For years I did not attend a local church. I believe that during that time, I was deeply in love with Christ, that I sought him daily, and that I had continued consistent relationship with fellow believers. In fact, I believe that some of my most valuable growth in my entire life occurred under those circumstances. My wife and I simply did not have a church to call our home, but my relationship with the Lord was vibrant and real.
But the dynamics that placed us in that situation are the stuff of another post.
What I want to discuss here is the teaching paradigm in which I found myself during those years. I was at a job wherein I was often left to myself to complete my tasks, which allowed for listening to podcasts and sermons while I worked. I was able to hear a great deal of teaching from a number of pastors during those days.
One of the most useful lessons I gleaned from this time (and there were many) was as follows: different teachers and preachers highlight different attributes of God, and therefore, by listening to a varied number of teachers, one gets a more full perspective of God. I believe that this is natural, useful, and inherent to the faith given that each of us has a unique relationship with God; and as each of us sees truth regarding God more clearly, he or she wants to communicate that to others.
I was fascinated as I listened and saw that each pastor’s demeanor was, in many ways, dictated by this outlook on who God was and what they felt was the most necessary attributes of him to explore. Whereas Dr. John Piper’s sermons almost always focused on the glory of God, Dr. Tim Keller seemed to feel that the hinge of the faith was a Christian’s life in light of the knowledge of Christ.
I bring this up because now that we are in the local church and getting weekly teaching, I am further convicted of the value of seeking out teaching elsewhere alongside the weekly sermon I hear in a local context. We have a wonderful pastor, and his sermons are often thought-provoking and very useful. However another church that I follow in Canada teaches completely different subjects (though still in-line on primary doctrines) and puts my mindset in a completely new place after I hear its messages. Again, my pastor and the Canadian pastor do not disagree, but they point me towards God from varied perspectives and the cohesion of their teaching provides me with a more multifaceted and holistic approach to my relationship with Christ. What a gift that we have in the modern age to be able to hear the teaching from so many useful brothers and sisters on a regular basis in order to help us conform to the person of Christ and his actions and attitudes! Indeed, this is a glorious time to be a believer in search of wisdom and instruction!
I recommend that you take 40 minutes on youtube this week and put that technological advantage to use. Below is a list of the pastors that I have listened to on a semi-regular basis over the years as well as some of the themes I’ve seen in their teaching.
- Tim Keller (Redeemer Presbyterian): Loving the Lord with your mind and putting that love into humble social practice.
- Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill): Fulfilling the God-given gender role that you have been assigned and recognizing your need for his aid in doing so.
- Francis Chan (Various, Formerly Cornerstone, Simi Valley): Recognizing the cost and sacrifice needed for our relationship with God to be real and organic.
- John Piper (Formerly Bethlehem Baptist): The glory of God and our calling to make our relationship with him our number one pleasure on earth as it most certainly will be in heaven.
- Paul Washer (Itinerant Missionary): A constant call to examine oneself as a workman approved, for the life of the Christian is one that manifests Christ’s attributes, and many claiming Christ do not show them (to their own condemnation).
- Bruxy Cavey (The Meetinghouse): Christ is all, but the world has good in it; ergo, God has given us much to enjoy, but we must engage all things through the lens of Christ and love.
- Bo Matthews (Brandywine Valley Baptist. Our church): The Bible is a vibrant living word by which we can live more fully as we seek to love Christ and gain greater intimacy with God.