Is it Wise to Push People to Teach in the Church: James 3:1-5
What would happen if a man who was not a trained medical doctor, but thought he knew some things about practicing medicine decided to treat himself when he was very sick with a life threatening illness? It is likely that in time, the man would eventually die. What if the same man decided to open a medical practice and treated people? His lack of qualification would do more than cause his own condition to worsen ending in his death. He would impact the lives of many more people. Then think about the tragedy of an unqualified man setting up a school to train doctors? Not only would his lack of medical proficiency impact his own health, and the health of those he worked on as a doctor, but his errors would be multiplied exponentially through his instruction. In the medical world, people can become very sick and even die when doctors make mistakes in their medical practices. In the church, the spiritual health and even the eternal destiny of souls is in the balances.
The context of our ministry in Ghana gives us a vivid picture of the devastating results of people leading the church who do not understand the scriptures. The culture around us has a form of Christianity, yet the gospel has been essentially lost in nearly every church in our community. I asked young people in a school a few weeks ago, why do we need the gospel? His answer: it will make our lives better. The answer was a reflection of the common “prosperity gospel” preached in nearly every church and crusade in our community. I asked another person, why did Christ die on the cross? Her answer: He died on the cross as an example for us to follow, so we would know that earning eternal life is going to be hard work. I asked the question in the same school: what do you need to do to receive the gift of eternal. The unanimous consensus of all fifty students was that baptism, perfect obedience to the law, loving God with all their hearts, being kind to their neighbor, and being faithful to church were just a few of the requirements God demanded of them to earn eternal. They said nothing about the cross and the gospel. They believed like Paul before his conversion that salvation is a reward for work, and that God declares us righteous on the basis of our faithfulness to the law.
This extinction of the gospel is in part the result of a generation that has grown up under leaders who failed to preach the pure gospel either through ignorance of the truth, or in deliberate deceptions of the masses. The various errant interpretations of scripture that I hear on a regular basis in evangelism sadden my heart as I see a full generation of people exposed to enough Bible to make them feel comfortable, yet lacking the knowledge that accompanies saving faith alone in the person, work, and righteousness of Christ. Let us soberly consider James’ warning to the church, lest we be guilty of encouraging untested novices into teaching positions in the local church.