Jeremy Sarber On Life & Scripture

Insights on God, salvation, and ourselves.

Pastors, preach the Word and feed the sheep

When a pastor talks about Scripture more than expounding it, vital doctrines go missing. Soon enough, the church starves to death as its pastor spoon-feeds milk.

A friend couldn’t put his finger on the problem, but he knew something was missing from his pastor’s sermons. His pastor would read a Bible passage, tell some illustrative stories, and offer several practical exhortations. His messages were always easy enough to follow. They contained three primary bullet points—no more, no less—each delivered with the same jovial spirit. Yet, my friend went home each Sunday feeling malnourished.

Jesus told Peter, Feed my lambs. Shepherd my sheep. Feed my sheep (Jn 21:15-17). While there is a time and place for milk, God’s people need solid food to survive (Heb 5:12, 14). If you have tasted that the Lord is good, you will desire the word, so that by it you may grow up into your salvation (1Pe 2:3, 2). However, when a shepherd deprives his flock, it starves or perhaps searches elsewhere for sustenance.

Listening to my friend, I realized he was tired of eating rice every week. It was enough to keep him alive, but his soul craved something more substantial. He needed a steak, though he would have likely settled for a hamburger if offered. While his pastor’s sermons were biblically accurate, they lacked protein. My friend described them as moralistic speeches with some Bible verses sprinkled on top.”

Paul told Timothy to preach the word,” he said to me, but that doesn’t feel like what my pastor’s doing” (2Ti 4:2).

After several conversations, I concluded three key ingredients were missing—earnestness, exposition, and a measure of sound theology. Unsurprisingly, these elements tend to fall like dominos. When a pastor talks about Scripture more than expounding it, vital doctrines go missing. Consequently, the absence of enough theology will diminish a sense of urgency. Soon enough, the church devolves into a Christian-themed social club that is slowly starving to death as its pastor spoon-feeds milk.

Why would any pastor do this? As Richard Phillips writes in his commentary on Hebrews, Theology bores today’s Christians.” If a pastor is trying to appeal to unbelievers, the problem is exasperated. He’s determined people will not tolerate sound doctrine, so he gives them what they want to hear (2Ti 4:3). Granted, some are more guilty than others, but their approach is fundamentally the same. Rather than teach people to swim, they enjoy the comfort and security of the pool’s shallow end. No one gets offended. Controversy is avoided. Everyone’s happy.

Meanwhile, many genuine believers like my friend are desperate to learn more about God. Their pastors have likely encouraged them to serve and served they have, but they’re hungry for the one thing Jesus said is necessary—sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to what he says (Lk 10:42, 39). In a real sense, they’re re-living the Dark Ages when priests kept large portions of Scripture hidden from the masses. Perhaps another Reformation is needed in these churches.