04 October 2007

Wasted pulpits: a rant

by Dan Phillips
NOTE: this has been percolating and marinating for some time. The incident just related gives an opportunity to rant.
There was a point in the late eighties when I was between churches, and we were looking for a church home. We'd heard that the pastor was preaching on the Psalms. He told me he knew no Hebrew, but I thought, "Hey — Psalms! How can you go wrong?"

I found out.

It was... not good. Gent didn't even do right by the English text. But the killer was when my dear wife nudged me and said, "Look at all the notepads." And sure enough, there were pads, and poised pens, all around.

Then Valerie said, "They're not writing anything."

And sure enough, they weren't. There was nothing to write, because he wasn't giving them anything.

It just killed me. Here it all was: a church building, a pulpit, a microphone, and a bunch of people, ready to learn something. And he was using it for nothing. All that Bible to teach, and he was teaching/preaching nothing.

Then occasionally, you'll read about preachers plagiarizing their sermons. Or you'll see places that sell sermons, or sermon ideas.

And I always think: sixty-six books in the Bible, over thirty-one thousand verses... and you can't think of anything to preach on, yourself, from your own interaction with God and the text? You've run out of things to preach? Seriously?

(Note: I am thinking particularly the full-timers, not the noble souls who have to divide their time as "tent-makers.")

See, I can't even begin to sympathize with that one. In my life, I suppose I've preached/taught many hundreds of sermons/lessons. But I am crushingly aware that I have barely even scratched the surface of what I — dim bulb that I am — could preach out of the pages of Scripture. If I were immediately installed in a pulpit this Sunday... well, if that happened, I'd be a deliriously happy man. But if it happened, and if I began preaching, and the Lord spared me another forty years, I'd still barely be skimming the face of the unfathomable depths of the Word.

My dear and dearly-missed father, who at the time was an unbeliever, used to say, "I just don't know how you get up and find something to talk about every week." And I'd say, "Oh, Dad — Scripture is so alive and powerful and rich and alive that my problem is never having something to say; my problem is always where to stop!" My wife's (too-true) joke is that every time I sit down to shorten a sermon, it gets longer.

Now, in the great drawer of the Lord's silverware, I see myself as one of the duller, scratched-up plastic blades, not one of the shiny scalpels. Yet I simply cannot imagine coming to a place where I have nothing to say from the Word when I take the pulpit. If there's a verse I haven't preached on, there's something to say. If there's a Biblical doctrine I haven't taught, there's something to say.

I think of it another way. Here are these people, who've stopped everything else that they do. They have come to where I am going to speak, they've sat down, and they're looking to me to say something. Maybe there are ten of them, maybe there are hundreds, it doesn't matter. And what shall I say?

I do not have a clue what is going on in their hearts and lives. Is that woman considering an affair? Did that man write a suicide note, and he's just come in for his farewell church visit? Is that girl's boyfriend pressuring her to "prove" that she really loves him? Are that lad's professors on the verge of dinning him into walking away from his profession? Did that woman come to church for the first time, because someone told her we believed the Bible, and she wanted to see what that was about?

Who could possibly be equal to these things? If I even began to communicate how emphatically it isn't me, I'd be in violation of Rule 2. My philosophy, my experiences, my stories, my jokes, my analogies, my turns of phrase — worthless, meaningless, powerless... and worse!

No, not a one of them needs me, in my own mortal, finite, silly, dense, fallen/redeemedness. I have nothing to give them from myself. They need God. But here's the wacky thing: God, who could have chosen angels as His sole heralds, instead stooped to save men and women through the foolishness of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21). The risen Christ gave men to the church, to preach and teach the Word (Ephesians 4:11-13). And, God help us all, I'm one of those men.

So here's what life is for me right now. I'm providentially situated where I do not get to preach regularly. Praise God, we attend a church where the pastor knows his God-given role, and uses the pulpit for all his considerable worth.

Yet I know that all over this city, this county, this state, this nation, churches are bursting at the seams with people crowded around a little second-rate song-n-dance show, with a man (or woman) who occupies the pulpit, and wastes it, or shames it, trivializes it, abuses it, ruins it. And the people who gather before God, needing a word from Him, are denied, starved, misdirected; filled up on spiritual junk food of the gaudiest and most cloying variety, when the unopened larder is so full of rich, nourishing meat that it is about to explode.

It just kills me. Jeremiah 20:9 definitely keeps coming to mind.

I want to say to these men, in the fear of God,
"What in God's name did you just do? That pulpit was loaned to you by the providence of God, those people were brought before you — and you squandered it! You prostituted yourself and your calling! And for what? To be popular? To be trendy? To be 'cool'? God help you! What are those people going away with? What did you give them? You thought you had something better than what God said to give to them? You actually thought you had something better than His Word? How will you stand on the last day? Will this survive the fire? Will what looks 'cool' now, look 'cool' then? God help you!"
So, look here: If the pulpit has become a drudgery to you, a mere burden, and you just don't really feel like you have anything worth saying from it, I have your solution:

Give it to me.

It isn't that I'm anything. No wait, scratch that: it isn't that I'm anything good. It's that the Bible is simply bursting with so much vital, revolutionary, cryingly-needed truth; and so much of that truth is lying neglected, off in the corner, while we sleep-walk and play our games and amuse ourselves to death.

Someone has to tell it! Someone has to tell it!

It doesn't get much sobering than Paul's parting words to Timothy. Read this slowly and reflectively. Don't hurry past the opening words. Could Paul have said anything more thunderously powerful to make Timothy set down his coffee mug, lean forward, and give his full, even his trembling attention to what the great apostle has to say, as he faces his own death?
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. [But] you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
(2 Timothy 4:1-5)

< /rant >

Dan Phillips's signature

97 comments:

Everyday Mommy said...

I've said it on Pyro before and I'll say it again. Pack up your family and come to Kansas City. We need a pastor like you here.

We'll leave the light on.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Glorious, factual, content-ful, right on, wonderful rant! And, as I am about to preach the Psalms, an inspirational shot in the arm.

Boy Howdy, do I feel the way you do. All these people who need to hear from God and getting instead jokes, opinions, stories, advice and nostrums from mere men.

Way to throw that baggage on the tarmac, Dan.

david rudd said...

Dan, i really couldn't agree more with you. your passion is spot on with this post.

can i re-direct a little though?

the other side of the coin is just as frustrating, particularly for those pastors who do give themselves fully to "passing on" the Word.

as i read the following portion of your post, i couldn't help but make some alterations in my mind which expressed some of my frustrations...

"What in God's name did you just do? That pulpit(SERMON) was loaned to you by the providence of God, those people(WORDS) were brought before you — and you squandered it(THEM)! You prostituted yourself and your calling! And for what? To be popular? To be trendy? To be 'cool'? God help you! What are those people(YOU) going away with? What did you give them(WERE YOU GIVEN)? You thought you had something better than what God said to give to them(JUST GAVE YOU)? You actually thought you had something better than His Word? How will you stand on the last day? Will this(YOUR RESPONSE) survive the fire? Will what looks 'cool' now, look 'cool' then? God help you!"

i'm not sure which is worse, the opportunity for a sermon squandered, or the the opportunity to apply a sermon squandered...

just my rant.

DJP said...

David Rudd — two thoughts:

First:
30An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
31 the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?
(Jeremiah 5:30-31)

Second:
Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
(Proverbs 12:27)

The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth. (Proverbs 19:24)

Don Fields said...

As a pastor I thank you for those sobering thoughts.

1. I am de-worthy (unworthy isn't strong enough) of this calling.

2. They must hear God and not me.

3. Every Sunday I bear an unbelievable responsibility for which I am accountable to God.

Thank you for the sermon!

donsands said...

Wonderful post. Love the pulpit pics.
I love to visit old churches and check out the pulpits. Those were the good old pulpits. Not that they are essential, but seems they reveal how important the Word of God was back then.

"do the work of an evangelist"

This should be the heartbeat of all believers, but especially those whom the Lord calls to the pulpits to expound upon His truth.

DJP said...

Sounds like you feel as I do, Don Fields. I just know somebody is going to come along and say, "So you're saying you're ______" — and I'm going to want to say, "Oh good heavens, didn't you read the post?! It's not about that I'm ANYTHING! It's about what God's Word is! It's about what the pulpit is for! It's about what God has given, and demands! It's about what people really need! I could be dead, Bill Clinton, or a fence-post, and the point would still stand!"

Donette said...

"No, not a one of them needs me, in my own mortal, finite, silly, dense, fallen/redeemedness. I have nothing to give them from myself. They need God."

This is so true. I come from a background where sermons were replete with those attributes. Praise God that it isn't true in my church now.

It makes me want to post that quote on every billboard located near a college or seminary.

centuri0n said...

Given the direction of my rants this week, Dan, let me give a qualifier and then a coupla questions.

The qualifier is this:

If the choice is between this kind of church and (for example) Lance Quinn's church in Little Rock, it seems obvious to me that a disciple of Christ is going to choose to attend Lance Quinn's church for the sake of being under the ministry of God's word.

The questions go like this:

You were a visitor that day, and didn't have any kind of fellowship/covenant/obligation to come back next week. But all those people with empty notebooks around you probably did have some kind of obligation to each other.

Q1: If Lance Quinn's church was around the corner, should these people seek higher ground, abandoning their current congregation for Lance's superior gifting and commitment?

Q2: Is that particular messageless pulpit voiding the church or is it missing its opportunity and calling?

My opinion is that the answer to Q2 governs the answer to Q1, but your opinion may vary and teach us all (including me) something.

Drew said...

I don't think the pulpit is wasted when I preach, but my guess is that you would. So I will take your challenge. I will share my pulpit between a week and a month. We can't offer you money, but during that time you can stay with my wife and I and eat our food. Buffalo is a great place to visit (moreso in the summer).

Kevin said...

Excellent post Dan. I wonder sometimes if the Pastor in the pulpit is only giving the people just what they want to hear...nothing!

They just want their ears tickled, so the pulpit tickles their ears with worldly stories, jokes, etc. that don't contain the meat of the Word.

Thanks for the rant!

BugBlaster said...

Good rant.

DJP said...

Drew—this is Buffalo, in that foreign land sometimes known as... New York?

Jake said...

soooooooo vital for even the most well-meaning of preachers, i would say. It's so tempting to try and open up with a zesty line that grabs the attention of the listeners, and trys to draw them into the text... but I must admit, nothing is more satisfying, and more nourishing than hearing a preacher open up with "Our text for today is..." than we know, hands down, that what this preacher is about to say or preach on isn't something he came up with off the cuff to try and "get people interested" in the message apart from just explaining what scripture says.

DJP said...

Thanks for that, Jake. Let me clarify a bit:

I don't per se have anything against creativity in preaching at all. I don't think there's only one way to preach. I just have one touch-stone, one test-point:

Does it serve the text, or does it distract from it?

Jon said...

Isn't it about gifting?

Perhaps the pastor in question isn't primarily gifted to preach/teach/prophesy and more towards administration but because of church rules, the 'pastor' is in the pulpit.

Perhaps the teaching/preaching required in that church body isn't given out Sunday morning, but in other areas of the 'body-of-christ'.

Agreeing with the 'getting out of the way' part, and that might be a stumbling block to someone that isn't well suited/gifted for the pulpit.

david rudd said...

proverbs 19:24.

funny you used that, dan.

i read that verse this morning while going through a book i'm currently in (Why Small Groups -- CJMahaney).

that was one of the factors that prompted my response to you...

thanks.

DJP said...

No Jon, I really don't think so. Being able to preach/teach is a non-negotiable for a pastor. A pastor who is unable to teach is like a singer who can't carry a note; it's a contradiction in terms. It's in the name itself (Ephesians 4:11), it's the one qualification that sets him apart from any other Christian man (1 Timothy 3:2), it is what God values above all else (1 Timothy 5:17).

If he can't teach, he can't pastor.

SolaMeanie said...

If I wasn't a short, balding, dignified middle-aged fellow with a reserved British mien, I would pump my fist in the year and expectorate "YESSSS!" as loudly as possible. But as that would be gauche and out of character, I will simply say this.

Amen, Dan. Forever and ever, amen.

P.S. At one pulpit in a local church, there used to be a little plaque engraved, "Sir, we would see Jesus." Perhaps now the plaque should read, "Don't taze me, bro."

centuri0n said...

For those who read my confessional this morning, let me make something clear: that little dying church we left? The pastor there preached faithfully to the text, and was an expositor. He simply wasn't preaching to anyone with any particular purpose in mind.

He was preaching for the sake of preaching, and it sounded good, but somehow in preaching through 1 Tim, he missed Paul's charge to Timothy and how that view changes one from a commentator and lecturer to a sheep herder or pastor.

The Interface said...

Excellent, excellent display of logic, reason, Scripture and passion in the right mix.

Libbie said...

I'm not an elder at my church (like, duh) but I'm going to take a wild guess that you would be welcome to come and preach at our church. We even speak a very similar dialect...

Brad Williams said...

Dan,

I don't comment that much in Pyroland, but I want you to know that I am absolutely with you on this. (And other things, too, I just don't say much.) It is a heart-breaking, horrible thing that pastors preach something less than the Word of God and that the sheep are too ignorant to know the difference. Its like watching people starve to death at a full banquet table.

It grieves me, brother. I mean a bone-deep sickness grief. I am praying right now that if you are serious about pastoring, and if you meet the qualification of 1 Tim. 3:1-7, that God will put you in place immediately. The people are perishing for a lack of the Word. Brother, if this is your desire, and you know what those two words for "desire" mean in Greek in 1 Tim. 3:1, then pursue it, brother. You want to pastor in the Baton Rouge area?

DJP said...

So the guy who didn't leave California until he was nearly 30 has invites in England, Kansas, New York, and Baton Rouge.

But still no airline tickets in the mail!

(c;

northWord said...

..and all of Gods people said..



Amen.

(I felt as though I was reading something from one of the olde reformers - not that I'm all familiar with them n stuff - mostly just Spurgeon- but mannn, that was awesome!)

Grace said...

My husband and I discuss this on a regular basis since we are in the process of looking for a church. We've heard the range of sermons from light n' fluffy to platitude-filled silliness to pure unadulterated heresy.

At one church we've visited several times, I said, "Why do I get the feeling he didn't actually read anything before getting up there to talk?" It was especially disappointing considering the seminary the pastor attended. He knew better.
I ranted about this in high school about my youth pastor. It's upsetting that the same problem is overtaking the pulpit.

Daryl said...

Excellent post Dan.

We've just recently moved (residences...) and have been blessed to find that the church a grew up in has the kind of pastor we need.

We are soooo thankful.

By the way,

"pure unadulterated heresy"

Sound a bit like putting water into the freezer to unthaw it.

Daryl said...

By the way, that wasn't intended as a knock Grace, it just struck my funny bone, that's some serious heresy we're talking there.

chris said...

Daryl,

Actually, putting water into the freezer will "unthaw" it perfectly... :P

Daryl said...

Chris,

My point exactly.

I often find myself telling my wife to put the meat BACK into the freezer if she really wants to unthaw it...

JackW said...

Dan ... I hear there is an opening in Nineveh.

puritanicoal said...

Given the title "Wasted Pulpits . . ." Does your rant not apply to pastors/churches who have removed the pulpit for, say, a cafe table and bar chair? Just curious. ;-)

Al said...

Man, I would so leave that church.

al sends

DJP said...

It's emblematic.

:^p

Nate and Andrea said...

(Note: I have not read any other comments ;)

Six years ago, my(Nate's) friend decided to take me to church. I had already been given me what I now know to be a very clear presentation of the Gospel, so I was ripe for the harvest.

So did the pastor preach the Word? Sort of. He preached on the current controversy about the gender neutral NIV coming out. For the entire sermon he went through a bunch of mistranslations (I know now that many of his examples weren't mistranslated at all). The punchline after half and hour was that the church was going to change it's pew Bibles to NASB. What a rich time :(. My friend brought me to church so I could hear the Word more clearly, and all I got was a congregational meeting. Fortunately, I still got saved, but that experience did not help.

Randy said...

"So you're saying you're __available?____"

DJP said...

You're hitting another note of mine, Nate. I'm sure I'd be in the minority on this one, but... how do I put this? To me, it'd pretty much take an Act of Congress to supplant the preaching of the word for anything else, be it musical, missionarial, or otherwise.

In fact, on second thought, I'd defy Congress.

DJP said...

I am that, Randy.

Randy said...

It seems like there are two ends of the spectrum nowadays. There is the rant-worthy pastor that DJP was focusing on and Frank's enlightening quote
"..but somehow in preaching through 1 Tim, he missed Paul's charge to Timothy and how that view changes one from a commentator and lecturer to a sheep herder or pastor."

Blessed is the congregation that has a good sheep herder.

Drew said...

yeah. Buffalo, New York, home of chicken wings and "Wide Right." Birthplace of Rick James and deathplace of William McKinley.

lordodamanor said...

For some reason the theme from Hawaii FIVE-O keeps going through me ed.

Love the in-e-out-e of Scripture. David spoke to the Lord and sought his favor that he might be proven so that he could then teach other sinners the way. He went through his seasons and began to feel similar to Jeremiah:

"For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long."

I think for some they have forgotten the pit from which they were dug, or perhaps they were never dug from it. In either case he who is forgiven much loves much, and it shows from the pulpit. The desire to instruct comes from that love of having been instructed. If you know that the Lord knows where all the gold is, then there is just one thing you need. A shovel. Ask for a shovel, he knows the road to the gold. Wait, he'll show you. It will be a dirty job digging his treasures out of the muck. But hey, its like a home coming.

May the Lord find you where your heart's desire is, Danno.

lordodamanor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Riccardi said...

Dan,

You could add Central Jersey to the list of invites. There are a ton of churches, yet so few that preach a pure Gospel clearly with no reservations. While I can't offer you a pulpit (cuz I don't have one), I can say that the harvest is plentiful over here, and the workers are few.

Patrick H. said...

You have put into words how I have felt for some time now.

"Good" word!!!

Devin said...

Amen, Dan. I've heard sermons that were brag-fests about how devoted the preacher was (though that was in a cult), I've heard six weeks of sermons on the importance of tithing that was interrupted by the introduction of a new tithing program (that was a building-expanding name-it-and-claim-it church), I've heard Amway-style "Lord help us follow our dreams" sermons that morphed into stream-of-consciousness prayers of absurdity, and I've heard storytime sessions that purported to tell the narrative theme of the Bible (and even then got it wrong - go figure, it was Emergent). In every single instance, I left feeling hungry, as if I had gone out for Chinese, but without the pleasant "eating" part of the experience - just two hours gone on a Sunday without anything to show for it. It's a sad thing when the soundest, most Biblical investigation one can get is on the Christian talk radio station in the morning.

Maybe part of the problem is that those unprepared youth pastors Grace noticed in high school are now old enough to claim the pulpit?

Solameanie gave me an idea for a new Pyro logo, if you haven't already done it: a forlorn, shoeless orphan holding up a Bible and pleading, "Please, sir, some more?"

Ann said...
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Sewing said...
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Sewing said...

Dan, would that I were as humble as you! Your sentiment about not having anything worthy to say, and only being a vehicle for the Word (my paraphrase) is exactly what our senior pastor said a few months ago. Uncanny.

Even if I were an elder, I wouldn't need to invite you to our church...the pastoral staff is chock-a-block full of Regent College graduates! ;) (It's been a dawning realization.) It is no understatement to say that reformed, expository preaching was instrumental in my salvation.

Man, we (as in, the worldwide community of Christ) need more Biblical preachers. We need thousands more. The sheep are starving! I just thank the Shepherd that after years of wandering in the wilderness, by His grace, He led me to the sweet, nourishing grass of His mountainside pasture, and the tending of His devoted fieldhands.

Sewing said...

Devin: Excellent idea for a logo!

SolaMeanie said...

Devin,

I second that idea re: poor Oliver and the Bible. Now, here's a loaded question. If we have some lovable looking urchin to hold said Bible, who do we have play the role of Fagin? I've got some ideas. Hint. He's a new kind of Christian.

Bike Bubba said...

I went to a church where they neglected the pulpit for years, and then to a church where they didn't neglect it at all. It was like coming out of a desert to a bountiful table under the trees.

KEEP PREACHING IT!

DJP said...

As I related in the previous meta, John MacArthur's crystalline clarifying question: "After all, what else do we have to give them?"

ReformedMommy said...

Dan,
Where could those of us not in the know go to read about why you're not actively pursuing a pastorate? IOW, with the amount of conviction and passion you have about this, and the obvious giftedness you have, what's stopping you? Other than the airline ticket issue, of course! (Oh, and add San Jose to your list of invitations - our A team preacher is awesome, but the B team could really use some help, and no ticket required. We even have a spare room and sleeping space for six!!)

DJP said...

San Jose; now that's a possibility! I've preached in Sunnyvale, several times. (c:

I am making inquiries. It'd have to be a situation into which I could move my wife and two yowwens. There is one possibility in particular that I'm investigating, in case you'd not mind praying.

semper reformundo said...

That has to be the steamiest pile of self-promoting tripe I've read in a while. At least you are aware that you are only skimming the surface of scripture. Maybe God will give you a pulpit when you no longer see yourself and anyone else just like you as the only hope for the church. The problem with the Pharisees what what they knew they knew, not realizing all they didn't know they didn't know.

and TAKING NOTES on some guy rambling about the PSALMS? Anyone who preaches the Psalms and thinks people should be taking NOTES is a waste of a pulpit. It isn't rocket science.

DJP said...

So, I take it I touched a nerve?

Cool!

David said...

Ahh, the sweet tension of Dan's ranting about how bad preaching has gotten and Frank's call to stay at your church no matter how bad the preaching.

The last I checked, the church is not the pastor (shepherd, elder, prophet). Nor, of course, is it a building (except perhaps one made of living stones). It is a gathering of those who are the redeemed of God.

Begin to view the church as it is described by God in His word, and it becomes impossibly hard to leave, no matter how crappy the teaching. Unless you have no fellowship (love) there. If you don't love your brothers and sisters at your church, you don't love God. Look it up.

Potlucks are a test of faith. If you can't set(sic) yourself down with your brothers and sisters in Christ, be thankful, and eat with them, then the truth is not in you, no matter how your TULIPs are lined up.

Doesn't your church have potlucks? If not, they're in violation of scripture.

Grace said...

Devin-
Exactly.

I was a leader for Super Summer (it's a Baptist youth leadership camp for those unfamiliar.) I'll never forget how the youth pastor in charge answered when I asked why he named our team after a secular ad campaign.

"Finding what's hot [in pop culture] and making it work. That's what this ministry is all about."

I was appalled.

Unfortunately I've noticed the same technique on church billboards and in pulpits. A pastor should focus on conviction and substance, not getting laughs or being witty/cool.

VcdeChagn said...

DJP, I second everyday mommy and say come to Kansas City.

I'd even leave my current church to be a member of yours.




Just kidding, I put that in there to see if I could get Centurion to take another blood pressure pill :)

DJP said...

Pretty Dave Rambles!

Film at Eleven!

VcdeChagn said...

Doesn't your church have potlucks? If not, they're in violation of scripture.

Don't you know there's no such thing as luck? Providence...

We used to have Love feasts...I had to talk to the pastor about that one. We settled on κοινωνία dinners and realized no one knew Greek.

Now we have fellowship dinners. Much better.

VcdeChagn said...

Meant to put a smiley after the Don't you know comment :) but can't edit....

DJP said...

I was in a church that informally called them "Pot Providences."

David said...

It was more cohesive when I was thinking it.

DJP said...

hate when that happens. Especially with sermons that turn into wrestling-matches. I meditate on the passage, have these thrilling ideas, get to the keyboard, and... ka canooawaoi[ nqit0]9 kfj k%0.a

Like that.

SolaMeanie said...

As much as I would love to respond directly to something I read here, I would probably be in jeopardy of violating Rule 5. So, I'll let my intended remark pass like a kidney stone and will just ask a question. I mean, we love asking plenty of questions but not liking the answers these days, don't we?

Why is a clarion call for a return to biblical preaching so objectionable? I realize that preaching at a pulpit from Scripture doesn't carry quite the same mystique as story-telling to the sound of a lute and the smell of jasmine incense wafting through the sanctuary, but it sure does more good for the soul, not to mention Christian growth. The last time I checked, a huge part of truly growing in Christ involved immersion in His Word. Go figure.

But shame on me for applauding such a biblical notion as feeding on God's Word. I keep forgetting that I live in a time where navel gazing and endless pursuit of confusion passes for spiritual growth. Trying to reason with this mindset is sort of like doing jumping jacks in quicksand. Someone please drive up in a Hummer and throw me a tow rope.

gratefulheart said...

Is that all you people do here, complain about churches? I know churches are flawed! Seriously flawed because I was in one for 19 years and it was borderline cultish. We are called to discern. Paul was a great example but sometimes I think you guys complain about churches just to make yourselves look good. I'm new to blogging so I know I'll get slammed for even disagreeing. It seems there is a slippery slope between righteous indignation and complaining. We need to keep our selves in check. If God wants you in the pulpit Dan , He will put you there, and we all know you will do a much better job. We know you love the word, it's your heart, like mine which constantly needs cleansing and humbling.

DJP said...

1. Is that all you people do here, complain about churches?

Gosh, that's a great question. If only there were a way, SOME way, that someone could actually see the range of issues we've written about! If only there were some... I don't know, I'm just thinking out loud here... some way to ARCHIVE our articles that we've prayed and sweat and labored over, some way that anyone who isn't too lazy to move his wrist and click a button could just see for himself....

2. I think you guys complain about churches just to make yourselves look good.

You're seven hours late with that one, but anyway, as promised:

Oh good heavens, didn't you read the post?! It's not about that I'm ANYTHING! It's about what God's Word is! It's about what the pulpit is for! It's about what God has given, and demands! It's about what people really need! I could be dead, Bill Clinton, or a fence-post, and the point would still stand!

(Sometimes prescience can be pretty... prescient.)

3. If God wants you in the pulpit Dan , He will put you there...

Thanks, Zophar. Nice to know you're not losing any sleep over it.

Pastor Steve said...

For those of you in the Kansas City area, there is a small church in Louisburg, Kansas trying to do just what pyromaniacs is all about. Pioneer Bible Baptist Church. I'm the pastor, and I've got a lot to learn, but I'm trying, and the Bible definitely comes first.

carolczech said...

Drew said...
"yeah. Buffalo, New York, home of chicken wings and "Wide Right." Birthplace of Rick James and deathplace of William McKinley."

And the Buffalo Bisons AAA affiliate of The Cleveland Indians!! : )

northWord said...

Hi gratefulheart -

Nobody here (least of all team Pyro - unless you practice heresy/apostasy) wishes to bash anyone, but you must understand that as Dan put it - alot of prayer and sweat and labor does go into this blog, as well, many of us have read thousands upon thousands of the words that these guys have written - not to mention kept up with the commentary that takes place in the meta here between everyone. Thats how you get a feel for what everyone is about in a blog, by taking time to read all of it, and thus can make a better judgment for yourself. No one but Jesus Christ is perfect, and that's well understood here - team Pyro would be and IS the first to admit that.

It was telling, and good of you to say that you are "new to blogging" - and to that I say a hearty "Welcome!

I happen to have saved the link to one of my favorite articles here (and it happens to by Dan)- it actually points to 3 articles - read them just for starters and hopefully be as blessed as I was was.
Take care ~

carolczech said...

DJP said...
"If he can't teach, he can't pastor."

So how does that work with...say...the music pastor, the sports pastor or...gasp(!) the porn pastor in the larger churches? Do they have the same mandate? Or does that only go for the designated "Teaching Pastor" Are there some funky ecclesiological gymnastics going on there?

Devin said...

Grace -

"Finding what's hot [in pop culture] and making it work. That's what this ministry is all about."

Well, at least he was honest...?

Reminds me of my favorite "King of the Hill" episode. Bobby gets involved with a youth group like that one, gets into all of the trinketry and t-shirts and so on, and Hank disapproves. By the end of the episode, Hank takes Bobby to the garage and shows him a cardboard box of all Bobby's old pogs (remember those?), and says, "I don't want Jesus to become just another fad that you'll eventually put into a box and forget about."

Or something to that effect. The youth pastor in the episode also gets a nice, Biblical reprimand from his preacher father. Catharsis all around.

northWord said...

:D

joanna said...

This has been concerning me a bit lately too. I downloaded some sermons from a large church with a popular, well liked pastor. One of them was on weight loss (and i think the rest of the series was similar). I never knew there was a theology to doughnuts! I don't have a problem with such issues being dealt with in a small group or the like, something additional to proper teaching. Given some people in the church won't open a bible or even a good christian book this week its a bit scary to think that diet advice is the closest thing to spiritual guidance they've had.

Its especially bad as a young person (i'm 19)Some of the stuff pitched at young people is ridiculous. Not only is it watered down but it often has emergent tenancies. Theres lots of youth events i would not take a non christian or a new christian anywhere near. We're always being told to get our friends saved but most christian youth probably could not explain the gospel. Young people are not stupid. If its explained clearly we can handle depth.

SolaMeanie said...

Joanna,

Reading your comment provided a much needed "tow rope" for me this evening. I am glad there are younger people out there who see Emergent theology for what it is.

I can go to bed with a smile now.

JoJo said...

Sorry folks but sermons on weight loss and Emergent theology have nothing whatsoever to do with one another.

In fact, Emergent theology is often a backlash from that very type of Evangelical silliness.

So go to sleep with a smile but now it can be an enlightened one.

(One grows weary of everything tacky in church-dom being labeled "Emergent").

Jessica said...

THAT was an amazing rant. WOW. I can't wait to read it again.

DJP said...

JoannaSome of the stuff pitched at young people is ridiculous. Not only is it watered down but it often has emergent [tendencies].

God bless you, Joanna, and that's great to hear. When I was your age, I was hungry for the meatiest, most heavy-duty teaching I could get; and I couldn't get enough of it.

But so many kids today are gravitating towards churches with names like Impact and Harvest and Rivers of Whatever and Discovery and Fleshapalooza (okay, I made that up). The draw is the music, the atmosphere, and, well, all the other kids.

Definitely NOT the teaching.

Jeremiah said...

This was excellent and half-encouragment, half-accountability. I'm sitting at my computer, finishing up my Sunday Night Lesson, trying to decide which passages to use as examples of worship, and I think "I'll go see what Pyromaniacs are doing." I'm glad I did. I'm going to go edit my lesson now.

~J

joanna said...

JoJo, sorry probably should have been more clear. The weight loss sermon guy was not an emergent. Watered down evangelicalism and the emergent movement are 2 different issues however often i see them combine because to young people who do not have a good grasp of the gospel, emergent theology is quite attractive.

Devin said...

djp, joanna:

When I was your age, I was hungry for the meatiest, most heavy-duty teaching I could get; and I couldn't get enough of it.

That was my experience at that age, too. James was my favorite book of the Bible because it was no-holds-barred, in your face instruction.

It's a shame that at an age when people are most uncompromising and energetic about having an authentic faith, instead of being given the meat of Scriptures they're either being handed an XBox in Sunday School (true story) or they're being enticed by hollow "experiential" floatiness.

Wascally Wepublican said...

Hello we have a empty pulpit in Dalton, Ga. very nice area of the country. I think it could use your flame.

DJP said...

Wascally Wepublican — if you're serious, and your church is looking, please email me contact info and all. filops@yahoo.com

SolaMeanie said...

"Enlightened," Jojo? Where, pray, do I need enlightening on this subject? Apparently you haven't seen some of the more eyebrow-raising Emergent antics. I've been researching this stuff for several years now.

Reacting against silliness within evangelicalism is fine, but their reaction went entirely the wrong direction. Rather than being driven back to the Word of God, they began vaporing over how none of us could really know what it meant for certain. I guess the more confused you got, the more authentic you were.

They're welcome to it.

Sewing said...

Devin, Joanna, Dan:

I hear you all on craving substance, though newly coming to the Word of God as a non-church-going non-believer at the age of 19 and being of limited means and resources, I had to start off with what I already had: a paperback King James Version. And for commentary? Would you believe a Penguin edition of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (mainly part 3, "On a Christian Commonwealth")? True story!

Rileysowner said...

I keep wanting to post a comment on this, but others say it first and better than I would.

Good post on something that is needed today. I strive for this in my own preaching, but realize how tempting it would be to do otherwise for the numbers. Not that preaching the word does not build the church in numbers, it is just slower than giving a good pep talk. In a small, elderly congregation in a small town with many churches, I have seen too many go to fluff from solid expository sermons. Again, I know the temptation and feel the pressure from outside the congregation I serve to go the church growth route. My prayer is that God will keep me steady on the course, and that I will not despair when I see so few people who seem interested in solid expositional preaching of the Bible.

donsands said...

"My prayer is that God will keep me steady on the course, and that I will not despair when I see so few people who seem interested in solid expositional preaching of the Bible."

If you do this, then our Lord will be pleased, and your rewards in heaven will be great.
Keep on my brother.

eastendjim said...

"But so many kids today are gravitating towards churches with names like Impact and Harvest..."

Hey Dan.
I'm not a kid and I do attend a church called Harvest. The pastor is almost in the middle of a nine week series preaching verse by verse through Luke 4 & 5.

Okay, last week he referred to Jesus as a "preaching stud", but apologized shortly after. :O)

DJP said...

See?

:^P

Rileysowner said...

Donsands, thanks for the encouragement. It is not that I did not know it, but more that there are times I need encouragement.

David said...

Dan,
Thanks for the break you gave tent makers/bivocational pastors. I'm one. I never preach another man's sermon. But listening to how great preachers handle a text nourishes my own soul and helps me preach to the small flock God has called me to shepherd here in the country just south of Dallas. Thanks also for you're passion for the Word. My constant prayer is that I will preach the message that God intended from the text in context.
Together for God's glory,
Dave

beachbirdie said...

Thanks for this post. Amen.

My family recently changed churches over this very issue. I had grown up believing that people should not change churches for superficial reasons. I have been in 5 churches in my 53 years, and every change was due to geographic move. Except the last one.

Until May 2007 I was in a church that went "seeker-friendly". The change was slow (you know, the old "frog in the kettle" analogy) so we did not notice until later in 2006 how far things had slipped, how much pop-psychology was stronger than scripture. For some reason I was holding on hoping things were going to get back on track. Not to mention I was a staff member and loved my job.

We went through a series on "The Treasure Principle" (warming people up for pledging to the building program). We endured weeks teaching us why we should join Care Groups. One of the final (among many) was Easter Sunday. I waited in vain for the pastor to use this day to deliver a strong message on sin/repentance/true salvation. Didn't happen; wouldn't want to offend the seekers, would we.

Recently they started a sermon series in a can. Storebought sermons. What a concept. Looking back, I realize that MANY of the teaching series probably came from sermon stores. This congregation of 300 pays THREE pastors full-time wages plus health coverage and retirement, and not one of them can find anything in the Bible on which to preach?

This Christmas season, the community will be treated to a Christianized "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (in the end the Grinch gets "saved").

When we finally decided to make the leap, we were blessed to be led smack into a solid Bible-teaching church. Such refreshment (and such conviction!). I thank the Lord continually for freeing us and pray also for those still struggling.

Marilyn

Sorry for the rant...but thanks for letting us speak up!

DJP said...

Frank might fault me for being consumerist on this, but I don't see church attendance as in any way analogous to marriage.

If my wife is not "meeting my needs" as I see them, I'm still just as married to her as when she is.

But if my church starts DELIBERATELY denying me the food of the Word, or giving me gobs of slimy gunk along with my nourishment — I just don't see that I'm serving God OR others by continuing to support that ministry. Plus, I don't know how we plug in Proverbs' frequent charges as to how we choose our company, if we lose that right in church.

Having said that, I'd stress that I have in mind fundamental issues such as we are discussing here. Not style of music per se, nor hymnal color, nor whether the sermon is 35 minutes or 55.

isaiah53 said...

i would like to add some other thoughts to this post.
i agree with dan ,and i also think we should apply it to our youth and children groups also. why do we keep feeding them the same old stories? are we afraid to teach them from the bible?
vacation bible school is a good example of this . why do we need someone else planning for us? didn't the childrens pastor learn anything in school?
im involved with 6th grade boys. we purchased bibles for them and highlighter for them to mark their bibles. at the end of the year we then give them back to them. we start out the year with proverbs and then lessons on right from wrong. some lessons are borrowed from others, but we always have a word of the week for them to look up and write down scripture, and we supplement that with our own ideas.
we are currently planning a study from 1,2 timothy on becoming an "exceptional young man". this is our 3rd year.
i feel if you have been a CHRISTian for some time you don't need alot of outside materials.its like what why you been studying?

isaiah53 said...

last sentance should read "its like what have you been studying for?"

Mike Hoskins said...

I actually attend a good church where the Word is preached and is alive, too -- even here in Kansas City. Our church is looking for a 5th full-time pastor, BTW.

You might not agree with everything, at Grace Church (Overland Park, Kansas); then again, we can always find minor differences among Bible-believing churches. http://visitgracechurch.com/

I do strongly agree, though, that there is a dearth of good teaching in the KC area. I've seen/felt it for over 15 years.

Exactly what you have explained in the original post is exactly what you see here. It's funny how at least 2 people echo this sentiment, specifically about KC. It's sad.

Please pray for our community.