Bible-Balance in Christian Ministry
You don’t hear a lot about it in seminary. It doesn’t get much discussion in pastoral theology books. But one of the more complex challenges of Christian leadership is cultivating a Bible-balanced ministry. What does it mean for a church, or a ministry, to be Bible-balanced? Why is it important?
Many errors in the church are not ones of substance, but degree. It is possible for a pastor to lead his church poorly while teaching wonderful things. How? By giving those good things disproportionate emphasis in the life of the body.
For example, a leader can faithfully articulate the Bible’s teaching on mercy ministry, or music in worship, but emphasize this teaching so strongly, and so often, that the community begins to lose a sense of balance regarding that teaching. Soon faithfulness in the Christian life is defined by degree of involvement in mercy ministry. After all, Christianity is about being the hands and feet of Christ!
Or soon the church is on an island of musical faithfulness, awash in a sea of compromise at every hand. A church can be known as the evangelism church, or the biblical counseling church, or the kids-ministry church, or the culturally relevant church. What may have begun as good and needed teaching, has now taken on a life of its own. Simply put, it has become more important than the Bible makes it.
But healthy churches and ministries long for the main themes of Scripture to be the main themes sounded. Thus, the gospel, the person of Christ, Christian discipleship, and the Great Commission are some of the primary things a healthy church is preoccupied with. It’s not that secondary issues are unimportant to such ministries; it’s just that they’re secondary. So while pastors of healthy churches will always faithfully apply God’s word to their context, they will preach these applications as implications of something else. Indicatives will drive imperatives.
So how do we get a Bible-balanced ministry? The full answer won’t be simple. Consistently preaching the themes of Scripture in proper relationship to one another is complex. It is an art, not a science. It is a process, not an event. But here’s a working plan: aim to preach what the Bible says, in the way it says it, to the degree it says it.
What the Bible Says. The best way to preach the balance of what the Bible says is through faithful, verse-by verse exposition of the Scripture. A pastor who preaches through books of the Bible and determines to make the main point of the passage the main point of his message — even as he seeks to apply the passage with contours and at depth to his particular people — will serve his church well because he will lead the people to increasingly think God’s thoughts after him.
In the Way It Says It. Many pastors who are committed to expositional preaching don’t give much thought to preaching the tone of the text. The tones of Scriptural texts are many and varied. Some passages comfort; others exhort. Some passages directly exalt Christ, while others do so indirectly through showing the ugliness of sin. In each case, the teacher must work to reflect the tone of the passage well. There is room for asides, and for imbalancing a special word to a particular group as a tailored corrective. But a sermon on Psalm 23 is probably not the best place for an extended focus on the hard-heartedness of some sheep who are resisting the shepherd’s leading. The passage is meant to comfort.
To the Degree It Says It. Simply put, the things that Scripture makes a big deal about, a healthy church should make a big deal about it. The themes that run all throughout Scripture should be talked about often in a well-balanced ministry. Christ should be in every sermon. Divorce and remarriage, for instance, should just be in a few.
Why This Is Important
God governs his church through his word. As faithful followers, then, we want our churches to be Bible-balanced. We want to guard against giving a right teaching undue weight in the church, such that it causes the people to wobble. Those in leadership should look to fellow leaders in the church for honest feedback. Preachers need people who will tell them if all their sermons rut into political overtones, or if they’re always harping on license without marveling at the reality of grace.
Teaching and preaching are difficult ministries, and we won’t always get it right. But let’s labor to give Scriptural truths their proper weight. A Bible-balanced ministry will aim to say what the Bible says, in the way it says it, to the degree it says it.
More on Christian leadership from Desiring God:
The Marks of a Spiritual Leader (free ebook by John Piper)
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