"What concerns me about the church is the lack of confidence in the Bible."

Nigel Pollock, the keynote speaker for next year's Regional Conference, made this observation when discussing the conference topic: How do we increase our engagement with Scripture? Behind the comment are Nigel's personal convictions about Scripture:

"I strongly believe that the Bible is relevant to the whole of life. In fact, I think Scripture is foundational to who we are and what we're called to be in the world. Should we increase our engagement with Scripture? Actually, I think that understanding and applying scripture is the core task of pastoral leadership."
From talking to pastors throughout the country, Nigel firmly believes that one of the root causes is the competing priorities in different models of church leadership.

"I remember talking to a pastor about the possibility that preaching was no longer a priority among the churches. He said 'What do you mean? Preaching is a top priority for me. It's definitely in my top 10, probably number seven on my list.'

"Number seven on his list? I thought, what six things has he placed ahead of explaining and applying God's Word to God's people? So I said to him, 'What would you say of a restaurant where food was number seven in their list of priorities?'

"That's how important I think the words of God are. They are to church leadership what food is to the restaurant. But if pastors think less of the Bible, it will undoubtedly show in the quality of their preaching."

Which begs the question: If God's children are not hearing great preaching on a regular basis, what effect is that having in their lives?

"Subconsciously, congregations are taking their cues from the pulpit. If the preaching is insipid and grey or if it's merely a series of shallow sound bites designed to entertain, people will come to expect very little from reading their Bibles, if they read them at all."

Nigel's other concern is how such preaching encourages a fast-food approach to Bible reading where believers expect quick fixes in exchange for little effort.

"If we preach to entertain, demanding very little from listeners, we kill the capacity to work and to genuinely seek God. And encountering God is the reward for that work. Ironically, in our efforts to make things simple and easier, we're actually making it more complicated and harder for people to connect with God through His Word.

The downsides are not just felt inside the walls of the church. A poor biblical diet will manifest, unavoidably, in the world outside.

Engaging with Scripture is essential for evangelism in the 21st century and for making disciples. If believers are scripturally malnourished, if we're not relating to God through His Word, we won't be able to help others encounter Him either.

Ask any elite athlete; they understand the connection between internal health and their performance on the field. As a coach of representative hockey, I work with athletes who take their nutrition and hydration very seriously. They know that what you do off the pitch has a direct bearing to what you can do on the pitch.

Spiritual life is no different. You can't take easy short cuts and expect to make an impact in the world."

The good news is, the trend can be reversed.

"God is gracious and continues to advance His kingdom. He keeps His promises. His power is at work in us and through us. We can grow our confidence in God's Word. We can make rich, biblical preaching a priority in our churches. We can, as Paul says, discipline our bodies like an athlete, training it to do what it should. And we can learn to engage with Scripture so that 'the Word of God dwells in us richly.'"

That's where Nigel will be leading us next year.

"For more than a century, 'truth through personality' has been a common understanding of what preaching involves - and Nigel Pollock provides an uncommon illustration of it. His ability with the truth of God's Word as a clear and faithful teacher is hitched to a warm, vibrant and humble manner that enables people to hear God speaking to them - even through the Scottish accent! "


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