I often hear it said that the greatest need of the church today is the need for sound Bible teaching and preaching. There is no doubt that there is a tremendous shortage of sound teaching and we are indeed living in the time of the famine of the Word as predicted by the prophet (Amos 8:11). Even though we have dozens of “christian” television stations, millions of “christian” books and sermons on YouTube, and thousands of preachers in the world, there is not a lot of good, sound and orthodox teaching. But is that the greatest need in the church today? I don’t think so.
The greatest need among Christians is not for more teaching, even though good teaching is necessary. It is also not for more churches, more fire in the pulpit, or for more programs. What the church needs today, more than ever, is simple obedience. Yes, that’s what you, I, and every Christian, needs more of. If all teaching and all preaching stopped today and we all began to put into practice the things we already know, we would be busy until the Lord comes and the church would be revolutionized. I am absolutely convinced that every Christian in the Western World, could probably compile a list of at least 100 scriptures that he has not yet been obedient to. While some of those things could take only a few minutes to implement, a lot of them will keep us busy for a very long time.
What percentage of folk who sit in the average congregation leave the meeting with the firm intention of doing what they have heard? Ten percent, five percent or one percent? Of those who actually intend to do what they heard on Sunday, how many have obeyed or still intend to be obedient by Monday lunch time? One, five or ten percent? And by the next Saturday how many have been doers? I guess that the percentage is a small fraction of one percent! As a preacher I wish I had the courage to not preach another message until at least half the assembly actually put into practice what was last preached! Recently I heard that parents are now suing schools when the school will not advance a child to the next grade, even if the child has not even attended class during that year! How ridiculous. Yet, as Christians we expect to advance to the next class every Sunday even though we failed every test from the previous week!
So why do we want more teaching and preaching when we have not applied a fraction of what we already know? There are two reasons. The first is pride. No student wants to be held back or be failed when his friends advance. We all want to sit with the big boys, as though we belong there, and we especially don’t like to be seen to not be making the grade. So, we simply act as though we are learning and progressing when in reality we are way behind God’s schedule for our lives. Thus we come to the meetings week by week like Saul and say: “Blessed are you of the Lord! I have performed the commandment of the Lord” (1Samuel 15:13). I wish I had the courage of Samuel to reply: “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear” (1Samuel 15:14). Can you imagine what would happen if your leaders were to stand at the entrance next Sunday and ask each one whether they did what the Lord had commanded? I can indeed imagine. That will be the fastest a church either closed its doors or the fastest a church experienced revival. But why do I suspect that the first is more likely? Another thing I wish I had the courage to do, is to preach the same message every week until folk begin to obey the Word! Yes, it is pointless for preachers to keep preparing a new message every week when the previous one was simply ignored.
The second reason why we want ever more teaching and preaching is because each new message helps us forget our disobedience, and we hope that each new message will bring some kind of absolution for our previous disobedience. So we flip the channels of the repertoire of messages, hoping to find a message we really like. Often that message is the one which is least searching and contains just comfort and encouragement.
One of the reasons why many preachers are popular today is because they only preach the “easy” messages. Preachers who preach non-threatening, non-demanding, ear-tickling messages that make people feel good and make them feel there is no need for change, fill their churches with thousands of spectators who come to be entertained. But Christianity is not a spectator thing, it is a participation thing. Real Christianity is about doing not just listening. How many of us would be believers today if it were not for someone actually doing something about their faith and thus impacting our lives? Each of us is the product of a number of others who were faithful and actually did what the Lord told them – praying, preaching, witnessing, inviting and so on.
James says that those who only hear and do not do, deceive themselves. (James 1:22). We are not deceiving the Lord, because He knows exactly what is not going on. Neither do we deceive those around us because they can clearly see the lack of change and the barrenness that comes from our disobedience. The only one who thinks that everything is wonderful is the disobedient one. Off course some feel very comforted by the fact that there are many others like him. And yet others will even erect monuments to their disobedience – just like Saul (1Samuel 15:12). Saul had become so hardened in his disobedience that he could no longer see the difference between obedience and disobedience.
Some may contend that it is unbiblical to call for a stop to preaching. Is it really? Do you know that the Lord once cried out for a man who would have the courage to close the temple down! He said He was tired of Israel’s half-hearted attempt at worshiping Him and said it were better that there be no sacrifice to Him than the people continue to worship Him with their dregs! (Malachi 1:7-11) I am sure that if Malachi lived today he would call for church meetings to be closed down since what we are doing is not different to what Israel was doing when they brought the Lord their cripple and diseased animals as a sacrifice.
There may be some who disregard this message because it sounds like the writer is frustrated. Well, wouldn’t you be frustrated if you had to preach the same message week after week while everyone ignored you? But I am not frustrated. I have long ago learned that I am not preaching to the whole congregation but I preach to the one or two who have ears to hear! Are you one of those who will hear and who will do what He requires today?
“He who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:25)