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preaching article Are You Willing to Be Misunderstood -- From the Pulpit?

Are You Willing to Be Misunderstood -- From the Pulpit?

based on 6 ratings
Jan 23, 2014


I have been reading a challenging book entitled The Intrusive Word by United Methodist Bishop William H. Willimon. He argues that being understood is not the ultimate goal of our ministry or our preaching. The ultimate goal is to be true to the gospel that we preach. He says:

Can we preachers respect the gospel enough to allow people not to understand it? (page 19)

Is Relevance and Understanding the Point?

Can we give too much to the culture in trying to be “relevant” or even “understood"? Too often in the evangelical world there is an assumption that we can go to the people and find what they want and then give that to them.

This approach, sometimes called “seeker-sensitive,” comes from a mindset that seems to believe that placating the culture and promoting the status quo is the way to further the kingdom of God. For example, the so-called prosperity gospel places the gospel in the context of American middle class values and confuses the American dream for the faith once delivered to the saints. (Jude 1:3)

If we go to those intoxicated on American middle class values and ask them what they want and desire, we end up with things that don’t deal with the fundamental problems of our society. Neither do they deal with the fundamental problems of our soul. We end up with teachings that don’t change us, but makes us more comfortable in our current lives.

Gospel Must Confront

I agree that the gospel must confront us if it is to change us. It must do more than ask me what I want; it must go to my real needs even if I don’t understand them. And if I don’t want to live in line with God’s coming kingdom, yes, it will be misunderstood.

Today we preachers have the prophetic imperative. We must preach for change of structures, we must preach for change of individuals, we must preach for change. …To do this we must, as Willimon reminds us, be willing to be misunderstood …

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

Talk about it...

Richard Scotland avatar
Richard Scotland
0 days ago
Being misunderstood...one person after a service thanked me for the Word and said I had given them the green light to book an expensive holiday to Iceland! I have no idea how that happened but it certainly put a smile on my face then (and now too!). The Lord works in mysterious ways for sure and if that means people get closer to Him through misunderstanding me, then so be it.
Hersh Johnson Iii avatar
Hersh Johnson Iii
0 days ago
"If" I realize I may be misunderstanding something I always speak up. I am a strong believer in open, honest two way communication, even if it gets uncomfortable for those involved. I believe that those who are listening, and who care enough to question, question themselves, and their own understandings regularly. They do it to keep themselves in check. Too few people think things through very far and just stick to the status-quo... seldom seeking, seldom changing towards Christ-likeness. They want salvation without changing anything about themselves, wanting their cake and eating it too. I tell people, "Yes God loves you just as you are and if you love Him... you'll start changing!"
Clarence Lawson avatar
Clarence Lawson
0 days ago
I do not believe that the writer is speaking about simple misunderstanding. John wrote; "He that has an ear let him hear". The Bible also tells us that Spiritual things are spiritually discerned or understood. Sometimes the truths of the Word of God are hidden from those who are not ready to hear them. Sometimes the carnal (fleshly) mind cannot receive the things of God. So if our only goal is to be understood, we will miss preaching spiritual truth to those who are ready to receive it and thereby rob them of spiritual truth they need. It won't hurt those who are not ready... confusion is the first step to understanding. If something is confusing then perhaps deeper study... prayer or spiritual contemplation is needed. Not a dumbing down of the "hidden" truth of the gospel. Great article.
Clarence Lawson avatar
Clarence Lawson
0 days ago
Oops.. I think I misunderstood a couple of the comments on here! LOL good comments guys!
Sylvester Warsaw, Jr. avatar
Sylvester Warsaw, Jr.
0 days ago
I agree with the article because God has taught me through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit that some truths won't become clear to us until we learn to be in His presence. Some of God's truths are only reveal when we learn how to host the presence of God. Some things God reveal to us can't be understood with words, but, only by our spirit bearing witness with the Spirit of God.
Mh Constantine avatar
Mh Constantine
0 days ago
Brother Sherman, I want to thank you for an unusual reason: you remind me that it is great to be concise. Of course I agree with your article, but I also appreciate the compact language.
Pastor Jeff Hughes avatar
Pastor Jeff Hughes
0 days ago
Thanks for sharing! Great article...our main concern is to be giving the Word of God to change lives, whether it be in salvation itself or in being saved from the lifestyle of the world over a lifetime. Thanks again!

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