The following comes from great book that you should each purchase and read. I want to be a Bible preacher. This is a great explanation of a great mistake that happens often in the Bible belt.
I grew up with these thoughts. I still deal with them and I think that people in the South East of the USA have a great deal of problems with them. Read the excerpt and then order the book you will see mentioned at the end of the article.
I love the book and it will help all of us!
Several years ago a well-known preacher in Oklahoma climbed up in a tower on a vigil after announcing that God had told him that if people did not send him eight million dollars, He was going to kill him! To most of us that seems absurd, but only because we measure the claim by the nature and oracles of God as revealed in the Bible. But what is the difference between that preacher’s claim and the conservative evangelical shepherd who weights his sermons with declarations like “God told me” and “God is leading me” as authoritative underpinnings of extrabiblical information? Or what is the difference between his claim and the shepherd who draws the heart of his sermons from extrabiblical information as if to suggest that there are some things God did not think about regarding the needs of His people? At best we are putting words in God’s mouth and insinuating to listeners that they are His! Such a horrific thought demands that we give some attention to where and how the shepherd gets his message, what he is supposed to do with it when he gets it, and why it is so important that he does it.
My Sunday School teacher went on to tell me that many of his previous pastors did not ever get their messages until they were on the way from their office to the pulpit on Sunday mornings! This “preacher as pope” mentality assumes that God has extrabiblical revelation for His people on a weekly basis and that He communicates it to the shepherd through some mystical means that is often articulated as “getting a Word” from Him. In fact, many preachers and parishioners see this occurrence of omnipotent osmosis as displacing the need for Bible study and sermon preparation.
This notion is furthered by the looseness with which many preachers throw around those phrases like “God told me” and “The Lord said to me.” This scenario is frighteningly similar to God’s analysis of the prophets of Jeremiah’s day:
In addition to deceptively turning people’s attention from the legitimate Words of God, such preaching frustrates individuals who do not hear God as “audibly.” These false shepherds imply that God has a steady diet of extrabiblical revelation that is necessary for His people’s well-being, and that only they as the “Lord’s anointed” can provide it. And this erroneous preaching results in reckless living that leads to no profit.
The nature of shepherding today involves the issue of credibility. If preacher’s today can say “Thus saith the Lord,” and by it place extrabiblical information on the same plane as scriptural truth, then our listeners have no standard by which to determine the validity of truth. If pastors today are still responsible for “getting a word from God” that no one has ever heard, then we have no basis by which to distinguish the one heralding heresy from the one transmitting truth. The example of the Bereans should be noted because they searched their Scriptures to see whether or not Paul’s words could be substantiated by them (see Acts 17:11).
If we believe revelation is progressive and that God is still in the process of revealing information necessary for His people’s spiritual well-being, then the Bible is no more than one among many sources from which the preacher draws an authoritative word from on high. But if the shepherd sees the Bible as God’s total and final revelation of truth that is necessary for accomplishing His agenda, then his responsibility is simply to report it to the people. He is relieved from the mythical notion that he is responsible for revealing God’s truth to people. Furthermore, he can spend his time learning to be a better reporter of biblical truth rather than a suave revelator of new information.
There will never be any growth in the Christian life apart from knowledge (see Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22). Holy living flows from mature knowledge, and mature knowledge comes only by explanation. This suggests that the contemporary shepherd’s responsibility is not to “wow” his flock each week with something new that no one has ever heard before. Instead, he is to wrestle with the text of Scripture until he determines God’s intended meaning, help his people grasp it by way of clear and intentional explanation, and persuade them to act upon it through passionate persuasion.
Today people seem to be much more interested in personal experience, emotional feeling, and pragmatic application than explanation of the biblical text. The de-emphasis on explanation in preaching highlights the willingness of listeners to accept uninformed application which they readily put to use in their lives. Many shepherds are more than ready to accommodate. As long as listeners identify with the message experientially, walk away with a better feeling about themselves and their lives, or glean some principle or instruction for dealing with their current circumstance, then no one is really concerned about whether or not it makes sense or is based upon truth. The only thing that will turn the tide will be for shepherds to be faithful stewards of God’s call to be explainers of His Word and for those who listen to them to demand help in gaining such understanding.
Shepherds are no longer responsible for revelatory preaching but solely responsible for persuasive explanatory preaching. The default approach to preaching is simply to explain and apply what God has already revealed in His Word.
Shaddix, J. (2003). The Passion Driven Sermon : Changing the Way Pastors Preach and Congregations Listen (69–73). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman.
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