, the teaching elder of a church, or more commonly called pastor, has our ears, eyes, heart, and mind engaged with what he is saying from the pulpit every Sunday we sit in the pews. What he preaches, above how he preaches is key as a consumer. He has the power and position to feed you sound doctrine and, when conducting himself in the manner Scripture commands, his sermons, in part, will fulfill the wishes demanded by Jesus. In Matthew 21:15-18, Peter is asked three times by Jesus, “Do you truly love me?” and Peter tries to convince Christ that he does, but each begging is replied by, “Feed my lambs,” “Take care of my sheep,” and, “Feed my sheep.” It is made blatantly clear by Christ that for Peter to show his love for Jesus is to provide food and nourishment for the souls of His followers. We consume the Word of God by reading it, hearing it, and digesting it. Preachers have the highest calling in being accountable to God for what words their messages convey to Christ’s followers.
What we consume as far as God’s Word goes has immeasurable influence on how we go about our daily lives. If we’re taking in incorrect doctrine, or extra biblical fluff, or brief, unpacked portions of the Scripture chosen by the pastor to preach on, we’re malnutritioned. If we’re voluntarily participating under the leadership and fellowship of a church where, “Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3), we risk succumbing to turning our ears away from the truth and turning aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:4). Knowledge and delivery of God’s Word in pure, unadulterated truth is a non-negotiable when vetting the teaching elder of any church.
To mention the integrity of the preached Word within church walls, without including the fellowship, music style (I can’t bring myself to call this worship as many churches have coined that term, as all aspects of a service are considered worship, in my opinion), or other liturgical components that make up a Sunday service is done so with a purpose. All of these fall in line under strict biblical teaching and, sans this solid foundation, these will undoubtedly suffer in their own way.
“If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task” (1 Timothy 3:1). The call of a pastor is an undertaking that requires an integral responsibility in discerning what his sermons portray to his congregation. We can read the severity of a calling to speak God’s Word throughout a passage in Ezekiel 2:3-10 and 3:1-11. Although Ezekiel was a prophet, today it is our pastors who are charged with delivering what the Sovereign Lord says. Ezekiel was told, “Son of man, eat what is before you, eat this scroll; then go and speak to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 3:1). The prophet was offered no wiggle room when commanded to read the words written on the scroll. He digested them, and was told to deliver them to the hearers in the house of Israel, without skewing them, manipulating them, twisting them, or reconfiguring them to fit the desires of those who’d hear. Isn’t it safe to assume He expects the same from those who are teaching His sheep today? As an extension, aren’t we who are hearing His Word, being fed His Word, digesting His Word, effectively called to use sound biblical discernment when considering what we’re being fed from the pulpit? We put out what we take in and if we’re being fed a light diet, then we can expect that we’ll be putting out a dim version of Scripture. I dare say, before we can be bright lights, givers, or servants within and outside of church walls, we must first be consumers seeking a diet of the whole and raw Word of God.