By Sewell Hall

A man who accepts the task of preaching the Gospel accepts a dreadful responsibility. “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1). Application of these words may not be limited to what we commonly term local preachers, but they apply in a special way to such men. The longer a man remains with a church, doing such work, the more responsible he becomes for the convictions and faithfulness of the members.

Brother, why do you preach? Is it a profession for you, simply a way of making a living? Is it a career that you wish to enhance by building up a large congregation? It is an opportunity to exercise your artistic talents by producing a masterpiece of words each week? Is it the pride of having people praise your preaching for years without tiring of it? Preaching for these reasons may build reputations or even larger congregations but it will no produce godly, well-informed, and indoctrinated Christians. Preaching that is God approved is not for the advancement of the preacher but for the salvation and edification of the hearers. Let us note three examples of dangerous preaching:

Preaching What Is False: — The Old Testament is filled with warnings. Remember the “man of God” who died because he believed a false prophet’s lie (1 Kings 13)? Jesus warned: “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matt. 7:15). Peter echoed these words, predicting:  “...there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies...” (2 Pet. 2:1).

The danger of false teaching is recognized by most of us. But teaching does not have to be false to be dangerous. We have seen how the media can distort the news by reporting only selected facts. Those facts may be true but if they do not give the whole picture, false impressions are left. A mother may not feed her child poison, but if she does not give it the balanced diet it needs she may contribute to its sickness or even death.

Preaching That Is Limited To Attacks On Worldliness And Error: –  Such can kill a church. Recently, someone reported to me their periodic visits to a very small congregation of older Christians, and observed that every time they visited, the preacher was warning about some kind of apostasy that really does not threaten those faithful veterans. All Christians, young and old, need encouragement. The Gospel is Good News; the promises it makes and the hope it gives should be often stressed.

The same passage (2 Tim. 4:2) that calls upon evangelists to convince and rebuke also instructs them to exhort. Exhortation involves appeal, entreaty, encouragement, consolation and comfort (Vines). “Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thess. 5:14).

On The Other Hand: — Great preaching has always come from the heart of one who was passionate about the needs of his hearers and  confident that God’s Word is the solution to their needs. One of the temptations involved in preaching to the same congregation each Sunday is the feeling that one must come up with something that is either new, or a novel presentation of what is old. The needs of the hearers may be forgotten.

One may use Scripture — even limit himself to expository preaching — yet not deal with current needs of his audience.

Jeremiah rebuked the sins of his generation and warned them of future consequences until he was tempted to keep silent. “But His Word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones. And I was weary of holding it back, and I could not” (Jer. 20:9). Someone has said: “That there are three kinds of preachers. The first has to say something … He is a paid talker who has to fill a certain amount of time each week. The second has something to say, and that is a whole lot better. But the best of all is the third — the man who has something to say AND HAS TO SAY IT. That is the kind of preacher Jeremiah was” (L.A. Mott in Thinking Through Jeremiah).

Each of us who preach should ask: “What is the burning fire in my bones that  I cannot hold back?” If we do not have such a burning fire, or if it is something other than “what is good for edification, that  it may impart grace to the hearer” (Eph. 4:29) then we had best quit preaching.


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