Note: This article was originally written for and published at the ChurchWorks Blog.
You won’t hear a lot about it in seminary. It doesn’t get discussed much in pastoral theology books. But it seems to me that one of the more complex challenges of pastoral ministry is having a Scripturally-proportioned ministry. What does it mean for a pastor (or a church) to be Scripturally-proportioned? Why is it important?
So many errors in church ministry are not ones of substance, but of degree. In other words, it is possible for a pastor to lead his church wrongly while teaching good things. How? By giving those good things disproportionate emphasis in the life of the church.
For example, a pastor could faithfully articulate Scripture’s teaching on mercy ministry, or music in worship, but emphasize this teaching so strongly and so often that the church begins to lose a sense of proportion regarding that teaching. Soon faithfulness in the Christian life is defined by degree of involvement in mercy ministry. Christianity IS being the hands and feet of Christ! Soon the church is on an island of musical faithfulness, awash in a sea of compromise at every hand. A church is known as the “evangelism church,” the “biblical counseling 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 Scripture makes it.
Healthy churches long for the main themes of Scripture to be the main themes sounded in their church. Thus, the Gospel, Christ, the kingdom, following Jesus, 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 churches; 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 Scripturally-proportioned ministry? The 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. But here’s a suggestion: 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 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, will serve his church well because he will lead people to 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 exalt Christ, while others show the ugliness of sin. In each case, the pastor must work to reflect the tone of the passage well. A sermon on Psalm 23 is probably not the best place to rail 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-proportioned pulpit ministry. Christ should be in every sermon. Divorce and remarriage should just be in a few.
Why This Is Important
God’s Word governs God’s church. As faithful ministers then, we want our churches to be Scripturally-proportioned. Brothers, guard against giving a right teaching undo weight in the church. Look to the fellow elders in your church to give you honest feedback. You need people who will tell you if all your sermons bring up politics or if you’re always talking about legalism. And by God’s grace work hard at your preaching. It’s difficult, and you won’t always get it right, but labor to give teaching its proper weight. A Scripturally-proportioned ministry will say what the Bible says, in the way it says it, to the degree it says it.