A few years ago, while I was training to become a Pastor, I preached a sermon in my Church. A lot of people came up to me afterwards to thank me, and many said they were deeply moved by what I had to say.
However, when the Senior Pastor came to me to offer feedback, he simply said, “You used the words ‘I believe’ and ‘I think’ a lot. I don’t care what you believe or think – I just want to know what the Bible says!”
I tell you this story because I think a lot of Church leaders have been taught to simply ‘say what the Bible says’ and in doing so, they have lost what it means to be vulnerable.
Now don’t get me wrong, I believe that teaching from the Scriptures is immeasurably valuable, but (and this is a big but), when we stop taking ownership over our thoughts and our interpretations of the Bible we close ourselves off from the very real possibility that our interpretation could be wrong.
By hiding behind statements like ‘The Bible clearly teaches that…’ or ‘God’s word says…’, we deny our vulnerability and hide behind a false guard that implicitly proclaims ‘therefore, if you disagree with me you are disagreeing with God’.
This is incredibly dangerous for two reasons; Firstly, we become hard-hearted and unteachable in our position, assuming we have the absolute understanding of the truth; and secondly, we passively manipulate others into accepting our viewpoint by presenting it as if it is unquestionably the viewpoint of God.
I believe that it takes incredible humility and character to earnestly search the Scriptures, to thoroughly read informed commentaries, to prayerfully wrestle with God’s word and yet to still maintain an openness and vulnerability that says, ‘despite by best efforts, the ideas I present to you are ultimately mine, and I may be wrong’.