I was listening to Fred McCoy this morning and he mentioned that Jesus was a Nazarene, adding that he was not a Nazarite and getting one or two half laughs. I have something of a history with getting those two mixed up so it probably meant more to me than anyone else present.
Students at Oneida Baptist Institute have chapel services 5 days a week Monday through Friday and twice on Sunday. At any given time there are half a dozen or so men working on campus, as teachers or other support staff, that are also lay preachers or perhaps pastor small congregations. I was on the regular chapel preaching rotation at the age of 28 or 29, early in our missionary journey. I knew that Jesus identified with Nazareth but one weekday morning during a 30 minute chapel service couldn’t recall if that made him a Nazarene or a Nazarite. I figured that I had a 50/50 chance and also that out of 300 or so middle and high school students probably half of them were not even listening. I could have said that Jesus came from Narnia and those students wouldn’t have batted an eye. Of those that were awake and looking in my direction, how many could define Nazarene vs. Nazarite and would know the difference if I said it wrong? I chose wrong but said it with confidence. If you sound sure of what you’re saying in many cases no one will question it.
There may have been some adults not paying enough attention to catch it; teachers were responsible for monitoring student behavior during chapel and sometimes did not have the opportunity to engage fully in the worship service. There may have been some adults as well that didn’t know the difference. But as I mentioned earlier, there were always a few preachers, pastors, Bible teachers, men and women with Bible college degrees, etc. in the audience. Bill Genet was a kind individual with enough respect to pay careful attention to whoever was in the pulpit. He also had a lifetime of experience studying the scriptures and teaching students and adults the Bible. He didn’t call me out in a public fashion but did, in a very gentle and polite manner as was his custom, point out following the chapel service the difference between a Nazarene and a Nazarite. I admitted that I knew it was one or the other and took a shot.
It’s often not what you say but how you say it. If you say something with confidence many will not question, at least publicly, what you are saying especially if the subject matter is just outside of their wheelhouse. That could have a serious impact on the spiritual and theological health of a congregation if a preacher or pastor speaks with confidence but fails to rightly divide the Word of Truth. I often tell congregations, students, blog readers (lol) not to take my word for anything that I claim is scripture. You should be able to find and verify biblical truth based on the references a preacher or Bible teacher gives. Never settle for “the Bible says” especially if it doesn’t sound familiar. Preachers – Sunday School and Bible teachers, small group and discipleship leaders – don’t lean on the Bible says as a crutch. If you can’t give book, chapter and verse references at least refer to the book of the Bible or writer and be willing to look those references up if asked. If you have no idea a quick Google search or Bible app should be helpful and if you can’t find any reference… maybe don’t say that. The Bible says being faithful to the Word when leading others should not be taken lightly. More precisely, the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15