It’s the impassioned plea of every pastor: “I just want my people to be like the noble Bereans.” We read the description of those noble believers in Acts 17:11, and we beseech the Lord to give us a congregation full of people who receive our messages with eagerness and search the Scriptures to make sure it’s true. It is a worthy prayer, to be sure. Still, in this post, I’d like to challenge you to accompany that prayer with taking faithful steps to cultivate a noble Berean mindset in your congregation.
Model it in the pulpit.
First, if we are to cultivate this mindset among those we lead, we must model it in our own lives—and in the pulpit. We must be men like Ezra, who are committed to studying the Word of God, obeying what it commands of us, and teaching it faithfully to God’s people (Ezra 7:10).
Now, before you offer a hearty “Amen,” let me invite you to examine your preparation and teaching. In this endeavor, do you act as a noble Berean? Do you do the hard work of making sure your sermons faithfully teach the text, instead of settling for proof-texting your chosen homiletic path? Do you study, diligently checking every commentary that you read against the Scripture, to see if it is true? Or do you simply take the words of your favorite preachers and commentators and repackage them as your own?
Friend, if we are to cultivate the noble Berean mindset in those we lead, we must first model it. We must cast of the excuses, the tendency for laziness, and ourselves make the effort to be like the Bereans.
Teach the basics.
Next, if we are to help our people become like the Berans—help them carefully, diligently search the Scriptures—we must teach them how to study the Scriptures.
I’m not advocating that you give up the Sunday morning sermon in place of a hermeneutics lesson; but we ought to make our resources, our church space, and ourselves available to teach our people the basics of hermeneutics. We must teach our people how to rightly observe, interpret, and apply the biblical text in there lives. Yes, we must model sound interpretation in the pulpit; we must also be prepared to train our people in the skill itself.
So, schedule a class. If you have a church book store, make sure it carries sound books on hermeneutics. If not, keep a few extra copies of such books in your office and loan them out freely. Make yourself available to answer questions, and as you do walk people down the road you walked to get to your interpretation, instead of just giving them the answer. Encourage your elders and ministry leaders to teach on the subject as well.
If we truly desire a people who faithfully search the Scripture—like the noble Bereans—we must be willing to put in the time and effort to show them how.
Humbly accept questions and criticism.
Lastly, if you we want our people to develop a noble Berean mindset, we must make sure we’re not in the way, that we’re not hindering them. As shepherds, if we’re not careful, we can easily discourage our people from searching the Scriptures.
If we’re prideful when our people come to us with questions—if we become needlessly defensive when someone asks how we came to our conclusion on a particular passage—our people are likely to become discouraged, and may give up the pursuit. Instead, we must be willing to accept questions and even criticism. We must humbly, faithfully, lovingly, GENTLY answer questions; and when we’re wrong, we must be willing to admit it and graciously thank the person who brought that error to our attention.
So again, I ask you to examine yourself. How do you handle those questions from your congregation? Do you give testy, short replies? Do you accept criticism humbly and respond gently and graciously? Make sure that your prayers and stated desire for your people to be noble Bereans is not betrayed by your actions. Make sure you’re encouraging this mindset in your people—in both word and deed.
It should be the desire of every Christian leader that our people would imitate the mindset and behavior of the Bereans in Acts 17:11—that they would receive the message with eagerness and search the Scriptures to see if it’s true.
Leaders ought to diligently pray for this in their people. We must also work faithfully and diligently to cultivate this mindset in our people; model it for them; teach them the basics; and affirm them by eagerly accepting their questions.
Finally, a few helpful resources on how to study the Scriptures:
Grasping God’s Word, J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays
Living by the Book, Howard Hendricks
How to Study the Bible, John MacArthur
Basic Bible Interpretation, Roy Zuck