That preacher does not know me from Adam. I’m glad, because he would probably not be pleased with anything that follows.
I sat in the church recently where he was filling in for the regular pastor. It was a small church, and the service was poorly done, I regret to say, from beginning to end. I know that sounds harsh, and I am no judge of anyone’s worship.
But some things are obvious to everyone.
No one involved in that church service—I’m hesitant to call it a worship service—seemed to have a clue of it being a time of worship, of reverence and holiness. No advance thought had been given to the songs to sing, prayers to be offered or comments made. Everything was off the cuff. The welcome and hymn introductions were silly and went on and on.
My opinion is when those leading a service see it as a community fun time, the failure lies at the feet of the pastor. He sets the standard. But since I do not know the man, this is neither about him nor his leadership team.
I wanted to tell you what the guest preacher did.
After he was introduced—and rather poorly, I may say; if anyone caught his name, I’d be surprised—the man walked to the pulpit, gave a few opening remarks, then had us turn to his text. Then he stepped out from behind the pulpit and began a full-scale exhortation. He had not even read the Scripture, but he was already into full preaching mode.
The brother’s preaching was loud and fast, delivered in a staccato style he picked up from somebody along the way and which, no doubt, he and his colleagues consider the right way to preach. He gave no introduction to the sermon. This man simply stepped off the high diving board into the deep water.
Except there was no deep water.
I’d have loved some depth to the sermon. It would have compensated for having to listen to his attack style of proclamation. But the man never expounded the Scripture, never told us why it’s there in the Word, how to implement its instruction or why that’s a good idea. He never brought in other texts where the same idea is communicated or where variations on the same theme flesh out this truth.
He cited his text a few times, I’ll give him that. But nothing more.
The man made me think of a shepherd going out to feed the flock and telling the sheep, “There’s the food! Get it. It’s yours. Get it.” Then, for the next 25 minutes, he harangued the sheep for not getting into the feed and told them they were being disobedient if they didn’t. The problem with the world, he said, is that they don’t get into the food.
The essence of his content can be summed up in four words: Fuss at the people.
When the congregation left that day, I can almost guarantee not a single soul carried a burning desire to do anything the pastor said. He did not feed the sheep. He merely fussed at them for not eating.
Where did he learn that style of preaching, I wondered.
At one point in the message, the brother mentioned his call to preach. I don’t doubt for a minute that God called him to preach. If he says the Lord did, that’s good enough for me. What I do seriously question is his choice of role model. He clearly learned that unnatural, high-pitched, rapid-fire, machine-gun delivery method from someone. He learned to mimic some preachers who put all the emphasis on style and none on content to the serious detriment of their congregations.
That’s the saddest thing I know.
In some areas of the country, the culture of churches holds this up as the epitome of good preaching. To people in bondage to that culture, good preaching states the obvious, ignores the complexities of the Word, holds to the King James Version as the only inspired Word, emphasizes the negatives and never ever teaches God’s people anything they didn’t already know.
I found myself praying for that guest preacher. I prayed one day soon he will hear someone like John MacArthur or Chuck Swindoll or Andy Stanley preaching the Word, and the Holy Spirit will awaken something inside him to say, “There! That’s how it should be done!”
I prayed he will experience one of those “aha!” moments when a spark shall ignite a new passion in him, a zeal for the kind of preaching that feeds the sheep, encourages God’s people, exalts Jesus, has a proper understanding of what the Word of God is and puts the emphasis on communication, not on theatrics.
Please understand I am not saying he should take any of these particular men as his role models. God has good preachers in every city and town in America. Good communicators of the Word abound, for which we give thanks. After all, the best preaching this guest preacher can do may end up being something new under the sun, the kind the Holy Spirit can do through him as He can with no one else.
How exciting that will be. God grant.