Steve Lloyd is a highly-regarded minister who has labored with the Lord’s church in Chino, California for many years. He is the author of an excellent volume that addresses how to deal with emotional upheavals. It is titled Coping — A Biblical Approach (SML Publications, 1995, 11940 Telephone Ave., Chino, CA 91710).
Steve also edits a periodically published electronic journal called, A Closer Look At Things Pertaining To The Faith. In a recent year-end edition, he conducted an interview with Wayne Jackson. This month’s Feature provides the text of that dialogue.
Steve: Wayne, what do you think the greatest need among Christians is today?
Wayne: There are many great needs among Christians today, and doubtless informed people could focus in varying areas. It seems to me, however, that there must be a much greater recognition among us that Christianity is the whole meaning of our existence — rather than a weekend sideline — an almost “hobby-like” extension of modern existence. In the first century, being a Christian was a daily, lay-your-life-on-the-line proposition. Today, for many, it’s an added-on-when-convenient appendix. The key to remedying the problem is a deeper knowledge of the Scriptures. There can be no dedicated service, no passion for “living” Christ (Phil. 1:21) where a knowledge of the origin and nature of Christianity is lacking. The Christian Way is one of historical reality, and without that basis there is no abiding foundation. Mere religious emotionalism is both superficial and temporal. And so, in a word, “back to the Book,” is a crucial requirement for our people. A part of this equation, of course, is the availability of teachers and preachers who will qualify themselves to be competent expositors of the Bible, kindling such intense interest in their students that the latter are driven to the text with genuine excitement. And so, the remedy really begins with us who profess to be teachers of the sacred Scriptures.
Steve: You said that there can be no dedication or passion apart from a knowledge of the origin and nature of Christianity, and that we need to get back to the Book. Is knowledge the only solution or are there additional factors that produce a lay-your-life-on-the-line Christian?
Wayne: Knowledge, as a mere abstraction, is unavailing. There are skeptics who have accumulated a considerable “knowledge” of the Scriptures, and yet they entertain nothing but disdain for the holy volume. Opposing the Bible appears to be the driving force of their miserable lives. Paul once wrote about those who, “knowing God ... glorified him not as God” (Rom. 1:21). He subsequently depicted them as “fools” (v. 22). The expression “educated fool” did not arise in a vacuum. Too, James noted that some “know” to do good, but they do it not (Jas. 4:17).
There also must be a quality of “soul” that is the companion of “knowledge.” It is a vein of integrity that runs deep in the heart; it is one of the noblest qualities a human being can possess.
Jesus talked about the depth of the man who “wills” to serve God, and he combined that interest with the verb “know.” “If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself” (Jn. 7:17, ASV). The verbal form of “willeth” is a present tense, which indicates a sustained, or passionate, pursuit of knowing and obeying the Creator.
This is that mind-set that the Lord elsewhere characterized as the “honest and good heart” (Lk. 8:15), or, as Paul would later suggest by implication — it has to do with a love (agapao – dedication) for truth (2 Thes. 2:14). This disposition was reflected in the demeanor of the noble Bereans who examined the Scriptures daily to determine whether or not the teaching they had heard was factual (Acts 17:11).
If a person does not have that “earnestness” of heart to seek the will of God with a view to obedience, an encyclopedic storehouse of information will not result in the grand, eternal goal.
Steve: You mentioned the idea of a quality of soul that accompanies knowledge. I would like to pursue that further. What factors, do you suppose, account for more virtuous qualities in the soul of some and lesser qualities or vices in the soul of others? Can a person with lesser qualities cultivate the more virtuous qualities?
Wayne: Scholars have long debated the various influences that form the human personality. It is fashionable these days to allege that heredity is the prevailing force. Edward Wilson’s popular theory of “sociobiology” suggests that human attitudes and conduct have been programmed into the genes. By whom we were programmed to do evil remains a mysterious element in this theory. But if the theory had any merit, one would have to conclude there is an intelligent, malevolent programmer, because accidental “programs” are unknown to human experience.
This unsupported concept, of course, has as its goal the rationalization of unacceptable social behavior. Every aberrant activity — from murder to rape to sodomy — is explained by genetics in our modern “no fault” world. I have addressed this issue in a chapter titled, “It’s Not My Fault,” in my book, The Bible & Mental Health.
While it is true that some sins (e.g., sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, etc.) can have genetic consequences, clearly environment is the chief causative factor in human patterns of behavior. “Evil companionships corrupt good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33). The influence of human beings upon one another is emphasized scores of times in the Scriptures, and it is significant.
The attitudes that children develop towards the value of “truth” begin early in life. Parents and other family members mold the minds of the little ones in their circle of influence. For two contrasting examples see 2 Chronicles 22:3 and 2 Timothy 1:5. Children are “trained” (cf. Prov. 22:6) to think and act the way they do.
This does not mean that their patterns are “fixed” beyond any ability to change. Nothing is so powerful as the gospel (Rom. 1:16), and if the heart-soil has been “fertilized” with any measure of integrity at all — and most societies do honor “truth” to some degree — then it can blossom into fruition under the right circumstances. Aside from that, it is possible for a person to become disgusted and weary with his dishonest mode of living, and long for the better life. Such a person is well on his way to opening his soul to gospel truth. People must be taught that they can change.
Steve: In your response to the first question you emphasized the importance of teachers and preachers qualifying themselves to be competent expositors of the Bible. Some of the places a man might go to qualify himself, though, seem to major in liberalism — and yet we also seem to live in a climate where congregations are looking for degreed men to preach. What general advice can you give concerning preachers and teachers for qualifying themselves to be competent expositors of the Bible in such a climate? (I am using the term “liberalism” in the classic sense of freeing oneself from the authority of God’s word.)
Wayne: In recent years, there has been a growing polarization within the brotherhood of Christ. This is a fact so obvious that it needs only to be stated. There is a sizable movement drifting into clearly-identifiable denominationalism, or, to say the least, towards a more generic, community-church approach. This shift has taken its toll among some of our larger churches. I would suspect that groups of this nature are looking for “degreed” men, but not so much for their “knowledge”; rather, such personnel would fit well into the “professional” image they long to project. A young man who does not fit this “how-to-grow-a-successful-church” motif, likely will not be a candidate for the position.
At the opposite extreme, it seems to me, is another element. It reflects a reactionary mentality. In some cases, young, would-be preachers are encouraged to grab a Bible, gather a few sermon outlines, and “hit the floor.” I have observed some minor resurgence of the old Ketcherside ideology — “we don’t need full-time preachers; let every brother take his turn.” Churches afflicted with this philosophy, which ignores ample New Testament instruction and the divine ideal, almost invariably “dry up.” This is not to be critical of smaller churches that must simply do the best they can under their circumstances.
There is an advantage in getting some formal training in view of serving God as a full-time teacher/preacher. Young men need to learn how to study. “Fifty percent of all knowledge is knowing where to find the other fifty percent.” Doing research, learning to organize, knowing which study tools will be of value on a sustained basis, becoming exposed to biblical languages and proper procedures for textual interpretation, keeping abreast of current religious trends, etc. — are essential areas of knowledge. Acquiring a proper use of “the king’s English,” and learning how to work with a wide range of people in an increasingly complex and diverse culture are important as well. Becoming acquainted with a broad view of history — biblical and profane — is imperative. And so, a certain base from which to expand one’s knowledge and abilities is paramount. Usually that is best achieved in an academic setting — providing the advantages of that environment outweigh the liabilities. But the fact is, once one obtains some foundational skills, he will be his own best teacher. If he builds a good library, if he has the self-discipline to study, if he loves Bible truth with a passion, and if he has a reasonable level of natural ability, he can do a useful work in the Lord’s service.
I am confident that many of our churches today are looking for competent men who can do a responsible job of teaching — regardless of their “degreed” attainments. The brethren want a preacher who reflects a deep commitment to the Word, and who evinces thorough preparation. They desire a man who is compassionate in temperament but firm in conviction. If a young man is studious, balanced, and energetic, he will have the qualifications that many churches need and desire — whether or not he has a pocket full of advanced degrees. God will find a place for him and use him.
Steve: My initial question may have been somewhat restricting in that it was hunting for what you thought Christians’ greatest need might be today. Do you see any needs you would consider a close second to what you have already said?
Wayne: As I noted earlier, the single greatest need, in my judgment, involves a richer knowledge of the Scriptures, and a profound respect for the authority of the sacred documents. A lack of either of these qualities underlies all our needs. But, aside from what I mentioned previously, there is a burning need for members of the body of Christ to sharpen their awareness of the distinctive nature of, the identity of, the primitive church. When I started my first preaching efforts, some 45 years ago, I never dreamed that I would observe the sort of stifling “sectarian fog” that has descended upon the church of our day. Significant numbers within some of our congregations are not remotely aware that the New Testament church is not a denomination. To these precious, though misguided souls, we are simply the “Church of Christ Church.” They were lured into our fellowship with a variety of “quick-sell” (did-not-count-the-cost ) policies. It was flawed seed on superficial soil. Many had no concept of the breath-taking beauty of the church established by the Lord, and the divine expectation for maintaining its integrity. Many of our associates boast of their fraternization with denominationalists and vigorously chastise us for our “exclusiveness.”
Of course there is never any excuse for arrogance; but neither is compromise of the truth justifiable. If there is not a pattern that enables honest people to work for the restoration of pristine Christianity, we have been woefully mislead by the New Testament. And all commands for unity (e.g., Phil. 2:1ff), and all condemnations for divisiveness (1 Cor. 1:10ff; Rom. 16:17), are meaningless exercises in verbiage.
Yes, there is very much a desperate need for loving, courageous men and women to herald the New Testament blue print which sets forth the teaching and practice of the original Christian system.