Teach Fundamental Local Church Practice:
A fourth aspect of pastoral mentoring is the principle, that a pastor must teach the fundamental aspects of local church practice to whomever he is mentoring, both layman and preacher boy. I am thankful for sound Bible colleges and their ministries to and within the local church. I appreciate their academic rigors and the thoroughness of their academic, practical, and theological curriculums; however, these institutions were not ordained by God as His means of proclaiming truth. The church was! My point is not to encourage people not to send their young people to Bible College; rather it is to challenge our pastors not to depend upon institutions to do the work that was committed to them by God. Our churches must be
thorough in teaching their people the fundamental doctrines of local church practice.
There are two key passages that emphasize this concept, I Corinthians 11 and II Thessalonians 2. Both passages emphasize that Paul as an apostle had the responsibility to teach the church through word and epistle proper church practice, and then that the church and their leadership had the responsibility to follow this apostolic instruction. I Corinthians 11:2 says, “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” Paul had many difficult things to write to the church of Corinth, but one thing he praised them for, was their careful observation to keep the ordinances that he had previously given. The “ordinances” in the sense that Paul is writing go beyond the two ordinances of the church that we currently practice, the Lord’s Supper and baptism. He is using this term to cover apostolic instruction regarding local church practice. This epistle was going to teach additional instruct to the church in areas like church discipline, practice of spiritual gifts, worship, teaching, and the holiness of
the Lord’s Supper. Though no pastor is in the position of an early church apostle, he is still given the responsibility to teach the practices revealed by those apostles. II Thessalonians 2:15 says: “Brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” The word translated “traditions” in this passage is the same word translated “ordinances” in I Corinthians 11. Paul’s purpose was not to teach the church to be traditionalists, in the sense of many religious sects today, rather than pure Biblicists; instead he was speaking as an apostle, in the place of God, commanding the church to keep God’s instruction through him. Please keep in mind that Paul’s apostolic instruction was ultimately from God, and that this instruction was as binding to them then, as Scripture is to us today. In other words, Paul was not acting as the pious self-righteous religious leaders in the days of Christ who were rebuked for teaching their own traditions in addition to or in opposition to the previously given word of God, rather he was referring to his instruction as Divine instruction. No man living today can justly claim as Paul
did that he was an apostle sent by Jesus Christ, uniquely gifted, instructed, and called into this special temporary office in the establishment of Christ’s church. My point is that in principle we must do the same thing that Paul did; however, we can only speak authoritatively where the Scriptures have previously spoken. We are bound to dogmatize only what is revealed in the closed canon of Scripture, God’s inspired word through the prophets and apostles of old.
As Paul laid out instruction for the church, pastors must do the same today. Pastors must mentor their young men through teaching them the fundamentals of local church practice. In II Thessalonians 3:5-8 Paul writes: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for naught; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not
power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” Notice several aspects of this passage that are instructive to us.
First, Paul speaks as an apostle “in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” When Paul used that phrase, he was saying to the church that his instruction was literally from God. Paul was speaking with the same authority as Old Testament prophets who used the phrase “Thus saith the LORD…” You and I cannot speak this boldly save where we have the clear dictates of Scripture, yet when we do, we must do this. Secondly, notice the context of the command. Paul is writing to a church who has received divine revelation, from the apostle, regarding the dignity of work previous to this epistle. If a man refused to obey this instruction by not working, then he was not to be cared for by the church. Paul says if a man walks in a “disorderly” way in relation to the “traditions that you have already received from the apostles,” then you must “withdraw yourself from that man.” The context
is Paul giving apostolic instruction regarding the response of people within the church to previously given apostolic instruction. The current day equivalent is a pastor taking his Bible and explaining to a preacher boy or church member how church discipline should be practiced in the local church, and in what circumstances it is to be practiced. Every pastor should be instructing his congregation as well as his preacher boys in this and
all other aspects of practice in the church. Thirdly, notice the pattern that Paul put before the church. Paul says that they knew how they “ought to follow us,” and that they were “examples unto them to follow.” Paul did not only give instruction as an apostle, but Paul also lived as a blameless example before the church. Paul in the context is saying that he restrained himself even beyond what he was required, so he could not be criticized as he instructed the church. I would like to encourage each pastor to consider his responsibility to teach the fundamentals of church practice not just to the church, but also to the preacher boy. I encourage you to teach the word of God passionately and to live the word of God consistently as a
pattern for the next generation to follow. I would also like to challenge you be careful not to add or subtract from the rightly divided word of truth.
May God give us more pastors who will be wisely committed to mentoring their people by teaching them the fundamental elements of local church practice, as Paul taught this practice in the churches of his day!