The Editor’s Desk by Shawn McMullen
Church leaders shoulder a great responsibility. Paul admonished the elders of the church in Ephesus to “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers” (Acts 20:28). Peter reminded his fellow shepherds of their accountability to the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).
Leading and loving the flock, counseling, and modeling Christlike behavior are all vital aspects of the spiritual leader’s work. But there’s more. Another way church leaders fulfill their responsibility to Christ and the church is to ensure that those under their care are taught well.
From the earliest days of the church its leaders and servants have been charged with the tasks of teaching and obeying God’s Word. Paul insisted that elders be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). He required that deacons “keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience” (v. 9).
Before Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle, Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples of all nations, “baptizing them . . . and teaching them” (Matthew 28:19, 20). Following their Lord’s command, the first Christians devoted themselves to teaching, along with prayer, fellowship, and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42).
Later Paul pointed to the crucial role of teaching in his own ministry when he wrote, “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). To the young evangelist Timothy he wrote, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (1 Timothy 4:13). He instructed Titus to “teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1).
There is a message here for 21st century church leaders. The weekly gatherings we oversee must encourage worshippers to draw near to God. The songs we sing should direct our hearts upward in praise. Participation in the Lord’s Supper should engender a spirit of gratitude and devotion. Our prayers should be heartfelt and specific. The fellowship must be warm and genuine. We want worshippers to leave our services feeling connected to God and ready to serve.
But if we haven’t taught them, we’ve dropped the ball. Have you ever attended a worship service where the music was amazing but the teaching was tepid? Often people leave such services uplifted but unchanged. Have you ever participated in a small group that was strong on discussion but weak on study? Have you sat in Sunday school classes that major in opinion and minor in application?
Spiritual leaders are obligated to God and to the flock they shepherd to make solid, practical, biblical teaching available to everyone. Not all will accept the offer, but that is a matter of personal responsibility. The leaders’ job is to provide learning opportunities, to ensure that those who teach—at every age level—”show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:7, 8). In the process they help elevate the Word of God to its proper place in the life of the congregation. As the teaching goes, so goes the flock.