The Local Church as a Teaching Hospital
Teaching | by Pastor Adam Sinnett
As a church, we want to plant churches that plant churches. However, to plant churches, we need to identity and develop called and qualified men as pastors. A crucial element of that development is learning how to communicate the goodness of the good news of Jesus and its application to our everyday lives – also called preaching.
An Impossible Task
By itself, preaching is an impossible task: content, style, conviction, delivery, organization, pacing, personality, foreseeing objections, crafting vivid illustrations and offering practical application. There are also ever-changing external factors: the room, the lighting, the seating, the heat, the audio, the shifting dynamic of the gathered church and unsolicited critique. Then, there are the ever-changing personal factors in the life of the preacher: the condition of his heart, his affections for Jesus, his level of tiredness, his degree of preparation, his counseling load, personal stresses and family pressures. In my experience there is nothing more demanding nor humbling. Yet, it is God’s primary method for the heralding of the gospel of Jesus and the instruction of His people in the context of the local church.
A Necessary Task
This is why Paul exhorted Timothy to, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” (2 Tim 4:2) Teaching and preaching are gifts that Jesus has given to His church “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” (Eph 4:12). It makes sense that He would assign such an important role to preaching because it is through the Bible that we become “competent, equipped for every good work” that He has prepared for us (2 Tim 3:16; Eph 2:10). In other words, we need teachers and preachers of the Bible because it is through the Bible that we learn who He is, who we are, and what it means to live in light of Him – now and forever. As an aside, that is also why it is crucial for our personal discipleship to consistently sit under gospel-centered, Jesus-saturated, Bible-tethered preaching.
A Messy Task
Therefore, to plant churches we need to create space to develop heralds of the gospel within our church; preachers who learn what it means to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15) and lead Jesus’ people to revel in His unsearchable riches (Eph 3:8). Heralds aren’t merely discovered, they’re forged and developed. That task can be complicated and messy. After all, it is hard to discern if you are called to be a herald of the gospel – and to grow as one, if you are – without actually heralding. We are committed to spreading the gospel through church planting, and therefore we are necessarily committed to developing gospel heralds.
A Teaching Hospital
That is why we often describe ourselves as a teaching hospital. Certain hospitals, such as many in our city, are known as teaching hospitals in which medical residents learn the science and practice of medicine. These residents spend long hours (and years) alongside more seasoned doctors learning, growing, and maturing in order to serve others. The residency serves to highlight strengths and weaknesses that can be safely worked out in the context of the teaching hospital. In the same way, our goal is to be a teaching hospital for future gospel heralds as they learn, grow and mature in their ability to declare and apply the infinite excellencies of Jesus. Along the way we will discover that some are not called to preach – their gifts and calling lie elsewhere – while others are.
If you’re new to our church family it is important for you to know that about us. I’m not jealous about the pulpit. When I step out of the pulpit it is not merely to take time off. We want to develop heralds. The process is messy, to be sure, but well worth any inconvenience, awkwardness or confusion experienced along the way. The local church was not instituted by Jesus to be a theatrical performance where only the best actors get on stage. No. The local church was instituted by God to be an outpost where the gospel is declared and and its implications are lived out. So, when I’m not preaching you’re not merely witnessing a “fill in” but a man who is discerning and working out his calling before the living God of the universe in the context of Jesus’ redeemed people. It is a beautiful sight. Let’s pray, encourage, root for and honor such men and ask Jesus to raise up even more.
For Jesus’ fame and the good of all,