"teach what is appropriate"

More on the expectations of a pastor.

I throw out this verse for consideration (fitting, I think, that it comes from Paul’s Pastoral Letters):

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1 NIV).

Ah, you might thinking. There is the answer to all the questions raised in the previous post. Teaching sound doctrine is central to the role of the pastor. Paul says so.

But wait, Paul doesn’t stop with this clear assertion. Actually, his main point isn't sound doctrine, but what is appropriate to it. And so he continues by talking about temperance, respect, self-control, sound faith, love, endurance, reverence, more self-control, goodness, purity, kindness, integrity, and godliness as the very things that are appropriate to good theology. Doctrine, for Paul, was connected directly to life and relationships. Reminds me of how Jesus summed it all up: Love God and love others.

Paul closes the section of his letter saying, “These, then, are the things you should teach” (Titus 2:15 NIV). These “things” aren’t ideas, but ways of living in the world.

Too often Christians misuse or misinterpret passages like this, which in turn has implications for the role of the pastor. Sound doctrine itself is made the central issue, the pastor the main source. Formal apologetics, denominational study conferences, theology books, ancient creeds, and yes, even blogs (all good things by the way) tend to focus mainly on the intellectual aspects of the Christian faith. Pastors are expected to display an adherence to orthodoxy as it’s defined by their church or denomination. This is all well and good.

But it's incomplete.

For Paul, sound doctrine doesn’t stand alone. Sound doctrine coincides with sound living. Orthodoxy and orthopraxy go together. Thinking well must include living well.

If you think I’m saying this to take the pressure off of pastors - you know, lower the expectations - far from it. If anything, expectations on pastors should increase. It means our ideas in a sermon must relate to the lives of the people we share with. Pastors lead people in their whole lives, not just in what they think about this or that.

Brings me back to relevance (again, I know!). Relevance isn’t the result of dynamic and engaging presentation or an ability to preach orthodox, biblical sermons. A pastor’s relevance occurs only when the lives of the hearers begin to reflect “what is appropriate” to the teaching.

May our lives reflect such appropriateness!


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