WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Too many pastors have forsaken the proper handling of the Word of God, which should be central to their ministries, Bill Curtis told students at a Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary chapel service.
Curtis, chairman of the North American Mission Board’s trustees, noted the popularity of televangelists whose preaching is anything but expositional or exegetical.
“If we’re to be careful handlers of the Word, we must let the Word speak,” Curtis said April 11 with 2 Timothy 2:14-26 as his text.
Like many others, Curtis said he grew up listening to ministers who preached their own agendas and interpretations rather than the whole counsel of the Gospel. Such occurrences did not stop there, he said.
“I would go so far as to say that even in our own Southern Baptist Convention, I marvel at the number of sermons that masquerade as biblical exposition,” Curtis, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Florence, S.C., told students.
A graduate of Southeastern, Curtis commended the institution’s commitment to expositional preaching, and he reminded students that learning must go beyond the classroom.
“It is essential that we not just talk about it, that we not just read about it, but that we actually become equipped to do it,” he said.
According to Curtis, three characteristics of a careful expositor are a commitment to biblical interpretation, a commitment to theological instruction and a commitment to moral integrity.
“It’s not enough to just have all the head knowledge about exposition, the principles of hermeneutics, the 12 essential skills,” Curtis said. “If we’re to be careful handlers of the Word of God, if we’re to be committed to authentic, biblical interpretation, we must exert the effort [and] invest the work to become knowledgeable of how to rightly handle the truth.
“And then we have to develop the expertise to use the skills correctly. And, friend, listen. If God has called you to ministry, that is His expectation for you,” Curtis said.
Because of the importance of theology in the church, Curtis said church members need to be taught theology but pastors must first study it themselves.
“As we handle the Word of God rightly, as we encounter the doctrines of the Word of God, it is incumbent upon us to teach them rightly,” he said. “And my concern — my fear in many ways — is that we, as ministers, as followers of Christ, have lost sight of how significant our own understanding of theology is to this task to which God has called us as elders.”
He compared the failure to rightly handle the Word of truth to the spread of gangrene.
“Our capacity to navigate the waters of theology is important because the poor handling of truth, the poor handling of theology, will allow truth literally to be eaten away by error,” Curtis said. “And so we have a tremendous need, to not only develop our own theological understanding, but the wisdom of how to teach in a way that will grow the body, preserve it from disunity and protect it from error.”
Curtis said a commitment to moral integrity is important because “it is the quality of our character that provides us with the capacity to teach rightly.” In order to preserve good character, a pastor must flee from wickedness and pursue righteousness, he said.
“Just as we are diligent to invest our lives in the careful handling of the Word so that we might instruct the people of God rightly, so too we are to pursue with great passion the righteousness of God,” Curtis said, urging students to pour themselves into their studies and make the careful handling of the Word of God the supreme goal of their ministries.