In this series of posts, we are considering how to effectively lead change in a church that struggles with change, even positive change. Specifically, we are considering how to lead healthy change with the Word of God in a plateaued or declining congregation.
In this post we are considering the absolute importance of a congregation sharing particular doctrinal and practical (ministry practice) convictions regarding the Bible itself. Ultimately, how a church and its leaders approach God’s Word will either fuel or hinder its ability to experience new life and growth.
Here’s what I mean:
While a declining church and its remaining leaders may affirm the authority of Scripture in its official doctrinal statement, this doesn’t mean that functionally the Scriptures are the “true” authority in matters of ministry and decision making in the congregation. Again, this is why a top priority for any pastor must be to help the congregation understand and establish, or re-establish, a right, historically orthodox doctrine of Scripture. Until this happens, until the congregation knows that moving forward all ministry and leadership decisions will be rooted in and directed by the Word of God, the Bible will never be the sole authority the Lord intends it to be for this congregation.
There are three essential aspects to the doctrine of Scripture, which must be understood and embraced by any and every declining congregation. It is the responsibility of the pastor to help lead the way in making this a reality. These include the inspiration of Scripture, the inerrancy of Scripture and the authority of Scripture. Let’s look at each of these briefly.
1. Inspiration of Scripture
The inspiration of Scripture refers to the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the writers of Scripture to render through their writings an accurate representation or account of God’s revelation (thus allowing their writings to be considered “God’s Word”). Though the words of Scripture were written by humans, the source of their inspired writing was a result of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment and leading. As the Apostle Peter attests,
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
In a similar manner, the apostle Paul describes how the Bible alone contains the “God-breathed” words of the Lord: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Because of the God ordained, Spirit-inspired nature of Scripture, inerrancy and complete reliability of the Bible is the natural and logical result.
2. Inerrancy of Scripture
The inerrancy of Scripture means that God’s Word, in its original manuscripts, does not contain or propose anything that is contrary to fact. The Bible is without error in all that it affirms. The Bible itself testifies to this truth:
The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times (Psalm 12:6).
So, when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of His purpose, He guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us (Heb. 6:17-18).
Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him (Prov. 30:5).
B.B. Warfield, in his classic defense of the Bible’s inerrancy, rightly states that “God has caused his grace to abound to us in that he not only published redemption through Christ to the world, but gave this preachment authoritative expression through the apostles, and fixed it with infallible trustworthiness in His inspired Word.”1 As a result, “in every age God speaks directly to every Christian heart, and gives us abounding safety to our feet and divine security to our souls.”2 The wonderful news is that “instead of a mere record of a revelation given in the past, we have the ever-living Word of God; instead of a mere tradition however guarded, we have what we have all learned to call in a unique sense ‘the Scriptures.’”3
The inspiration and inerrancy of holy Scripture demand it’s authority, in our individual lives and in the church. But what exactly are we talking about here? What does this authority look like?
3. Authority of Scripture
Simply put, the authority of Scripture refers to God’s Word as possessing the right to ultimately define what followers of Christ believe, as well as the manner in which believers should live their lives. As churches then, the Bible alone must have authority over all that we do and all that we don’t do in regard to the ministry God has called us to carry out. The Westminster Confession states clearly, “The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”4
‘Believed’ and ‘obeyed’ — two key words we must note. Because the Scripture is God’s inspired, inerrant Word, it holds supreme authority over what we believe and how we behave as Christians and as churches. It is that simple. The Word of God is always the right authority in a church needing revitalization because it makes God Himself the authority over that church. God revitalizes churches by his Spirit and through the Word. For real, lasting change to happen in any congregation, the Bible must have ultimate authority in matters of doctrine and ministry methodology. Not a pastor, not a deacon, not a committee, not the by-laws. The Bible must be the boss. The Bible must rule the church that God Himself might reign over the church.
This is why we as pastors must intentionally and consistently lead with and by the Word.
Related Posts in This Series
1Fred Zaspel, The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Publishing, 2010), 159
<4/sup>The Authority of Scripture and the Testimony of the Church, https://purelypresbyterian.com/2017/06/23/authority-of-scripture-and-the-testimony-of-the-church/
This post originally appeared on Mark’s blog, Preach Lead Love.
Published March 16, 2021