This week, our devotionals are focusing on what it means to be a God-honoring, pastor-supporting, and believer-edifying parishioner. How can I be a better part of my church?
Even within the church, people have become more interested in what people say about the Bible than what the Bible actually says. Walk into a Christian book store and see how much of the store is dedicated to book about the Bible and being a Christian, as opposed to how much of the store is dedicated to selling Bibles.
So, one way you can be a better church member is by knowing the Bible and being wiser about what other sources you allow to form your spiritual understanding. Here are three .
HISTORICAL SHOWS – Many Christians are hungry to know more about the Bible, its time, cultures, customs, etc. There is much surrounding the Bible stories that are not in the Bible… and I mean good solid archeology and history. Many times knowing extra bits of information can enhance the truth we find within God’s written Word. We have more information about history now than ever before… and some of it is even accurate. Just because you see a show about the Bible on the History Channel does not mean it is wrong about the Bible… but it probably is. Or it is at least wrong enough that you should watch it with a grain of salt… or perhaps a whole container. In fact, most television shows about the Bible or Church history are going to be slanted away from a solid view of Scripture or Christians. The Bible is a lot of things, but it is not financially profitable as is, because it is only understood by the power of the Spirit. Much of what the Holy Spirit says does not sell advertising. You will find that many of the ‘academic scholars’ on these shows are professors at schools which are not Bible-based, and many of them are not even true Christians. They often see the Bible simply as a human work written by fallible men who were only looking at the things of God from their limited cultural lens, rather than men of God inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the eternal truth of God beyond their own understanding. Many times people who watch these shows will come away with a more Humanistic view of the Bible, and trust it less. The History Channel will not reveal to you the mysteries of the Bible. But the Holy Spirit will. The Bible is not missing lost books. But we are often missing the Bible.
RELIGIOUS PROGRAMMING – For the most part, as long as there has been media, there has been a preacher using that media to get the Gospel out. Many preachers on the radio and TV are just good men and women of God sharing truth. But there are some, especially on television who are misleading people through slick delivery of outrageous promises and bad doctrine. Many TV preachers are siphoning off the finances and hope of weak believers who are looking to receive a blessing and support the work of God. Many church members find TV preachers to be better communicators and even more knowledgeable about God’s Word than their own local pastor. And he also never makes them mad or holds them accountable. Sadly, the enemy has successfully infiltrated the ranks of TV preachers to turn the preaching of the Word into a circus through a so-called ‘prosperity gospel’, and ‘faith ministries’. This hurts the individual believer because it keeps them on a shallow material plain, and it hurts the local church because so many end up sending finances that would help reach their community for Jesus to pay for a charlatan’s airtime.
MOVIES – Films are a great way to communicate ideas and even bring history to life. When we can visualize things, it can make it easier to understand them. Over the years people have tried to ‘bring the Bible to life’ in movies. Some of these are good efforts that have helped people come to Christ, but many are not helpful, and quite a few are downright horrible, and even damaging. Just because a film has the words ‘Jesus’, or ‘Bible’, or ‘Moses’, or ‘Noah’ in it does not mean it is accurate. Just because a movie has dialogue from the Bible does not make it enriching. Just because a film has wonderful acting and is done with great cinematic effect and flare does not make it wholesome entertainment or a great tool for the Kingdom. Now it is nearly impossible to make a perfect movie about Bible events or characters because there is so much we don’t know about the people. So, artistic license is to be expected. But unfortunately much of what happens in Hollywood versions of the Bible goes beyond artistic license into a twisted picture of Christ or Scripture.
Since so much of what we believe is based in what we see visually, many times church people will filter what the preacher says on Sunday through the lens of the movie or TV documentary they saw the night before. And let’s face it, the preacher is usually not as entertaining as a slick Hollywood (or TBN) production. People often forget the points of a good sermon within a few hours, but they remember quotes from a well-done movie or TV show for years.
Your pastor likely wants you to know as much as you can about the things of God. But mostly he wants you to know God and His Word really well so that you won’t believe things about God that are not true. Most pastors are not ‘anti-history’, or even against a visually appealing production of Bible events. They just want you to be an informed customer when the world, and even other well-meaning, artistic believers are trying to ‘sell you something’. One of the tricks of the enemy is to convince you of something that is close to the truth, because the easiest lies to spread are the ones that are almost true. These also are often the deadliest because they are so subtle.
Competing versions of the events of Christ and the larger Bible story are nothing new. Even in the early church the pastors had to remind the Christians to be careful what story they believed. The apostle Peter, who was one of Jesus’ closest disciples and friends wrote this in a letter…
“For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!’ And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:16-21)
The apostle Paul chimed in on the same idea…
“When I came to you, brothers, announcing the testimony of God to you, I did not come with brilliance of speech or wisdom. For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom but with a powerful demonstration by the Spirit, so that your faith might not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.” (2 Corinthians 2:1-5)
If I had a dime for every time someone came up to me after a sermon and told me how what they saw on the History Channel or the latest ‘Bible movie’ was different than what I had preached, I could afford to make a really good movie about Jesus. Do your pastor (and yourself) a favor, and don’t judge his sermon in light of the documentary you saw the night before.
Enjoy and learn from good films and shows about the Bible. Step back in history through a solid visual presentation and understand what Bible characters dealt with. But filter what you see through what you find in the Bible rather than filtering what you hear from the Bible through what you saw on the tube, or on the big screen for that matter… even if the one speaking is doing so from behind an expensive pulpit.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.