2 Kings 12; 2 Timothy 2; Hosea 3–4; Psalm 119:121–144
ONE OF THE MANY PRACTICAL DECISIONS a busy pastor has to face is whether to engage some particular error that rears its head.
The factors that go into that sort of decision are many. How many people are actually being affected by it? Is it threatening to split the church, or is it the fixation of only one or two people? Is it about some relatively peripheral matter, or does it go to the heart of the Gospel? Is it something about which the Bible is really quite clear, or does it concern something on which the Bible does not pronounce anything very substantial? Moreover, even when the issue is clearly important, one must make sober decisions about how much time and energy you should devote to it. Too little, and many of your flock may be adversely affected; too much, and you are being drawn away from what should be the primary focus of your ministry; you will gradually get sucked into a sea so vast you will never again see the shore.
Over the years I have been invited to address any number of "problems" or "interpretations" that have lasted no more than a few months or a few years. It may be expedient to do the studying necessary to engage a few of them; anything more is a waste of time. Just a month or so before the "Heaven's Gate" mass suicide, this cult sent me (and doubtless many others) one of their videos and a great deal of literature. I spent all of ten minutes scanning the literature to see where it was going. It was such unadulterated rubbish I filed it away, hoping I would never have to respond to this particular brand of nonsense. A few weeks later, most of the adherents were dead.
Two years ago a pastor phoned me and berated me because I had not yet responded with anything substantive to Michael Drosnin's book, The Bible Code. Out of interest I had accumulated a fairly substantial file, but that was not enough for this pastor: he felt that the people in his church were terribly vulnerable, and he insisted that I spend some time working on it. I refused. Two months later I discovered that the person in his church most fixated by this problem was the pastor himself, who could not leave the subject alone.
What a welcome contrast, then, to hear Paul telling Timothy what to say to new generations of pastors: "Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen" (2 Tim. 2:14). Or again: "Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels" (2 Tim. 2:23). Answer when you must; never fixate on the peripheral; do not lose the focus on what is primary; do not be enticed into stupid arguments. The real issues are simply too important.