Unsound Teaching Produces Unsound Churches

Unsound Teaching Produces Unsound Churches

The calling of the pastor is to lead the church through a faithful teaching ministry. His doctrine must be healthy or it will have a negative impact upon the entire church. This is why Paul instructs Titus to be certain that his teaching was sound, which is another way of saying it must be healthy.

Titus 2:1 – But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.

The Contrast of the Faithful Pastor and the Unfaithful Heretics

Notice how Paul begins this verse. He writes, “But as for you.” This was a means of providing a vivid contrast to the evil enemies of the cross who were plaguing God’s people. The teaching of Titus must have a completely different aroma than the teaching of the heretics. People should be able to notice the difference without being confused.

This is critically important as we consider the preaching and teaching of faithful pastors. They must be so closely aligned with God’s Word and so consumed with the gospel that there is no mistaking their teaching with the false teaching of those who seek to lead people astray with false doctrine. Sound doctrine and false doctrine must be clearly distinguished from one another.

The Calling of the Pastor

The calling of the pastor is to the task of preaching and teaching holy Scripture. Notice that Paul didn’t call Titus to entertain the people. It should be further noted that Paul didn’t instruct Titus to engage in the work of psychology or sociology. The calling of Titus was to teach the Word of God and to appoint elders to that same task in the context of local churches across the island of Crete.

Paul says, “teach” which is the Greek term, “λαλέω” meaning to express oneself by speaking. It literally means to talk. When connected with sound doctrine, this places the contextual emphasis upon imparting knowledge in a formal sense of teaching. It was Martyn Lloyd-Jones who once said the following:

Preaching the Word is the primary task of the Church, the primary task of the leaders of the Church, the people who are set in this position of authority; and we must not allow anything to deflect us from this, however good the cause, however great the need.

Certainly the pastor wears many hats as it pertains to the work of shepherding. The most important task and the central calling of the pastor is to the preparation for and faithful teaching of God’s Word. The pastor can do a hundred things well, but if he fails in this one area, he is an unfit pastor who fails in his calling to the office of an elder.

The Message of the Pastor

The message of the pastor must be healthy. That’s the meaning of Paul’s word to Titus when he instructs him to deliver sound doctrine. Literally he’s saying, “teach with healthy teaching.” The word used by Paul for doctrine is “διδασκαλία” which came to be used in the New Testament, especially in the pastoral epistles, to mean the sum of the body of teaching by the apostles.

For that reason, we often say, “doctrine matters.” By way of contrast, Paul had warned Titus that the Cretans were known as liars. The heretics who were peddling a false gospel were not to be trusted because they had come into the community of the Christians insisting on salvation by grace plus law. In short, these two groups that were impacting the church on the island of Crete were teaching unsound doctrines.

The unadulterated Word of God is what the local church needs. Anything else will not fulfill the people and will lead to unrest, lawless behavior, and ultimately will be so dull that it will not penetrate the hearts of people and will be incapable of saving the soul (James 1:21; 1 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 3:16). Unsound preaching leads to unsound living. Paul understood that Titus’ responsibility was to disciple elders who would disciple local churches.

As we consider the landscape of our evangelical culture today, we must avoid the popular trappings that entangle so many local church leaders and subsequently—entire churches. It was once a very popular trend to replace preaching with psychology. Today, the popular trend seems to be centered on replacing theology with sociology. What this does is place an emphasis on anthropology rather than theology. Such an unhealthy focus leads churches to become fixated upon man rather than God. This approach to the church today will result in division rather than unity and frustration rather than doxology.

Unsound teaching will produce unsound churches. It would do us well to remember that the world around us is constantly seeking to deform the church. We must be striving for ongoing reformation as we seek to honor God through biblically informed worship and a lifestyle that is consistent with a pursuit of holiness.

 

The Two Voices of the Pastor

The Two Voices of the Pastor

In writing to Titus about his responsibilities in Crete with the organization of the Church—Paul makes this statement in Titus 1:9, “He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.” Interestingly, in this list of qualifications for the office of elder, Paul makes it clear that the pastoral duty of the elder is to provide sound doctrine and sound correction. It was John Calvin, in commenting on this verse that said, “A pastor needs two voices, one for gathering the sheep and the other for driving away wolves and thieves.” [1]

The Voice of Edification

Just as sheep in the pasture hear and trust the voice of their shepherd, so must the people in the church recognize the voice of their pastor. They must follow his leadership and teaching so long as he is preaching and teaching the truths of Scripture. It is his calling, according to the very qualifications and responsibilities of the office, to teach sound doctrine.

What is sound doctrine? The word for doctrine is “διδασκαλία” which means, teaching. The point is that the pastor must have healthy teaching. Just because a man stands before a congregation and talks doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy. The goal here is for the building up of the faith of the local church so that they will grow in their knowledge of God and become faithful contributing church members for the glory of God. This is how the pastor equips the church for the work of ministry—by teaching sound doctrine.

The Voice of Correction

The wolf hides in the shadows. Sometimes the wolf enters the church to do great damage within the body. One thing that’s sure is that the wolf never introduces himself or herself as a wolf. It’s through the faithful and diligent preaching of God’s Word that the pastor will be able to reveal who the wolf is and expose the errors of such heretics for the entire church to see. Sometimes this will involve naming names such as when Paul named Alexander the Coppersmith publicly. Sometimes it involves a more veiled description such as when he described the Cretans in Titus 1:12. In either case, the pastor’s goal is to bring about correction.

The voice of correction is also used in terms of correcting the genuine Christians who walk off into error, who are perhaps influenced by the heretical teachings of a false teacher, or engage in open sin leading to the same of Christ’s name among the people. This could involve private rebukes, public church discipline, and as necessary, the pastor can point out the errors that might be impacting the entire church as Paul does in Titus 1:10.

Notice how Paul encouraged Titus to “rebuke…sharply” those who are in error in order that “They may be sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13). This is extremely important as Paul reveals the responsibility of the pastor and the goal of such a sharp rebuke. The goal is restoration of their faith so that they will have a healthy faith.

Through the years, I have made it known to the church I serve that my job as a pastor is not to be a life coach or religious entertainer. My goal and responsibility as a pastor is to prepare people to meet God. Such preparation should result in a life of holiness and spiritual maturity as we all journey onward toward eternal life.

If you’re not a pastor, take time to consider the responsibility of your pastors who lead you, pray for you, care for you spiritually, and diligently study God’s Word to care for your soul. Seek to follow their leadership, be open to their rebuke, and when possible—show appreciation for your pastors.

If you are a pastor, remember that it’s easy to preach and at times to make bold statements from the pulpit. What’s often very difficult is to engage with shepherding responsibilities in private where you must sharply rebuke a brother or sister in Christ with the ultimate goal of seeing them move to a healthy place spiritually. Remember, the trap of the devil is to avoid such shepherding responsibilities out of fear of man. Approach such responsibilities with care, humility, and faithfulness to God’s Word and at the same time trusting in God for the results.


  1. John Calvin, 1, 2 Timothy and Titus, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1998), 184.
3 Characteristics of Leaders Who Lead Well During Seasons of Controversy

3 Characteristics of Leaders Who Lead Well During Seasons of Controversy

One of the great lessons of life is that faithful leadership matters. When leaders fail, it harms more than the leader who falls—likewise when leaders succeed, everyone who follows closely behind will enjoy the victory. Average leaders can lead when the waters are calm, but true and brilliant leaders shine when the sea is angry and the outcome is questionable. What makes a great leader? When we examine leaders and faithful leadership, there are three characteristics that stand out and such characteristics are necessary for pastors in local churches and Christians leaders who are entrusted with leadership of institutions, organizations, and denominations.

Conviction Over Courage

Courage is the willingness to take a risk, but conviction is the willingness to subject yourself to risk after having considered both the positive and negative outcomes that may result. One man who exemplified great conviction in church history was Jonathan Edwards. After becoming the successor to his grandfather in the church in Northampton and serving faithfully for more than 20 years, a source of controversy regarding the Lord’s Supper created a division between he and his people.  Although Jonathan Edwards desired to make his points clearly known through a sermon series to the people, the leadership thought it would be best for him to put his theological positions in print.  Before the book was finished, printed, and delivered to Northampton, the controversy reached a boiling point.  In a letter to John Erskine on May 20th 1749, he writes the following:

A very great difficulty has arisen between my people, relating to qualifications for communion at the Lord’s table. My honoured grandfather Stoddard, my predecessor in the ministry over this church, strenuously maintained the Lord’s Supper to be a converting ordinance, and urged all to come who were not of scandalous life, though they knew themselves to be unconverted. I formerly conformed to his practice but I have had difficulties with respect to it, which have been long increasing, till I dared no longer proceed in the former way, which has occasioned great uneasiness among my people, and has filled all the country with noise. [1]

The result of this controversy is that Jonathan Edwards was fired. We often remember him for his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” and how God used him during a season of revival—but it must be remembered that although Jonathan Edwards lost his pulpit as a result of his convictional stand, we still remember Jonathan Edwards to this very day and are grateful for his willingness to stand firm with a rugged conviction.

Communication Under Control

Without question, words matter and how we employ the words we choose matters even more. Great leaders learn to use words like great soldiers learn to use their swords. A master craftsman learns to use his tools well, and a great leader learns to use his words well. Without question one of the greatest leaders in the history of the world was Winston Churchill. He emerged as the leader of England during it’s darkest hour. With conviction and self-determination—Churchill stood when many men refused. When other men remained silent—Churchill spoke, and when he spoke people listened.

Winston Churchill was a man who understood the value and the power of words. Edward Murrow explained, Churchill did far more than commission troops into war, he also “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.” As a leader, he understood he would be quoted in the newspapers and that people would gather around their radio to hear him make his public addresses. For Churchill, words were his tools and weapons that he would use to lead England to victory. Many people believe that a man of great words was used to save England during its darkest hour. At one point, Churchill suggested that the British people themselves had the heart of a lion, but he went on to say, “I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar.

Church leaders and pastors must always remember the value of words and how they should be employed—especially during times of controversy. When leaders speak during seasons of controversy, people are often listening with eager anticipation. The words chosen will be used for clarity, light, heat, warnings, and exhortation to stand—even when the cost may be high.

Commitment to the Truth

What separates an average politician from a great leader is one who is unwilling to capitulate on the truth. During seasons of controversy, people need faithful leaders who understand that the truth matters. The church needs far more than an average politician. The church has seen enough political characters come and go—rise and fall. Bold and convictional leadership within the church is characterized by a firm commitment to the truth of the gospel. Once man who exemplified such commitment in church history was Martin Luther.

After attempting to have a conversation within the Roman Catholic Church on issues of indulgences in 1517 by nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Door in Wittenberg, Luther would eventually be converted and come to the daunting realization that no such internal conversation or opportunity for reform would be possible. What really sent the Reformation into full motion was Luther’s courageous stand at the Diet of Worms. While Luther’s stand exemplified conviction and the proper use of words—he made it known that the truth of the gospel must be defended and is worthy of more than a courageous stand—if necessary it’s worthy of death.

As the Royal assembly publicly accused him, he was commanded to be silent until called upon to speak.  Then the moment came.  All of Luther’s books were on tables before him.  He was asked if these were his books.  He was then asked to recant of everything he had written.  Luther, in a humble voice, spoke up and asked for additional time to consider his answer.  He was given until the following day.

On the next day, Luther is once again brought before the assembly.  Late the following afternoon – he stood before the table of books once again.  Upon being asked to recant, he responded with these words:

I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God; I cannot and I will not recant of anything.  Since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience, I cannot do otherwise, here I stand — May God help me.  AMEN.

As Luther was being escorted out, the shouts of protest and requests for Luther’s life were ringing in his ears.  As he was taken back to his quarters, upon entering the room – he was relieved that he had come through.  He turned to a friend and said:

If I had a thousand heads I would rather have them all lopped off than to abandon my gospel.

Luther boldly took his stand for the truth, and as a result the Reformation continues to march forward to this very day. When the church experiences seasons of controversy, men of conviction who understand that truth matters must be willing to stand firm. Pastors and church leaders must learn from the example of Luther. During seasons of controversy, far too many leaders refuse to stand because they’re attempting to protect their own legacy or their little empire within evangelicalism while ignoring the fact that God’s truth is being assaulted.

Will you be remembered as a leader who stood courageously to defend the truth or will you be remembered as a sleeping lion who refused to roar? Faithful leaders are willing to defend the truth because they recognize that something far greater than their platform is at risk. The souls of men, women, boys and girls are assaulted when the truth is compromised.

During seasons of controversy, people look for leaders to stand up, speak up, and lead forward through the fog of controversy. May the Lord be pleased to raise up faithful leaders in our day.


  1. Jonathan Edwards to John Erskine (May 20, 1749), in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Letters and Personal Writings, (Yale University Press, 1998), 271.
Submission to Civil and Divine Government

Submission to Civil and Divine Government

One of the ongoing debates within Christian circles is centered on the subject of government and authority. Should Christians submit to civil authorities or simply focus on their relationship to the divine King and Ruler—Jesus Christ? In a lawful state where governing authorities are placed into office as those who lead and oversee the people—Christians have a responsibility to submit. However, the Christian is also called to submit to Christ at the same time. So, how does this balance play itself out in the ebb and flow of everyday life?

One of the most difficult things to do as an American Christian is to submit. Red blooded Americans enjoy freedom and abhor the idea of submission, therefore, as a Christian who lives within that culture, it’s often difficult to strike a balance between the freedoms that we do have and the absolute necessity to submit both to Caesar and Christ. One is for our temporal good and the other is for our eternal life. In this life, there are laws and structures of authority that must be followed, and Christians are not to live as lawless rebels while passing through this temporal world.

The Civil Government

Like marriage, the civil government is temporal, but given for a purpose and for our good. According to Romans 13, God instituted the leaders who rule over the people and their authority comes from the Lord himself. The sword (ability to exercise authority and enforce law) has been placed into the hands of the government by God himself. Until such time that the civil leaders ask us to violate God’s law, we are to submit and live in an orderly and lawful manner.

It was Mary Queen of Scots who once remarked, “I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe.” A study of church history and the Reformation will reveal how John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots clashed, but she feared Knox because of he feared God. When the earthly leaders press the people to live in such a way that would violate God’s law—it’s time to obey God rather than man. We see a clear example fo this in the Scriptures as Peter and the apostles were arrested for preaching the gospel. They were threatened and commanded to cease their preaching. Peter spoke up by saying:

“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:29-32).

The government is instituted by God and points to God as the ultimate Judge, Ruler, and King. Whenever an earthly judge violates his seat and power of authority—we are called to obey God rather than man. Until then, we are to live peaceably in this world as lawful followers of Jesus Christ.

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (1 Pet. 2:16-17).

The Divine Government

We live in this world with an eye on the finish line. We don’t live as ignorant nomads, but as servants of God who are merely passing through this temporal world that is currently ruled by God’s sovereignty and divine providence. One day, Christ will return and will make all things new by ushering in his visible Kingdom. Although all authority has already been given to Christ (Matt. 28:18-20), he will one day return visibly and all things including death, the devil, and all ruling authority (including all human beings and angelic beings) will be placed under his divine rule.

Consider the words of the Christmas carol penned by Isaac Watts which states the following:

He rules the World with Truth and Grace,
And makes the Nations prove
The Glories of his Righteousness,
And Wonders of his Love.

How many red blooded Americans will stroll through shopping malls mumbling the words to this classic hymn while believing that Jesus is a King in a storybook sort of way, but he certainly isn’t King in the way that will have an impact on their lives today. At least, that’s they way they think of Jesus (if they think of him at all). If submission is hard for the ruler that you do see, how much more difficult is it for the Ruler whom you don’t see?

This present world is filled with lawlessness and corrupt government. However, even the ruling authorities today point to an eschatological hope that we have in Christ Jesus. We must remember the promise of Isaiah which was penned seven centuries before the birth of Jesus as the prophet wrote, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9:6). Because this promise is true that one day the government shall be upon his shoulder—we live on this side of the cross in the era of time between the first and second coming of Jesus. Therefore, there is a constant tension between the already and the not yet.

But, because of the promise and the hope that Christ will return and make all things new (Rev. 21), we can sing the words of Isaac Watts during this festive and celebrate with hearts of joy! This temporal world is filled with earthly thrones, but we have joy because one day Christ will bring his throne to a renewed earth and rule his people with Truth and Grace.

Joy to the World; The Lord is come;
Let Earth receive her King:
Let every Heart prepare him Room,
And Heaven and Nature sing.

Act Like Men

Act Like Men

Satan delights in denigrating what God created as good. It has always been God’s plan for his Church to possess a certain masculinity in leadership and that masculinity flows into the general membership as well. One of the depressing realities of our modern culture is the assault upon masculinity as if it’s somehow a bad thing. While we can all certainly agree that male dominance is not God’s plan for his Church—the plan to extract male leadership and characteristics from God’s Church is certainly not healthy—in fact it’s downright sinful.

When Paul was closing out his letter to the church in the city of Corinth, he wrote these words in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” We must recall that Paul was writing to a church that was in desperate need of theological and practical correction. The apostle took a firm stance against their sin, and then pointed them to the proper means of living out the gospel of Christ. Apparently one of their struggles was centered on love and their lack of manliness.  William Robertson Nicoll observes that these exhortations are “directed respectively against the heedlessness, fickleness, childishness, and moral enervation of the” church at Corinth. [1]

Today, we continue to see the Church of Jesus Christ suffering from a lack of manliness. This has been the result of the radical feminist attack as well as the problem of perpetual adolescence that continues to prevent men from rising up and taking lead roles within the local church. These problems together create added friction over offices, giftedness, and the need for strong leadership. We would do well to remember Paul’s words to the church in Corinth—”act like men.”

The Feminization of the Church

The liberal agenda has masculinity in its sights and has for many years dating back to the radical women’s liberation movement. From this rank liberal ideology, they teach that God is not a male, Paul was a sexist, and Jesus was a feminist. This agenda took aim at Bible translations in an attempt to produce gender neutral texts while removing references to God’s masculine characteristics. However, the progressives of our day within evangelical circles have adopted that type of language and it has continued to soften the church. Today’s social justice agenda is moving rapidly through evangelicalism beneath the banner of liberation. They claim to work for the liberation of oppressed segments within our evangelical circles—and women are at the center of this debate.

Apparently, we have done a poor job of allowing women to flourish and use their gifts for God’s glory so we must tear down our hierarchies and develop new leadership structures to allow women to bloom. With varying degrees of opinions on this subject—including an eclectic array of interpretations on biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15; 3:1-15Titus 2, do we stand in need of clarification on complementarianism? Is The Danvers Statement (1987) unclear? More importantly, is the Bible silent or insufficient to answer these questions?

In her article “God’s Feminist Ideals” published in Christianity Today, Wendy Alsup writes:

Gloria Steinem famously said a feminist is “anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.” Is God then a feminist by her definition? If feminism in its purest sense is the quest for justice and equal rights for women, then, yes, God was the first feminist. God created woman in his image and bestowed on her equal dignity with man. By a woman’s mere existence, God has bestowed on her dignity and privileges that transcend race, economic status, and physical ability.

At least that’s the language being used by leaders in evangelical circles today. In a recent article on SBC Voices, the question of a woman leading the SBC has once again emerged for discussion and debate. William Thornton critiques our current culture within evangelicalism by stating, “Seems we can’t celebrate women doing much of anything without inserting ‘in biblically appropriate ways.'” Apparently it’s taboo to appeal to the Scriptures and to uphold God’s original design for men and women within the local church and society as a whole.

Make no mistake, complementarity is under assault today and it’s a divisive agenda fueled by ancient errors that not only degrade masculinity—but they call into question God’s sovereign design. Does God need to revise his design for women and men and their roles to align with our modern culture? That type of thinking depicts our God as an aged grandfather in the sky who is not up with the times and apparently hasn’t been reading the latest blogs on his iPhone. In short, it’s a blasphemous assault on God and his sovereignty.

The fruit of this assault will be the feminization of the church. Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt, in their book Megatrends for Women wrote the following back in 1992:

Women of the late twentieth century are revolutionizing the most sexist institution in history—organized religion. Overturning millennia of tradition, they are challenging authorities, reinterpreting the Bible, creating their own services, crowding into seminaries, winning the right to ordination, purging sexist language in liturgy, reintegrating female values and assuming positions of leadership. [2]

The leading chatter within evangelical circles suggests we suddenly have a need to liberate women in 2018 and swing all doors open for our sisters to flourish in God’s grace. Was Paul sexist in his appeal to the church in Corinth to act like men? Certainly not since we understand that Paul is driving at spiritual maturity. Therefore, spiritually mature men and women will desire to serve God within their roles as God designed from the beginning.

Today, men are behaving as if they must apologize for being created as a man and desiring to lead in the home and in the church. Is it sexist or is it Scriptural for men to desire to act like men and desire offices of leadership in the church while humbly leading in the home as well? Another question should be asked at this juncture—is it oppressive to women for men to act like men? Today’s church doesn’t need softer hands—it needs humble men who act like men and lead with biblical conviction.

The Childishness of the Church

Notice Paul didn’t say, “Act like boys.” There is a pervasive trend among many men today who desire an extended childhood. They avoid responsibility, delay marriage, downgrade family, and elevate play-time far above the need to work. That mindset has crept into the church long ago, and in many ways that’s why we have worship services that look like extended children’s church for adults. Furthermore, that’s why we have such a disconnect among leadership roles in the church in many cases where women are taking the lead because the men want to focus on delaying adulthood and the necessary responsibilities that come along with being a man.

Paul thunders over and over through the New Testament about the need for maturity. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, he placed it as a central goal of pastoral ministry that labors to bring the church to spiritual maturity—to mature manhood (Eph. 4:13). Here in his closing words to the church at Corinth, Paul simply writes—”act like men.” We read Paul’s words today, and seek to make application to our context while the radio and television is providing another message that says growing up and becoming an adult is a really bad idea.

In many church cultures, men find no problem getting together to watch MMA fights or to have video game parties, but they find it extremely awkward to get together and talk about the doctrine of God, the meaning of the atonement, or the meaning and purpose of marriage. We have adopted delayed adulthood and created the “forty-something teenager” mentality—a perpetual adolescent who finds no value in adulthood and maturity. What an appropriate time to read and mediate on Paul’s words to the church at Corinth as he says, “act like men.” Paul had already written to them earlier in his letter providing them a warning:

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature (1 Cor. 14:20).

We would do well in our day to heed this warning and to obey Paul’s words to “act like men.” One of the most loving things that a church can do is to pursue maturity and celebrate masculinity which produces true love. This is where both men and women can flourish within God’s original design. Biblical manhood is not defined by how much a man can bench press, the thickness of his beard, or how many tattoos he has about Jesus on his arm. It’s not even connected to his love and affection for cigars. Biblical manhood is rooted in the gospel and has a profound submission to Christ and a love for the roles of men and women as God has designed.


  1. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament: Commentary, vol. 2 (New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d.), 949.
  2. Patricia Aburdene and John Naisbitt, Megatrends for Women (New York: Villard Books, 1992), 119.

 

Three Types of Pastors Who Hinder the Church

Three Types of Pastors Who Hinder the Church

Over the last two weeks, I have been writing a short series on different types of people who help and hinder the local church. Today, I want to focus on the leaders. While the local church is absolutely necessary for the journey of faith, it’s not exactly designed to be a religious social club. In fact, we see Paul writing to Timothy (1 Tim. 3:15) and discussing the way the household of God was to behave. If the Scriptures contain all that’s necessary for faith and life, we must govern the church and worship according to God’s Word—rather than man’s opinion.

Just as there are people who help and hinder the local church, the same principle is true with pastors. Today, we will focus first on the negative and then move next Tuesday to the positive. Although this is by no means intended to be an exhaustive list, today we look at three types of pastors who are a hindrance to the local church’s sanctification and growth in grace?

The Entertainer

The entertainer is really a pragmatist at heart. Whatever the people want, they will get it under the leadership of an entertainer. This type of leader will often poll the community before planting a church to see what type of music the community enjoys as he works with his team to design the right kind of service to reach his culture. Far too many men who stand in the pulpit on Sunday are classified as entertainers. They strive to use the right phrases that please the ears of people—often spending more time on the crafting of jokes as opposed to digging into the theology of the text in preparation to preach. The entertainer labors diligently to make people feel positive, and such men avoid church discipline and the call for holiness for fear that it will not grow their church.

Today it’s not at all uncommon to have pastors dressing up in costumes to “perform” their sermon rather than preaching the text. This approach to ministry will often be very successful, but it’s not spiritually profitable. People often leave excited about the sermon, but do they really know God in a better way? The congregation often erupts in laughter, but when was the last time they wept? The church often applauds the preacher, but when was the last time they exulted in God causing their hearts to swell with joy based on their knowledge of the atonement of Jesus Christ that was presented in a sermon?

Entertainers are man pleasers—serving them exactly what they desire. The entertainer is pragmatically driven and has an insatiable desire for church growth at any cost. The entertainer could come in the form of a senior pastor who jokes around in the pulpit or the youth pastor who disciples children in games rather than God’s Word. In most cases, the entertainer is paralyzed by the need to be liked by his congregation, and sadly he places more emphasis on pleasing people rather than pleasing God. Paul warned Timothy that his people would soon leave him for such preachers who would tickle the ears of the immature causing them to wander off into myths (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The Unbalanced Teacher

The unbalanced teacher is one who typically camps out in one theme and cannot seem to allow his ministry to be text driven. Such a teacher is often consumed with a specific topic such as eschatology. In such cases, the unbalanced teacher finds a way to get to eschatology from the strangest texts in the Bible—or he never leaves Daniel or Revelation in fear that he will focus on something other than end times prophecy.

However, it’s not just eschatology junkies that the church often suffers from, it could be a pastor who spends all of his time evangelizing the saints on Sunday rather than feeding the sheep. Sure, the gospel should be preached every week and made clear—for the children, the unbelieving guests, and the church as a whole as a means of building up the flock—but the church needs more than a call to repent and believe the gospel. The church needs the whole counsel of God’s Word—both the easy and more difficult passages. Remember what Paul said to his fellow elders from Ephesus as he said, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Following that exhortation, he warned them of the wolves who would enter the church following his departure.

The unbalanced teacher often camps on eschatology, the doctrines of grace, evangelism, or whatever he is passionate or knowledgeable about while there is much remaining in God’s Word that needs to be expounded. If you move to a new city, you will want to be sure that you are not joining a church where the pastor will be unbalanced in his handling of God’s Word. The pastor is called to teach and preach the Scriptures—rightly dividing the Word—in order that the church will be well fed and cared for spiritually (2 Tim. 2:15).

The Lover of this World

The pastor who loves this present world is not qualified to lead a local church—or God’s Word for that matter. Pastors should love people in the world and point them to their hope and joy in Christ, but the preacher who loves the world demonstrates that his heart is mastered by money and materialism rather than by Christ. Far too many leaders fit this category. They preach a message of health, wealth, and prosperity—demanding that people have enough faith in God and he will provide them with riches and material possessions. The lover of this world is self condemned and self deceived. The god of this world has blinded their minds so that they cannot see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). The lover of this world spends most of their time emphasizing how it’s possible to have your best life now—rather than focusing on the eternal reward (Heb. 11:10).

John the apostle warned about those who loved the world. He said, “Do not love the world or the things in the worldIf anyone loves the worldthe love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). In like manner, Paul provided the qualifications for the office of elder (pastor or overseer) as he wrote to Timothy. According to 1 Timothy 3:3, the overseer is not to be gripped by the love of money. Once again, money itself is not evil, but as Paul would later write, it’s the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). Therefore, for a pastor to have an insatiable desire for the things of this world proves that his heart is fixed on temporal things rather than eternal. As Jesus once warned, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matt. 6:24). J.C. Ryle warned about the love of money as he wrote:

Let us all be on our guard against the love of money. The world is full of it in our days. The plague is abroad. Thousands who would abhor the idea of worshiping Juggernaut, are not ashamed to make an idol of gold. We are all liable to the infection, from the least to the greatest. We may love money without having it, just as we may have money without loving it. It is an evil that works very deceitfully. It carries us captives before we are aware of our chains. Once let it get the mastery, and it will harden, paralyze, scorch, freeze, blight, and wither our souls. It overthrew an apostle of Christ. Let us take heed that it does not overthrow us. One leak may sink a ship. One unmortified sin may ruin a soul. [1]


  1. J.C. Ryle, Matthew, 26.