EDITOR'S NOTE: Pastor Jared Moore's new book is 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped. In this brief excerpt he highlights his top three.
Sacred Cow #1: Entertaining Sermons
There is a real temptation in preaching today to pursue being liked by our congregations for the wrong reasons. We must seek to reveal God’s glory, instead of pursuing being liked by those who may have itching ears (2 Tim. 4:3). Some church leaders want to be liked so much that they seek to entertain their hearers while preaching the Bible. Unfortunately, Scripture is often the garnish or the footnote, rather than being the main point of their entertaining sermons. The danger in seeking to entertain through our sermons is that we may be encouraging people to enjoy our sermons without enjoying Jesus—the One for whom they were created for (Col. 1:16-17).
Unfortunately, when we seek to entertain our hearers, we prove we don’t believe that God or Scripture can hold the attention of God’s people—at least that’s what our dependence on entertainment communicates. In other words, we may say, "The Bible is worthy of your attention,” but if we use entertainment to communicate this truth, then we’re undercutting our message with our methods.
We’re feeding our hearers’ sinful appetites for entertaining sermons, when God’s word demands their attention because where the Bible speaks God speaks (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God was not a comedian when He spoke to His people in Scripture. Pastors who speak to His people today shouldn’t feel the need to be comedians either. Remember that the goal of preaching is to preach God’s word (2 Tim. 4:1-5), not to appease our hearers’ sinful appetites. We just might be entertaining our hearers to death (Matt. 7:21-23; Rom. 3:23; John 14:6).
Sacred Cow #2: Relevant Sermons
There’s an emphasis today on preaching "relevant" sermons, which often translates to sermons that meet people’s needs. This emphasis puts unwarranted pressure on pastors or teachers to cater to their hearers’ needs regardless of whether these needs are God-honoring or not. The temptation is to present a self-help gospel, or a gospel that costs our hearers nothing, or any other gospel that tickles itching ears (2 Tim. 4:1-5). Instead of succumbing to the sinful desires of our hearers, we must preach the word (2 Tim. 4:1-2).
Our goal as preachers is not to make the Bible relevant, but to help our hearers understand how relevant the Bible already is due to God being its Author (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible is the word of God and is timelessly relevant. The Bible transcends all societies, cultures and fads. If the Bible is God’s word—and it is—how could it ever be not relevant? How could God ever be not relevant to His image-bearers (Gen. 1:26-28)? Thus, our task is to accurately explain God’s word and to help our hearers apply it to their daily lives. God’s word will then convict and save those who have ears to hear (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 4:12).
Sacred Cow #3: Successful Ministry
In order to define our preaching ministries as successful or unsuccessful, we are often tempted to submit to demigod evaluations instead of to Scripture. A demigod is a deified mortal. In claiming to accurately evaluate our preaching ministries as successful or unsuccessful we claim to have God’s all-knowing evaluating ability. We unwittingly claim to be demigods.
In most conferences and denominations, those who are held up as examples are those who have large churches. They are often held up as examples because of demigod evaluations carried out by those in various leadership positions. These ministers may be successful in God’s estimation, or they may not be. The truth of the matter is that we cannot accurately evaluate our preaching ministries or other people’s preaching ministries beyond the criterion of the word of God. We do not know the hearts of all those who attend our churches.
Therefore, faithfulness to Scripture should govern and motivate our preaching ministries, not a demigod evaluation made by us or others. We must pursue faithfulness to Scripture in light of Christ’s redeeming work, not faithfulness to evaluations that either boost our ego or cast doubt on our calling from God. Whether God has called us to be like Jonah (who had great numeric response to his preaching) or like Jeremiah (who had no numeric response to his preaching), we must remain faithful to our calling:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
In other words, we’re free in Christ to evaluate our preaching ministries based on Scripture—nothing more and nothing less.
What are your thoughts?