21st Century Preaching: Cowards Need Not Apply

Tuesday is for Preaching

I have met too many of what I call “survivors”—pastors who survive in small or large places by only telling pleasantries, jokes, and sentimental soppy stories (the preaching equivalent of kitty cat pictures and movie shorts on wimp.com). These men seem to have read or imbibed from the culture around them the philosophy of Dale Carnegie and his How to Win Friends and Influence People.  They have reduced the whole of their job to trying to “Dale Carnegie the ministry.”

dale-carnegieThey keep their mouths shut about the controversies around them; they never speak or preach about the difficult things in the culture; they have made being pleasant and “harmless” an art form.

They are cowards.

Concerned more about their paycheck or their position they systematically avoid ruffling feathers while they smile pleasantly and lead no one away from hell and certainly no one toward the cross. Challenge, exhortation, call to repentance, confession of sin, brokenness before a Holy God are simply absent from their preaching. God is on their lips but nowhere else.

God save me and all church planters and pastors from such drivel. The world needs the word of the living God, unadulterated, uncompromised, and undiluted. It needs men who are more afraid of one day standing before a Holy God to give an account of their lives than they are of standing before men today. The world needs men like Jeremiah.

The following is from Kairos Journal.

Cowards Need Not Apply

But you, dress yourself for work, arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.

Jeremiah 1:17 (ESV)

As intimidating as his listeners may be, the pastor must beware lest he jump from the frying pan of their opposition into the fire of God’s humiliation. When a preacher seeks peace with man, he can find himself at war with God.

. . . Jeremiah’s initial reaction to God’s call was cowardly. Protesting that he was only a youth, Jeremiah tried, like Moses, to decline his divine commission (1:6). Yahweh gave him a devastating message, and as a respected member of the priestly clan (1:1), Jeremiah must have shuddered at the thought of telling his countrymen and fellow priests that everything they cherished—the nation of Israel, the city of Jerusalem, even the temple of Yahweh itself—was about to be judged and destroyed.

In spite of the young man’s fears, God pressed His demand—“Dress yourself for work” (the modern rendering of “Gird up your loins,” the practice of tying up one’s long, flowing robes to free the legs for swift, decisive action.) The life of priestly ease was over; Jeremiah was now a prophet of God with one mandate: “Say to them everything that I command you” (v. 17b).

Jeremiah had every reason to be afraid; all the great men of Israel would stand against him (vv. 18-19). God commanded him, “Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them.” The Hebrew word “dismayed” (hatat) also means “broken” or “cracked.” If Jeremiah abandoned his confidence in the Lord and cowered before men, then God would break him.

The Old Testament office of prophet found its highest expression in Christ, who Himself empowers pastors for the prophetic task of proclaiming God’s Word to His people. He gives them Jeremiah’s charge: “Tell them everything I command you.” Paul would later say it no less solemnly: “Preach the Word,” not merely the parts of it men will hear without offense, but “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

The faithful pastor will offend—not out of any love for controversy, but because preaching Christ crucified is an offense (1 Cor. 1:23 and 1 Pet. 2:8). Yet how many pastors are determined to avoid “controversial issues?” How many have measured their success by how few people they have offended with their preaching, as if it were a virtue to be more conciliatory than Jesus? Pastors who ignore biblical truth on “controversial issues” may think they serve kindness and unity, but fear may be their lord.

God’s man encourages where the Word encourages, teaches where it teaches, and rebukes where it rebukes, even if the whole world takes offense. It is a joy to preach the Word—all of it—without dismay. By God’s grace, the preacher’s chains of fear drop away.

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