Al Mohler preached the Sunday night 1/30 sermon at the 2011 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference. The title of his sermon was "Endurance of the Christian Mind". Very good sermon from Romans about the importance of Christian intellect - as Mohler says "thinking precedes doing, knowing precedes action". He has some very interesting comments about what researchers are calling the prevalent religion in our culture: moralistic, therapeutic deism (MTD) the Mohler has written about in the past. You can click here to go watch the sermon and hear the music (see my comment at the end about the music).
But Mohler is preaching primarily to preachers at the conference, and when you hear preachers preaching to other preachers, you might expect to learn some things about how they view themselves and their profession and their role in Christianity - especially when it is one of their premier scholars doing the preaching.
In his summary at the end, Mohler offers three important "understandings" for the pastors on this matter of endurance of the Christian mind.
The first one on the list, and presumably the most important one is that the main way that God keeps Christian people from slipping into sin and ignorance is the preachers' sermons. He says:
"The main means by which God saves his people from ignorance is the preaching and teaching of the word of God. That's why a conference like this is so important. It's not just because we think of the pastorate as a profession set along side other professions so that we can gather together for a little professional encouragement to go out a be a little better at what we do.
No, we're here because we believe that those who teach and preach the word of God are God-appointed agents to save God's people from ignorance. "
This sort of thinking by one of the premier Christian thinkers in modern evangelicalism helps lay people like us understand why pastors view themselves as specially-anointed Christians, with extra insights into scripture because they have been assigned by God to holding an "office" that gives them special rule and authority over other Christians.
The premise: we lay folk are woefully ignorant and we tend to move toward ignorance, but the pastors, the "pastorate" - they are wise and anointed. We are stupid sheep, they are learned scholars whose feet we must sit at to fully understand the Bible and what it means to be a Christian.
I thought that the one time "pastor" was used in the New Testament in Ephesians 4:11 (where it is used in plural form, to indicate that it is not an office but a gift that multiple people in a church exercise) it meant "shepherd" - now I know it means "saver of the plebe from their own ignorance". Notice Mohler describes it as a "profession" - it never was intended as that in the Bible, as even Paul was not a professional pastor. Mohler even uses the word "pastorate" making "pastor" an office, and it just ain't so. It ain't even in da Greek.
But Mohler continues...
"So don't stand in the pulpit if you're not going to preach and teach the word of God. Life and death, heaven and hell, hang in the balance. "
Yes, to be in the pulpit and teach sound doctrine is important. But one of the problems in modern Christianity is that we tend to put TOO MUCH weight on the words of a guy in a robe or a suit (or a Hawaiian shirt) with a bible in his hand. No, heaven and hell don't hang in the balance when you're in the pulpit, pastor. Get over yourself and your sermons. The message should be to pastors: stop telling fantastic flowery stories of yourself and your life in the pulpit. Stop the exaggerations (Caner). Stop misusing scripture and stop brow-beating people into doing what you want from the pulpit - like giving money to build your building or support your ministry. Just teach the Bible, and be honest in the pulpit and don't lie and don't use your pulpit for your own selfish interests or to promote your family or your Holy Land trips or to go after your critics.
But Mohler ratchets it up...
"If you do not preach and teach the word of God, if you do not faithfully teach the word of God such that your people hear it and understand it and grow upon it they are consigned to unfaithfulness and many will be consigned to hell. "Wow. Us lay folk, us church attenders - our very faithfulness, in fact our very eternal destiny hangs in the balance when a man gets in the pulpit to preach. He better preach the word of God "faithfully" - code word for the doctrine that Mohler and the baptists believe - or us common folk will all be unfaithful and some of us will go to hell. Or worse, we might all end up blogging, egads!
So it is quite apparent that these preachers believe that we really can't fully understand the Bible or function properly as Christians to the point we can grow, UNLESS we put ourselves under their "faithful preaching". Unbelievable. This just is not true, and it is not supported in any way in scripture.
But it doesn't stop there. Mohler continues:
"We ought to be yearning to get from sermon to sermon preaching with such vigor and such energy and such faithfullness and such convinction that the people who hear our preaching also can't wait to get back sermon from sermon to sermon. God's people are those who recognize THEY CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT THIS! "
Ironically, God's people are those who are in increasing numbers realizing they CAN live without "this", - the preacher's sermons and bible interpretations and brow-beatings and in some cases spiritual abuse. Many church members are leaving churches with pastors who hold to this view of themselves, and they are finding churches where the pastor is a humble shepherd. Many people are starting home churches where they meet with other believers who exercise their gifts of being pastors and teachers to help people live the Christian life. They realize they can live without forking over 10% of their income to a church system that exists primarily to pay professional ministers and to build and maintain buildings.
And you know what, Al Mohler? These people are not at all ignorant - and in fact they realize just how ignorant they had become in many ways in their churchianity and in their following of their pastor. They now can begin to grow by concentrating on what the bible says, and not what they were taught it says by their pastor.
I've said it before: if this is the thinking of typical SBC pastors and it is what they are learning about their profession at seminary - no wonder they are so absolutely frustrated and leave their profession in growing numbers. How hard it must be to love church members when they listen to your magical sermons and are still so woefully ignorant. No wonder they can't stand criticism and want "troublemakers" thrown out of church. No wonder they view themselves as the rulers in the church through whom God gives the vision and others must follow. No wonder they are incredibly frustrated when people don't obey and tithe.
Lastly, I want to say to the FBC Jax choir and orchestra and Jim Whitmire - some incredible music you provided to the pastors. Whitmire is doing a great job and FBC Jax choir and orchestra are in peak form. I especially recommend that WD readers go and listen to the duet performed by Baron Rice and Jonathan Welch just before Mohler's sermon entitled "My Heart Belongs to You". Rice sings the voice of God, Welch the voice of Adam. I've never heard that song, and these two young men who both grew up at FBC Jax, and the orchestra, did an incredible job.