For several years, I have heard preachers talk about ‘Bible preaching’ in contrast to ‘preaching that tickles the ears of the listeners’. This latter expression comes from the following Bible verses:
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 ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (II Timothy 4:3-4)
I was pondering this recently, and have concluded that these two types mentioned leave out an important consideration.
Bible preaching is preaching what the Scripture says; not changing the message because of who is/may be listening. (There are many things it is not; however, far better writers that I have discussed this issue, and it is not the point of this entry).
The contrast are the so-called preachers who do pay attention to who is in the audience.
One result of this kind of preaching is the ear-tickling type already discussed; this type of preacher doesn’t want to offend people in the audience, avoids controversies, and gives warnings in generalities.
The other kind of preaching is the one that is often overlooked: it is the preacher who usurps the role of the Holy Spirit. This kind of preacher believes (as evidenced by his actions) that it is his job to bring conviction and cause change in the members’ lives. He may say that they are God’s people, but he really considers them ‘his’ people to mold as he sees fit. His ‘preaching’ is aimed at getting people to change (instead of teaching what the Scripture says and allowing the Holy Spirit to make changes). This type of preaching is often described (humorously, but perhaps with a semblance of truth) as stomps on my/your toes or rips my/your face off. These expressions have no basis in Scripture and do not fit the biblical exhortation of feeding the flock of God. (I Peter 5). They are indicative of someone who is trying to manipulate the audience. It may be more exciting or satisfying to act this way, and it may be easier and quicker than putting in the time to really study the Scriptures, but it rarely produces strong Christians.
It is the preacher’s job to ‘preach the word’; the results need to be left to God. Do we believe this? Can we really leave the results up to God?
When I re-read the above, I thought that it may be thought that I am advocating that a pastor never pays attention to what is going on with people in his church. A friend also pointed out the same thing, so I decided to add the paragraph below.
Having written this, a wise pastor is not oblivious as to what is going in the lives of the people that God has placed in the church. Preaching to meet needs is certainly valid; the main point of this article is that it is not the preacher’s job to ‘mold’ people by manipulating them.