I have always admired pastors. That is not to say they are perfect but I have always felt that a pastor has my best interest at heart. Generally, they don’t intend to harm me. Their words impact me; they always have.
Not too long ago, I was working with weekly Christian education courses at my church. I felt I was doing a good job and was happy in my role. My pastor at that time met me after classes were over one night and told me he was upset that I left church sometimes and did not turn the lights off.
Guess what! I never left the lights on again.
One time, I was having a very personal conversation with him and I alluded to a recurring sin that I felt I needed to deal with. I asked his advice. Here is what he said: “STOP IT!” I guess I was hoping for some kind words, forgiveness, an explanation of grace and some commiseration that he struggled too. No, he said “STOP IT!” and later in the conversation he admitted that he did not fall into many of the sins that people fall into because he “feared God.” Wow, fearing God was something new for me.
Guess what! This was years ago and I still remember his words and I think he is right. When I sin I should fear God. He knows and He is not happy with me.
This same pastor listened to me grumble about a lack of response from the church in attending activities that I arranged. He told me “Get over it; work with what God gives you. Don’t be unhappy because numbers are small. Quit grumbling and be happy that anyone comes.”
Guess what! I am more reasonable today with my expectations due to his counsel. I may get frustrated when people don’t respond but I don’t get “too bent out of shape.”
What was my pastor doing to me? He was correcting me.
Did I want to hear his correction? Of course I didn’t. Did I need it?
“For the time is coming when [people] will not tolerate (endure) sound and wholesome instruction, but, having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying], they will gather to themselves one teacher after another to a considerable number, chosen to satisfy their own liking and to foster the errors they hold.”
Wow, does that sound like the culture in some churches today? Do people today want to be told something that is unpleasant, correcting, rebuking, warning, a message that pinpoints faults or causes conviction?
Most people don’t want that at all. Pastor Bevere makes a strong point about human nature. He pictures two churches right next to each other and people know that one church will deal directly with sinful behavior. In the other, you will only hear uplifting, positive, encouraging sermons.
Which church will most pick?
The encouraging church…
The quote above is from 2nd Timothy 4:3 in the Amplified Bible. Let’s break down the words. “People will not tolerate sound and wholesome instruction.” If a pastor tells you something that makes you uncomfortable, it might not be your best day in church but what if you need to hear it? What if your thinking about your life is based on an incorrect understanding of Scripture? What if your actions are in direct opposition to how God has instructed us all to live?
“Having ears itching [for something pleasing and gratifying]” is just our human nature, the idea that we prefer positive over negatives and the writer of Timothy [Paul] knew that. Paul also knew that people need something more than just glowing messages all the time. [Read Paul’s strong charge for discipline and correction in 2nd Timothy 3:16-4:2].
“They will gather to themselves one teacher after another…chosen to satisfy their own liking.” That is so clear. If a pastor is not positive enough and supportive enough, that pastor won’t be chosen. Pastors need to fall in line. They need to please the congregation, not upset the congregation with negative messages.
“To foster the errors they hold” is the most important part of the quote in my opinion. The body of the church should not be the determiner of the message they need to hear. If that is the case, errors that are occurring could be fostered. Fostered is not a word we use everyday but when you define it, it makes a strong statement about errors. Paul is saying errors can be “encouraged, promoted, furthered, stimulated, advanced, forwarded, cultivated, nurtured, strengthened, enriched [from the Meriam Webster Dictionary].
I am with you. I gravitate toward positive messages. I don’t like bad news. No one does. However, in a desperate attempt to fill pews, are pastors today making churches weaker due to misleading positive messages?
Maybe we need reproof, conviction, correction and discipline from time to time. Bevere boils his message down to his original title. Are pastors choosing good over God? “Do we want a strong church or a mislead church? Do we want to cultivate healthy or deceived people?” [Bevere, 165].
Guess what! I choose strong.
Guess what! I choose healthy.