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A few years ago, Dr. Chuck Kelley gave me this “Torah Pointer.” It is used for the reading of the Torah, indicating the sacredness of the text. Dr. Kelley gave this to me to illustrate this simple charge: “Keep your finger on the text when you teach and preach.”

I was thinking about his gracious gift as I was preparing to preach on this passage:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 3:14-4:4 ESV

Timothy is being urged to keep his finger on the text as he continues in the ministry of the Word.

The opposite of this, of course, is to get away from the text.

And that seems to be quite popular. It was then, and it is now.

So what is preaching? Preaching is saying what God has said in his Word and declaring what God has done in Christ. When the Word of God is truly preached, the voice of God is truly heard. In contrast, when the words of man are at center stage, then the words of man are heard (though often mistaken for the Word of God).

Ranting is not preaching.

Ranting may be entertaining. It may get you on YouTube. It may even get you a large podcast following. But it isn’t preaching. Preaching is rooted in the text.

What I’ve observed of late is a fashionable trend among a lot of popular preachers to go on these 30-minute rants about issues like manhood, church planting, Calvinism, the President of the U.S., or how to dress.

While we need to apply the text to a given congregation, does this mean we just use a verse to jump into some agenda of ours? No. That’s not preaching. I have one word for the ranters out there: Keep your finger on the text when you teach and preach. And I will try to do the same.

God has not called us to rant; he has called us to preach the Word—faithfully, consistently, pastorally, patiently, and theologically.

Prosperity gospel preachers and other false teachers use the rant method, and this same method seems to be employed by others, but they don’t get called out because they are orthodox theologically.

Let’s remember that the 30-minute rant is dangerous. Why?

• It is dangerous because you lose authority when you leave Scripture.

• It is dangerous because you are feeding the flesh of people. Every generation has people who want to find teachers to “suit their own passions.”

• It is dangerous because it feeds the cult of personality movement in our culture. People come wondering, “What will he say this week?” instead of preparing to hear a faithful exposition of Holy Scripture.

• It is dangerous because it disregards our holy mandate as preachers and teachers. We will be held accountable for how we’ve handled the Word (James 3:1, Heb. 13:7, 17).

• It is dangerous because we don’t want people putting their faith in man’s wisdom but in God’s Word.

May God raise up a new generation of faithful, responsible expositors of Scripture who keep their finger on the text as they teach and preach. 

Tony Merida serves as the Pastor for Preaching and Vision at Imago Dei Church, Raleigh, NC and as the Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five children. Tony is the co-author of Orphanology, and the author of Faithful Preaching and Proclaiming Jesus. He travels and speaks all over the world at various events, especially pastor’s conferences, orphan care events, and youth & collegiate conferences.

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David Buffaloe

commented on Sep 4, 2012

Great points!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 4, 2012

We are certainly in the day of people "heaping unto themselves teachers having itching ears." We certainly need to preach the text. But I would say that if you brought a message on the errors of Calvinism, you wouldn't be ranting, but instructing. Teaching that the sovereignty of God isn't at a higher level than His love for mankind. I believe it is very important to know that in salvation God wants all to be saved (2 Peter 3:9, John 3:16 among many other Scriptures.) We do not work for our salvation Eph. 2:8-9. Faith and belief are not works as Calvinism teaches (Romans 4:5). Even manhhod is a biblical subject that needs to be taught, especially in our feminized society. Men need to know what God expects of us as husbands and fathers, and singles. So while I wholeheartedly believe we should preach the text, many text speak to the issues used in the article as negatives. Those examples are not rantings.

James Walker

commented on Sep 4, 2012

The nature of this article disturbs me. When did we become judges of what is "ranting" and what "preaching". Many sermons by great people of God applied scripture to present day politics, morality and economics. Scripture itself addressed the current events that affected the peoples lives who read and heard it. Were the prophets just ranting when they addressed kings and judges alike? Was Jesus just ranting when he said of King Herod, "Go tell that fox...." Is enthusiasm and prophetic pulpit fervor mistaken today for "ranting". I certainly hope not. All sorts of sermons are unique in content and delivery. Some may be exegetical in style while others are more to apply and guide in the affairs of the home, workplace and yes in the nation. Perhaps we need a little more emphatic "ranting" and little less casual complacency in the pulpit -- but then that is my opinion and not meant for another. I think an article such as this begins to cause us to critique/if not judge one another's pulpit content and delivery. Only to our Master does each preacher rise or fall.

Steven Brown

commented on Sep 4, 2012

I agree wholeheartedly!

Steve Shepherd

commented on Sep 4, 2012

Amen! God bless you!

Lawrence Rae

commented on Sep 4, 2012

The passion of a rant, with good exposition would certainly be better than professorial lectures. The champion of our Confession didn't follow our rules of exposition. At times he used verses out of context and illustrations we wouldn't dare use today. Are we not to follow his example?

Juanita Thomas

commented on Sep 4, 2012

This was excellent! I can't tell you how tired I am of hearing this growing movement that everybody has a word for everybody else....buy they don't have a word for themselves.... People have spoken into my life and some I believe and others I feel are just doing what seems Spirtual....it seems Spirtual to tell somebody "God told me to tell you this" but at the end of the day....don't believe the press believe what God is speaking to you....someone may confirm it.... But it shouldn't come as a surprise!

Juanita Thomas

commented on Sep 4, 2012

This was excellent! I can't tell you how tired I am of hearing this growing movement that everybody has a word for everybody else....buy they don't have a word for themselves.... People have spoken into my life and some I believe and others I feel are just doing what seems Spirtual....it seems Spirtual to tell somebody "God told me to tell you this" but at the end of the day....don't believe the press believe what God is speaking to you....someone may confirm it.... But it shouldn't come as a surprise!

R.l. Wilson

commented on Sep 4, 2012

Right on Point with this article!!! Can I get an AMEN!

Dan Smith

commented on Sep 4, 2012

Ranting isn't preaching. Sounds like judge,jury and hangman all in one simple statement. Please define ranting for me and let us hear one of your sermons. You seem to know the context of others sermons without hearing them to put them all in the same box that you have defined for others. You may not "rant" but you definately seem to boast to your own abilities.

Joe Mckeever

commented on Sep 4, 2012

In a rant, the preacher takes a text general enough to allow latitude for his pet peeves, funny stories, and political opinions. A half-hour later, he has entertained his audience and--to our everlasting shame--sends laymen and preachers alike out the doors feeling that what they heard must surely be anointed preaching because the spokesman pastors a huge flock. Whatever else he has done, he has not preached the word. He has ranted. Thank you, Tony. A good word.

Erwin M Burmester

commented on Sep 4, 2012

Blessings to you Tony! My heart warmed to your subject. The Jews use a "Yad" or pointer when they read Torah which, for one thing, protects the scroll. I have taken to using the back of my pen. The tool or methoud is not the point though; pointing out "Thus sayeth the Lord" is! Thank you. Shalom.

John E Miller

commented on Sep 5, 2012

I have to agree with this article. The primacy of God's word must be unchallenged. God's word and God's will never diverge from one another. The word is a seed. It is also a sword. It is as eternal and unchanging as its Author. I loved the last observation. Do I put my faith in man's wisdom or God's word?

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Sep 5, 2012

Neither is preaching the Bible, at random, called for!

Marc Daniels

commented on Sep 5, 2012

I'm surprised at all the negative comments. I know Tony and his heart is truly focused on the love of God and on loving others. He made some very good points about the need to stay true to the Scriptures, so I'm not sure why those replying felt the need to comment about Calvinism,boring lecture style preaching, or random passage preaching, or to say that Tony is acting as a judge in his comments. Shouldn't we be guarding our flocks against unScriptural practices that "tickle their ears"? Thanks Tony for reminding us the truth of Paul's words to Timothy!

Marc Daniels

commented on Sep 5, 2012

I'm surprised at all the negative comments. I know Tony and his heart is truly focused on the love of God and on loving others. He made some very good points about the need to stay true to the Scriptures, so I'm not sure why those replying felt the need to comment about Calvinism,boring lecture style preaching, or random passage preaching, or to say that Tony is acting as a judge in his comments. Shouldn't we be guarding our flocks against unScriptural practices that "tickle their ears"? Thanks Tony for reminding us the truth of Paul's words to Timothy!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 5, 2012

Marc, I'm surprised by your "negative comments." I agreed with the basic thought of the article as you can clearly see in my post. But do you really believe that if I brought a message or series of messages (as I have done) on Calvinism, I am "ranting"? And am I "ranting" when I preach a series on the home and biblical manhood? Are there not biblical text that speak to these issues? Why use these as examples of "ranting"? It is sad that we have gotten to the point in our society where we can't say anything "negative" about anything anymore. We should all just agree with whoever writes these things and tell them how wonderful they are for writing them. And if you take a stand on an issues and won't back down, you are considered a "spiritual bully." I'll tell you why our churches are so weak today, it's because preachers need a backbone! We have a bunch of touchy feely wimps who are afraid to tell the truth because, God forbid, we offend anyone.

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 5, 2012

From what I understood the author to be saying, ranting is not necessarily about the subject, per se. Rather, it is about using the text to support one's own agenda. Sometimes its easy to tell the difference between ranting and true preaching. Other time, not so much. I guess what surprised me, and this may have also been what Marc had in mind as well, is that a few got rather defensive, as if the author was attacking their own personal style or choice of topics. This lead them to read into the author's words more than was probably intended. For example, James inferred that this article would cause people to judge the content and delivery of other preachers. But I think the author's intent was quite clear that what he was calling for was not to judge other's preaching, but rather for the preacher to judge himself and make sure he is being faithful to scripture. I guess my point is, if you are not using the text to further your own agenda, there's no need to get defensive, and there's no need to think the author's comments on "ranting" are directed to you! Which is why I was actually surprised that Dennis, whose initial comment was very reasonable, got so defensive about Marc's comment.

Steve Baker

commented on Sep 5, 2012

Sometimes we confuse "ranting with rambling". I am a "text to test" preacher. The idea of ranting is associated many times with "hell fire and brimstone" preaching. I too detest some preachers that preach like they are drawing their last breath. The text to test,that is what I call it when the people are filling out after worship service and I ask them some "random" questions as what I preached in my sermon.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 5, 2012

Bill, the author said, "What I?ve observed of late is a fashionable trend among a lot of popular preachers to go on these 30-minute rants about issues like manhood, church planting, Calvinism, the President of the U.S., or how to dress." Isn't that a "negative comment"? In fact, isn't the whole article full of negatives? I have no propbelm with that. I just disagreed with the autor's use of some things he considers ranting if you preach on those subjects. So I wrote my thoughts which included the reference to Calvinism. Since I am the only one who made that reference, and Marc was in fact pointing that out in a "negative way" why am I wrong for answering back?

Bill Williams

commented on Sep 6, 2012

@Dennis, yeah, you made the comment about Calvinism, but I don't think Marc was singling you out. He can speak for himself. I just think that James' and Dan's comments were much more critical, and unfairly so, of the article than yours. It's not that you were wrong to answer him back. It's just that I thought your initial comment needed no defense. And just to clarify, I think what the author was trying to say is NOT that preaching on topics like Calvinism is ranting, but that if you use the Bible as a "springboard" to push the agendas of the examples that were given, THAT is ranting. Or to put it simply, ranting is not so much about WHAT you preach, but more about HOW you preach it. As long as you are interpreting the texts responsibly and the issues that you bring up can be legitimately inferred from those texts, there should be no problems.

Dennis Cocks

commented on Sep 6, 2012

Bill, I understand what you are saying.

Michael Karpf

commented on Sep 7, 2012

At the age of 13 I went through the ritual of Bar Mitzvah, being Jewish. The Torah (the sacred scrolls containing the 5 books of Moses,written in Hebrew with no vowels) is so sacred you would not even think of touching it. You use a pointer called a "yod" when reading it. The tip of is a hand with a finger pointing. 2 Tim 4:1-5 (and it's context) is my passage and reminder to "Preach the Word," and "Keep your finger in the text." Thank you for posting.

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