Seeking Applause or Application

Tuesday is for Preaching

I remember reading in a book on the early preachers of the church that the great preacher John Chrysostom (a posthumous name given to him, meaning John the Golden Tongued) would regularly finish his sermons to great applause for his eloquence, power, and wisdom.

At some point, John began to be irritated by the applause. He discerned a grave problem in the noise and appreciation of his congregation.

“Stop your applause. It is not your applause I seek, but your application. You think when you have appreciated you have applied.”

Chrysostom was speaking in Latin and I suspect that the sentence sounded very much like how it is translated. I was thinking about the quote and how tempting it is for modern preachers to seek applause and appreciative crowds rather than the holiness of their people.

Make sure you preach for an Audience of ONE–that One who will one day judge every idle word you spoke.

2 thoughts on “Seeking Applause or Application

  1. Thanks for posting this, Marty. This is a significant temptation, indeed!

    This reminds me of the time I heard Alistair Begg at an SBC evangelism conference in Ohio. As he was preaching, about 1,000 Ohio Southern Baptists started applauding as he was contrasting OT priests with Christ the Great High Priest (in Hebrews 10). Begg said, “Put your hands in your pockets!” Many laughed, so Begg then said something like, “I don’t think you understand how serious I am. Clap with an obedient heart!” The auditorium got very quiet. The tension was amazingly thick. A couple of weeks later, the state paper of SBCers in Ohio came out and highlighted all of the messages that had been preached at that conference by the various speakers. The title for the report on Begg was something like this: “Begg Silences Crowd!”

    I have thought quite a bit about what Begg said since that day, and I actually think Alistair got it mostly wrong. It’s true, we should “clap with an obedient heart,” but the crowd was not clapping for him. It was a spontaneous response to a superb explanation of the glory of Christ. I went to Begg’s pastor’s conference in May of that year (after the showdown with the SBCers), and he actually made fun of himself regarding what happened there, so I think he felt like he might have crossed the line.

    Well, I don’t anticipate clapping anytime soon either during or at the end of my messages, so I’m at least not going to have to deal with that! 🙂

    Thanks again, brother.

    In Christ,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you Marty – I wish you a blessed 2011 and warm wishes from warm Jamaica. I appreciate Steve’s comments on this issue also. There is a thin line between the “apparent” and the “true”: sometimes it’s difficult (especially in these post-modern times) to have a consistent way of interpreting people’s actions. Jesus had the advantage of being able to see into hearts, so his judgment was always right (whether good or bad). Do we have the same ability? Nope. The blog to me (more than anything else) is a call for us to self-evaluation – I can only truly scrutinize my heart. I love the topics Marty – keep them coming 🙂


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