By H.E. Phillips
The attitudes of preachers have gone far in destroying the effectiveness of gospel preaching. If any group should understand and appreciate the story of the cross it should be those men who devote their lives to the proclamation of the gospel of Christ. But it is sad to note that many of these men have departed from the simple gospel and no longer contend for the faith once delivered.
I call your attention to a few among preachers’ attitudes which have developed to hinder the progress of the Lord’s work.
1. The modern preacher has come to judge that only the “educated” can preach. I am not against secular education. I believe it is helpful in any work, but to say that only the “educated” can preach is a serious mistake. Some of the most effective and greatest preachers of the gospel had little more than an 8th grade education. No, they were not great in the wisdom of the world, but they knew what God’s word said.
Many are the congregations who will not allow one to preach who does not have a college education with at least two degrees. In this their only desire is to have an educated man to compete with the denominational world. Brethren, the gospel is enough. The gospel is powerful enough to silence any denominational preacher. One is a gospel preacher if he preaches the gospel of Christ, whether he has a “LL.D”, “D.D.” or “Ph.D.” or not.
2. The attitude of “big” and “little” preachers is a great hindrance to the cause of Christ. Never was such an idea further from the spirit of Christ than this one. There are a few preachers among us who have classed themselves as “big” preachers. The common is far below him in every respect. The picture of these “big” preachers is given in Luke 18:9-14 in the Pharisee who thought of himself so far above the humble publican. Every gospel preacher should follow Paul and count everything as loss (even “bigness”) that he may gain Christ. When any preacher, I care not how much ability he has, grows in his own estimation to be above others, he immediately loses his power as a gospel preacher.
3. A few preachers have the attitude toward the gospel that if they can originate some new thing in the church they become a leader of men and great in the sight of God. As someone has said: “Anything new is not true, and anything true is not new,” as applied to the gospel of Christ. A safe and sound gospel preacher is one who preaches just what the apostles preached by the power of the Spirit of God. Many departures from the truth originated in some preacher’s desire to become known among the brethren. A few clamorous preachers have succeeded in leading a few brethren into digression, but the truth is against them and they shall fall.
4. The attitude of some preachers is to please the congregation at all cost. They have a “job” and must keep it. Paul told of those to come who would not continue in sound doctrine, but would heap to themselves teachers to tickle their ears and soothe them in their sin. If the sin of adultery exists in a church the preacher must not preach against that. And so on it goes through the whole catalogue of sin.
It is rather amusing, but sad, to go many places and find the local preacher tactfully informing you certain things not to preach on. You can be sure that is the thing to preach on, for that congregation certainly needs it. A preacher who will sell out to a group of sinners for a salary is no better than Judas who sold the Lord into the hands of the enemy.
Brethren, the masses love the truth. I speak of the church. You may gain temporary favor of a few people in sin by such preaching, but you lose the favor of God. That is a bad deal. The truth is all that will save. Preach it in season and out of season, without fear or favor. If a church is in sin and asleep spiritually, do not hesitate for one moment to cry aloud against such sin. If you, as a preacher, are driven from the church, shake the dust from your feet and go on to other places with the same gospel truth. You will be assured that you love praise of God more than praise of man. We dare not “sugar-coat” or “soft-pedal” the power of God to save. Expose error wherever you find it, whether in the church or out. Do not be blinded by the love and praise of the spiritually dead.
5. Another attitude of many preachers is that of compromise. The “union” loving preachers, willing to concede a principle of truth to gain popularity, are very dangerous. There is not a possibility of the least bit of compromise with God’s truth. Christ prayed for unity among brethren upon the authority of his word. No other standard will do.
Recently in this column there appeared an article entitled “‘That They All Might Be One.” I received two or three letters referring to different parts of the article, calling in question “Premillennialism” and the “Word of God as the basis of unity.” It was suggested in one of these letters that a compromise with “antis,” “Premillennialists,” “instrument users” (Musical instruments), etc., could be effected by each giving a little and allowing each to believe and practice what he believes the Bible to teach. No preacher ought to have the audacity to sell a principle of truth to gain the favor of those in error. The Bible doesn’t teach a series of doctrines differing one from the other. It teaches just one doctrine – the doctrine of Christ. Where two differing doctrines are taught, one is necessarily wrong. To close our eyes to this and cry for a compromise is both cowardly and dangerous to our soul’s salvation. Do not yield a scriptural principle in compromise to obtain popularity and favor of men.
6. The last attitude I mention in this study is that of many preachers, especially young men, who are looking for a “soft job.” When someone tells you gospel preaching is easy you can mark it down that person doesn’t know what gospel preaching is. It is one of the hardest and most continuous works one can find. There is nothing easy about real gospel preaching.
This is the general idea of most church members. All a preacher has to do is preach no more than two 20 or 30 minute sermons on Sunday, teach a 30-minute class on Wednesday night, and “call on” a few of the members during the week. The rest of the time he has for pleasure and entertainment. Far too many preachers follow out this idea at many churches. They sleep until about noon every day, make a few “pastoral calls,” play golf or go fishing in the afternoon, attend a movie or some social party in the evening, and his day is finished. On Saturday he opens a “canned sermon” and is ready for Sunday. This is about as near gospel preaching as any denominational preacher gets.
A gospel preacher has about 12 to 18 hours each day, seven days a week, every week in the year, to work. Several hours each day should be spent in Bible study and prayer. Each sermon should be filled with convincing truth. Daily preaching and teaching should be done. Every opportunity, every available source should be used to tell the story of Christ.
When the attitude of the church as well as the preacher turns to the desire to save men and women from the awful suffering that is sure to come from a sinful and neglectful life, then the church will grow as in the days of the apostles. Let the elders, preachers and Christians demand an uncompromising, plain, simple, righteousness and forceful gospel without fear or favor. Then and only then will we invoke the blessings of Almighty God.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 20, pp. 611-612
October 19, 1989