How Not to Preach

By Bobby R. Holmes

There is growing pressure on preachers today, especial ly the younger ones, not to preach on certain subjects and even when you do, how not to preach on them (don’t be too aggressive, etc.). This pressure is the outgrowth of a desire to please men. There seems to be a greater concern for the feelings of men than for their souls that are lost and doomed to the punishment of hell. We live in a “wishy-washy” society that attempts to speak out of both sides of the mouth at the same time. This isn’t something new. Paul warned Timothy of the same things in the following: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching cars; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:3-5). It seems that people want enough religion to make them feel good about themselves but not enough to cause a deep conviction for their failings. After all, that would then demand repentance. Let us notice some ways not to preach.

1. We are seeing and hearing a cry for more and more of the “positive” preaching. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not against positive preaching. I do my share of it. What I have reference to is a constant diet of nothing but the kind of preaching that makes the hearer go away feeling good about himself with little or no conviction for sin that may be in his life. I am equally against a steady diet of “negative” preaching that does nothing but condemn. This would be a classical example of the pendulum of the clock swinging to the opposite extreme. Balanced preaching is seen in the following: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). Reprove, rebuke (negative); exhort (positive). Strong, faithful preaching is exhorted by Paul (2 Tim. 2:1-7). “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandman that laboreth must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say,- and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.”

2. Preaching should not be with a sectarian spirit. Webster defines “sectarian” as follows: “(2) devoted to, or prejudiced in favor of some sect . . . (1) originally, an apostate from an established church” (New World Dictionary, p. 1287). When men are devoted to preach and defend doctrines that are not taught in God’s precious Book, they are not preaching as they ought. It matters not whether it is in regard to the Divorce-Remarriage position that brother Homer Hailey has taken or whatever – it becomes a sectarian type of preaching that divides the body of Christ and one day it will be answered for before God’s Judgment bar. In this kind of preaching there is more loyalty to men than to the Christ who died for them and a greater desire to please men than to please the Creator of the universe. Inspiration warns against this in no uncertain terms. “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another” (1 Cor. 4:6). This kind of preaching sometimes has its beginning when men begin to measure themselves by themselves instead of the source of all spiritual knowledge, the word of the living God. Note 2 Corinthians 10:12 in reference to this. “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” There have been many who have started off as good, sound, dedicated and faithful preachers but fell prey to the devil. Let us all beware.

3. Another kind of preaching that ought not be done is the kind that suggests compromise. This is “first cousin” to the above. When men suggest that since there are several different views on the Divorce-Remarriage question we had just better “tread lightly” lest we teach something that is not found in Scripture, they are advocating compromise! When they state that since there are several views on Divorce-Remarriage we cannot be sure which is the “right one,” they are preaching compromise! There are several views on baptism (sprinkling, pouring, because of remission of sins, in order to the remission of sins, etc.). Can one be sure which is the “right one”? I believe we all know the answer to that one. In the same light we can know which is the “right one” regarding the Divorce-Remarriage question and the one that suggests otherwise is preaching compromise! “Intellectualism” regarding church history is being used as a cloak to cover up the Bible truth on the subject. Jesus stated the bottom line clearly in the following: “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, whosoever shallput away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:4-9). There are no “if’s”, “and’s” or “but’s” about it. Why not just be satisfied with what the Lord has said. After all he will have the last word in judgment – then what? It indeed is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

4. Another kind of preaching that “ought not so to be” is that of binding personal conscience on others. Churches (congregations) throughout the land are divided into splinters because of this foolishness. The list is almost endless. I realize that these things of personal conscience such as hats, women wearing slacks, etc. are matters of faith to the individual, but, they are not a matter of the faith! There is a difference. I, too, have personal beliefs about certain things, and some things that are done by some brethren do not “sit well” with me; but for me (and/or others) to preach these personal convictions as doctrine would be to preach as we ought not to preach. To divide the church for which Jesus shed his precious blood over matters of opinion will be dealt with by God. Many preaching brethren have made a “hobby” of preaching on these things that divide. They remind me of the Athenians that Luke spoke of. “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17:21). While they spend their time “wrangling” over foolish things there are millions of souls being swept into eternity by death and most without the blood of Christ. Lost! Lost! Many of these could possibly have been saved if wasted time and energy had been spent to reach them. These “contenders for the faith” that argue and fuss over things that have nothing to do with salvation are swallowed up in extreminism and radicalism. May our great God help all to lift up our eyes to the fields of harvest. “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest” (Jn. 4:35).

5. I feel compelled to mention one last thing though it may be covered by one of the other writers. I was talking to a young woman awhile back about sin in her life and she commented, “Don’t try to put me on a guilt trip.” Man doesn’t like to be told he is in sin and headed for hell! People that are lost need to be made aware of it! Preaching that does not convey that truth is not how preaching ought to be done. The people on Pentecost were told frankly that they had been party to murder! “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel arid foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:22-23). The result of this “guilt trip” was repentance by some 3000 as they demonstrated their faith in obedience. “Then they that gladly receive his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). The Jews to whom Stephen preached were put on a “guilt trip.” “When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54). Felix was put on a “guilt trip” as Paul preached the gospel of Christ to him. “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:24-25). The thing that was “common” in these examples and others was the gospel of Christ. When preached forcefully and without compromise it produces godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10). Doctors offices are filled with people looking for pills and other means of escaping the guilt of unruly and impenitent lives and they don’t want preaching that will demand godly sorrow and a changed life. Preaching that doesn’t “deliver men from the power of darkness and translate him into the kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Col. 1:13) is not the kind of preaching that God demands!

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 3, pp. 89-90
February 6, 1992