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Why Is the Church Sterile?

Devotional Thought of the Day

28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowd was amazed at the way he taught. 29 He wasn’t like the teachers of the Law; instead, he taught with authority. Matthew 7:28-29 (TEV)

I would have been glad to see my books remain altogether in obscurity and sink into oblivion, because, among other reasons, I shudder at the example I am setting. I can well see what use it has been for the church to collect numerous books and large libraries in addition to and besides the holy scripture and indiscriminately store all sorts of writings, especially of the church fathers, councils, and teachers. Through that practice not only is precious time for studying scripture wasted, but the pure knowledge of God’s word is forever lost as well, until (as happened in the Book of Deuteronomy in the time of the kings of Judah) the Bible is left forgotten in the dust under a bench (2 Kgs 22:8). …

What we also had in mind, when we began translating the Bible itself into German, was the hope that writing would decrease and the studying and reading of the scripture would increase. For all other writing should lead into and point toward the scripture, just as John [the Baptist] pointed to Christ, saying, “I must decrease, Christ must increase” (John 3:30), so that each one might drink for himself or herself from the fresh source, as all the fathers had to do if they wanted their work to be done well.

927         Be convinced of this: your apostolate consists in spreading goodness, light, enthusiasm, generosity, a spirit of sacrifice, constancy in work, deep study, complete self-surrender, being up-to-date, cheerful and complete obedience to the Church, and perfect charity. Nobody can give what he does not have.

I have a lot of books, nearly 3/4 of my office is lined with bookshelves, and some of those shelves are double stacked. I have another large collection and home, and my LOGOS, Wordsearch and Kindle libraries double again my collection.

Some of those books have been quite influential in my life and ministry. Writers like Luther, St Josemaria Escriva Walther, Willimon, John Stott, Martin Lloyd Jones, Tony Campolo, Bob Logan, Paul Borden, Robert Schuler, Michael Card and Fulton Sheen have left their mark (Along with novelists like Alexander Kent, Frank Perretti, and WEB Griffin)

I’ve quoted such people in sermons before, even though many people don’t know who they are.

As I read Luther’s words this morning, I suddenly felt guilty, convicted of the very thing that Luther warned about. Have I allowed these men, even as they are men who have guided and led people closer to Christ, to have more influence on me that scripture itself?

Do I read them more often than I read scripture, are they more impactful on my spiritual formation than the scripture is, itself? While I have my issues with each of them, it is certainly possible that I rely on, that I am dependent on their works more than the source from which we all (prayerfully) receive our revelation of God’s love.

It was said that Jesus taught differently from the rabbis of his day, That He taught with authority, as someone with first-hand experience, first-hand knowledge of what he spoke. It is my assertion that this is true because He spoke directly for God. This is different than those of his day, he spoke of someone else’s opinion, a 3rd or 4th hand account of what someone saw in the scriptures.

Am I saying these other works are of no use, of no benefit? No, but I do believe that they must be secondary in our lives, and scripture first. We need to be able to speak with God’s authority into the lives of people as broken as we are, pointing them to the hope we have.

But when we rely on these works primarily, we aren’t receiving the gospel directly, the seed isn’t being planted, and we turn into unfertile, sterile ground. We need to give our people more, which means we need to hear this hope that God gives us, we need to hear that God loves us.

Hope found directly in scriptures, revealed by the Holy Spirit in the words recorded to benefit us, to reveal to us the heart of God, and what He does for His people. I need to learn to revel in His revelation as the writer of Psalm 119 did and pass that along, helping people look to Jesus, the author and One who completes their faith.

Then the church will be more alive, feeding from the source, growing from the gospel planted in them.

Heavenly Father and dearest Lord Jesus, thank you for the men whose lives and writings have impacted our lives, even so, Lord, help us desire to spend more time in Your word, and point our people to that word, that they may be refreshed, that they may know of Your love, and grace. As we spend this time in your word, help us see the revival you bring in your church. AMEN!


Luther, M. (2007). Luther’s Spirituality. (P. D. W. Krey, B. McGinn, & P. D. S. Krey, Eds., P. D. S. Krey & P. D. W. Krey, Trans.) (p. 120). New York; Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Escriva, Josemaria. Furrow (Kindle Locations 3768-3771). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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