By Stan Adams
Paul told Timothy to “preach the word, be urgent in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine” (1 Tim. 4: 1-3). As a gospel preacher and the son of a gospel preacher, I am well aware that gospel preachers will all have a style that is unique to them. All of us are individuals, and as such, have individual approaches. The prophets of old were chosen by God and they had varying personalities and dispositions. All of them were useful in the carrying out of God’s plan. In the Old Testament it is notable that there was an Elijah, who stood firmly and through inspiration withstood the false prophets of Baal. He used sarcasm and ridicule to show the contempt that God has for those who pretend there is another God. He is a favorite of mine. But I also realize that there were other prophets of old who were effective but not with the same brash demeanor. We understand that Jeremiah was more tender-hearted and spoke with a tenderness that even when read now, brings out our emotions.
We can also read in the New Testament and see that Jesus (the master teacher), dealt with folks in a tender manner when he delivered the Sermon on the Mount, but also showed courage in driving the money changers out of the Temple and pronouncing the woes on the Pharisees. For every Peter there was a corresponding Andrew, and for every Paul there was a corresponding Barnabas. Each of these men was useful in the plan of God for his kingdom and the salvation of mankind. One thing they all had in common was their devotion to the right ways of God. None of them was a compromiser. Though having different styles, they stood firmly for what was right, and also stood confidently against what was wrong. We need the same attitudes today.
I was talking with one of our elders, Sherrel Mercer, about our mutual concerns about the tone of some preachers and lessons today, and he commented: “It seems some are preaching with erasers and some are preaching with markers (chalk).” I told him then how much I appreciated his comment and how it expressed the concerns of so many today.
It is sad that many older preachers today are like the old prophet of 1 Kings. He had grown tired of the struggle and grown comfortable. He lied and cost a young prophet his life. It took this to bring him back to the reality of what his job really was. Why did the young prophet have to go? Why wasn’t the old prophet doing his job? It is evident that the young prophet had courage in delivering his message and that the old prophet admired him for doing so. God sent this young prophet and told him exactly how to act. He originally had a determination to obey, but grew weak and followed the unwise order of the older prophet. This young prophet should have been able to look up to the old prophet, but this was not the case. I am sad to say that many who I used to look up to have grown to be a disappointment and discouragement to me as a preacher. This is true both of younger and older preachers and brethren.
Let me illustrate, plainly, what I am saying. Many are preaching with erasers when they preach that it is all right to take one drink. This ignores the marked line God drew in 1 Peter 4:3. We must preach with God’s marker and not erase the line that God has drawn. It is eraser preaching when one teaches that the Old Testament examples can- not be used as principles to help us understand the New Testament and bring us unto Christ (Gal. 3:15). It is eraser preaching when one preaches that we must tolerate those in error and openly fellowship those who are doctrinally wrong (2 John 9, 10). Many engage in eraser preaching when they teach that there is no way for us to know what is modest and what is not. This violates the lines drawn by God when he told us to avoid the appearance of evil and to dress in modest apparel. Modesty has been a principle for godly people since the beginning. God made adequate clothing for Adam and Eve. Their excuse for clothes, did not pass God’s standards, so he made modest apparel for them. It is eraser preaching when one teaches that Matthew 19:9 and 5:32 do not mean what they say. It is also eraser preaching when men wish to throw every doctrinal issue into the realm of Romans 14 ( which deals with individual choices authorized by God).
Several years ago, a gospel preacher stated: “There are too many sermonettes being preached by preacherettes that are contributing to a rise in Christianettes.” Brethren, as one other preacher said, “We are drifting.” It is not uncommon to hear “speeches” today that are supposed to pass for sermons, which have one or two short passages, but are mostly punctuated by amusing or heart wrenching illustrations. It makes for “easy listening,” but we are not to be “FM Christians.” We are to insist on preaching that “storms the will.” Gospel preaching is designed to save people from sin, not in sin. Any preaching that seeks to “stroke the people” and scratch ears, is not gospel preaching and should not be tolerated. Many preachers have become little more than glorified PR directors, and have ignored personal study. Perhaps, some have stooped to allowing the extent of their sermon preparation to be a brief trip to the Internet on Saturday night, to copy someone’s chart and sermon.
If a preacher is not going to preach the “old paths,” he should find something else to do. If we as preachers are more interested in our “employment portfolio” than we are in saving souls and defending the Truth, we should repent or quit. If we take exception to having what we say in public reviewed in public, we need to examine our concept of what preaching is all about. When one stands in public and preaches or when one writes what he believes to be the truth, he should realize that 1 Peter 3:15 is as true for him as it is for any Christian. We are accountable for what we preach. Let’s not let our egos get in the way of our acceptance of honorable examination and debate.
Brethren need to rise up across this land and let the message go out clearly to every gospel preacher, that God has drawn lines. We want to know what those lines are. Elders should back up those who preach with the markers of God and should not tolerate unabashed disobedience.
One older Christian asked me recently, what had changed in the church. I know that many things have brought about apathy among brethren, but my feeling is that much of the apathy and worldliness among brethren is the result of too many preachers failing to stand up and draw the line exactly where God drew it. God knows how to draw lines, and he is clear when he tells us we can understand what his will is. God expects his servants to know how to fight. In Ephesians 6 he tells us what armor to put on. Speaking the truth in love does not mean compromising and coddling error. Jesus loved the Pharisees. One place he shows us that love is in Matthew 23, when he pronounces woes on them. Paul loved the brethren at Corinth — Read 1 Corinthians 5.
Preacher, ask yourself whether your type of preaching helps one to be stronger or encourages weakness. If you are an “eraser preacher” repent, and go back to the old paths. If you are a preacher who punctuates each lesson with the “marker of the Lord” (Scripture), keep up the good work and do not bend to the will of weak and worldly leaders and brethren. Read 1 and 2 Timothy at least every week, and preach the gospel. Leave the entertaining to those who do that for a living. As a gospel preacher remember you are not a “circus monkey” who is around to collect the money and keep everyone laughing. PREACH THE WORD, BROTHER!