A Christian pastor is a steward of teaching the most important truth in the entire world – the word of God. For many years I have analyzed the preaching content of Christian pastors. I suppose I have listened to hundreds of hours of Christian pastors and their preaching and teaching. It is easy for any discerning listener to determine what is the priority of the Christian pastor. Does the Christian pastor give their opinions, ideas, a collection of stories, or do they actually teach the Bible.
Paul wrote to Timothy and demonstrated his confidence in this younger Christian pastor by installing him in one of the largest churches in the world he founded in the city of Ephesus. Outside of the Jerusalem church, noted historians believe the Ephesian church in Ephesus (modern day Turkey), an extremely decadent city, probably had thousands of people attending. Nearby was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Temple of Artemis (or Diana) at Ephesus. Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – 79), an early Roman historian, wrote that the Temple of Artemis was 425 feet long and 225 feet wide, supported by 127 columns, 60 feet high, and took over 100 years to build! Centered in this fabulous structure was the fertility, patron goddess, Diana, multi-breasted, loved, worshipped, honored, and sold in miniature by the thousands in the form of dolls or shrines. And there was a very famous, heavily patronized brothel in Ephesus. The brothel advertisement is carved on one of the marble paving stones at the city of Ephesus. I have been there an observed it. The ad includes a heart, a cross, a woman’s head, a foot and cash. It has been translated as ‘turn left at the cross roads where you can buy a woman’s love’. The brothel is positioned opposite the famous ancient library, a prominent photographic staple due to extensive archaeological excavation.
No Christian pastor would pick Ephesus as the city to plant a church, except Paul. It was Las Vegas on steroids! And, yet, God marvelously blessed Paul efforts as recorded in Acts chapters 19 and 20. What was the secret? Luke records, “This took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks” (Acts 19:10). Only God knows how many multiplied thousands of people who frequented this hedonistic city left with a new found faith in Jesus Christ. It certainly caused uproar as the sale of Diana dolls came to a grinding halt.
This background gives more pertinence to Paul’s advice to Timothy to carry on such a great church (that scholars believe Jesus’ mother, Mary, attended in her latter years perhaps accompanied by the apostle John). Here was Paul’s instruction: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). The term “accurately handling,” also translated “rightly dividing” carries the meaning of ancient times when stones had to be cut with such precision architecturally that every stone fit exactly in the final structure. No deviation, no inaccurate measurement was allowed.
I often wonder if we have lowered the quality of preaching and teaching today. Seekers are not stupid. Yet, too often, sermons have been dumb-down to stories, brief quotations of Scripture, a raw-raw talk, and too little of digging deep explaining what a Bible text means and how it specially applies to a person in the context provided. Great preaching by a Christian pastor is difficult, laborious work. Vance Havner wrote, “You can’t preach it like it is if you don’t believe it like it was.” A Christian pastor shows his confidence, or lack of confidence, in God’s word by how much he precisely and rightly divides the word before His audience. Block out all the interruptions and distractions and spend that valuable time to fulfill Paul’s clear advice to Timothy.