THE DANGER OF WEAK PREACHING
Across the front of our communion tables read the words, "In Remembrance Of Me." In the early Restoration territory it was not, and still is not, unusual to see inscribed across the front of a pulpit, "Preach The Word." And it may be followed by an exclamation point, and rightfully so!
When the apostle Paul told Timothy to preach the Word, he gave him his sermon topic, his sermon notes, and his sermon. I well recall years ago that an aging Methodist preacher was standing in the pulpit, and turning to a younger preacher, most likely a graduate from a liberal seminary, he said, "And if you ever run out of anything to preach," taking his big Bible in hand, "there's a lot of good sermon material in here!" I have always admired that statement.
Deluding The People: -- When the preacher comes to the pulpit half-prepared, the other half unprepared, knowing little about the Scriptures and not much about his text, he ought to be tossed out the backdoor. If not, why not? God made Israel to know that not only were they to obey His every command, but they were neither to add to them nor take from them (Deut. 5:32; 12:32). The warnings of the New Testament are no less potent, if not more so! (Matt. 15:9,13; Acts 20:28-31; 1 Cor. 1:10; 3:3-5; Gal. 1:6-12; Jude 3; Rev. 22:18,19).
Weak preaching, and only a dead man could deny we have it, deludes the people into thinking they are saved with half-hearted efforts; they are members of just one more denomination; there may be a heaven and hell and then there might not be; baptism is old fashioned, days gone by preaching; etc. In such preaching the persons quoted are seldom Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, James and Jude -- not to mention the Old Testament -- but rather the modern theologians of the day.
Shamefully enough, some of, if not many of, our younger preachers are reading their sermons, talking about the "Christian Community" or "community of believers," whereas our true to the Book gospel preachers ventured forth to call it the church! And they knew which one they meant! I mean these men no harm for they have accomplished much good, but when quotations are made from Barclay, G. Campbell Morgan, and others more than from Peter or Paul, we are edging more and more into the arena of denominational preaching. Having been reared in a denomination, obeying the gospel at the age of thirteen, preaching by the time I was fifteen, I know both sides of the coin. I know a gospel sermon when I hear it, and I know a sectarian sermon when I hear it. And I weep to confess that churches of Christ are getting more and more sermons that sound so much like the sectarians! We have adopted their homework, quoted from their Sunday School materials, picked up their recreation, toned down the pulpit, and done all but move out the Lord's table and move in the piano! I love the people in the denominations, but I love my own brethren more, and feel a beckon to make clarion call to "come out from among them!"
Rejecting The Truth: -- Paul warned that men would divide the kingdom with their false doctrines, leading away men after themselves (Acts 20:29-31). He also warned Timothy concerning it (2 Tim. 3:1ff; 4:1-5). For years we have heard, of the great apostasy and we think of the Roman Catholic Church -- but, brethren, I'm here to tell you that we are undergoing, we are experiencing, another great apostasy, and it is taking place right in the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I well realize that truth is truth regardless of who teaches it, but I also realize that error is error regardless of who teaches it. If I stand in the pulpit of a denomination and extend to an audience an invitation to come forward, repenting of their sins, confessing the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and being immersed in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I am preaching Truth. But if I stand in the pulpit within the brotherhood and have the audience bow their heads and accept Jesus, I am preaching error! We have this thing all turned around: we think if the denominations preach it, it is automatically wrong; and if the brethren preach it, it is automatically right. Beloved, it isn't who is preaching it, it's what is being preached that counts! When Paul stood among the Athenians at Mars Hill, that didn't make him a Greek. He was there to preach the truth.
A few years ago I stood in Alexander Campbell's study. The very spot where he prepared his sermons and lectures, and where he wrote his classic works. I stood by his tombstone at his grave. I walked through his stately home. I passed by Bethel College where he taught. Were this great man alive today, how would the present apostasy affect him? But more than that, I am concerned how it affects our Savior as He walks among the seven golden candlesticks? Are we still His church? Do we still abide faithfully by His teachings and honor what He stood for? Do we abide in the apostles' doctrine? (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 14:37).
Irrespective of how one reflects upon Martin Luther King, when he said, "I have a vision in my soul," something is triggered within me. I, too, have a vision in my soul. It is a vision, not of past but future glory -- when men will again start filling their sermons with Scripture, quoting the Bible and not the writings of alleged scholars of our modern day, making clear, and candid that none can that none can misunderstand it that the church of Christ is not a denomination, and heavily underscore just as did the apostle, God's New Testament plan of salvation. I long for the day when we will come down convincingly on the qualifications for elders and deacons, and what it takes to make a preacher of the true gospel, and also how to become a true Christian. I yearn for the time when we will start baptizing people, not just to join our crowd or to get in, but because the Holy Spirit through the Word has penetrated their hearts and the cross weighs heavily upon them, and they can find no peace of mind until they have obeyed the gospel of Christ from the heart. And I envision the day when brethren, who because of weak preaching having moved out into the world, feel convicted by strong preaching to come home, confessing their sins and repenting of them.
Brethren, it's time to come home. The day of weak preaching has to go! Preacher, I challenge you. Tamp that corner post with Scripture and no power on earth can pull it up. Preach, oh preach the word!
By Stanley E. Sayers in The Sower, Vol. 49, No. 6, Nov/Dec. 2004, via. the Firm Foundation of June 12, 1984.
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