The staff of Brentwood Baptist Church knows that you always need to be prepared to answer two questions. I will ask these two questions randomly, spontaneously, and without warning.
What are those two questions? The first question is, “Where are you reading in Scripture?” Not, “What book are you reading?” I love reading, and I read lots of books. I hope everyone reads a lot of books.
But there is no book that takes the place of the Scriptures in the life of the believer! I can’t tell you the number of conversations I’ve had with ministers who will tell me about the latest book on leadership or theology, culture, or pastoral care. They will have read everything but the Bible. Again, there’s nothing wrong with reading all of these other books. The problem comes when the Bible is ignored in the Christ follower’s life.
We believe the Bible is divinely inspired. This inspiration manifests itself in several ways in the interaction between the Bible and the believer. One of the ways is the writing of the Scriptures. We believe that the writers of the Bible were inspired to write what they wrote the way they wrote it. We also believe the Bible is inspired in its reading. That is, the words of the Bible are inspired by the Spirit to come alive to the reader in a way that doesn’t happen in other books.
Read a lot. Read often, but always read the Bible.
The second question I ask our staff flows from the first: “What is Jesus teaching you?” As Christ followers, we believe our Teacher is alive. Our Teacher has promised that if we sit down and open the Bible, He’ll meet us there and teach us just like He taught the 12 disciples in Galilee. If we are serious about following Christ, He will be dealing with us in some aspect of our life. It could be our anxiety or depression. It could be a grudge or a lack of forgiveness in our lives. It could be our greed, pride, anger, lust – you name it, we all have them. And if you have them, Jesus will deal with them. He loves us too much to ignore them.
Now, what happens if you can’t answer one of these two questions?
Simple. I’ll send you home.
Why would I do that?
Because you are dangerous to the church and our ministry.
Ministry, no matter how you express it, comes out of the overflow of our relationship with Jesus Christ. As He fills our lives with more and more of Himself through His Spirit, we find ourselves unable to contain all that He is and His Presence overflows to those around us. Without this overflow, we have nothing to offer our people or communities.
Ministers don’t explode. You never hear of a pastor going through their church taking out members who have frustrated their work. (We think about it, but we never do it).
Ministers implode. That is, the pressure on the outside becomes greater than the pressure on the inside. Our ministries are constantly increasing their demands on our time. People have greater and growing demands. We exhaust ourselves in trying to keep up with all of this, and the first thing we do to make more time is cut out our personal prayer time.
Now, think about that. We’re too busy working for Jesus that we don’t have any time to be with Jesus.
When that happens, it’s only a matter of time before we or our ministry collapses. Sooner or later, the pressure will become too great to live with, and you’ll commit some form of ministerial suicide to get out from under that pressure.
It happens all of the time.
So, if you can’t answer those two questions, I know you haven’t been taking care of your own soul. That means you’re in no position to minister to others.
So, I’ll send you home.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re realizing that you couldn’t answer those two questions. If I was to walk up to you right now, you couldn’t tell me where you are in the Bible nor could you tell me what Jesus is teaching you.
So, go home. Find a quiet place and read your Bible. Don’t read it to prepare for Sunday’s message or prepare for some class. Read the Scriptures simply because you love them.
Listen for Jesus. He’ll be there, and He’ll teach you.
When He does, you’ll remember why you went into the ministry in the first place.