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Let’s get this straight: I believe the kingdom of God to be a radical alternative altogether to the politics of the world. I get very nervous when politicians on either side attempt to co-opt the church for political purposes. I get nervous about civil religion in any form. It is very important to me to maintain the “over/againstness” of the kingdom to both right and left.

That said, I’m a student of rhetoric. I love speeches in general and preaching in particular. It’s art to me. I love to hear speakers of all kinds, because I’m always looking for ways to sharpen my craft. I’ve taken notes from everybody from Martin Luther King to Chris Rock on what effective public speaking looks like. And from a rhetorical perspective, whether you love him or hate him, agree or disagree with him—Bill Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention this year was frankly stunning. That wasn’t just a speech; that was jazz. It was Michael Jordan in game six in his last finals with the Bulls. It was Picasso at the height of his powers.  It was everything that has ever worked about Clinton speeches on steroids—folksy, charming, funny, perfectly paced, combative—throwing punches and pulling them when needed.

Before you write me that scathing e-mail, I am making no value judgments as to whether or not he was right. You may have hated every word, found it disingenuous, disagreed with the policies. But there was one thing in particular about the Clinton speech I loved that I find to be a glaring issue in contemporary preaching, and it makes me wish every preacher I know watched it. It’s just this simple: Clinton doesn’t talk down. Clinton doesn’t patronize his audience. Clinton talked substance last night. For all the rhetorical flourishes and homespun charm, that was a speech chock-full of statistics, facts, ideas—in a word, CONTENT. And you can put facts in quotation marks, question the math, say he took things out of context—have at it, I really don’t care. What I’m saying is that today, after the fact, people are doing a remarkable thing: they are talking about whether or not they agree or disagree with the content of his speech. These days, that’s a novelty.

What makes contemporary politics so insulting to me right now is the shameless parade of sound bites. Both sides do it all the time. Politics have become reduced to sentimentality. You say the right word to the right crowd (“Jesus,” “the wealthy,” “the poor,” “the middle class,” “values,”), and nobody cares about whether or not there is an agenda or a plan—they respond emotionally to the words. In political conventions in particular, when folks are playing largely to their party base, real content is conspicuously absent. We have never been dumber. We are accustomed to being talked down to, we are used to being patronized. So it is honestly surprising these days when anybody attempts to engage us with anything like actual ideas.

And while I’m sad to say it, this is just as true about preaching in this day and age. We preachers, like everybody else, largely play to the lowest common denominator. Preachers speak in buzzwords and sound bites. Preachers don’t talk to people as if they are intelligent.

This is getting worse, not better, because most people don’t care and aren’t going to know the difference. In a culture that values style over substance, you can get a sermon to go over just fine without challenging a congregation. We are far past the days when preachers were prophets who paint an alternative vision of the world. We are not expected to be visionaries, but mere marketing experts. We don’t have enough “prophetic imagination” (in Brueggemann’s phrase), or for that matter, real content to actually shape culture.

Part of what makes Clinton so effective these days, beyond decades of just honing his craft, is that he really does traffic in ideas. I’ve listened to multiple interviews with him post-presidency where he was downright brainy, almost frustrating to interviewers in his insistence to talk substantively about the issues. Whether or not you agree with him, you can’t deny he is a guy who does his homework. No wonder he can go off script for roughly 40% of a speech that big and be so effective—he’s practiced enough and researched enough to trust his instincts, and there has been enough discipline to bring freedom in delivery.

 

I’m a Pentecostal preacher, so I place a high premium on “leaving room for the Spirit” in a sermon. I think the best messages are less like delivering a speech and more like surfing, a constant awareness and sensitivity to what I feel God doing in the room, what I feel people are receiving or not receiving. There is so much more to it than intellectual preparation. My grandfather turned in his badge and gun as a Charlotte police officer and was preaching revivals weeks later, so I don’t think everybody has to go to seminary to be qualified to preach. But I do believe that in preaching as well as political speeches, you’ve got to do your homework!!!

I don’t think I’m a great preacher. I really don’t. But I think not believing I’m great is my greatest strength as a communicator. Every single week I’m scared to death that I’m going to forget how to do this, that I’ll fall flat on my face, that God won’t show up, that it will just be me in my underwear up there babbling about Lord knows what. As a result, I stay hungry. I read more than I have to read. I study more than I have to study. I prepare more than I need to prepare. I think about sermons when I don’t need to think about sermons. There is very little in life or culture that is not potential ammunition for the next Sunday. I try to be attentive to what God is saying in the world everywhere I am and whatever I’m doing.

When it’s time to deliver the message, I go off script ALL THE TIME. And if it works, first and foremost it is because the Spirit of God is faithful to get the right word to the right people at the right time—it’s about His love for people, not my skill as a communicator. But that said, I still find that it takes a lot of work and discipline to have enough in me for the Spirit to use/leverage/organize/direct when I’m in those moments. The WORST preaching I’ve heard in all of my life is from people who “open up their mouths and let the Lord fill it” as they would say, when in reality they just flat haven’t put in the time and done the work.

I long for the day when we as preachers re-learn the work ethic to put in the time pouring over Scripture, roaming through commentaries, looking at the texts from all angles—studying the information, yet giving room for revelation. Being attentive to the context in which the texts were written, being attentive to the context in which our message will be received.

And then stepping to the stage and speaking a challenging word that calls people to rise up instead of dumbing down. I’d love for us to stop insulting the intelligence of our people, and start being unafraid to give them a meal that may not be easy to digest. Do not misunderstand me: I’m not talking about cluttering a sermon with technical theological jargon. That is self-congratulatory at best and cowardly at worst. We don’t want to be smug or impressed with ourselves. I’m talking about, as Jesus did, speaking plain and using metaphors/images that our culture understands—and yet being okay in sharing hard sayings that people may not be able to immediately receive. I’m talking about not saying the reactionary thing, but the nuanced thing.

I saw a bumper sticker years ago that said “If you won’t make me pray in my school I won’t make you think in your church.” Ouch. While overstated, there is truth in the indictment. We’ve got the most important job in the world. We’ve got to be literate in Scripture and literate in culture, because we are charged with painting a vivid picture of an alternative kingdom to the world, and even with the Spirit on our side it’s going to take all we’ve got. We can’t afford to get pulled into the sound bite stupidity of our times, much less speak in sound bites ourselves. There is no place in the world where people should be forced to think harder about God, life, and the world than where the people of God gather.

The message that we’ve got is too important to be unprepared, and too particular to to not be presented with nuance and precision. And people are too valuable to God to be treated like cattle. We should love people enough to aim high, assume the best, play to the highest common denominator rather than the least. We shouldn’t speak in platitudes, we should deliver substance.

After all, our job is more important than giving campaign speeches. While I am fascinated by politics, I have never been more convinced that our current political process is far too broken to bring the kind of change the world needs. I still vote and participate, but I have staked my hope exclusively in the power of the Church to be God’s embodied presence in the world. Thus while the stakes might seem high for a speech like Clinton’s last night, the stakes for what we are given to do on Sunday are considerably higher.

To be certain, real preaching does not work apart from God’s Spirit. We have to look to Him to do that which only He can do. But that doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to do what we are called to do—to study Scripture in context, study our culture in context, and generally prepare like mad. There are no shortcuts for the preacher. We have to completely immerse ourselves in a prophetic vision of the world where the peace of God reigns, and then let God infuse us with the other-worldly confidence to speak the unspeakable. We can’t use the Word as a tool to accomplish our goals, we have to become the tool the Word uses. We can’t just deliver the Word, we have to let the Word deliver us. And that takes time.

Unlike Clinton at the DNC, we aren’t charged with matters so trivial as getting people to vote for our favorite candidate for president. We are charged to give people a vision of Jesus as King—and that’s a much bigger deal.

Jonathan Martin is author, speaker, pastor, and church-planter who founded a congregation of liars, misfits, and dreamers called Renovatus in Charlotte, NC. His critically acclaimed-book “Prototype” (2013, Tyndale House) is meditation on what it means to be beloved by God.

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Mark Baker

commented on Sep 13, 2012

This article is stunning! "I am making no value judgments as to whether or not he was right." ... And herein lies one of the many foundational problems in the mindset through out. First, we should be making judgments, many judgments (Acts 17:11; Matt 7:15ff; Heb 5:12-14; etc) about values, about truth, etc. Second, the author goes on to make many glowing judgments of not just a "politician," but one we all know as supremely deceitful! This is your model for speeches?!?!? Third, it is either very disingenuous, or you are intentionally blind to your own biases, when you claim non-partisanship. It is obvious that, at a minimum, you lean left (I know, "value judgment" on my part). Forth, you claim he had great "content" and substance. Bill Clinton is not exactly known for his integrity. There are too many "facts" to list about his deceit, failings, etc, that we know about, not to mention all of the egregious behavior that he has dodged (of course, not all of it is true.) Fifth.... well you get the picture. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and just about all politicians (and lawyers) are style over substance. And yet you praise this method in comparison to Paul's (1 Cor 2:1ff)?

James Burt

commented on Sep 13, 2012

This has to be one of the most disappointing, shalllow articles I have ever read. How could anyone suggest modeling preaching style, content or anything from Bill Clinton or most polticians for that matter? Clinton did not use facts! Preaching should not be about the ability to twist the facts or distort the truth. Could not disagree with this model for preaching or artice more.

Billy Ford

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Clearly the author was inspired and bedazzled by Clinton, but I don't think that a guy whose nickname is "Slick Willy" should be held up as a model for Christian preaching. The fact checkers had a field day with Clinton's speech. This is just a bad illustration which should have been cut from an article that makes a few otherwise decent points.

David Nuhfer

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Who decides what articles get published in this forum?

Byron Stevenson

commented on Sep 13, 2012

This was an absolutely wonderful article. Thank you so much for the commentary!

John E Miller

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Everybody knows that Clinton doesn't even like Obama. Silly women like Clinton. Emotional response? Oh yes, Bill gets that OK. Ask Monica.

Vance Weeks

commented on Sep 13, 2012

I think politics is makign everyone miss the point here. The author isn't saying that facts don't matter, clearly they do when we are called to share the truth. What he is saying is that when we preach, we should say something. Like politicians so often do, we should not just throw out a bunch of Christians cliches and half verses to get our crowd riled up. It is part of our responsibility to get people to engage the Word with their brain. I didn't hear Clinton's speech and don't personally want to listen to the driveling sales pitches of the right or the left, but I cna understand what the author is saying. I would rather listen to someone say something, something that made me think, something that made me disagree, something that may be totally wrong, than to say nothing worth any consequence or that challenged me in any way. Being right doesn't mean you said anything worth listening to, that challenged anyone, or made anyone think about who God is and what Jesus Christ has done.

Robert Hentrich

commented on Sep 13, 2012

My goodness...does anyone read? The first two headline words for this article are, "Politics aside..." Vance's comments are correct - this article is not about politics, it's about effective communication, and Bill Clinton is an incredibly effective communicator. Preachers can learn from his delivery, while totally disagreeing with his political views. I would like to see a follow-up article that delves deeper into what makes speech makers like Clinton, Obama, and others (from all sides of the political spectrum) so powerful.

Tejado W. Hanchell

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Good job, Jonathan. I see many folks are doing exactly what you asked not not to be done in your article. As preachers, we can learn from the "mechanics of a message", which is what the author is suggesting. Preaching is both science and art. It is possible to disagree with the science of a speaker and still appreciate the art.

Ginette Marie Dun-Robin C

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Worry worry and then worry? Here is something to worry about.... ?For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed,? (2 Thessalonians 2:7).

Paul Morton

commented on Sep 13, 2012

All politics aside, what about character? The article's title caught me off guard. Clinton's skill as an orator makes him a model for preachers of the Gospel? Could this article also be titled, "Adolf Hitler and the Art of Preaching"? Under this article's premise, his skill as an orator would qualify him as a model for ministers. Wow.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 13, 2012

@David, who decides what articles get published in this forum? Obviously, people who understand that no one learns when they are only exposed to ideas they already agree with! I'm not a pastor, but after stumbling across this site a few weeks ago, I've taken the habit of stopping by about once a day or so. One of the things that I've appreciated about this site is the variety of perspectives that are offered. I don't agree with all of the articles, nor with all of the posters, but it certainly does give me something to think about!

David Buffaloe

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Interesting article - made everybody think. The comments run from "This is stunning" to "this is the most disappointing". My thoughts: Jonathan was saying "Do your homework, preachers". I agree with that point. I sat in the pew for 16 years before I spent 17 years preaching, and am still preaching. While in the pew I heard some of the stupidest material presented by so called educated men. They misquoted sources, chased rabbits, and when all else failed headed to the Scripture. Do your homework. Pray and research the text, then present it to the hearers spiritually empowered, intelligently arranged, and contextually true. If people are falling asleep or drifting while you preach it's because - in many but not all cases - that you've not done your homework.

Sylvestine Branch

commented on Sep 13, 2012

What i saw in some of the responses to the article is more of an outpour of dislike for Clinton instead of open ears and heart for what the author was delivering. It is the same way people sit in church, listen to the Word and miss the whole message.What I though was very important came in the summation whe he said the people are too valuable to God to be treated like cattle. We should love people enough to aim high, assume the best and play the highest denominator rather than the least. We should speak platitudes, we should deliver substance. Read with an open heart and mind

John Carnett

commented on Sep 13, 2012

I am actually astounded at the shallowness of many of those who have chosen to leave a comment. It is obvious that the very people to whom the author was writing to are the very people whom have chosen to react so poorly to his premise. Listen people, not everything is about politics. If you can't learn from even your enemy, you are dull. This author makes an incredible point. We as preachers need to be so full of content (read here - the Word of God) that we spill it out on our congregations infused by the power of the Holy Spirit. When your knowledge of the word meets the fire of the Holy Spirit, you might just end up preaching a message that actually touches people in the core of their soul. Preaching is an art. And if you think it isn't you need to go back to homeletics class. I told my wife during the RNC that the Republican party needs some preachers. They had people who could give a speech, but only one or two that could give a SPEECH with a MESSAGE that stirred people in their innermost beings. Listen, the bottom line is I can learn from Bill Clinton. I can learn methods from him. I can learn timing from him. When I put that together with the message of the Gospel and the Power of the Holy Spirit I can really preach.

Richard Graf

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Having taught preaching for several years, and practiced it for 50 years, this article is well presented, needed, and right on. Thanks! Those who disagree evidence what's wrong with the art today.

Zachary Bartels

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Wow, the author predicted people would miss the point because of an emotional backlash, but he couldn't have known just how many or just how badly... Thanks for the article; good thoughts.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Oh my goodness! The FIRST lesson to take from Bill Clinton for our preaching is the need for CREDIBILITY. All the art and jazz in the world is just noisy gongs and clanging cymbals if it lacks credibility -- and Bill Clinton ABSOLUTELY lacks credibility. Who knows when he's speaking the truth and when he's not? He has demonstrated that he believes the truth is in the eye of the beholder -- depending upon what the meaning of "is" is. Even FactCheck.org had to admit that it was "a fact-checker's nightmare," overselling, exaggerating, and miss-stepping (sic; misstating).

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 13, 2012

The SECOND lesson is about MANIPULATION. The author here observes: "It's just this simple: Clinton doesn't talk down. Clinton doesn't patronize his audience." This is patently false. When he looked the American people in our collective eye (through the lens of the TV camera) and wagged his finger in our collective face and said, "I did not have sex with that woman..." he was absolutely talking down and patronizing his audience. His art -- for the gullible -- is making it seem as though he doesn't talk down and patronize. Perhaps his speech WAS stylistically stunning, rhetorically jazzy, verbal athletic, and artistically eloquent, "folksy, charming, funny, perfectly paced, combative," but his words and movements and facial expressions (biting the lower lip and shaking his finger, for example) are calculated to elicit particular responses. He's absolutely MANIPULATIVE -- and he's an actor (Greek: hupokcrites, hypocrite), which brings us to the THIRD lesson: INTEGRITY.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Bill Clinton has proven time-and-again that what's on his inside doesn't match what he presents on the outside. Transparency in preaching is vital: honor, honesty, and sincerity. And he doesn't even write his own speeches! He gives his writers a general idea of what he's looking for (sometimes giving more details, sometimes less), they write it, he makes notes and edits, they rewrite, and he performs it. He appears to have done more initial work on this speech, but his writing staff and the White House staff massaged it into its finished shape -- although he did ad lib. "The Atlantic Wire" reported that "White House sources say they edited the speech... and that Clinton ignored their changes." In the end, FactCheck.org observed that "technically, Clinton's speech was to nominate Obama," but really he kept the spotlight on himself.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 13, 2012

On the other hand, someone dissected the speech and pointed out in a somewhat more helpful manner the 10 rhetorical devices used to make Bill Clinton's speech effective: 1) Contrast; 2) Repetition; 3) Question-and-Answer; 4) Humor; 5) The Rule of Three; 6) The Power of One; 7) Instructional Language; 8) Explanatory Language; 9) Inclusive Language; and 10) Completing the Circle.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 13, 2012

But in contrast to all of this, Paul wrote: "when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God, for I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God." (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

Deacon Clark

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Candidly, Bill Clinton is an unabashed Demagogue! And by the sheer carnality of what he's trying to do in communicating with potential voters makes me wonder whether there are any parallels between that act and the art of Theogoguery?

Bryce Thorpe

commented on Sep 13, 2012

For the most part, the comments on here have been very fair. Jonathan Martin starts out with a great premise by asking us to appreciate Bill's style, regardless of what we think of his politics. True enough and I agree Clinton is an incredible communicator...he doesn't "give a speech"; he talks to people. However, in paragraph three, contrary to his premise (unintentionally, I assume), Pastor Martin then begins to praise Clinton's effort at substance. Not surprisingly, some of his audience gets a little ruffled. There is a significant difference in recognizing Clinton?s style as an engaging and effective speaker (he surely is) and then somehow leading that into him being a man of ideas and talk about his substance (most who have done their homework would say he isn't...and all would have the right to at least disagree). Pastor Martin starts by praising his style and telling us the substance isn't important to his argument. He then goes on to focus on the substance. We might do well to mimic Bill's speaking strengths but we would do equally well to ensure the substance of what we say is grounded in truth.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Deacon Clark: I LOVE that word: "theogoguery"! (Sounds a bit like "thuggery"!)

Brad Brought

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Greatly enjoyed your insight Pastor Martin, Thank you. I am taking a public speaking course as we speak and I also think Mr. Clinton is a gifted speaker.

Pastor Sandy .

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Good article - even though so many missed the point. Jonathan's point is that Clinton can enthrall an audience. Whether you agree with him or not, for the most part, you are totally mesmerized with his presentation! We could all learn something from this article - I know that when I read most of these articles with an open mind, I learn at least something - at least one point! And a couple folks mentioned a comparison to Paul. I don't believe I have heard Paul preach, so I can't really compare. I do know this: if I could hold my congregation's attention as well as Bill Clinton, I will come much closer to making my scriptural point with them! Blessings

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 13, 2012

[Part 1] So someone writes an article which exalts an extreme political figure who is highly controversial, to say the least, if not highly destructive to morality, truth, etc AND then the author exhorts us to not make this political(!), AND then (not-so-subtly) promotes said scheming political figure and his politics(!) AND then the author asserts falsehood after falsehood (e.g. the speaker gave facts, content, etc) AND he falsely says he does not make any value judgments ... but he does , in reality, make those judgments AND he does not exercise any discernment AND ... After all this folly many address these painfully evident problems. Then the others comment that these people "did not read the article" or are "being political" (by merely addressing the absurdity of who was chosen, not his politics). They tell us, essentially, the end justifies the means (despite the Scripture that was referred to multiple times; 2 Cor 2:1-5) and that character does not count.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 13, 2012

[Part 2] However, Jesus taught us that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. Character counts! But not in this article. Bill Clinton (and many politicians) have little interest in the truth. They merely want to get you to believe what they believe. Therefore, they will tell you whatever you want to hear. Those who actively discern will reject this and warn others ... and they will get mocked and attacked for doing so. Those who practice less discernment say, "Wow, wasn't that a great speech and article? I want to be like him." Why have no defenders of this article addressed the character issue? Why have they simply attempted to diminish the "dissenters"? All of this fits with: "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel.!" (Is 30:10-11)

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 13, 2012

What percentage of importance would you place on style and on character? (e.g. 50/50; 90/10) If only we had the style of Jonah! Eight words of condemnation. No words of hope. Yet ALL were persuaded! So should we stay away from the style of Stephen, James, Jeremiah, Micaiah... ? Should we mimic the style of Herod (Acts 12:21-23)? "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." What is our goal here? Yes, style has some value, but what value in comparison to faith, faithfulness to the Word, love, truth, character, the power of God, etc? So many here seem to be straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel.

Shelton J. Wiltz Sr.

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Some have miss the mark on the article but Brother John Martin the saying is true we need to stop the sound bit and preach with substance. He who without SIN let him cast the first stone.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Dear Mischa M: I for one did not miss the point of the article. Most of those I know find Bill Clinton so personally off-putting that they will not countenance his presentation. But I think your point is apt that SOME "are totally mesmerized with his presentation;" mesmerize is a good word: to hypnotize, spellbind. The word is of French derivation from Franz Anton Mesmer, an Austrian physician who developed the theory of "animal magnetism" and a mysterious bodily fluid that allows one person to hypnotize another. I think the Greek call it "the kavorka." But that's not what Christians are to be about and to look for or emulate.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 13, 2012

And the bit about the sound bites is intersting, but Clinton's speech was full of them!

Dr. Shirley Lynn

commented on Sep 13, 2012

I cannot believe you would print anything Bill Clinton had to say about Christianity, and I am ashamed of this site for putting his statements after his disgusting actions in the white house and integrity he has none. I am ashamed that you thought he could teach Pastors about anything. Get his message and oicture off. You are disgusting. You find a christian model if you know what one looks like!! Aparently Not!!

David Nuhfer

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Bill, perhaps I worded my question badly. What I mean is what is the process for articles being submitted and chosen for placement on the site? I don't agree with what the writer said, but mine is a question of curriosity about the process that is used.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 13, 2012

@David N, my apologies! I misread the intent of your question, and I'm sorry! I've seen some people who comment here who give off the impression that this site should only publish articles that agree with their own views, and I unfairly prejudged you as one of them. But I'm glad you clarified; and it's a good question, if anyone is in position to answer it!

David Nuhfer

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Bill, No apology needed. I need to be sure I am clear about what I am asking with the words I choose. One thing about the more controversial articles - they do generate a lot of interesting responses.

David Duke

commented on Sep 13, 2012

It takes more to be great leader than just being a great orator. My history lessons remind me of another great orator who became the Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933. Look how that turned out.

Eddie Lakey

commented on Sep 13, 2012

It is a sad day in Chistian history when the only mentor one can select for preaching guidelines is a moral bankrupt impeached president. You should be ashamed before our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to use such a person. If you can't come up with a current man of God to model after at least use a Biblical disciple such as Paul, Peter or the Lord himself!

Eddie Lakey

commented on Sep 13, 2012

It is a sad day in Chistian history when the only mentor one can select for preaching guidelines is a moral bankrupt impeached president. You should be ashamed before our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to use such a person. If you can't come up with a current man of God to model after at least use a Biblical disciple such as Paul, Peter or the Lord himself!

Eddie Lakey

commented on Sep 13, 2012

It is a sad day in Chistian history when the only mentor one can select for preaching guidelines is a moral bankrupt impeached president. You should be ashamed before our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to use such a person. If you can't come up with a current man of God to model after at least use a Biblical disciple such as Paul, Peter or the Lord himself!

Bala Samson

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Bewitching and highly passionate article! You could almost hear the rapid heart beat of the author and sense his fervent desire to awake our lazy preachers. Sorry, for the harsh word, I have literally watched many pastors walk into a revival meeting without any hard preparations. Preachers got to roll up their sleeves and do lot of work and understand the immense responsibility on their shoulders. We got to be full of God as well as well aware of facts and figures in order to touch the astute brains of the world and turn the heads of the acute intellectuals. Spiritual lethargy says, I would open up mouth and let the Lord fill it, dare to slumber and usurp the pulpit only to bare the emptiness within. All we hear today are empty thumping, stomping and shouting with no substance. Let?s face it. Youngsters who do not open their Bible or pray, carry their guitars and make empty noise. The latter half of the article persuades us to be diligent in our walk with God and also be equipped to face the giants of this world. The important facts of the first half can be made note of and forget the rest, if that does not concern us. Instead of picking up stones to hurl at the author, let this article goad us to pick up His Word and read it voraciously and let this hunger, thirst and passion make an impact in this lost world.

Spencer Miller

commented on Sep 13, 2012

This is a wonderful article Bro. Martin and you do know that there are a few within the body of Christ who still carry hate in their heart? When I read the name Bill Clinton I fully expected that there would be a few good Christian brothers who would not hesitate to cast the first stone. It is too bad that they were unable to get the point you were trying to get across.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Pastor Bala: Your point is well taken about laziness in preparation and lethargy in the pulpit. I just want to emphasize that preparation of our personal character is as important as our intellectual comprhension of the Word and that we don't need the tricks of a political charlatan as the model for our pulpit ministry.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 13, 2012

Bill Clinton! WOW! I wouldn't compare him with anything having to do with Christianity. What about Moses? He had some sort of speech impediment yet when he spoke Pharaoh and all of Egypt, heard from God. Tradition also says that Paul was not a gifted orator. People can sit in church and listen to a "gifted" speaker and never hear from God, and people can listen to a less than "gifted" preacher and have their lives changed. While we should always do our best for the Lord, it is still the power of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit that changes lives regardless of the "giftedness" of the preacher.

Fola Jolugbo

commented on Sep 14, 2012

God bless you Pastor Martin. Got a message in this article that really ministered to me. You can't throw the water and the baby away.

commented on Sep 14, 2012

I studied English as a foreign language but can to a large extent follow even the nuances of those who are born English speakers. The bone of contention over the article by Pastor Jonathan Martin is more or less a rabid attack by those who cannot stand up to constructive criticism or reason; this is mob justice. The writer's opening remark that he believes the kingdom of God to be a radical alternative altogether to the politics of the world absolves him of the alleged sacrilege of equating or elevating politics to Biblical tenets, or citing Bill Clinton as a Scriptural equal to Paul. He does not even allude that Bill Clinton preached, in the context of Christianity but only drew parallels in the use of language and expression that, truly is lacking amongst, or generally ignored by, a majority of preachers who would connect more if they gave the kind of serious approach Bill Clinton gave to his vote-catching political speech. The anger against this article is in my opinion from hardliners whose sensitivities have been rubbed the wrong way by one who has found some value in the speech by one hated Clinton, whose sins are a historical fact that should actually remain that, history. The never-forgive attitude is far from Christian, if that is what the Republican ethos is about over anything attributed to a democrat, then the vote is already tainted before it is cast.

Tom Shepard

commented on Sep 14, 2012

It is my opinion that preaching should be 100 percent content and 100 percent delivery. You can have a great theological sermon, which can bore people to death. We should strive to connect with people (Jesus did) so that they will hear the message. There are many great speakers in the world that we, as preachers can learn from, even though we do not agree with them politically, morally, or ethically. (I am not a Clinton fan, but he did connect with his audience.) To be an effective preacher we should strive for Sound Doctrine and Sound Delivery: they go hand in hand. Let us remember: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness. 2 Timothy 2:15-16 (NASB)

Bala Samson

commented on Sep 14, 2012

Pastor Prescott Jay Erwin, At the end of the article, what remained in my heart was that I got to do MORE, all that stuff about Bill was washed away.I became hungry for God and I write this reply after spending around 3 hours in prayer.

Ryan Neill

commented on Sep 14, 2012

I realize I'm not saying anything that hasn't already been said but I still feel like I need to "speak my piece." Pastor Martin seems to have realized that some might get ruffled by him trying to bring anything good out of a man that so many Christians seem to really dislike (dare I say hate?) but I wonder if he'd see that there would be such a mixed multitude here discussing this? I certainly agree that Bill Clinton has some character flaws but there is little if no room to argue that he is an excellent speaker. We are fooling ourselves if we think that presentation is not a very important part of speaking. If you have received a pastoral education did you ever take a class called homiletics? Now, I wouldn't ask Bill Clinton to speak at my church but I do think that his ability to hold peoples attention certainly is admirable and perhaps there are some things that we can, dare I say "learn," from his ability to speak. The comments in here saying that it's not how you speak the Word but what you say are sadly mistaken. Don't get me wrong, the content MUST be solidly based on the Word of God but to deny the impact of presentation will cause Christianity to become increasingly inept. I can't speak about Paul's presentation method because I wasn't there to hear it either Mischa. I too have read 1 Corinthians 2:1 and I would agree that we certainly should not view presentation over content. That would certainly be unBiblical but anyone who has spent more than a couple weeks in a pulpit and has seen God help them grow as a speaker has to realize that as you grow in your gift of speaking you begin to see a greater impact in the response of the listeners. I hope and pray that the we can always have an open mind. If we never did, we wouldn't be Christians today. Something to think about...

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 14, 2012

Tom Shepherd: I would add that we can have sound doctrine, sound preaching, and sound delivery and it can all be meaningless if we are not sound in our character.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

(part 2) they avoid the good points of Person B and the ones cannot refute (at least acknowledge them! which some people here have); they insinuate harmful or sinful motives of Person B (why can't it be that we are merely seeking, however feebly, the truth and what is best for the church?); and they feel that if the article by Person A is be criticized then their first priority is to protect and agree with Person A ... no matter how many valid concerns or problems are in the article. Is that really the loving thing to do for person A ... or B, or the rest of the population? This kind of pattern shuts down reasoning, ?iron sharpening iron,? and discourages discernment (which the church really needs right now).

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

(part 1) Please help me understand the following pattern (not just with this article): Person A presents an idea, which is provocative and/or controversial, and it may even be dubious, if not unwise, errant, and harmful. Person(s) B disagrees and presents his or her point of view. Persona A and/or Person C (and D, and E ...) accuse Person B of being the problem (1 Kings 18, 22); they minimize or mock Person B and/or his/her concerns; they judge and condemn Person B (inaccurately) for judging (and when Person A/C is challenged on their "I judge and condemn you for judging" they rarely admit this folly); they frequently misrepresent the concerns of Person B (e.g. "you're making it political," "you are casting stones," "you're hating," "how can you say style does not matter," etc);

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 14, 2012

@Mark, the only problem with your "pattern" is that it assumes that person B is completely innocent and well-intentioned. That's not always the case. Sometimes person B's comments are also dubious, provocative, controversial, errant, etc. Sometimes it is person B that avoids the good points of the article, or of others who comment. Sometimes person B reads into the article or into other people's comments things that no one intended to communicate. Sometimes person B, rather than trying to understand a different point of view, simply reacts to "codewords" and sets up straw men and false dichotomies so that person B can use his or her pre-arranged arguments. Not always, of course. But sometimes; and this "pattern" that you've recognized doesn't recognize that reality. I don't know if maybe in your example you are taking for yourself the role of person B. Having said that, your overall point is well taken. The point I'M trying to make is that NONE of us is exempt from doing any of the bad things you've pointed out. Below is a perfect example. David N made a comment, which I misinterpreted. My response was inappropriate, but rather than lashing out back at me, as is the case on here sometimes, David N simply clarified what he meant. Once I understood what he was ACTUALLY trying to say, I apologized for my misunderstanding, and he graciously accepted. You would THINK that on a site where the majority are Christian leaders, that would be the pattern when people encounter misunderstandings and differences of opinion. Sadly, that is not the case. Before casting the blame for this state on some anonymous "person A, B, C, etc.", we should look at ourselves to make sure we're not the ones responding inappropriately.

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 14, 2012

Well said, Bill W.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 14, 2012

As far as the article is concerned, it is obvious that Clinton is a very polarizing figure, and the author must have know that. Sometimes, if some illustration is going to distract from the message significantly, it may be better not to use the illustration, however fitting the illustration may be. Clear communication of the main point is the priority. In the author's defense, however, it's important to keep in mind that these articles are not written SPECIFICALLY for this site. From my understanding, these are articles that are taken from other sites, like blogs, and collected together in one location. So it is possible that the original audience for whom the author wrote would not have been as distracted from the main point by the use of Clinton as an example. Disagreeing with the author, or in this case, with the use of Clinton as an illustration of effective communication, is certainly fine. Still, some of us ARE able to get something out of the article. What I got out of this is if people from the world are willing to put in so much effort to communicate something they consider to be of substance, how much more should Christian pastors put in the effort to communicate the Gospel, the most substantive message the world can hear!

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

BW, thanks for the reply. Not a lot of people would take the time and thought that you did, so kudos to you. Also, you have some great points. I also have some disagreement (surprise!). One disagreement is in that (in ?my? pattern presented) there is no assumption of good-intentions. Motivation is an important, yet separate matter. The question if a person is well-intended or not, is more than valid, yet it is an entirely different matter when it comes to whether or not a notion or teaching is true or false, wise or foolish. Somewhat ironically (because I mentioned judging) I believe we should judge, but our judgment/discernment should focus more on if something is biblical and less on motivations. I think we can speculate and inquire of a person?s motives, but it is dangerous territory to make absolute judgments in this area (just for the record, I?m stating this in general, not of you or anyone else).

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

You have a very good and valid point that, ?Sometimes person B's comments are also dubious, provocative, controversial...read into the article ... false dichotomies...?. I agree, but this does not necessarily, or at least fully, answer my question. Why is the pattern (as I presented it) that if someone does not like what Person B says (or they disagree with Person B, or if Person B is in error, etc) then he/she is infrequently engaged; rather the pattern I listed before is engaged (avoiding, misrepresenting, etc). The prevailing mindset (and pattern) seems to be ?Critique not the Lord?s anointed writer of this article... and if you do then we will ignore the challenges and critiques you present, and we may even minimize, mock, or attack you....? If Person B is wrong, then why not address that error rather than fall into the pattern? If Person A is wrong, then why not lovingly address Person A instead of ... yes ... fall into the ?pattern??

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

?Sometimes person B, rather than trying to understand a different point of view...? Again, I agree, but again, this does not quite fully answer my questions. ?Different points of view? are great, if not valuable. But what do we do when the ?different points of view? are troubling, false, harmful, etc? Do we not have a responsibility to do something? (Eph 5:11; Ti 1:9-13; Jas 5:19-20; Jude 3; 2 Tim 4:1-5; etc). Sometimes Person A is just flat out wrong. What then? What is worse, they are leading others astray (themselves included). This is not a rare occurrence that we are warned of in Scripture. So what then? Also, your response seems to be more pointed toward Person B as the problem (which fits the pattern). Yes, I see that you also address the other ?persons,? which is great, but your answers/reply did not fully help me to understand the ?pattern.? Please clarify or correct me if you would like.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

What may be the bigger (and ongoing) conundrum for me is why so few see or acknowledge the folly of ?I judge and condemn you for judging.? The problem and self-defeating notion seems plain enough, so why don?t more people respond better when this error is pointed out. We can all make mistakes, but the bigger problem is not learning from them. This is important because I believe this is an overall foundational mindset that drives the ?pattern? that I wrote. I think many Christian leaders have bought into the lie that we cannot criticize or make judgments of the teachings of others (?correct, rebuke, and encourage...?)--that it is loving and compassionate to not offend by pointing our error. This would explain a lot of the responses here and in the ?pattern.? [Yes, this ?correction? is not always done lovingly or perfectly.] Maybe I just answered my own question!

Sam Crisp

commented on Sep 14, 2012

Jonathan, the saints seem to be somewhat exercised over your good words, but at least you are not being ignored. Did you foreknow your ?Bill is Clinton? sermon had the potential to simultaneously generate riots and revival throughout the land? lol, I am 70 years and counting, but I still found your sermon much more palatable than most of the dumbed down pabulum (non-Pentecostals should pronounce this slowly) that is being presented. I especially liked, ?I think the best messages are less like delivering a speech and more like surfing, a constant awareness and sensitivity to what I feel God doing in the room, what I feel people are receiving or not receiving.? Amen!

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 14, 2012

@Mark, I guess the point I was trying to make is that this "pattern" that you presented is not quite accurate. It is a bit too simplistic. It does not reflect the complexities of what actually happens on these comment boards often. So, my response was not so much to answer your question of why the pattern you depicted was so. Instead, it was more to question whether that pattern was in fact true. A couple of additional thoughts: I have no problem with offering a critical analysis of these articles. But what I see so often is people making inferences from the article that just aren't there. What I see so often is people putting words into the authors' "mouths" and then criticizing and judging THAT rather than what the author actually wrote. Case in point. In your initial post, you wrote that obviously the author leaned left. Well, he might. Then again, he might not! You're conclusion isn't that obvious to me, and I teach people how to interpret writing for a living! I am politically conservative, and I had serious concerns with Clinton when he was in office. But as far as his abilities as a public speaker, I would agree with what the author of this article wrote. And like I said, I don't lean left at all. So, just based on what the author wrote, you can't be sure that the author leans left. Furthermore, even if he does lean left, so what? God is not a Republican nor a Democrat! He doesn't prefer one party to the other. But the thing is, you inferred that the author leaned left politically, and that inference colored everything else you read, so that you were no longer able to understanding him on his own terms. Like I said, I have no problems with people offering an objective, critical analysis of the contents of these articles. In fact, I would encourage it. But I just don't see THAT happening very often here! Anyways, I hope this clarifies a bit what I was trying to do in my response.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 14, 2012

I'm very curious as to what would've been the overall response if the article had been about Ronal Reagan and the Art of Preaching!

commented on Sep 14, 2012

Bill Clinton "preached" politics in such an articulate and effective way of communication that must inspire Christian preachers and lay leaders who are not very effective in communicating the gospel of Christ. Bashing Clinton disqualifies the Christian, lay or otherwise, who would be used by God to be the light to those living in sin. I know we are called to be the light and salt of the earth, not indiscriminate judges.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

BW, thanks again for replying. First, I think that it is an inaccurate judgment that I ?put words into his mouth? about leaning left. It is true, he at least leans left. Second, to be clear, what I said to the author was, ?It is obvious that, at a minimum, you lean left.? Third, you said, ?You're conclusion isn't that obvious to me, and I teach people how to interpret writing for a living!? That sounds like a cool thing to do for a living. I would love to do that. Just so you know where I am coming from, I, for a living, analyze what people say and help them to see the truth and error of what they say and live, and I teach them how to discern truth from error. Fourth, you said, ?So, just based on what the author wrote, you can't be sure that the author leans left.? I agree, partially. I did not, however, base this on what the author wrote ALONE. One could, if they had to, be at least 95 sure (but perhaps not 100) on the article alone that he leans left ?at a minimum.? Here are a few things that I observed just from the article: praising BC (how many conservatives do that as opposed to liberals?); falling for and fawning for presentation and style and feeling-based ideas (again, conservatives vs. liberals?); a lack of concern for or exercising of discernment; declaring liberal talking points as good and confirmed falsehoods as ?facts;? exalting style over substance and charm over character (again, conservatives vs. liberals?); claiming to be above the fray of ?left or right,? or overly concerned about politics (in my experience, FAR more liberals do this than conservatives); etc, etc.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

Anyone can make mistakes, be mislead, etc, but he was overjoyed and excited to hear a politician! A LIBERAL politician! (I could go on about the BC, liberalism, deception, etc connection.) Who is going to do all that, a liberal or conservative? (Are we at 95 yet?) Yet I did NOT go on the article alone. [Hint: the name of his church is a big tip off.] If you look at his blog and church website it is essentially a classic emergent/liberal/trendy church with a lot of hipster and Pentecostal added to the mix. (There is even the politically liberal ?social justice? in the church!) You see, BW, this all fits perfectly with what I wrote: Person C judges Person B (inaccurately) for making an accurate judgment of Person A, AND Person C questions Person B for his judgment! All of this energy on Person B (as the problem) and not on Person A and the problems in his article. That is the problem.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

?Furthermore, even if he does lean left, so what?? In some situations it would not matter, but if you look at my point(s) I mentioned this politics because HE claimed politics did not matter, but then he subtly attempted to inject politics, praised a liberal politician, and called declared liberal political talking points as facts, and asked us to follow a controversial liberal politician for his style while asking us to ignore the theological implications of communication and character. [were also talking about a convention where the same political party intentionally removed ?God? from its platform and then either God or others were booed for putting God back in.]

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 14, 2012

What if it were Ronald Reagan? Yes, what if it were Nixon, Carter, Kennedy? None of them would be wise. Yet none of them would come close to BC in problems. [If someone exalted Kennedy for how to treat women, and then someone objected this man as a model for this (especially given the facts), it is likely Group C would judge him/her of ?being political,? or ?judging,? or ?casting stones,? etc.] Where do we draw the line between praising someone?s style while avoiding their character? Hitler? Stalin? Churchill? Why pick a politician as a role model? Yes, we all have our sins. Maybe you or I would not want people to see us as a role model for ______ (driving, early morning rising, lawn care, etc). Why then exalt someone for their communication when, objectively speaking, this person is not overly concerned with truth, rather, getting people to like or follow him based on style. Who else communicates that way? (at least communicated the truth effectively in that way)

Felipe Rodriguez

commented on Sep 15, 2012

For many of the people writting negative comments on this articule base on idiology or personal differences rather than b?blical diffences wouldn't allow Jes?s eat with pharises, tax collectors, or any of the people he deal with.

Thomas Haddad

commented on Sep 15, 2012

Hey Jonathan great article...If all the Pharisses come against you, that should be enough confirmation to ensure your on the right track. :) God Bless.

Thomas Haddad

commented on Sep 15, 2012

Here's the problem...As a church we've forgotten that we're Christians (followers of the way) and instead we think were Conservatives or Republicans. We are not politicans. We're called to serve and follow Jesus Christ. I believe this article was right on and superbly written, and I believe all the hate comes from the fact that the church is so caught up in politics that it's forgotten its true purpose, serve Jesus and serve His people.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 15, 2012

@Bill, I promise you I did not put those next 4 guys up to flawlessly fulfilling "the pattern." And no, in case anyone's wondering, I did not make up "Gregory Stanley" or what he wrote. That is real! That is "I will treat anyone with vile hatred while ACCUSING THEM OF HATE for disagreeing with my positions." "I will judge and condemn anyone for making a judgment." We all have our blind spots, but we are low in hope if we cannot see the glaring and egregious problems in things like these: "You are wrong, even evil, and we will even resort to name calling if you say someone else is wrong." Granted "Gregory Stanley" (and others here) is exceptional and extreme, nevertheless he (I'm not convinced he is real) fits perfectly into "the pattern" of Person A, B, C. What say you?

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 15, 2012

I forgot to mention: I am going to use GS's reply--for instructional purposes, and on many levels--as a perfect illustration of many problems in the church, but if any of you made this up then now is the time to tell me so I don't use a phony illustration. (Note: I won't use his name).

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 16, 2012

Wow, Gregory, what a hate-filled response. Congratulations for putting all the haters in their place. Filipe: You denigrate disagreeing on ideological grounds, as if ideology is inappropriate grounds for Christian critique. What do you mean by ideology? The definition of ideology is "the body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group." Is doctrinal disagreement inappropriate? Additionally, one of the things for which Bill Clinton was praised was "compartmentalization," his seeming ability to divorce certain parts of his life from others. Can we compartmentalize the person of the preacher from that which is preached? In other words, does character matter when it comes to the messenger and the message?

David Buffaloe

commented on Sep 16, 2012

I'm going to write an Obama article. If Clinton got this much response, an Obama article will crash the servers ;)

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 16, 2012

@ Thomas Haddad: I disagree with your assessment Thomas. The way I see it is many people here are, ironically, inaccurately accusing people like me of making this about politics, when it is the other way around. I don?t see a single assertion that ?we? think ?we? are, or have to be, Conservative or Republicans. Where was that said? My point in this arena was that the author (and a few others) said it was NOT about politics, but then not only did he praise a political figure, he lauded one that is heavily one-sided (it does not matter which side). (I questioned this as disingenuous or blind to bias.) What is more, he praised the CONTENT of a specific hyper-political speech (as having ?facts,? etc)--a speech that has been objectively discredited for misleading, factual distortions, appealing to feelings, etc. Are we not allowed to point out our strong disagreement or this error in the article? And if we do, must we endure personal attacks as being haters and from hell? And then we are judged and condemned as the ?unChristian? ones in all of this? [This all goes back to the ?pattern? I pointed out earlier.]

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 16, 2012

[part 2] @ Thomas: In addition, some of us took umbrage with connecting good communication with someone (it does not necessarily matter of what political persuasion) who is a POLITICIAN (people, who in general, are not overly concerned with truth). Yet by pointing out these concerns and problems ?we? are judged and condemned as being ?haters?? ?We? pointed out the problems with asserting, however subtly, politics into this, and then we are labeled as haters for making this about politics? I was trying to keep politics out of this, so I pointed this problem out. And now I am labeled as the political one? and as a ?hater?? What is the worst part in all of this is that so few here (and elsewhere) see (at least by the lack of responses) the problem in these ?patterned? responses. Bill, if you are still reading, I hope you see what I meant before.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 16, 2012

Mark writes, "And if we do, must we endure personal attacks as being haters and from hell? And then we are judged and condemned as the ?unChristian? ones in all of this? [This all goes back to the ?pattern? I pointed out earlier.]" Mark, you may not want me to say this, but I agree with you 100! I am considered by some on this site as a "mean spirited" "spiritual bully" for some of what I write. And believe it or not, some have been offended by me for nothing other than writing what the Bible says. And I have expressed what you have written here before (although not quite as extensively). Some people on here believe that everyone's doctrine is just as valid as anyone elses. Some people believe that Biblical truth really can't be known, so you have no right to say that others are wrong and you are right because after all, everyone interprets the Bible differently. But that simply isn't the truth. And if you stick to your guns, you will be called unchristian for not accepting liberal views. And yes, sometimes I can get a little "mean" in my responses, but Jesus also did when he defended the truth of His Word. I mean, calling the Pharisees "vipers" isn't very "Christlike" is it? If Jesus was writing on these post and responding to false teaching and false doctrine, and told it like it was as He did many times, people would attack Him and call Him "mean." Like I said, I have a bad name on here, I have driven some people from this site because of my responses, so you might not like me saying I am in your corner, but I am!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 17, 2012

Oh, and by the way, I have never called anyone a "viper" or any other name. And I never "attack" the person, just their views. But for many, that's too much. And guess what, when you continue to press for the truth of what some on here really believe, you find out that some believe the Bible has contradictions in it. But your the "bully" for not accepting their views. Go figure!

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Sep 17, 2012

David Buffaloe: You might be right, but you wouldn't hear it from me. While I disagree with Obama politically and I don't share his religious orientation, he doesn't appear to have the ethical flaws that render Clinton impotent. I hear people talk about Obama being a powerful communicator. Give it a shot, brother.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Mark, I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. I'm a high school teacher, and my students just had their first test last Friday, so I was pretty busy over the weekend grading tests. I appreciate your responses, although I have to be honest, they aren't very easy to understand. It seems to be that for some reason you use question marks when you should be using quotation marks. I don't know if perhaps English isn't your first language, but please, if I misunderstood something you were trying to say, I'm not doing it on purpose. Anyways, a few thoughts from what I think I understood...First, I'm not judging you for anything. Like you, I'm simply pointing out what I read from you the way I understood it. If I misunderstood you, then I'll take you at your word and stand corrected! See how easy that is? No, "You're judging me for judging you and I'm going to stick to my guns 'cause I'm right, blah, blah, blah!" Just a simple apology: I apologize for the misunderstanding, and I appreciate your clarification. Second, if you are casting yourself as "Person B", as I suspected you were, please know that I don't think of you as a problem at all. I would hope you would grant me the same kindness if you are casting me as "Person C." And by the way, the problem I have with your "pattern" that you keep bringing up is that, like I said earlier, it is too simplistic to reflect the complexities of the conversations that actually take place on here. Furthermore, it becomes a paradigm by which you interpret these conversations, rather than focusing on the actual substance of what people actually say on here. And just as you have the right to post your comments and opinions on here, I have that right, too. I think we would make a lot more progress if we stopped being so overly sensitive and defensive about everything written about us, and just tried to listen to and understand each other on each others terms. Finally, I don't know who are the "next 4 guys" that you referred to in post #72. I suspect those posts , or at least some of them, may have been deleted. So I can't really say anything about them.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Dennis, if I recall correctly, this is the second time that I can think of where you posted that you've been described as a "bully." These comments come completely out of the blue, when no one on this thread has been referring to you as a bully, or even referring to you at all! Just an observation, and I could be wrong, but you seem to wear the title of "bully" like a badge of honor! Isn't there a better term you would prefer yourself to be described as?

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@ Dennis [part 1]: Thanks for agreeing with me. I guess you are a fellow Person B. Do you notice the silence from all the accusers of hate when someone on ?their side? treats someone NOT on their side inaccurately and with such hate? Where is all the concern then? It seems that you and I agree on Scripture as our supreme authority and standard that we determine what is right, truth, etc (however imperfectly we may go about it, or our conclusions). I?m not sure what the superlative standard is for many on here. So if two people cannot agree on what that supreme standard is as Christians, let alone Christian leaders, then how can we hope to agree on much else?

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Dennis: [part 2] I want my agenda to be this: as faithfully before God as I can, to be seeking truth and contending for the faith while, hopefully, doing so in a loving way. I know that even then that this will offend many (Jer 6:10; 2 Cor 4:15-16) I believe that there are times to correct and rebuke others, or even to ?rebuke them sharply? (Ti 1:13). I can see why others are not thrilled when this happens. I don?t like it (on either side of this). It is one thing for me to rebuke others or others to rebuke me, but it is another thing when it crosses the line. But if that line is here for me but there for anyone who disagrees with me then things just get ridiculous and sad.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Dennis [part 3]: For many people it seems to be, ?If you disagree or criticize then you are hateful. And rather than strongly disagreeing, dialoging with you, and even criticizing you, I now have the right--no DUTY--to treat you hateful, not pay attention to what you said, etc ....? My biggest grief is that they either do not see the self-defeating mindset, or they do, and they refuse to admit it is wrong and harmful. [PS: I admit that I?m guilt of being too extensive]

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@ Bill [part 1]: How dare you judge me! Just kidding. I might be more frustrated with the question marks than you. Thanks for your reply, and no worries (how dare you faithfully do your job!). There seems to be a pattern for many of us on here (I guess depending on software/computer) that the comment section changes quotation marks--or other punctuation--into question marks; so yes, it does make it more difficult to read and understand. English, sadly, is my first language, I?m just not well at it. I, too, appreciate your response. Yes, I lump my self into Person B, and yes, I realize it is more complex (I was trying to simplify things by giving a general pattern, and then we can fit in the specifics later).

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Bill [part 2] I did not see you as a Person C (not everyone fits in this paradigm). Again, it is a general pattern. I do think that people in Person C (roughly speaking) have not or will not respond in any way other than the dreaded pattern as stated previously, and as demonstrated over and over--here and elsewhere. Hence, the pattern. I will say that I never stated anything along the lines that you or anyone else does not have the right to respond. I love it when people respond! And, to a lesser degree, even when they disagree with what I believe (so that we can do a little iron sharpening iron).

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@ Bill [part 4]: If I understand you correctly, you might be implying that I am too sensitive in this arena; if so then we have not clearly understood each other. I am merely attempting to point out a harmful pattern that tends to shut down dialogue, discourage discernment, and defeat refining truth in our hearts (sorry, I could not carry on the alliteration). Also, you are right, someone deleted the comment, but I saved it, so here it is: Great article!!! Where does all the hate come from? The author is only making a comparison as to how effective the speech was to captivate some listeners. Some of you hate your own mothers and daddys. You are digusting. Get some real love in your heart. You just hate, just to hate. I would be willing to gamble, and I don't gamble, that all you haters cannot hold your own children attention, less known a room full of people. You hater from hades... [Bill, I ask, not from you, where is all the concern about hate from those here who have accused Person B of hate? Why the deafening silence? I think, that for many of them, an attacking response is most of all that they have.]

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Bill [part3]: I very much appreciate your reasoned response (it was very good), however, my main concern is, essentially, the irony and self-defeating approach of Persons C [and that they do not see it, or will not admit what they are doing]. The common thread I see is that they blame Person B for disagreeing with, criticizing/critiquing (most often w/Scripture) Person A (and yes, at least some of the points of Person A or C may be valid) ... all while Person C does the same thing, but often far worse! Person C disagrees with, personally attacks, labels as haters for not agreeing, does not listen to, falsely accuses, inaccurately judges Person B! And they see no problem with what they, individually, have done, nor what other Persons C have done. [just take a look in this comment section]

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Mark, thank you for your responses. I guess the main thing I'm trying to say is that at the end of the day, you can't do anything about Person A, B, C, etc. Whether the other person is being hypocritical or self-defeating, it's really out of our control. The only thing one can do is try to communicate one's point as clearly as possible, and try to understand those with other points of view. And on that note, since you alluded to this in post #83, keep in mind that just because someone disagrees with you on a certain issue does NOT mean they don't hold the Scriptures as the supreme authority. I'm sure that's not what you implied by what you wrote. But that is the message that is often communicated by the Person B in you pattern. If we use the pattern you presented, with the caveats I've already noted, Person B often either implies or outright declares that anyone who disagrees with their interpretation is not being faithful to the Scriptures, or does not hold the Scriptures as authoritative, or is being motivated by culture, feminism, etc. I'm not saying that that's what Person B ALWAYS does, but I think that is the message that is often communicated, whether that was Person B's intention or not. And I suspect that it is THAT attitude, more than the actual substance of Person B's comments themselves, that provokes the reactions that you see from Persons C, D, etc. Which brings me to my original point: Person B is often NOT an innocent victim. If you see yourself in this or in another thread as Person B, you may want to step back a bit and make sure you're not doing what I've just described.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Bill [part 2] Again, my point was that from that foundational disagreement we will have a nearly impossible agreeing on other important theological issues. Also, Person A makes a declaration of truth, which, as a result, asserts that Person B?s interpretation is wrong. Okay, fair enough. Person B replies and asserts Person A?s conclusion is wrong. Person C (and sometimes A) attack Person B for responding (however imperfectly). This pattern is throughout this and many other comment sections. I appreciate, however, that Person B is not always correct, or correct in how they approach their disagreements.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Bill: [part 1]: Thanks again. I appreciate that we cannot change anyone, but I originally asked for help with the infamous ?pattern? and you graciously responded (and no one else did). I do not see you as a Person C. You do NOT fit the pattern, except to maybe misunderstand, or even misjudge me or what I am saying (which at least part of that can be my fault). Clarification: I never said that because someone does not agree with me that they do not have the Word as the supreme authority. My point was that (an increasing number of ...) people are concluding that they do not see the Bible as their supreme authority.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 17, 2012

Bill, I have been called a "spiritual bully" and "mean spirited" by at least two people. There is a third who I believe alluded to me although did not mention my name. No I don't wear that as a badge of honor. My point was that even when you do nothing but quote Scripture, people will think you are being mean. That's not to say I have been perfect in responding to others at times.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@ Mark "My point was that (an increasing number of ...) people are concluding that they do not see the Bible as their supreme authority." AMEN TO THAT! That is exactly what I see also!

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 17, 2012

Dennis, is that you, you troubler of sermoncentral? (1 Kings 18:17)

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 17, 2012

@Bill in reading again what you asked me about being a spiritual bully, I didn't mean on this thread, but on others in the past. And again I do not wear it as a badge of honor because I don't believe it is true. I use a lot of Scripture when I debate others because my opinion doesn't matter, only God's does. But as I said, some think that when you quote Scripture you are being mean.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 18, 2012

@Mark, I think we have an overall understanding of each other. I've enjoyed our conversation. @Dennis, yeah, I've seen people refer to you as that. The point I'm making is that, like I said and like you recognize, no one is calling you that now. It's in the past, so why bring that up now? I guess I'm just the kind of guy who prefers to focus on the present, rather than on what others have done to me in the past. The older I've gotten, the less time I hold grudges! Anyways, I'd like to make an observation, and it's just that--a personal observation. You wrote that some people think you are mean because you quote Scripture. From the way I see it, I don't think that people think you're mean because you quote from Scripture. I think they think you're mean because of an underlying attitude which communicates that idea that anyone who disagrees with your interpretation does not hold Scripture as the supreme authority. It's not just that you disagree with someone. It's that you make incorrect and unfair judgments on someone based on those disagreements. I think there is a way to disagree with someone and stand firm to your own convictions, while at the same time treating others with respect and civility. Like I said, that's just my personal observation, and you're welcome to ignore it if you want. But I would suggest that if you try treating people with a little more respect, even while holding firm to your convictions, you might discover that people will respond in kind. Just look at the conversation between me and Mark. He and I disagreed on various points. And yet, it was a very pleasant, civil conversation. On a site that is designed for Christian leaders, this type of exchange should be the norm, not the exception.

Pastor Sandy .

commented on Sep 18, 2012

@Dennis - just a note to clarify:In a previous posting, Fernando asked "What if a woman claims to be called by God to be a pastor, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, you are able to discern that the call is valid? . . . do you reevaluate, etc?" You responded "The Holy Spirit will never go against God's Word! Maybe they better 'test the spirits to see if they be of God!'" And later "The Holy Spirit will NOT (your emphasis) go against the Word of God so HE DOES NOT CALL WOMEN TO BE PASTORS OR BE THE HEAD OF THE HOME!" Then you said to Fernando: "So what didn't you understand about what I said?" It seems to me, Dennis, and perhaps (and probably) to others that you appear to be establishing yourself as judge and jury, and usually not in Christian-like tone! Quoting scripture is one thing, but mean-spirited comments are quite another. And isn't this why we have so many different branches of Protestantism? If you don't believe women should be in pulpit, go down the street - the next church probably believes differently. I do not believe the intent of this article was to preach theology - the intent was to provide most of us who believe in learning every day for the rest of our lives to have something interesting to ponder when we present our next sermon. Prayers for you - and blessings for all.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 18, 2012

And just to be fair to Dennis, by no means do I think he is the only one. I've seen this attitude displayed by various posters. Dennis just happened to be the one I was talking to on this particular occasion, but I don't want to appear to be picking on him. And Dennis, I don't think you're a bad person. I just think the way you communicate comes off as unnecessarily harsh, and I think you recognize that yourself. You use Jesus' interactions with the Pharisees to justify yourself. But you need to keep in mind that passages such as Matt. 23 did not reflect the general tenor of his speech. By far, humility and respect were more characteristic of the way he spoke. Also, Jesus had the advantage of being able to see the hearts of all people, something neither you nor I can do. Again, this is just a friendly bit of advice from a teacher who spends a lot of time teaching students how to communicate. You're welcome to take it or leave it as you see fit. However, if you don't feel the need to change the way you communicate, don't be surprised if you continue to elicit the kind of responses you have in the past. And you certainly shouldn't keep complaining about it! Just accept it and move on.

Pastor Sandy .

commented on Sep 18, 2012

Bill - thanks for pointing out that Dennis is not alone in his method of communicating an adverse opinion. He certainly is not! He just happens to be the only one bringing it up again. Dennis, I apologize if I appeared to be singling you out - it was not my intent. Blessings

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 18, 2012

@ Bill "The point I'm making is that, like I said and like you recognize, no one is calling you that now. It's in the past, so why bring that up now?" The reason I brought it up was because I thought this was the point Mark was making. I was just giving an example of what he was saying. I honestly don't believe I am as "rude" in my writing as people think. But that's just my opinion.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 18, 2012

@Mischa "Dennis - just a note to clarify:In a previous posting, Fernando asked "What if a woman claims to be called by God to be a pastor, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, you are able to discern that the call is valid? . . . do you reevaluate, etc?" You responded "The Holy Spirit will never go against God's Word! Maybe they better 'test the spirits to see if they be of God!'" And later "The Holy Spirit will NOT (your emphasis) go against the Word of God so HE DOES NOT CALL WOMEN TO BE PASTORS OR BE THE HEAD OF THE HOME!" Then you said to Fernando: "So what didn't you understand about what I said?"" Ok, so does the Holy Spirit go against His Word? Are we not told to "test the spirits to see if they be of God?" Just because a woman "claims" to be called doesn't mean it is from the Holy Spirit. What is so hard to understand about that? Fernado's question didn't make sense because God isn't going to "validate" that to me because it goes against His Word. The use of capital letters is the only way of emphasizing a point on here, maybe you all think I am shouting. And again, I really don't see how this is taken as a rude response. Also the response I made to him prior to his response was not hard to understand so his question was not necessary. Thus my response "What don't you understand about what I said?"

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 18, 2012

I really believe some people are way too sensitive and thin skinned. You won't make it as a pastor if you are like that. And BTW I do raise my voice at times whan I preach for emphasis on what I am saying. Is that hateful and taking an unchristian tone?

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 18, 2012

@Dennis, so if you think a person is too sensitive and thin-skinned, do you really think the solution is to keep railing on them? Pastor Sandy a few weeks ago referred me to one of those threads where you and Fernando went at it. I browsed through the comments, and I recall some mention about the fact that his father had just died. You're a pastor, don't you think maybe THAT had something to do with the way he was responding?Couldn't you simply have been the bigger man and just let the guy vent? I mean, surely you've been in an emotionally vulnerable state at some point in your life. How would you feel if someone spoke harshly to you at such a time? I guess what I'm trying to say is that you never know what's going on in the lives of the people on the other side of the computer. Maybe you don't think you're being rude, but if you've got several people pointing that out as a problem, you may want to at least consider the possibility!

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 18, 2012

Brothers and Sisters: How we treat each other is important, but could it be that there is not enough concern for the truth? Many Christian leaders do, in fact, according to their own words, doubt the Bible (Gen 3:1). Many Christian leaders, according to their own words, have "a different gospel" (Gal 1:6-9) and reject THE gospel. Yet few seem overly concerned about falsehood, and false teachers IN the church (2 Pet 2:1-2; Acts 20:28-31). How we treat each other is very important, but we are warned repeatedly about error spreading through out the church, not "mean spirited" words. It seems there is more "contending" for good speech and less contending for the faith (Jude 3; Phil 1:27-28). As a result, error is enabled, falsehood is fortified, and the broad road gets wider and more populated.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 18, 2012

@Mark, why can't we have BOTH contending for civil discourse AND contending for the faith? Is that really too much to ask?

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 18, 2012

I've been thinking about this is, and it occurs to me that with the exception of Romans, I believe that every letter that Paul wrote was directed to either a church or a person with whom he already had a relationship. Paul knew these people, and they knew him. They knew that he loved them and respected them and cared for them. And it was in that context of love and respect that Paul would confront and correct their errors. I agree with Mark, we SHOULD be concerned with truth. It is vitally important. But we can't cut out the relationship. Truth is not abstract. It is personal. Jesus said, "I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life." And since truth is personal, it is therefore relational. So, we cannot REALLY be concerned about truth if we are not also concerned about relationships, about treating each other with respect and civility.

Mark Baker

commented on Sep 19, 2012

@ Bill: I have enjoyed this discussion, but it probably would not have continued on (in a good way) without your willingness to speak up. So, thank you Bill. To your question(s): We can have both--that was my point--but it is a little more complicated than that. First, I see the concern for civil discourse, AND I acknowledged it is very important. But I cannot recall a significant concern for truth, for discerning. Also, I see very little to no concern for "civil discourse" coming from "pro-article" people toward other "pro-article" people who were, shall we say, less than civil toward those who disagreed with the article. Second, I can't recall anyone wholeheartedly engaging my concerns, the verses I added, the biblical principles I asserted, etc ... or that of other "People B" types. Third, false teaching and false teachers--no matter what the relationship--are not always treated by what we might call "civil discourse." The rebukes are sometimes intended to offend ... "get behind me Satan" (Jesus to Peter, whom He had an intimate relationship; and Paul to Peter in Gal 2) (yes, there are also times for gentle confrontations/rebukes).

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 19, 2012

@ Bill "I browsed through the comments, and I recall some mention about the fact that his father had just died. You're a pastor, don't you think maybe THAT had something to do with the way he was responding?Couldn't you simply have been the bigger man and just let the guy vent?" Bill, you said you read the thread. Did you not read where I appologized to Fernando and told him I understood why he might have responded that way. If you read the thread you know that Fernando wasn't even a part of the discussion but jumped in and wrote a scathing post. Much harsher than anything I wrote. I reacted, then appologized. Again, I have said it before, I don't claim to be perfect in my responses, but I don't believe they are as harsh as some think. And like Mark is saying, some people seem to be more concerned with how people respond to post and articles than they are about the fact that false teaching is taking place. Like when someone wrote "The Bible has contradictions." Where is your outrage about that statement! Seems to me that tha should be more troubling to you than the tone of someone pointing out the false teaching.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 19, 2012

@ Mark, "The rebukes are sometimes intended to offend ... "get behind me Satan" (Jesus to Peter, whom He had an intimate relationship; and Paul to Peter in Gal 2) (yes, there are also times for gentle confrontations/rebukes)." Amen Mark, my sentiments exactly! Most people are focused on the love of God (and thank God for His love) but forget the fact that He is also a God of wrath, and false teachers will be damned in a greater way. "Greater is your damnation" He told the Pharisees because their teaching was leading others to destruction. Electricity doesn't work without both possitive and negative charges. Most people want to only focus on the possitive, so I make sure I point out the negative. Not because I enjoy it, but because it is needed.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 19, 2012

@Dennis, do you have the kind of relationship with anyone on here that Jesus or Paul had with Peter?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 19, 2012

@Bill, why don't you answer my question in post #109?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 19, 2012

@Bill, let me ask you, if you truly read the thread with Fernando, then you saw that I did indeed appologize to him and he accepted my apology. Why then did you feel the need to bring this up? I reacted wrong, and ADMITTED I was wrong. Again, like I've said many times before, I'm not always perfect with my responses. Just kind of funny how you used that as an example of my rude responses.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 19, 2012

@Dennis, I wasn't avoiding you, I just had other pressing things to do for the moment. I went back and reread the thread, and you are right. You did apologize, and you are to be commended for doing so. Like I said earlier, I don't mean to be picking on you. Please don't take anything I'm saying personally. But if you're going to choose to be as outspoken as you are, don't be surprised if you get some resistance from those who disagree. Now could you answer my question: Do you have the kind of relationship with anyone on this site that Jesus or Paul had with Peter?

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 19, 2012

Bill, you posted a question before addressing mine. That is why I asked why you didn't answer. The question I had was why didn't you get upset over Sandy's statement about there being contradictions in the Bible? I think that is much more important than the tone of a response. I also am not bothered by being disagreed with. You were a big part of that thread so I know you read her statement. You even responded afterward. But don't bother going back and trying to read her responses, she deleated them all. I guess she was embarrassed by many of the things she said. And I really don't understand your question about Jesus, Paul, and Peter. Could you please explain what you mean? Thanks.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 19, 2012

@Dennis, why didn't I get upset about Sandy's comments regarding contradictions in the Bible? I guess I just didn't really see the point about getting upset with her comment. For the record, I wasn't upset by your comments about women in leadership, either. And please, you don't know why those comments were deleted. It's just bad form to speculate like you did. What I do recall doing is qualifying that the the Bible APPEARS to have contradictions, but as others pointed out, often these contradictions can be reconciled. And my larger point was that this reconciliation is possible only if you recognize that the Bible can state two different things, and both can be right, when you put both in their proper context. Believe it or not, I AM concerned about truth, but on these types of forums, the best you can hope for is to be able to discuss various viewpoints in a rational and civil manner. No one's mind is going to be changed by anything you or I write here. But perhaps you and I can plant thoughts in people's minds that they can consider and that perhaps will influence their thinking in the long-term.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 19, 2012

@Dennis, to clarify my question, you seem eager to point out that both Jesus and Paul rebuked Peter quite sternly. What you seem to miss is that Jesus and Paul had a RELATIONSHIP with Peter that preceded the rebuke where Peter knew he was loved and valued. I'm sure that didn't exactly take away the sting of the rebuke. But the context of the relationship made the rebuke appropriate. So my question is, when you rebuke someone or confront someone on this site, do YOU have that same kind of relationship with that person that Jesus and Paul had with Peter. Does the person you rebuke or confront know that you love and value them?

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 27, 2012

@Dennis, when you asked for an explanation of my question, I assumed it was because you intended to respond to it.

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