Over the past few years there has been a resurgence of “series” preaching in which Christian books have been substituted for the Bible. Preaching has taken on the form of teaching from someone else’s publication. This type of ministry originates from those who have a highly visible status. They will write a book which will potentially offer sermon notes, study guidelines, and videos, which could be used by pastors to teach their congregations. If the costs of these Biblical extensions are too much, they may simply revert to using the solicited book alone. More and more church sponsored Bible studies are using Christian authors and their books as an instrument of teaching. Cell groups, Sunday schools, youth programs, men’s groups, and women’s gatherings center on these publications. Recently, I talked to a pastor who was involved in this type of ministry. He raved about the success of his newly elected series. The program was a blessing not only to his people, but to him. The book series he had chosen freed him up from sermon preparation so he would have more time to meet the various needs of his people. Depending on what publication the local ministry chooses, it can last anywhere from four weeks to over six months.
Why have so many pastors chosen this course of ministry? Could it be that pastors’ wells have dried up? Could it be that their time with the Lord has been neglected? Could it be that their study time has been minimized? Could it be that their fire has turned into embers? Could it be that the winds of change have affected their direction? Could it be that God is not speaking to His people? Why have so many closed their Bibles in favor of opening Christian publications?
So much of our food supply is infused with artificial ingredients. Organic food is natures offering while grocery shelves are overstocked with foods that contain chemicals and preservatives. Opening the Word of God and seeing its purity takes effort and patience, while reading Christian publications is digesting what contains human ingredients. It has already been processed by a Christian author so it can be consumed with a confidence that its contents are safe; or are they?
In the Old Testament book of Amos, God spoke of a famine that would spread across Israel. It was not a famine of “bread and water” but a famine of God’s Word. Israel had continually rejected His Word in favor of their personal desires. As a result of their rebellion, God withheld His Word from them. The withholding of His Word caused a spiritual famine in the land. No matter how hard they looked for His Word, it was not to be found. (Amos 8:11, 12) Could it be that God has seen His Church become so wayward that He has paused in revealing His Word? When we stop adhering to His Word and start deliberately contradicting what He has said, why would He continue to give us ongoing revelation? If my observation is right, would it not give credence to teaching substitutionary books? What is a Pastor to do if God has declared a “Word famine” on His Church? He has to bring a message every week! “Series Preaching” seems to be the answer. If God is not speaking, we tend to read someone who thinks they know what God is saying.
I have no problem using “series publications” in the church setting as long as it is not a substitute for the Bible. If there is a “Word famine” in some of our churches today, we need to fall before Him in repentance, and then rise up in obedience to His Word. If we are not willing to obey His Word, we will not be able to hear His Word, for a famine will be upon us. Thank God for some great Christian writers, but we must never substitute their writings for the Bible. Just because a teaching is good for one body of Believers does not necessarily mean it is fitting for another group of Christians!