The good father: a church with Biblical preaching...

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As fathers, our job is not done when we provide bread for our wife and newborn son or daughter. The man of the house used to be called the "breadwinner." Men used to take pride in it, but remember that the spiritual bread we provide our family is more important than physical bread. When God brought the sons of Israel into the Promised Land, He warned them: does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 8:3b)

Again and again in Scripture, God tells us we are to be devoted to every word He speaks—every last word. Choosing a church where God's Word is preached faithfully is the most important food we provide for our family. We will never get hauled before the Child Protective Services or put in jail for domestic abuse if we fail in this responsibility, but we will answer for it to our Heavenly Father. So be careful to do this work well. Your wife and children's souls depend upon it!

Again, Scripture says:

Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:13, 14)

You want to be saved, don't you? You want your wife and sons and daughters to be saved. To you, there's nothing more important in all the world!

So find a good church where your wife and children will be able to drink God's Word from the mouth of a faithful shepherd. As the Apostle Peter commands, "like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Peter 2:2). The faithful and pure preaching of God's Word is the first and most important mark of a true church. You and your wife are to long for it just as your newborn son or daughter longs for his mother's milk.

How do you judge whether the church's pastor is preaching the "pure milk of the word"?

His preaching must be faithful to the actual words of Scripture. Not faithful to encourage you and help you leave church happy each week. That's not what we want from any preacher of God's Word. That's what worldlings, what unbelievers want.

Since we hunger and thirst for salvation, we want a preacher who, each week and without fail, is faithful to God and His Word. Faithful to the Bible. Not twisting what Scripture says into what we want it to say. Let Facebook flatter you, but never God's Word. The Bible says God's Word is a hammer and a fire—not a pillow or a blankie. So when you leave church each week, you should feel as convicted of your sin and as grateful for God's mercy as you feel each time you read one of the Apostles Paul or Peter's letters in the New Testament. They never fail to convict you of your sin and confess it to God, do they?

A faithful preacher will do no less.

And this is the battle for the soul of every church: will the church demand their pastor scratch their itching ears, or will he allow himself to be used by the Holy Spirit to convict the congregation of sin and righteousness and judgment? 

One way to test this is to listen for whether the pastor preaches to the mind alone, or also to the conscience. Does he give a lecture or does he preach? Where the conscience is not coming under conviction, no true preaching is being done. Period.

Do we live in the last days? This is what Scripture says will be true of preaching and preachers in the last days:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires... (2 Timothy 4:3)

Tickling can be done by someone called a "pastor" or "preacher," it can sound very spiritual, it can be done with seeming passion, it can impart much Scriptural truth. In fact, the very best ear-tickling manages all of those things at once. Some of the best ear-ticklers in the world are men who claim to have good biblical convictions, who talk about sin and grace and the cross of Jesus. So how can you tell the difference between an ear-tickler and a faithful shepherd?

The secret to discerning an ear-tickler is not in what he says, but in what he doesn't say. Does he talk about sin? That's good. But does he ever address sin specifically? Or does he just talk vaguely about "sins," and "failures," and "bad choices"? Does he address the sins of the people sitting in front of him, or are his corrections aimed somewhere else? What sins does he make sure never to mention in the pulpit? Does he ever address those places of Scripture that are under attack in the church today? Like, for instance, sexuality? Or is he too afraid of getting pushback?

The Apostle Paul never stopped correcting the people he wrote his letters to, sometimes by name. Take for example his letter to the Philippians where he writes, "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord." Who were Euodia and Syntyche? Apparently they were two women who needed to be publicly exhorted to live in harmony.

And think about the letters to the Corinthians or the Galatians. Do you remember how specific they were? He addressed specific sins and errors, he addressed false teaching and false teachers. He was always working to expose the deceitfulness of sin in the hearts of everyone the Lord had placed under his care.

Brothers, this is what I mean by preaching to the conscience, not just the mind. Filling the mind with doctrinal truths is one thing—addressing our consciences before God another. This is the work of a true shepherd. True shepherds know their people and know their sins and are not afraid to address them. They are not afraid to ruffle feathers.

This is the kind of preaching you want your precious sons and daughters to sit under. This is the kind of preaching you want to sit under. You want to find a church that has shepherds that are not afraid to preach to your conscience. To address your sins and temptations, and the temptations of your wife and children. This is how God feeds and protects you and your family, and it is the most important thing to look for in a church.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!