Earlier in the same epistle that tells us to respect our pastor, Paul writes,
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe (1Th 2.13).
It’s worth noting, in the interest of precise hermeneutics, that this is not a command; it’s a description of a historical practice. But since Paul is clearly commending it, we as readers ought to take it as exemplary. Scholars would say that it’s “an indicative with imperative force.”
We ought to listen to what the pastor brings us from the Word, and we ought to hear it. We ought to recognize it as biblical truth, and because it is, we ought to receive it, accept it, and we ought to open ourselves up to let it do its work in us by the power of the Spirit.
Let me throw a little personal word in here. As a teacher, I face groups of “hearers” pretty much every workday. Every experienced speaker learns to read his audience—to recognize and respond to visual feedback. Every time I speak, I find my eyes moving from face to face and quickly identifying those who are telling me something by their expressions—eye contact, nodding, raising an eyebrow, all kinds of expressions. In every session I find myself going back to the half-dozen or so faces that are telling me things, ensuring that my message is getting across, that I’m not missing something. In that moment those people are my greatest asset.
When your pastor is speaking, talk back to him with your face. Look up from your phone, and look him in the eye. Sure, he won’t stare at you every minute, but his eyes will come back to you repeatedly. Let him know if you understand, or agree, or wonder what on earth he’s talking about. Communicate with him. He’ll be grateful.
And when you are informed, challenged, moved by what he says, show him that. Show him that he’s making a connection, a difference.
Pastors aren’t apostles. Their preaching isn’t inerrant, and it’s not authoritative. Think about what your pastor says; compare it with Scripture, as the Bereans did (Ac 17.11). If it doesn’t seem right, talk to him about it. Maybe you’re wrong; maybe he is; maybe you both are. But he’ll be invigorated by genuine, humble conversation.
This is thinking, not blind obedience. Thinking students make good teachers happy.
Some years ago my family and I were driving from Dallas to El Paso. West Texas is pretty boring, even with Van Horn out there in the middle. All was quiet, and to break the boredom, I said to my older daughter, who was about 6, I guess, “Well, how do you like the prairie? Does it remind you of Little House on the Prairie?”
She thought for a moment and asked, “Dad, was Little House in the Prairie in Texas?”
“I don’t think so, babe,” I said. “Maybe Kansas.”
“Well, it couldn’t have been in Kansas.”
I thought she sounded pretty sure of herself for a 6-year-old. “Why, babe?”
“Because it’s in color.”
That, my friends, is what Bloom’s taxonomy calls “synthesis”—taking unrelated pieces of information and putting them together in a new way. From Little House in the Prairie—the TV show—she knew it was in color, and from The Wizard of Oz—the movie—she knew that Kansas was in black and white. Ergo, QED.
In this case, her conclusion was factually correct, and her logic was completely valid. Those don’t necessarily coincide. Syllogisms will do that to you.
Boy, was I delighted that she was thinking. So delighted, in fact, that I almost drove right off the road.
Which, in West Texas, would have made no difference at all.
What do you think it does to the heart of your pastor, your teaching elder, when he sees you hearing, and thinking, and drawing conclusions? How do you think it affects his motivation when he knows that you’ll do that?