Do you know where the richest place in your community is? It’s not the local bank. It’s not the general store. It’s not even that one really big house. The absolute richest place in your community is the cemetery.
I remember the first time I heard that statement. A friend of mine said it during a Bible study. I remember how that thought struck me. In every cemetery there are books that were never written, poems that were never penned, inventions that were never created, recipes that were never made, stories that were never told, and sermons that were never preached. The cemetery is rich because people, somewhere in their life, decided that they no longer needed to learn and grow; and died full of potential.
We know the Bible teaches that as followers of Jesus, we are called to honour God with our minds. And we know that one practical way of honouring God with our minds is by becoming a 3L: Life-long Learner, someone who is always trying to expand his or her horizons.
Pastors (and lay believers more generally) sometimes feel that because they are a person who gives spiritual guidance, preaches the Gospel, and is active in ministry, it is wrong for them to rely on anything but the Bible. At one time in our own Pentecostal movement, Pastors were simply equipped with their Bible and a Matthew Henry’s Commentary. But as the culture around us has changed, Pastors and lay believers need to feel the urgent necessity in becoming life-long learners in order to engage with that culture.
In Acts 18, we see the story of an excited Christian named Apollos. Apollos was a converted Jew from the city of Alexandria. He was very well spoken and had an excellent knowledge of the Old Testament. Apollos came to faith, and being excited about his newfound hope, started preaching about Jesus. Acts 18:25 tells us that his teaching and preaching of Jesus was accurate, but it was limited. Priscilla and Aquila encountered Apollos, took him into their home, and “explained to him the way of God more accurately” (Vv.26). Because of that growing and learning time, Apollos became a stronger preacher, “for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus” (Vv.28).
What if Apollos decided that he didn’t want to learn from Aquila and Priscilla? What if he had said, “I’m good, I don’t need to learn!” I wonder, would Acts18:28 have ever been written? Would we still see his name elsewhere in the New Testament? I’d presume and say “no.” If Apollos decided that he didn’t want to learn, that he didn’t want to grow, then his ministry would have been unfruitful, dead and lacking power.
Ask yourself these three questions:
- In my life and faith, am I currently growing?
- Is it a struggle to find preaching material?
- Am I producing spiritual fruit in my life?
If you answered “No” to the first question, this is your wake-up call! Hebrews 6 warns believers that to avoid mixing up God’s truth, we need to be constantly maturing in our faith. One way to mature in our faith is to not only read God’s word, but people who have commented on God’s word. A great book that has helped me mature in my faith is Basic Christianity by John Stott. Starting at the basics, Stott explains whom Jesus is, what He has done, and how we need to respond. Sometimes we think that these principles only apply to people outside the faith, but the reality is, believers also need to be reminded of the Gospel’s power.
If you answered, “Yes” to the second question, this is your wake-up call! As preachers and teachers, pastors should be self-learners so that they can give fresh insight into spiritual truths from what they themselves are learning. Within this past year, I have been reading Jesus Christ our Lord by John F. Walvoord, which is an excellent book on Christology. This book has provided me with outstanding sermon and Bible study material. One Tuesday night after teaching on Jesus in Genesis 3 (Which was explained in the book), one lady came up to me and thanked me for opening up God’s Word to her in a new and refreshing way. Those comments only come after a pastor has taken it upon himself or herself to grow and learn, and then in-turn, teach.
Regardless of your answer to the last question, this is your wake-up call! As disciples, it is our responsibility to avail of every opportunity to become fertile ground for the Holy Spirit to cultivate spiritual fruit. One of the best ways to do that, second to reading the Bible, is to read books, articles and magazines that deal with faith and spiritual issues. Reading these materials will help you identify with spiritual truths and allow yourself to become a vessel, which God can work through.