“Ultimately, orthodoxy requires that we move beyond the abstract of doctrine to implementation,” said national representative John Greening during the first general session of the 2017 conference. Greening’s message provided an apt introduction to the conference theme, “Best Church Practices.” “The church has an obligation to think about ‘best practices.’ I’m thinking about the likes of preaching and teaching, the ordinances, the occasional exercise of discipline. We’re thinking about governance and officers and evangelism and how best to engage the community.”
An emphasis on right practice (orthopraxy) has always been important to Baptists, Greening says. This is easily demonstrated by consulting the concluding paragraph of any conventional Baptist church covenant, which will typically read, “when we remove from this place, we will unite with another church of like faith and practice.” This emphasis upon orthopraxy is absolutely vital. It prevents a church’s orthodoxy from devolving into cold formalism.
Turning to 1 Timothy 4:11 – 16, Greening expounded on what is perhaps the most foundational of all church practices: the teaching of God’s Word. “Let’s think in terms of four essentials of pastoral instruction that, when practiced, will yield the best return on investment,” Greening said. Those four essentials are
- Teaching by example (1 Tim. 4:12)
- Teaching by precept (1 Tim. 4:13)
- Teaching by divine ability (1 Tim. 4:14), and
- Teaching by growing (1 Tim. 4:15).
Of course, these principles cannot be developed overnight. They must be carefully cultivated by means of intentional self-discipline and endless practice. “Practice makes perfect,” Greening explained. “Meditate on these things. Give yourself to them.”
“Remaining focused on the priority of pastoral instruction yields the best return on investment,” Greening concluded. “So preach the Word. Preach it by example. Preach it by precept. Preach it by divine ability and preach it by growing. Then you’ll benefit from it yourself, and you’ll benefit your congregation.”