Teach for Change, Not for Learning

by Ivan Veldhuizen, Executive Director of International Ministries
Ivan Veldhuizen

In my last week as pastor of Edinbrook Church (now over four years ago), I reflected on my journey as their pastor over a period of 16 years. I share this truth with you because I’ve been reminded how significant it is.

It took me a while to fully embrace this truth, teach for change, not for learning. But when I did, God unleashed a wild and wonderful transformation in our church… and in me.

One of my primary spiritual pathways is learning. I find and experience God by discovering new things about him and his ways. As wonderful as this is for me, I had to get past this in order to preach and teach for change, not just for learning.

When I came to Edinbrook, I had messages filled with information, details and fresh insights. Through the years, long before I came to Edinbrook, people thanked me for all they learned through my teaching. This was intoxicating. But as wonderful as this sounds, it’s not what’s most important for the church at large. We need to catch a few really important things and live them out with complete obedience to Christ. We need to be changed.

The struggle to get to this at Edinbrook was one of the most exhilarating and painful experiences of my pastorate. Most evangelical church-goers rate the quality of the sermon by how much they learn. Erroneously, learning has been equated with spiritual growth. So when I began to teach less content and admonish our people to act upon several recurring themes, I was regularly assaulted for my liberal and ungodly leadership–for being soft on the Word and allowing the “sheep” to suffer malnutrition. At one point, a few vocal and disgruntled folk began an undercurrent that disillusioned many of our people. “I wasn’t being biblical,” was the objection. I was trying to become like the world way too much.

It was in this season that I found myself unsure of anything I preached. There were people literally taking notes in order to condemn me for various words or phrases I used in each message. It became so difficult that I was afraid to even get up front of our congregation for a while. I began to preach with a tense and angry edge. I was unconsciously trying to prove my convictions while preaching and teaching to the church at large. It was extremely painful for me, and absolutely essential. It forced me to seek the Lord with my whole heart–to see what he wanted me to do–and to live for his affirmation and no one else’s. This was powerfully transforming for me and for Edinbrook. When I got this figured out, I saw our church change dramatically. God’s Holy Spirit was giddy with the opportunity to do his work in our lives. Every week.

Right after this breakthrough is when I developed and preached my best sermons: “Quake,” “Morph,” “Lionhearted” and “Setting the Captives Free.” I was teaching and preaching for change, not just to get information into people’s heads.

James 4:16-17 states, “But as it is, you boast in your arrogance [all of the stuff you know]; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

This passage, as well as many others in Scripture, implores us to live the gospel, not just know it. Evangelicals, by and large, have unwittingly adopted an intellectual faith rather than a radical, sacrificial, life-transforming, action-oriented faith. Only the latter motif honors God and accomplished what Jesus told us to do while he is away. The intellectual motif, on the other hand, sides closely with the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. It may look good to those within the system, but it has little if any positive impact on the world around us.

When I began to teach for change rather than for learning, we began to become an Acts 2 type of church. Lives were transformed weekly, lost people found Jesus by the hundreds and God had a great big smile on his face.

Hear Ivan Veldhuizen speak next week at Converge 2016.

    Point - September 2018

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