Famed British poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson once wrote: “Oh, for a new man to arise in me, that the man I am may cease to be.”
I’m told that the human body (on average) replaces every cell once every 5-7 years. I don’t know if that qualifies for a new man arising in me, however, I do know that if just count on my body changing for me it is always a downhill proposition. This is especially true the older I’ve gotten.
We can do nothing and a “new man” will arise in us, but what “arises” will almost certainly not be the person we want to be. However, if we want the “new man” that arises in us to be a better version of ourselves then it will require intentional, sustained focus on personal growth.
If you’ve tracked with me for a while you know this concept of taking responsibility for our own personal and spiritual growth is nothing new—it is a drum I beat consistently. However, the busyness of life and our decadent culture has a way of drowning out the beat—thus my reason for reminding you (and me) of the importance of not being conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewal of our mind (and body).
As preachers and teachers let me remind you once again of a few areas that you must be on a continual growth track:
1) And ever-increasing knowledge and familiarity of the Bible must be the centerpiece of your growth. I can’t stress this enough.
Trying to be an effective preacher or teacher without being an expert on the Bible is like trying to live in Portugal without knowing how to speak Portuguese. You may get by on a short vacation trip, but to live there you must have an ever-increasing knowledge and fluency of the native language if you hope to survive and thrive. The same is true of the Kingdom of God—the Bible (nothing else) is our rule for life and living. To teach any other “language” is akin to malpractice. A new and godly man or woman will never arise in us or our people without an ever-increasing knowledge and understanding of the Bible.
2) Another area that you must continually grow in is in theology. It is your theology—not your knowledge of the Bible that determines how you live your life. The Bible gives us truth, theology gives us practice.
For example, the truth is Sonja Knight Kemp is my wife. However, my attitude toward her determines how I treat her. Theology is your attitude (interpretation) about the truths of the Bible.
For example, most people who call themselves Christians believe that Jesus died on the Cross to save sinners. But from there, opinions vary—vary greatly! At one end of the spectrum are those who believe Jesus’ death was universal and that eventually everyone will be saved (no matter what they believe). At the other end are those that believe Jesus died to save only a very limited group of “elect” people whom God chose to save even before they are the Universe was created. All the other Christians fall somewhere in between those two extremes.
Which is it? Both groups read the same Bible. But their theology (attitude toward the Bible) great affects their approach to life and ministry.
The people you serve have a right to be taught correctly—the stakes are too high for you to not be growing as a theologian.
Briefly, let me give you three more areas that you must devote yourself to growing in:
3) The history and background of the Bible and the Church. We do not live in a vacuum—history has not only shaped us, history is our shape. If you hope to have a new and better man arise in you the first place to start is by looking in the mirror at who you are now—history is that mirror.
4) Apologetic (the defense of the faith or giving an answer to the skeptics, and honest doubters).
We are no longer living under the warm, comfortable, and protective mantel of “Christendom”. We are now living in a cold post-modern, secular and pagan society that has no room for our way of life. If our people are going to be able to have a robust faith they must be able to give an answer in the market place of ideas—it is our job to help them. An ever-increasing knowledge of apologetics is a must.
5) Then finally, if we are going to be shepherds, it would be good to know everything we can about sheep. (Makes sense doesn’t it?) An effective preacher and teacher must be on a growth track for better understanding people.
As you can see, being a preacher and teacher of the Gospel is not a calling for the lazy. It is a “high calling” and if a new man is going to arise in you and in those you love and serve, it is going to require a sustained and life-long passion for personal growth.