Why Do Churches Drift? James 3:1-5
We have seen first hand, the devastating impact of false teachers in the church, but how do men who should have never been permitted to teach in the church get into positions where they are able to spread heresies that devastate local churches and even major associations that were once very orthodox and gospel center? Though the circumstances surrounding the drift in every local church and association is a little different, the same basic problem occurs. Local churches over varying periods of time lower the expectations for men who handle the word of God. To put it another way, they fail to heed James’ warning in James 3:1-5, that warns the church not to carelessly multiply teachers.
We have learned from our previous studies in James, that James is contrasting two ways of life, in order to demonstrate that genuine conversion both produces and demands righteous living. In James 3:1-5, he continues this theme by calling believers to resist the natural desire for prominence in the church that pushes them quickly into teaching positions. James’ teaches that God wants us to be slow to pursue teaching positions in the local church. He also wants the church to be slow to encourage people into teaching position in the church. His point is not that churches should resist having a plurality of teachers. A plurality or team of Biblically qualified pastor, elders seems to be the most Biblical church polity, however, James warns the church and those aspiring to such positions of their sacred responsibility to guard the purity of the teaching of the church.
Perhaps you are wondering, whether this is a serious concern in churches today. I want to remind you of two important tendencies in all of us. First, we tend to elevate men who carry themselves well and are natural leaders into prominent positions even without accountability. This is very common in our culture here in Ghana. Church and crusade invitations will always have the name and pictures of the pastor and honored hosts. The Ghanaian culture elevates pastors and their wives to unusually high status. Fundamental churches in the United States often do the same thing. If you open the phone book, or a Fundamental Christian publication, whose picture will be at the front of the advertisement? It will likely be one man. Why do we do this? Is it possible that in our minds, being a teacher in the church is a high profile position? Do we do this with missionaries and evangelists as well?
A second consideration is the lust for power. The lust for power, recognition, and accomplishment is in all of us, and this is often the catalyst behind young people growing up in a Christianized culture, wanting to be pastors, or pastor’s wives. While I believe every one of us, should be diligent and passionate about the things of God, it is often pride and not a love for the Lord that presses us into aspiring to greatness in Christian ministry. I can say this in honest reflection upon my own life. We should be cautions about pushing people into the ministry of the word. In 1 Timothy 1:6-7 Paul warns Timothy that some in the church of Ephesus had, “strayed and turned aside to idle talk, wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they were saying or the matters about which they made confident assertions.” This same issue is being repeated in churches today. The church should never put untested, unqualified people into teaching positions. The rest of our study will reflect on four warnings given by James to aspiring teachers and congregations. May God give us the grace to hear James’ warnings and to respond with humility!