The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. –2 Timothy 2:2
Pastors teach from the pulpit. Bible teachers will teach in classes. But in addition, there will be occasions–often sudden, spontaneous occasions–when a lay leader will have the opportunity to teach a biblical truth.
Leaders should always be prepared.
Here’s one way it often happens….
The church member is upset at the pastor. She calls her deacon to complain about last Sunday’s sermon. “We don’t need more sermons on (whatever the subject was).” He listens until she is empty. Then, he asks her something.
“Do you have a minute to listen to something?”
She is puzzled. “Sure. What is it?”
“It’s a verse of Scripture that kept coming to mind as you spoke. I think it may be just the thing you need today.”
“It’s in Hebrews 13, verse 17. Here it is. ‘Obey your leaders, and submit to them. For they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.'”
He pauses. “May I point out something to you in that verse?” She is silent, so he continues.
“That Scripture tells us that pastors and leaders will someday stand before God and give account for you and me, the members of their congregation. Isn’t that a scary thought? Imagine a pastor having to account to the Lord for every member! But that’s what it says…”
“…And therefore, it says you and I should submit to our leaders and respect them. Obey them even.”
Then, the deacon stops talking. He’s said enough. Okay, actually, he let the Scripture do the talking.
She is quiet, then she says something like, “So, I should just put up with the sermons I don’t like and go on, is that what you’re saying?”
The deacon responds, “Not all sermons fit everyone. Sometimes the Lord might send a sermon just for one person or a few, not for everyone. But we pray for the pastor to be faithful. I imagine he preaches some sermons even he doesn’t enjoy. But he wasn’t sent to enjoy this or to please you and me. He was sent to preach the Word of God and to please the Lord.”
Silence. The call ends soon. The deacon has done well.
In my denomination–the Southern Baptist Convention–it’s the deacons who end up being the go-betweens for the congregation and pastors. But depending on the situation and the way a church is run, it might be a committee or the teachers or some board. In any case, lay leaders will often have the opportunity and the responsibility to hear the complaints or problems of church members and then be given the privilege of dropping in a little timely teaching from God’s word.
The way it works is just like the instance above: The member calls with a complaint, the leader hears the full story, then asks for the privilege of sharing something from God’s Word.
Here are ten areas of teaching which lay leaders–deacons in particular–will sometimes have the opportunity to pass along to church members, usually one on one, or possibly in a family setting…
One. To keep their eyes on the Lord Jesus and not on fellow members. What is the scripture for that? Well, we could cite Hebrews 2:9 or 3:1, or 4:14-15. Or perhaps even better, what the Father said at the transfiguration: Mark 9:7 (“This is my beloved Son; listen to Him!”).
Two. To submit to one another. That’s Ephesians 5:21, and the idea is to not demand that we get our way, but to be willing to do things the other person’s way even if we think we’re in the right. Where important doctrines are at stake, no compromise is possible. But most church disputes involve lesser things.
Three. To consider the example of I Corinthians 6 where church members were taking one another to court. The lessons there are numerous, but the question of verse 7 goes right to the heart of the issue: “Why not rather be wronged?” That is, rather than tear up the fellowship of a church, ruin our witness in the community, bring reproach upon the Name of Christ, and a host of other things, why don’t we take one on the chin?
Four. Teach them how to love the jerks. There will always be people hard to get along with, and Luke 6:27-35 does not tiptoe around this. We’re even to love those who hate us, threaten and curse us, who harm us and take what belongs to us. How are we do love people we don’t even like? By doing good to them, blessing them (i.e., saying good things to them), praying for them, and giving to them. That’s the plain teaching of this passage, one of the most inspired things the Lord ever said on the subject of relationships.
Five. Teach the people a new concept of love. Love is something we do. While love is indeed an emotion, it’s far more than that. It’s like the fragrance of bacon frying in a pan. That’s a great smell, but bacon is far more than a fragrance. Likewise, love is far more than an emotion. Scripturally, when we are told to love someone–God, our neighbor as ourselves, our spouse, and our enemies–we are being told to do loving things to them. See number four above.
Six. Teach the congregation that we live by faith, not by sight. The scriptures on this number in the hundreds, but we’ll start with Hebrews 11:6 and 2 Corinthians 5:7 and Habakkuk 2:4 (quoted in Romans 1:17, Colossians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38). This means we will be asked to do things which will seem strange to the world and crazy to our carnal nature (see Romans 8:5-6), but which honors our Lord. Hebrews chapter 11 is the great faith chapter, where Old Testament characters are praised for doing the hard thing when the easier course would have been to say no to God.
Seven. The importance of fellowship with other believers. Acts 2:42 tells us it was a staple of the early Christians from the beginning. No one should try to follow the Lord Jesus in isolation. He never intended it. There must be fifty commands in the New Testament on our responsibilities to “one another,” a reference to other believers.
Eight. Teach them the truth of Romans 8:26. “We do not know how to pray as we should.” But that’s just fine. After all, verses 26 and 34 of that chapter say the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus are both interceding for us in Heaven. Don’t belabor that, as to what might be going on in Heaven. After all, scripture is also just as plain that the Heavenly Father is “on our side” (God is love!). But no one should quit praying just because they feel their prayers are so weak. Nor should they quit because “I’m not seeing answers to my prayers.” Since we pray by faith–as we do everything else!–we will likely not see most of our prayers answered. To put it another way, we don’t know what would have happened had we not prayed. So, we simply pray (because He commanded it! Luke 18:1) and leave the matter with the Lord.
Nine. Teach believers to live in the Word. They need the daily nourishment of God’s word. If possible–that is, if you’re in a setting for a longer teaching–encourage them to live in one book of the New Testament at a time for months. This involves reading it repeatedly and reflecting on what it’s saying, until its message is part of one’s mind and soul. Then, they can move on to another book.
Ten. Teach them the truth of Luke 14:14. When we do good things for people in need, people who cannot repay the favor, even those who do not deserve such kindnesses, the Lord promises “You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (When preaching this, I like to cite that promise, then ask: Can you believe that strong? Can you wait that long? Can you sing that song?)
What this means, among other things, is this:
–Our job is not finished when we listen to someone with a problem or complaint. We should indeed hear them out. And often, we can help them solve the difficulty. But if the Holy Spirit prompts us with a scripture or two, we should ask their permission to share them.
–We must not presume upon the good will of the caller (or complainer) by over-talking or preaching. Ask for permission before sharing.
–Don’t overdo the teaching bit. One or two verses will be sufficient. Using only one well-chosen verse will help to lodge it in the mind of the caller.
–End the call with a brief prayer, no matter how the matter ended. Then, remember to pray for the person.
–The next day, write them a note thanking the person for the call. And reminding them of the verse you used.