I’ve preached several messages that made me glad no one listens to me.
Any pastor who is doing his job will learn more about the Bible. The more biblical knowledge a person gets the more that person will change their beliefs. If your beliefs are not changing then you must not be taking in any new information. If you are not taking in any new information about the Bible you are either 1) not reading it or 2) you already know all of it.
The best way to learn the Bible is to try teaching it. Through years of preaching the Word I am continually confronted with new information, or more context, or more links between verses, ideas, and themes in the Bible, that adjust what I previously believed.
I used to keep recordings of my sermons. I don’t any more. This is for two reasons:
1) The tapes and cd’s were taking up too much room.
2) I couldn’t stand listening to myself teach things I no longer believed and furthermore, I didn’t want anyone who heard me now to hear what I used to say!
Those who have stuck with me over the years and paid attention know how much my doctrine has shifted. But most don’t stick around that long. People choose churches based on whether or not they are told what they already believe. Churches who teach what you already believe are known as “churches with good doctrine.”
If a pastor shifts and starts teaching things people don’t want to believe, they take off. On their way out they will accuse the shifting pastor of going downhill on a slippery slope, or being swayed by liberal theology, or being overrun by young restless Reformed types, or getting too sucked in to fighting against them. Whatever it is he’s doing, we know he’s crazy and we’re gone.
I understand it and in all honesty, I don’t know how well I would do if my pastor began preaching different stuff. I would worry if it came on suddenly, but my change has been gradual, more an exploration and gradual adjustment to new learning. I know the Bible better today than I did before. How could my doctrine stay the same?
There are those who say no one should be a pastor until they know what they are talking about and know the entire Bible. To which I say, “Yeah, right.”
I would have more problem listening to a pastor who thought he knew everything than one who changes his beliefs based on learning new stuff.
But people want solidity. They want a know-it-all confident guy who preaches with authority, not some wimpy blowing in the wind guy. I don’t know. The older I get the more sympathy I have for blowing in the wind and the more I fear those who think they know everything. “Let he who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” “If any will be wise, let him first become a fool.”
Those are some of the verses I learned that have changed my view on pastoral confidence.
My job is to point people to Scripture, to show how to use the Bible and adjust to it. My job is not to get everyone to believe everything I believe. Christ is the head; not me. My job is to get people to Him and to His Word.
One of the main reasons I want people to get to Christ and to rely on His Word is because I have lost confidence in myself. I was so sure about my doctrine 20 years ago. I was so confident I had all the answers and all the proof texts of the vital doctrines of the faith. Then I began studying the Bible. Boy howdy, was I wrong. I’m amazed at how confidently wrong I was for so long. It scares me.
I’ve changed my doctrinal views. I’ve changed my attitude in preaching. I’ve changed. I’m embarrassed of what I used to believe and embarrassed about how arrogantly I trotted out the arguments I’d heard but could never fully defend. I don’t want people to hear those mistaken takes of the past.
Another part of me is not embarrassed at all. Change is part of growing. The more you learn about any subject the more your opinions of that subject change. New information leads to new conclusions, behaviors, and skills. This is common knowledge. This is what education is. The bigger problem in Christianity today is that we’re not being educated. We’re just being fed the same lines, passed on from one non-reflecting generation of pastors to the next.
If you haven’t changed some doctrinal stances lately, check how much you’re learning. Are you not changing doctrine because your doctrine is perfect; or are you not changing because you’re not learning anymore? The answer may frighten you.
Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all.