Writing this column is always a joy for me. I consider it a privilege to share the gospel with others, and I do not take it lightly when people take the time to listen to what I have to say. As a result, I am thrilled when I receive feedback regarding something I have written or shared. It lets me know that people understand what I am saying and that it has touched their life in some way.
I occasionally receive comments telling me that my articles don’t “feel like a Bible teaching.”
But are they motivational? Yes. Inspiring? I hope so.
I once was told that my column “was nice, but as a pastor, shouldn’t you be teaching people the Bible?”
Actually, I do — every week as pastor of Bethesda Church. I also teach the Bible (or try to) in every life situation that I encounter.
Whether I am sitting down to breakfast in a restaurant or waiting in an auto shop, I look for ways to demonstrate the gospel. For example, last week some friends of mine were dismantling an antique car. It looked great on the outside, but needed to be repaired because part of the car’s frame had rusted. It was the perfect moment to compare the car to people. Everything looked great on the outside, but the inside had been eaten away because of neglect. It became a “teaching moment” with a real outcome. That moment led to someone approaching me to say, “My heart is like that car. Can Jesus help me?”
Jesus taught in different ways. According to the gospel, He read scriptures and taught in the temple. This is probably the process that people today can best relate to because people usually think of the gospel as being delivered by a pastor with his Bible in front of a congregation on Sunday mornings. Jesus also ministered to the masses. There are accounts of Him preaching to crowds of thousands.
He loved to teach in parables. He took stories with real-life relevance and expounded upon the nature of man and of God’s kingdom. He loved to go into the street, find someone willing to listen and reach them.
I find it interesting that those encounters carry more significance in the hearts of people than other methods of instruction. Most people know about the Sermon on the Mount. However, I asked around to see how many people are familiar with the content of the Sermon on the Mount. Few people can offer true insight. But the number of people who can relay a story about a person who had a specific encounter with Jesus is much greater. People relate to a message when the elements of that lesson correspond to something in their lives.
My point is this: One of the greatest tools Jesus employed when teaching is that He was real. He expected them to be real — not to be something they weren’t for the sake of impressing Him. He met people where they were. He taught them by example and by relating His teachings to their situations.
There seems to be a mindset that we have to put on our “religious faces” at certain times. On Sunday, we wear the right clothes, sing the right songs and have our spiritual moments, but what about the other days?
In a restaurant last week, I overheard a mother tell her approximately 12-year-old son, “Don’t you dare cuss at me on Sunday.” What about the rest of the week? Why are Sunday values different than the values he should be living by Monday through Saturday? That is not “being real.”
My purpose in communicating as I do is to demonstrate that God is real. And He desires for you to be real. You come to Him, faults and all. You don’t put on some “spiritual air.” It is not His desire to change you into something you are not. It is His desire to complete what He created you to be.
He wants you to know that He is not put off by your current state. But if your current state is eating away at the value of your life, He has both the ability and the desire to change it. He wants the real you to discover the real Him.
That is the core of His gospel. That is “being real.”
Byler is the senior pastor of Bethesda “The Amazing Life” Church in Hinesville.