Pop quiz: The New Testament notes a few people who died in church. Do you remember who they were? And the cause of death?
Well, there’s Annanias and Saphira, the good, upstanding church couple who sold their property in their zeal for the church. Unfortunately, greed got in the way. They promised the entire amount of sale, but then decided to tell everyone they’d got less for their property so they could keep some of it. For the sin of greed and lying to the Holy Ghost, they were struck down dead in church.
OK, that one was easy. Most people remember that one.
Eutychus. The kid who fell asleep in church and fell out of a window into the street below, where he was killed dead. Cause of death: a long-winded preacher!
The title of this post says most of what I’m feeling here. I should qualify that I’m saying this as… a preacher.
There are too many preachers who are demonstrably in love with the sound of their own voices! They’d prattle on for days if you’d let them. For there seems to be some portion of Christendom that seems to honestly believe that they’re holier if they endure a windy preacher. I’ve heard folks condemn others for it! I’ve heard them tell congregations that it’s a shame that people can’t listen to a looooong sermon anymore! I even went to an Easter service [and thought I was only a few minutes late, but wondered why they were preaching already] where the preacher bragged that he’d been yammering on for the last 5 to 6 hours. His congregation was in total disarray. The kids were screaming and wailing. Parents looked like they’s been through a battle! The back hall near the restroom was filled with folks who had no intention of going back into the sanctuary anytime soon. Everyone looked tortured and miserable [and, given the rigid wooden pews, I would imagine they were]. It looked like a scene out of Hell. When we left, he was still prattling on. No subject. No point. Hardly a Scripture to back anything he said. Just a good old-fashioned rant. But that church will be able to brag about how they “patiently and eagerly” attended that marathon of mouthings as they lament the fact that no one will listen to a long sermon anymore!
Now, on the one hand, they have a point. But attention spans aren’t lengthening, not with TV and the Internet vying for our appetites more and more. Yet a lengthy sermon may be a tedium WHERE THERE IS NO UNCTION!
And here I wish to qualify what I mean when I say that it ought to be considered a sin to make the living Word of God boring. I don’t mean that we need to be entertained more. I don’t mean that we need more stories, more jokes or more laughs. I think anecdotes should bring out the point of the message, not distract or merely entertain. Jesus uses stories [we call them parables] to such effect. I don’t think sermons need to be made more entertaining or lively.
I think.. No, I KNOW we need unction! I can listen to hours of preaching if it’s fueled by the fire of the Holy Ghost. I know I can, because I have and I enjoyed every second of it. Well, maybe not enjoyed. It challenged me. Convicted me. Enflamed my zeal. It changed me, which is exactly what it should do!
We don’t need droning monotone orators. Stuffiness nor stoicism make a good preacher. Passion is our watch word here, because the man of God should be zealous for the message and vocation entrusted to him by God. On the other end of the spectrum, we don’t need people who are opinionated and in love with sound of their own voice. We don’t need clowns or entertainers.
But we bloody well need preachers. Real preachers.
We need guys who will preach the Gospel boldly and plainly, with Holy Ghost fire, and not get off on some rabbit trail or air out their opinions on things that have little or nothing to do with anything. We need preachers who aren’t politicians, who aren’t for sale for a pottage of popularity, who won’t compromise the message and will preach what God wants, even if they know their congregations will boot them out the church door! Or are we better than the Apostles somehow?
We need guys who will stop proclaiming their opinions and realize that we only exist as ambassadors and that, as ambassadors, we aren’t called to air our views but simply to relay the message of our King. And I think that’s really where the rubber meets the road. A lot of times, they aren’t preaching the Gospel, the message God commissioned to all Christians. They’re preaching something else: prosperity, marital advice, self-help, felt needs, narcicism. Or judgmental, Pharisaical, extrabiblical rule-mongering condemnation. They’re not rightly dividing the Word of Truth; they’re picking out a few verses that jive with the opinions they’d like to inflict upon a captive audience.
I pray that people will stop fooling around and get down to the real business of walking worthy and preaching worthy of this vocation to which we’ve been called.
In the meantime, let us pray we don’t suffer the same fate as Eutychus, for we should never be preached to death, but rather preached to new life!
Read more of the What’s Wrong With Church series!