In today’s North American church environment of accommodating the culture, seeker-sensitive services and program-oriented solutions, we are breeding a generation of believers who have no foundation in their faith and I’ve often commented that Christians today have very little understanding of what they’re being saved from and what they’re being saved unto. I really see this as being a two-fold problem; lack of discipleship and lack of sound teaching from the pulpits.
First of all, if we focus on programs to solve the problems in the individual, we’ve eliminated the first part of the great commission which is to make disciples. Yeshua commanded us to go make talmidim which means students. The concept of discipleship from the first century is the student would spend time with the rabbi to learn his ways, to emulate him and to become like him. This is how the Lord trains us and we are told we are being conformed to His image. This can only be done if we pray, read and study His world and then put it into action. Programs take a group approach to training and although there is definitely value in spending times together in groups, the most effective training comes from one on one sessions where the student and teacher get to know each other more intimately.
The writer of Hebrews chastises the Jewish believing community in Hebrews 5 for the other issue – lack of sound teaching in congregations today. Verses 11-13 tell us “Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” We are being told here that the author has much he wants to say to the community but because they can’t hear, they will not be able to perceive. Isn’t that what God said to Isaiah about Israel back in his day?
Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;
Keep on looking, but do not understand.’
“Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
Hear with their ears,
Understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed. – Isa 6:9-10
Apparently, not much had changed. Although they should have been mature in their faith and even teachers by then, they still needed to be instructed on the elementary principles of faith and because of this lack of knowledge and understanding, they cannot discern between good and evil. While everyone struggles with sin, many believers today do not even think their behaviour is sin. The divorce rate in the church is not noticeably different from the world, people are living together outside of marriage, humility, submission and a servant spirit are getting harder to come by as men more and more become lovers of self (2Tim 3:2) and all this is because there is a lack of depth in teaching and learning of God’s word. One church I visited I asked how many people in the service that day had read their Bibles cover to cover, even once. In a crowd of 30 people, only one hand went up. Then we wonder why poverty is rampant in the church and we can’t get anyone to commit. This is because some of the largest churches today are run by motivational speakers who are not preaching on sin, righteousness and judgment but rather on how you can have everything you want just by thinking it to be so. God becomes our spiritual Santa instead of a holy king to be feared, worshipped and served.
1John 5:3 says that the definition of love is that we keep God’s commandments and that they are not a burden to us. However, if we don’t know them, how can we keep them? If we’re not getting them taught from the pastor, then we are obligated to do our own study to “to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2Tim 2:15). The basics of a fruitful life involve obedience to God’s commandments in the Torah and living a holy life. The Scriptures are very clear that blessing only comes with obedience and curses come with disobedience. Once we have mastered or trained ourselves to differentiate between good and evil and then to live that understanding out because of our love for God, only then will the fruit of God’s basket of blessings be available to us.
(In the love of Messiah)