Editorial

Well Read, Well Led

By

“The first duty of the leader is to be led.”

— Gary Benedict, President of the U.S. C&MA

When I grew up, the emphasis in the Protestant church was on the Bible. What a tremendous heritage! My father, who was also my pastor, taught from the Bible twice every Sunday, and our Sunday school teacher told us Bible stories. Our family had devotions, and we memorized Scripture in vacation Bible school. We were encouraged to read the Word as we sang, “Read your Bible, pray every day and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” Summer was not complete without going to church camp, where the Bible was taught both morning and night.

At church on Wednesday nights, we loved it when the teacher told us to grab our Bibles (we always brought them) because we were going to have a “Sword Drill”—a competition to see who could find verses the fastest. This required that we knew the order of the books of the Bible, which any kid worthy of his Sunday school attendance pin did by fifth grade. If all this weren’t enough, we were dismissed from public school once a week to go to church for “Release Time” for more biblical teaching. It’s no surprise, I suppose, that as a young adult I headed off to Bible college and felt right at home.

Yes, we were people of the Bible. By the time I was 20, I knew the Scriptures well and had hundreds of verses memorized. My mom once paid me $25 to memorize a book of the Bible. I chose Colossians mainly because it was one of the shorter books, but its rich teaching still surfaces in my heart today. I don’t regret the Bible emphasis of my youth; rather, I celebrate it, and I sometimes wonder if we’ve lost significant ground as biblical literacy is not what it once was.

Although I learned much about God’s Word, I learned very little about the Holy Spirit. The manner in which God spoke was through the printed page—or so I gathered from my teachers. I never recall hearing anyone speak of being led by the Spirit. We read the Bible, prayed and made the best decisions we could. And—how could I forget—we had a lot of committee meetings as well.

To us, God’s preferred method of communication was via print. He had already spoken, and if we needed instruction, we took our Bibles and let the Word speak again. The Spirit was a silent member of the Trinity.

Occasionally, we heard stories about people who claimed to have “heard” from God, but these were told only to warn us of the dangers of such behavior. In all fairness, I acknowledge that I’ve seen attempts to listen to the Spirit go bad—very bad. Marriages have ended, accusations charged and unwise decisions made—all in the name of “God told me.” With good reason, my forefathers were cautious on matters of the Spirit.

Yet, I can’t help thinking that the Divine Counselor is still in session. I must believe that if the Bible tells me to “keep in step with the Spirit,” then God must have intended for me to be aware of where the Spirit is going and what He is saying (Gal. 5).

Perhaps it is time to revisit the prophetic voice of A. W. Tozer as he warned us against the “error of textualism, which is simply orthodoxy without the Holy Ghost. Everywhere among conservatives we find persons who are Bible-taught but not Spirit-taught” (The Pursuit of Man).

At this point, some may need a reminder that the most basic Christian doctrine instructs us that the promptings of the Spirit will never contradict the printed Word of God. Evangelical Christians are also in agreement that the Scripture is complete, nothing is to be added to it, and no message we claim to receive is infallibly inspired.

I am not suggesting that we back off from solid, steady Bible teaching. In fact, many churches should take an honest look at their preaching and teaching curriculum and make sure that the latest book, the current psychological insight or the catchiest video hasn’t stolen the day.

But why should the Bible and the Spirit be viewed in contrast or competition? Jesus quoted Scripture as He was led by the Spirit (Luke 4). My prayer is that Alliance churches will increasingly follow His example, being Bible-taught and Spirit-led. May God, in His kindness allow us to be a people directed by the Spirit while immersed in the Word.

Well read. Well led. This is my goal. This, I believe, is the balance many Christ-followers are missing.

Together with you on the journey,

John Stumbo

Past Alliance Life Issues

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