Remedial studies in the work of the Lord

“By this time you ought to be teachers (but) you need someone to teach you again the first principles…” (Hebrews 5:12).

Sherrie Waller, a member of our church and wife of one of our deacons, teaches math at the local Baptist seminary.

She’s training the next generation of preachers and missionaries how to count the offering, I suppose.

One “school” in our seminary is Leavell College, where people can get a four-year bacculaureate degree.  And one aspect of that, as with any college in the land I expect, is that students/graduates have to have a certain amount of proficiency in a wide range of disciplines, math being among them.

I can appreciate that.

Most of what Sherrie covers is taught in high school, had these future preachers and missionaries been paying attention.

Sherrie told me, “I teach the only math class required for Leavell College students. It is a very basic math class. We go over basic operations with whole numbers, decimals, fractions, percents, interest, percent increase/decrease, wages, unit costs, very basic statistical measures, very basic probability, and we end with introductory algebra. I am required to talk about church budgeting and tax laws for ministers. I use the budgeting to connect to percentages and simple circle graphs. My opinion–tax laws are not a math topic but they involve numbers so I understand why it is put in the math class.”

Some of us were called into the ministry long after we left high school and became serious about studying later than we should have. There’s nothing like the call of God upon one’s life to drive one to learn.

Ministry people need to know their math. The inability to do so leaves the door open for abuse from unscrupulous people with access to the finance office.

For our purposes here, however, I’m not so much interested in math and algebra as another group of subjects some of us missed somewhere along the line and for which we need some remedial work.

Writing to the early believers, the author of Hebrews had this to say: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of God’s revelation.  You need milk, not solid food.” (Hebrews 5:12).

This explains a number of things about the work of pastors and teachers in the local church….

1) They cannot deal with the entire congregation as though everyone were mature and godly.  Even deacons and teachers often show signs of immaturity and stunted development.

2) They have to keep teaching the basic principles of the Christian life.  Coach Vince Lombardi is said to have told his Green Bay Packers after a particularly awful game, “Men, this is a football.”

What are those “basic principles”?  The Hebrews writer does not name them, but we can surmise the list would necessarily include….

–The just shall live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4 and Hebrews 11:6). We’re not only saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) but thereafter, we live this Christian life the same way (Galatians 3:2).

–The Holy Scripture is inspired of God and is sufficient for our doctrine (2 Timothy 3:15ff.). The object, however, is not just to know it but to “do it” (see John 13:17).

–The mark of a believer is his love for the brethren (John 13:34-35).

–The love that Jesus wants from us is not some emotional rush but obedience (John 14:21,23,24 and 15:10,14).  Obedience tells the story (see 2 Corinthians 2:9).

–Nothing tells the story about our faith in Jesus like prayer (Matthew 7:7-11).

3) Some will advance faithfully, growing in grace and knowledge (2 Peter 3:18) to spiritual maturity, while some in the church will never do the disciples necessary to grow and will remain stunted.  Ministries must reach out to both.

4) New people coming into the kingdom all the time will require that the pastor and teachers not assume biblical understanding from everyone and that they explain themselves all along.

5) We should pray for our teachers and pastors.  Schoolteachers in the congregation can only imagine the difficulty in trying to teach concepts to a classroom which included kindergartners, middle-schoolers, and gifted students from high school or college. Every pastor attempts this very thing every Lord’s Day.

“Pray for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:19-20).

“For not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2).



One thought on “Remedial studies in the work of the Lord

  1. Great article. The story that I heard was that after Lombardi said, This is a football. One of the big linemen said, wait a minute coach, you’re going too fast. LOL

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