'What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus.' 2 Timothy 1:13.
A preacher was so busy doing ‘things’ he skimped on his sermon preparations. Finally he resorted to reading from books or periodicals. Another preacher was content to use sermons previously preached elsewhere by a relative. Both men saw their ministry decline and two congregations with great potential faded from too much, way too much, ‘fast food’ from the pulpit.
Ministry is demanding upon a preacher’s time, energy, emotion and family. Beware the trap of consigning Sunday sermons and studies to T.V. style take-away meals status. This is ultimately self– defeating and destructive. Churches with ‘spectator saints’ who are being fed on a spiritual diet of sweets and savouries have a fitness problem. When tough times come, and they do, such Christians run out of stamina, have faith problems and develop critical attitudes.
In 2 Timothy 1:13 ‘sound teaching’ refers to healthy doctrine. Timothy was directed to work hard on ensuring what he preached and taught was health giving. So should we. In the Pastoral Epistles the Greek word for ‘sound’ teaching is ‘hugies’ or ‘hugiaino’ and is used seven times. The meaning embraces health and wholeness. This also suggests that there were many preachers giving unsound, unhealthy teaching. Is this why so many disciples and congregations are spiritually anaemic? Can this explain how some are morally weak, factious, short-sighted and biblically illiterate.
According to 1Timothy 1:10, sound doctrine is the measure that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God. Sound doctrine exposes the inner qualities of any person whose belief system is laced with the poison of error and exploitation (1Timothy 6:3). There is value in imparting of good, nutritious doctrine with its vitamins and wholesome foods. Well nourished disciples of Christ are spared unnecessary ill effects caused by spiritual quacks. There’s sadness in reading some sections of the New Testament letters. Carnal chefs had penetrated the local congregation with menus appealing to the soul but anathema to the spirit. A constant diet of contaminated food cause congregational disorders. Effects like division, spiritual sleeping sickness and tolerance of ungodliness resulting in moral and spiritual coma. The letters to five of the seven churches in Revelation highlight this truth.
Ministers are called to be the Holy Spirit’s ‘kitchen.’ In us He must first prepare the necessary wholesome food. It is personalised for the particular congregation. Sometimes He has a tough time with us in the preparation phase. The ingredients we must search for and properly mix. This is our labour over the text and its application. How easy it would be to go to a book of quotes and sermons to simply ‘reheat, serve and eat.’ Not good enough. The labour we expend as the ‘kitchen’ is to pass Heaven’s taste test. When the meal is thereby ready He transforms us into His waiters.
Preachers will often be unaware of their parishioners’ need for special spiritual nourishment. This is especially true in a large and growing congregation. How then can he expect to cater for the unknown? Being an under chef means this isn’t his problem. The master chef has the responsibility to know and meet the people’s need. It never ceases to amaze how the Holy Spirit takes various aspects of a service and feeds the heart and mind of those assembled. The Spirit of God will have the liberty to nourish His people from His word when His under – chef labours faithfully in the preparation. Any cook will know the satisfaction from being told the meal was great. The preacher likes to hear similar words whilst knowing the One who prepared it was the master Chef.
‘He has taken me to his banqueting table and his banner over me is love’ (S. of S. 2:4) underscores sound teaching. Worshippers need to feel they have been at a spiritual banquet following the service. There has been the awareness of the Lord’s presence and the covering of His banner. As they leave to serve and witness they do so from a fully nourished spirit. For the waiters it is a priceless privilege to distribute Heaven’s approved menu. Earth’s pilgrims of Faith will also have been strengthened for their coming tasks and challenges.
Request: Lord am I the boss in my ‘kitchen?’ Demote me. Be the Chef within and prepare in and through me wholesome food from your larder. Then it will be fit for the sons and daughters of the most High God. Amen