Currently we are in the middle of a series of messages geared around the vision of our church. So obviously that has got me thinking a lot about how our vision impacts what we do (and just as importantly what we don’t do as a church). This morning as I was meeting with a couple of our Worship Arts people, one of them mentioned that something I mentioned on a Sunday a few weeks ago was helpful, and that I should make sure I say it again. Which of course got me thinking, “I know what today’s blog post will be!”
When Liz & I were in Albany, the pastor of the church I was on staff with spent over four years on the book or Romans. Now, I like Romans as much as the next guy…but four years?
If you’ve been coming to the Vineyard for a while, or listening to our messages online, you’ve probably noticed that in the majority of our Sunday morning messages, the main text come from one of the 4 gospels. On most weeks are are looking at one of Jesus’ parables, or a particular story that he was in the middle of.
A sizable chunk of our messages come out of the old testament, particularly the historical narratives. We also spend some time the book of Acts (again, lots of great stories) , and then there are several times each year where one of the letters from the New Testament, whether written by Paul, Peter, John, or someone else, serves as the main text of our message.
Last summer we started something that we’ll be continuing in the future which is to have an entire message series devoted to one of the New Testament letters. Last year we went through Colossians, this summer we’ll be going through some of the major themes in the book of Romans.
But again, a majority of our messages at the Vineyard are based on the gospels rather than the writings of Paul.
If you’ve been part of an evangelical churches, it is pretty likely that you’ve seen it the other way around…In most evangelical churches, Paul’s writings are the basis for a majority of the teaching on a Sunday. And what you’ll notice is the focus of the messages are believing the right things…having good doctrine. The structure of these messages is often, here is what Paul teaches…and here is what Jesus said that proves Paul’s point.
At the same time, if you have a more pentecostal background, you probably saw a lot of the teaching on Sunday morning coming out of the book of Acts, as well as some of the Old Testament prophetic books. And while I think, having been part of Pentecostal churches in the past, that they also care about believing the right things, their focus is far more on the fact that God is still moving supernaturally today.
One of the core beliefs in the Vineyard…not just here, but in the larger Vineyard, is that, it is the teaching of Jesus, rather than anyone else, that should be central to what we teach (that doesn’t really seem controversial, does it?).
In fact if Paul were still around, I think is a pretty safe bet that he would say his teachings would lose much of their meaning outside of the context of Jesus. In fact he comes right out and says in 1 Corinthians, if Christ has not been raised from the dead…our preaching is useless, and so is your faith.
Paul’s focus as he taught was the teaching of Jesus! And it should be for us too.
I think that this understanding about Paul is why so many people bristle at Paul’s teachings. To take a piece here of his writing here and a piece of his writing there, put them together and say “this is the truth”… doctrinally, you might be right, however, that often comes across as harsh or judgmental. We are called to speak the truth…but again, according to Paul, we do that in love.
However, when we view Paul’s writings in the light of the teachings of Jesus… when you are able to look at the bigger story…the reason that Paul himself sacrificed all that he did…so that people could know about Jesus, it presents a very different picture.
A book that we’ve found helpful on how to look at scripture is How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth , but Gordon Fee. If you’d like to dig into this a bit more, that would be a great place to start!