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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?



Jared has served in pastoral ministry since 2000. He is the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY. He is the author of 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped. Jared is married to Amber and they have four children. He is a teaching assistant for Bruce Ware at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and a  PhD Student in Systematic Theology at SBTS. You can take Jared's Udemy Course, "How to Enjoy God Through Movies, TV, Music, Books, etc." with this link for 43% off. Engage popular culture with Scripture. Enjoy God through popular culture.

 

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David Hudson

commented on Sep 28, 2013

Coming from the man who wrote the Harry Potter Bible Study. Hmmmm.

Alan Montgomery Hutchens

commented on Oct 11, 2013

Coming from a man whose denomination denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Hmmm.

Joe Stepp

commented on Oct 12, 2013

Coming from a supposed "brother in Christ" - you obviously missed the contexualization of the Gospel. And as to your misunderstanding of the baptist doctrine of the trinity - you must needs to do your research and a little more time doing your homework and less time in non Biblical criticizing. Hmmmmm. Repent and be reconciled to your brother. Blessings!!

Joe Stepp

commented on Oct 12, 2013

Coming from a supposed "brother in Christ" - you obviously missed the contexualization of the Gospel. And as to your misunderstanding of the baptist doctrine of the trinity - you must needs to do your research and a little more time doing your homework and less time in non Biblical criticizing. Hmmmmm. Repent and be reconciled to your brother. Blessings!!

Joe Stepp

commented on Oct 12, 2013

Coming from a supposed "brother in Christ" - you obviously missed the contexualization of the Gospel. And as to your misunderstanding of the baptist doctrine of the trinity - you must needs to do your research and a little more time doing your homework and less time in non Biblical criticizing. Hmmmmm. Repent and be reconciled to your brother. Blessings!!

Anthony Collins

commented on Sep 28, 2013

The words are true no matter where they came from. Preach preacher!!!!

Terry Laughlin

commented on Oct 9, 2013

Very Good.

Anonymous

commented on Oct 9, 2013

Thank you for enlightenment, we experience more of sacred cows in our country were I stay, most of churches are on marketing row and due to lack of knowledge and no wisdom many followers do not understand the word of God.......God bless you to share the word with us Berachot Shalom....

Daniel Castiglione

commented on Oct 9, 2013

I strongly agree with your three points, but I feel that the Harry Potter study contradicts the first two.

Jared Moore

commented on Oct 9, 2013

For those who think my book The Harry Potter Bible Study contradicts this article, please read the book before you decide. The book is about enjoying God in pop culture by rejecting Satan's lies, and connecting all truth to its rightful owner--God--through the creating, sustaining, and redeeming work of Christ. It's available on Amazon. $1.99 on Kindle, $7.19 in paperback.

Ron Tuit

commented on Oct 9, 2013

I was tempted to ride and tame these cows at the beginning of the year rather than tipping them, but did not yield to that temptation. "PASTORS" are to teach the Word in order to equip others for ministry, giving all Glory to God.

Albert Hale

commented on Oct 9, 2013

I certainly respect where you're coming from, but it might be a stretch to call these "sacred cows" -- you must be fortunate enough not to be exposed to the vast majority of preaching happening out there. If America truly suffered from too much entertaining, relevant teaching, we would have a whole different set of problems too thrilling to imagine. Unfortunately, most of our preaching brethren have not yet got the message that sermons actually CAN be artfully done in a way that engages a person instead of 60 minutes of self-indulgent soapboxing, or that our people (who live 2000 years after the last epistle was written and speak a different language) might need a shepherd's help to recognize how the scriptures relate to us.

Jordon Leblanc

commented on Oct 9, 2013

true story!

Jordon Leblanc

commented on Oct 9, 2013

The only problem is that it seems that we are accusing those who may seem to focus on entertainment or relevancy of doing so at the expense of the Gospel. That isn't necessarily the truth. In the wake of 9/11, many preachers focused on God in the midst of trials and heartache. That's a relevant message, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. You could say a series called, "Modern Family" as relevance at the expense of the Gospel, but using a current fad to bring the conversation back to God is not wrong- Jesus told stories relevant to his listeners for that purpose. Your message always needs to be based in Scripture and bring people back to Scripture, but it is not a crime to be entertaining or relevant... unless that's all you are...

Doug Bower

commented on Oct 9, 2013

I am not sure what the author means by entertainment in regards to the brevity of the article. Surely the preacher needs to have some intensity in speaking. This is the single most important message in history. We need to preach like it is. The reality is people experience boredom. While that is their stuff, preachers need to take that into account when delivering the Gospel. Also, I don't see Jesus as irrelevant, though I am sure his timing was just right and he didn't just speak to people just to speak to them. The successful ministry issue is another problem. Surely Jesus was successful even without all the media opportunities of our time. Yet, the old model of where two or three gather together remains important. It remains important even if there is only one listener.

Ferdinand C Nnadi

commented on Oct 9, 2013

I was enjoying the article until I got to the Harry Potter side. I lack the qualification to judge but associating the Bible with Harry Potter is to me ill-advised. It smacks of contradiction to condemn entertaining sermons only to turn and use Harry Potter imagery to illustrate viewpoints. I believe the author could have made his points without necessarily latching onto the eponymous Harry Potter. The Bible will always be the Bible whilst Harry Potter will be Harry Potter.

Hoyt Roberson

commented on Oct 9, 2013

Let's see, the Gospel isn't and isn't supposed to be relevant, and sermons are not supposed to be engaging to anyone except those who value dry, uninteresting monologues. If we attempt to make the Gospel relevant, or the sermon "entertaining," we reveal a lack of depth, understanding, and real ministry. Um, no.

Jared Moore

commented on Oct 9, 2013

Hoyt, Can the gospel not be relevant without entertainment? The value of the gospel is that though we are sinners, Christ died to save us. God gave His only Son for us. That's relevant to sinners!

Hoyt Roberson

commented on Oct 9, 2013

I think the Gospel can be made relevant to the people in the pews by making something other than a detached legal argument. Jesus came to heal the sick, give sight to the blind, relieve the oppressed. He made the coming of the kingdom relevant - meeting needs where he found them. It is in fact in being "relevant" that the Gospel gains its power. Engaging your audience - in the ways they are engaged is critical. Jesus walked around doing miracles - meeting needs and "entertaining" his hearers. Jesus did not climb a hill, assume a monotone, and orate for two hours about the cosmic moral legal system. He touched people where they lived and wowed them. People are still people. You have an article about husbands and pastors, and the gospel has both demands and relief for those who would believe. Making Gal 5 relevant to men who are wrestling with macho and agape, is both good gospel and good psychology. Doing so in a manner that lowers their defensiveness and engages them around that struggle is excellent "packaging" of gospel. At least it seems to me.

Jared Moore

commented on Oct 9, 2013

Hoyt, who said anything about making a detached legal argument? I didn't. Also, Paul said that the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). The gospel does not "gain its power" through preachers making it relevant. What makes the gospel relevant is the absolute truth that we're sinners, and Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead to reconcile us to God. Furthermore, who said anything about preaching the gospel in a boring manner? You're assuming the opposite of intentional entertainment is intentional boredom. When, I think the opposite of entertainment is simply explaining the gospel, and trusting God to move through His preached word. I believe in excellent preaching, but I also believe the gospel is the power of salvation, not excellent preaching. Preaching should not undermine the power of the gospel.

Hoyt Roberson

commented on Oct 9, 2013

What you said was no entertainment, and no felt needs. Unfortunately, felt needs are real and Jesus met them. Entertainment is often subjective and to someone else, it is simply engagement. In an absolute sense, the gospel is truth, but if you can't get anyone to listen to it, how much real power does it have? I would be more inclined to agree with the premise that preaching should not be about the preacher, and it should have a goal of communicating truth. To reduce preaching to a particular set of characteristics, arguing that it shouldn't seek to be relevant to peoples' lives, or can't have various tools for engaging an audiece is to make preaching a largely academic, propositional, and objective exercise. That works well for some preachers and some listeners. However, to argue that other manners of engagement and attempts to make the gospel relevant are in someway less than, and suspect, is itself a sacred cow among overly academic preachers that needs tipping.

Jared Moore

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Hoyt, to say, "Jesus met felt needs" is a misrepresentation of Jesus' full ministry. Remember when Jesus saw a multitude of lame, sick, etc. at the pool of Bethesda? He only healed 1 person out of the multitude (John 5:1-14). Why? Because the point is redemption through Christ. That's relevant. The gospel is always relevant. Furthermore, I disagree that preaching is about the preacher. It's about the truth. Any fool can preach it, and it's still powerful. Moreover, I'm not arguing that preaching shouldn't be relevant, I'm arguing that the gospel is always relevant. You don't make it relevant. It is relevant by its very nature. It's already the greatest news for mankind! Finally, I don't see the prophets, apostles, or Christ seeking to entertain their hearers. The gospel was already good news. When you have the greatest news ever, there's no need to entertain. He who has ears to hear will listen.

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Jared, first, I appreciate you taking the time to interact with us here. Not many others do so. Regarding your point on relevance, I agree with your basic premise--it is not for the preacher to make the Gospel relevant, but rather to demonstrate how it already IS relevant. Regarding your point on entertaining sermons, what I understand you arguing against is entertainment for its own sake. If that is so, then I would agree. But an entertaining sermon, even one that is intentionally so, is not inherently a bad thing. The Bible is very entertaining. The Bible authors were excellent writers, poets, storytellers. They had great creativity and imagination. Those whose ministry is to preach the Word should by all means be intentional about being equally creative and imaginative. Precisely BECAUSE we are preaching the Gospel, the power of God unto salvation. The Gospel cannot be separated from the form in which it has been revealed to us. The Gospel is not abstract, it is very concrete. Ultimately, the Gospel is Christ himself, who took on human flesh. So no, we shouldn't entertain for its own sake. Our aim shouldn't be for people to leave the sermon saying, "Wow, what a great sermon," or "Wow, what a great preacher," but "Wow, what a great God." But I believe we SHOULD be intentional about preaching the Word made flesh with all the creativity and imagination that God has granted to us, whether or not one calls that "entertainment." Perhaps we are saying the same thing in different words, but if so, I think this point merits making it clear.

Raphael Koikoi

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Hoyt, I must agree with you. Yes, Jared has a point that leaning towards entertainment rather than substance (my paraphrase) is dangerous. But, sermons must be engaging. We live in a post modern world where a whole generation of people are hooked on engaging stimuli. If preachers fail to engage their congregations, then the preached word is simply monologue. Truth be told, Jesus used humor in his preaching. The Bible is full of humor and satire. I think it sets a great example for preachers in this age to follow.

Jared Moore

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Raphael, the gospel is engaging. It's the best news ever! It's better than the cure for cancer, a fountain of youth, etc. Also, where did Jesus use humor in his preaching?

Raphael Koikoi

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Matthew 23:24 is an example: You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! I crack up everytime I read this passage.

Jared Moore

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Raphael, were the Pharisees laughing?

Jared Moore

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Raphael, do you have any other verses where Jesus used humor in His preaching?

Raphael Koikoi

commented on Oct 12, 2013

Jared, I doubt that the Pharisees were laughing. However, I am sure the people listening were. Some additonal examples would be the concept trying to remove a speck from another's eyes while carrying a beam in one's own eye, putting a camel through the eye of a needle, men being whitewashed tombs full of rot, washing the outside of a cup and not cleaning the inside. I doubt that those whose actions Jesus was pointing out would have laughed, but the crowds or other witnesses certainly woudl have. By the way, I really appreciate that you would engage in dialogue in this forum.

Charles Ingwe

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Seems like though I have not read the Harry Porter Bible study, the author may have sounded some condractions, following some submissions being made. However, I wish to state that I have come to learn that every day that passes, we look back and realise there is more to what we thought was the final position of what we said yesterday. Giving many authors a chance to relook through what they wrote years back, many can have much to change in their writtings because as long as we commit ourselves to serious study we continue to mature and discover more. Giving thought to the article, I personally agree that for sure we need not try to sharpen the word for it is already sharper- Heb 4:12. I take it that the author of this article is trying to sound the danger of getting away from the main objective of dividing the word as a workman who is not to be ashamed. However I pray that we need as well to realise that at times what we have called entertainment is our position of how we want every preacher to preach. That can lead to legalism. We have individual attributes and for as long as they do not cause harm to preaching God will use them for good. Hagee has a way of communication which is much different from Joe Osteen's but both are a blessing to the body of Christ, in my opinion. We shall do better to clearly define what we call as entertainment because at times it is the laughing heard in the church when the preacher is peaching which some feel as entertainment. At times it is the blessing messages that some preachers call as entertainmemnt.

Emmett Allen

commented on Oct 10, 2013

Entertaining sermons are contingent on who's perspective and intentions we speak,the hearer or the speaker. Relevant sermons, to me, are those which are Bible based and given under the auspices of God.Successful Ministry is one in which God gets the glory. We're workers in His vineyard, not competitors in a game or competition. Size does not determine service or success, God does.

Alan Montgomery Hutchens

commented on Oct 11, 2013

Jared, I am very grateful to you, particularly for the point on "relevancy." The founder of your seminary, Dr. Jerry Falwell, had a friend who founded a congregation in Greenville, SC. Dr. Harold B. Sightler served as pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church for the remainder of his days. He preached a message, titled "The Folly of Relevancy," way back in the 1970's. A friend secured a copy of that for me. I treasured it, but loaned it out one too many times. You would rejoice if you could secure a copy of that message. I contend that the people who complain that the messages aren't relevant are those who find that the clear teaching of Scripture is a bit too close to home. Therefore, the Word is, in fact, too relevant to suit them. Those who cry, "Make it relevant!" are actually saying, "Water it down so that we can more easily live it in our current culture!" Keep preaching what you're preaching on this line, Jared.

Joe Stepp

commented on Oct 12, 2013

Coming from a supposed "brother in Christ" - you obviously missed the contexualization of the Gospel. And as to your misunderstanding of the baptist doctrine of the trinity - you must needs to do your research and a little more time doing your homework and less time in non Biblical criticizing. Hmmmmm. Repent and be reconciled to your brother. Blessings!!

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