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.