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Pastoral Support, Pastoral Preparation,

and the Purpose of Assembly

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Question #1:  Hi Bob,  Could say a few words about the meaning of Galatians 6:6"?

Response #1:  Here's my translation:

Let him who receives instruction in the Word share in all good things with him who gives instruction.
Galatians 6:6

Galatians 6:6 is an important verse for the Church in our day precisely because it is so little understood, so little appreciated, and so little applied, a fact that marks out our Laodicean era as filled to the brim with false priorities. To take but one example, I have a good friend who has sacrificed dearly for the better part of his adult life to prepare and then to make available good, solid teaching of God's Word (and he is a gifted man). Today he finds himself working in a secular job (with the disadvantage of having started some thirty years behind where he would have had he not made the teaching of God's Word his priority). This is not his fault - he made the opportunity available to have the fresh water of God's Word plentifully available, but over time there have been no serious and consistent takers.

Trouble is, there are very, very few groups of Christians, whether inside or outside of denominations, who really want this. They may occasionally want someone with credentials, but they are generally not interested in getting deep into the Word. Very often, even when there is a passing interest in such things, the limited resources which small groups have (and usually it is only very small groups which have a genuine corporate interest in serious Bible teaching) are allocated in what I would call short-sighted ways. To wit, people yearn for a building, or, if they have one, for a bigger/better building. Since serious Bible teaching always drives more people away than it attracts (a unique feature of the truth: cf. our Lord's experience: Jn.6:60-66), this often leaves the pastor shorted. What I tell people who ask for advice in such situations is that the first responsibility for any group of people who wish to have their own Bible teacher/pastor is to support that person in an acceptable manner before even thinking about spending money on anything else whatsoever. The whole point in gathering together as Christians is for the nourishment of the Word, and if a group of people decide to make the commitment to a sole source (i.e., to hire a man), then that is their number one responsibility.

As the Galatians 6:6 verse makes clear (and also 1Cor.9:3-14; 1Tim.5:17-18), this was a problem from the early days of the Church, for even the apostles were often given short shrift when it came to material support. It is interesting to me that Gal.6:6 is given in the context of Christian good works (verses 7-10), and in that context it is placed first by Paul, the implication being that to devote care, concern, and financial resources to general works of charity without first having taken care of your own pastor in a truly proper way is a huge misapplication of truth. That would seem to stand to reason, but this has nevertheless always been a problem even among otherwise very dedicated Christians (the principle of familiarity breeding contempt seems to apply here: Matt.13:57).

 One final point on this. "All good things" in this verse refers to everything such a teacher-pastor might have need of. That may or may not include financial support (generally it would), but it would certainly include other things as well such as respect (1Tim.5:17), prayer (Rom.15:30; 2Cor.1:11; Phil.1:19; Philem.1:22), and encouragement (1Cor.16:17-18; 2Cor.7:4-7; 7:13; 2Tim.1:16; Philem.1:7), to name two other things that come to mind.

In Him who supplies all of our needs according to His glorious riches in Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I am taking first year Greek in preparation for seminary. It wasn't too bad at first, but now the new paradigms and grammar are coming at us fast and furious. Sometimes I wonder if this is really necessary.

Response #2: 

As it so happens, I teach beginning Greek (among other things) at the college level. True, Greek is hard. That is all there is to it. If the instructor/dept./course is intent upon getting through the grammar completely in one calendar year, then there will be major casualties. This didn't start with you - it has ever been thus. I suppose the only reason that this tradition continues in Classics (i.e., of finishing basic Greek in two semesters) is that Classics is very traditional. Several generations ago, students came to Greek with about five years of Latin (learning Greek without such extensive Latin preparation was unthinkable); also, Classics was a standard field of study, and so the difficulty of Greek was offset by habit and necessity. In this era of poster-board montages and "practical" education, however, it takes real commitment and sacrifice to learn the queen of languages. You are absolutely right about the rapidly increasing "flak" as you fly nearer to the target. All Greek primers start off as easy as they reasonably can in order not to burn out the student too quickly, but then are left with an embarrassing amount of grammar, vocab, etc. that must be covered in a relatively short period of time.

My advice to you is to hang in there. And don't be afraid to increase your commitment, if necessary. For anyone really interested in knowing what the Bible has to say (and studying it for themselves), Greek, a thorough understanding of Greek, is absolutely essential. There is hardly a verse in the NT that does not look and feel quite different from any English translation (and often meaning something entirely different than you originally thought). I am enlightened about what scripture has to say every time I read my Greek New Testament. On the other hand, lack of Greek puts the interpreter/exegete at a serious disadvantage – how can you really ever "know what it say" if you really don't "know what it says"? You will forever be taking someone else's word for it – fine for the layman, but incredibly limiting for anyone who aspires to teach the Bible.

Finally, it can be done. In antiquity, fishermen, farmers and slaves spoke it passably well, after all. Like anything else, Greek yields to work and to time.

Best wishes for finishing that course,

Bob Luginbill

Question #3:

Hello Mr. Luginbill,

I just want to say hello and tell you to keep up the good, hard work. I found a bible study meeting that seems to be kind of on the right track. It's hard to stay focused on the right way if there's no one there that I can communicate with. Being gathered together with like believers can really help. Otherwise I find myself slipping sometimes.

Thanks again

Response #3: 

It's good to hear that you have found a group that has the right idea - that's a rarity these days. It is important to spend time with like-minded believers who are equally committed to Jesus Christ. The reason for Christian assembly is, as the context of Hebrews 10:24-25 makes clear:

(24) And let us give careful attention to one another['s ministries] as motivation for [our own] love and good works, (25) not abandoning your mutual assembling (as some have made it their practice to do [and which makes this impossible]), but rather encouraging each other [to persevere in this work of the Lord], and doing so to an ever greater degree to the extent that you see the day [of the Lord] drawing [ever] closer.         
Hebrews 10:24-25

The verb in the oft quoted verse 24, "[not] abandoning", is a participle, and the circumstantial construction thus links the idea of assembly intrinsically to what precedes in verse 24.  That is to say, assembly is not just for the sake of assembly.   It has a specific purpose which is spelled out in the same sentence, namely, assembly is for the purpose of mutual encouragement and for mutual edification through the gifts we have all been given (compare Hebrews 3:13: "Rather keep encouraging each other every day as long as we still call it 'today'").  In fact, Paul actually defines this encouragement elsewhere as coming through teaching the Word (1Tim.4:2; 4:13; Tit.1:9).  Proper assembly does helps us to stay on the right road and not get mired in the swamps on either side of it when 1) we are taught the right things, and 2) we see our fellow Christians doing the right things, that is, putting scripture first, loving it, learning it, living it, and helping others do likewise. From your description, it sounds like you have found just such a place (a rarity nowadays, as I say).  I praise God that you have been led to something good and encourage you to make the most of it.

Thanks also for your encouragement - my best to you and your family.  You may also benefit from the following links:

        Some Questions on Church Polity

        Church Polity

        Tent Making

        How important is education for a pastor?

        Pay the pastor

        How much should we pay the pastor?

        Pastoral Authority

        The Local Church

Yours in Him who ever meets all of our need in Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

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