I’m sure you’ve heard the old joke about a woman bought a parrot to keep her company but returned it the next day. "This bird doesn't talk," she told the owner. "Does he have a mirror in his cage?" he asked. "Parrots love mirrors. They see their reflection and start a conversation." The woman bought a mirror and left.
The next day she returned; the bird still wasn't talking. "How about a ladder? Parrots love ladders. A happy parrot is a talkative parrot." The woman bought a ladder and left. But the next day, she was back. "Does your parrot have a swing? No? Well, that's the problem. Once he starts swinging, he'll talk up a storm." The woman reluctantly bought a swing and left.
When she walked into the store the next day, her countenance had changed. "The parrot died," she said. The pet storeowner was shocked. "I'm so sorry. Tell me, did he ever say a word?" he asked. "Yes, right before he died," the woman replied. "In a weak voice, he asked me, 'Don't they sell any food at that pet store?'"
We offer a lot of things in the church. A lot of activities, a lot of places to serve and things to do, etc. But unless we are offering genuine food, we're wasting our time. The Great Commission doesn’t tell us to go and entertain the masses, or go and draw big crowds, or go and build huge church machines. We are told to go and make disciples.
A disciple is a true follower. Once who studies the teachings of the teacher and follows them with his life. Jesus is our example. He is the standard by which we should be judging ourselves. Our goal should be encouraging one another to follow Christ with our lives. And to that end, the church needs to be giving genuine food, and the church needs members concerned with genuine food.
As for what comes from the pulpit, we need to be sure we are teaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Too often, preachers are more concerned with being hip and cool, flowing with the most recent trends, getting folks excited with the gospel gimmicks I’ve trashed here recently, etc. Paul told Timothy to “preach the Word.” Period. Preach the Word! There is no substitute for a solid diet of God’s Word when it comes to the making of disciples.
And yet, as important as that is, there is also a great need on the part of the church to be discerning in what they hear, read, etc. We need discerning disciples. Too often, we’re ready to believe something just because some preacher on TV or radio said it, and because it fits nicely with our self-centered desires.
I can’t count how many times I’ve had conversations with folks who start talking about the most outlandish applications of Scripture simply because they heard it on the radio, even though it counteracts the plain teaching of the rest of Scripture. They never thought to check it out, to put it through a “systematic theology filter” and see if it all lines up.
The internet has just made this worse. Old stories, old made-up stories, find new life on the internet. People email me stuff that was made up years ago, but with the change of a few names and dates, it’s a brand new fallacy flying around the internet. Spurgeon quoted what he called an “old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’” That may be even more true today.
Now, more than ever there is the need for discernment. Folks, don’t just repeat stuff, forward it on, link in on Facebook. Check it out. Make sure it’s true. Most importantly, make sure it’s in line with Scripture. Don’t base your beliefs on the latest cute stories. They may be cute, but unless it lines up with Scripture, it will lead you astray.
So, preachers, do the research and present the truth of the Scripture, the solid meat of God’s Word. Don’t just look for bells and whistles to entertain. And church, use your God given brain to think things through before you jump too quickly. Don’t fall for the flash, but look for the solid nutrition of the Truth.
We are to be about the business of producing disciples, discerning followers of the Truth of God. We all have a part to play in that (even bloggers!). Here’s hoping God will grant us the grace to grow for His glory!