Justin Buzzard tells this story:
About ten years ago I heard Ben Patterson, campus pastor of Westmont College, say something that I will never forget. Ben told the story of a retired pastor who began noticing that his former congregation was sliding away from orthodoxy. The pastor saw this as his fault, noting the one thing he thought he did most poorly as a pastor. The pastor stated, in two sentences, his great failure as a pastor:
I always told people what to believe. My great mistake is that I never told my people what NOT to believe.
It’s possible to be so “biblical” that we’re unbiblical.
I’m referring to pastors, churches, and individual Christians who say, “we’re sticking to the Bible, and we don’t ever need to study anything but the Bible.” The great men and women of the Bible didn’t say that. They didn’t just preach in support of God’s truth. They knew the lies that were current in their cultures, they named those lies—with very contemporary examples—and they exposed what was false about them. When Isaiah ripped apart idol worship so sarcastically in Isaiah 44:9-20, he knew what he was talking about. So those who only study the Bible are failing to follow its example!
I think the reason for this is because the church is so focused on providing a happy music show every week, so that people can feel happy and affirmed, that they would never want to be negative and exclusive. That might make the people in the audience feel offended or excluded. That’s why pastors never set up Christianity as being true in distinction to other views that are false. And pastors surely would not appeal to external evidence from science and history – that might make people who don’t know any science and history feel bad, and spoil their happy feelings. It seems to me that pastors need to get back into the habit of connecting the Christian to real life. False ideas are harmful, and the pastor’s job is to stand up to wolves that might harm his flock – not to ignore the wolves. A very good place to start would be in the area of capitalism and taxation, or maybe in the area of sexual ethics and marriage.