In the new creation, teachers and pastors will not be needed. Jeremiah says, “they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 31:34). Viewing the same new creation, John reported that he saw no temple, “because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Revelation 21:22). In this present world, the Church needs teachers and preachers and places to meet, because the darkness of the world and the darkness of every human heart requires the Light of God’s Word to be aimed and directed into the lives of his people.
The Christian Church is the Bride of Christ, but it consists of sinners. Leaders and followers are equally likely to sin, falling short of the glory of God. Pastors can sometimes be arrogant, overbearing, and stubbornly wrong. Members of a congregation can be self-centered, rebellious, and disrespectful toward their leaders. Trouble is brewing whenever a person says, “This is my church,” because the Church belongs to Jesus Christ and not to any member or leader in the church.
I know a preacher who was given advice about preaching from two members of his congregation in the same week. Both advisors were active members, attending services every Sunday, serving as officers of the congregation, and generously supporting the church with their offerings. The first said, “Pastor, every week you tell us what we are doing wrong in our lives. Don’t you think for one sermon you could tell us what we are doing right and help us feel better about ourselves?” The second said, “Pastor, every week you talk about forgiveness. Don’t you think once in a while you could use the sermon to tell us how to live our lives?” Jesus preached the message, “Repent and believe the Gospel,” but evidently after two thousand years the sheep are hungry for greener pastures.
On another occasion, this preacher was told by a Sunday School teacher that the congregation’s policy of solving disputes by the Bible was unfair. “You’ve been to school and studied the Bible, so you have an unfair advantage,” she told him. When he asked what else should be considered when solving a dispute, she replied, “Well, let’s start with my feelings.”
Preachers can be wrong, and tragic things happen when a flock of believers follows a wandering shepherd down the wrong paths. Often, though, the sheep grumble and complain and resist the guidance of their shepherd when he is faithfully leading them on paths chosen for them by the Good Shepherd. When the children of Israel grumbled against Moses, the Lord responded with miraculous punishments. No doubt many preachers today would delight to see the earth swallow certain complaining sheep along with their houses and their families. When pastors pray those Psalms that call for vengeance upon enemies—and when they are picturing the members of their flock while they pray those Psalms—the Church is in need of healing.
Jesus is the Healer needed by the Church. He strengthens preachers and guides them in calling for repentance, promising forgiveness, and trusting the Bible to reveal all truth that is needed in the congregation. Through the work of faithful preachers, he reaches into the lives of his people, helping them to love one another and to forgive one another rather than dividing the Church through stubborn disputes and arguments. Preachers and members together need to remember that the church does not belong to them. The Church belongs to Jesus Christ. He has claimed the Church for himself, washing away all its impurities and bringing it into his Kingdom.
If only we could see the Church that Jesus sees, a radiant Bride ready for her wedding day. Only then will the present sufferings of the Church fade into insignificance when compared to the glory that will be revealed. J.