Do You Sit under the Word or Sit in Judgment on the Church and the Preacher?

Carl Trueman has some words that, though written for Christian academics, is a good medicine for many who have been through our church of late (and, from what I’m hearing, churches like ours):

Finally, to return to the local church, make sure you are involved in the local church and, when you are there, you sit under the word in listening submission, not over the word in judgment. Endless mischief has been done in churches by those who have some formal theological training and yet who think they have never been given the recognition or the strokes which they deserve. They sit in church not so much to be under the word as to rate the pastor’s sermon, assess his theology, offer him oh-so-helpful criticism as to how he might improve his performance or how he should (i.e. how they would) have preached the text. Ultimately, such people are merely divisive, and they are so because their concern is not to have themselves checked by the word of God, or to see the congregation built up in its knowledge of God; rather, it is to see themselves puffed above others, and their theological knowledge, whether real or assumed, is simply the means to this end.

Real theologians know not only that they have been given their gifts for service of others but also that they themselves are still sinners, saved only by grace, and dependent upon God’s word for their daily spiritual sustenance. An emphasis upon basic daily obedience, prayer, private Bible reading, and weekly attendance at church where the word is read and preached and where fellowship with other saints can take place might seem awfully mundane; but without these things, the Christian is deprived of the very oxygen of the spiritual life. Indeed, one might add to this that the accountability that church membership involves is also critical, for it not only makes the Christian academic connect with other people but also holds the individual to a level of corporate accountability before the saints as a whole.

Dr. Trueman’s words should serve as a corrective to some, a warning to others, and a reminder to us all.

Source: Themelios 33:3 (December 2008)

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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