Then the Jews sought him at the feast, and said, Where is he? And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit no man spake openly of him for fear of the Jews.John 7:11-13
Fear and church don’t mix!
What a horrible scene we have before us. There are people genuinely seeking to understand more about Jesus and Who He truly is but they are afraid to ask questions or to speak openly. The “Jews” they are afraid of are their religious leaders. The ones that are responsible for teaching and comfort have struck such fear into the people so that the ordinary person is too afraid to even ask a question. This is horrible!
I wish this was a problem that just occurred in the past but I am afraid that this still occurs today in many churches.
When I was a boy, there were certain preachers that we were afraid to ask questions. They would bark at us and send us “back to the kids’ table.” When I got older, these same men were still quite angry and it wasn’t just with children. They didn’t want anyone asking them questions. What I soon realized was that they felt they were being “questioned” or challenged on their opinions or knowledge. They see a question as a threat to their supposed authority. This kind of attitude has no place in leadership in the church or in the pulpit!
Now, I am not saying that there aren’t some people that just like to argue. That is another case altogether. I am speaking of those who have the reputation of being giants in the church because of their oratory or debate abilities but they are unapproachable.
Consider what the Apostle Paul says about those who desire to preach the word of God:
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;1st Timothy 3:2
There are two statements in that list that really stand out. Number one, they must be given to hospitality. An angry man is not a hospitable man. Secondly, they must be “apt to teach.” Notice it doesn’t say “apt to speak” or “apt to show how much you know about the Bible.” The gift of teaching sums up the speaking role of the pastor. He must be willing to take the time to understand where every congregant is in their understanding of the Bible, and help them grow. This means that He must speak on a level that most people in the congregation can understand. AND he must be willing to allow for questions for deeper understanding and clarification.
What I have just described is exactly how Jesus taught. He gave time for those that were committed to following Him to ask questions. He was patient. He retaught the same lesson many times. He was not interested in being the popular preacher. He was interested in feeding the flock of God and helping them.
I have found in my personal ministry that there are times that I have made a mistake and someone has pointed that out to me. I hope that I have corrected the error to the best of my ability and sought to find the truth rather than just “be right.” I have also found that there are some things in the Bible that I just don’t have much light on. When I am asked about it, I freely admit, “I don’t know,” but I also try to seek to find the truth with the person that asked.
Looking back, I also remember the preachers that all the kids seemed to want to be around. They were joyful. Sometimes they played games or ball with us. But the real reason we wanted to be around them was because they were truly interested in us! They wanted us to learn more about Jesus. They wanted to help us. These men were not the most popular preachers. In fact, the “popular preachers” often looked down their noses at them. They didn’t care. They just kept on caring for us.
I grew up in the city but in the last few years I have had the privilege to learn about farming and animal care. One of the first things we tried to learn was raising chickens. In designing our coop, I had to figure out roosting bars, nesting boxes, and how to feed and water the chickens. I set up feed and watering cans for adult chickens and separate ones for little chicks. What I found was that I created a lot of extra work for myself. The full grown chickens drank and ate out the chick dishes more than the adult-sized!
I encourage my fellow preacher brethren to “feed the chicks!” The chickens will get fed as well.
I also encourage the people of God to engage their pastors more. A true man of God will not only appreciate being asked questions, he will more fully understand that God has called him to be your under-shepherd.