OK, I'm not sure what is the "worst possible advice" to give young preachers—there is so much to choose from! But what follows has to be among the sorriest counsel ever administered to young proclaimers of the Word.
I was looking up "preach Jesus" and came upon a website which proposes to teach people to "preach sermons and live in the power of the Holy Spirit." I read a short way into the first article. My mind was frozen by a bullet point which read: "Throw away the concordance."
I thought, "What?" (For those unacquainted with a concordance, it's a staple in the preacher's arsenal. A concordance is a book of subjects with every—or selected—Scripture verses listed where you may find that word used. The back of most Bibles will have a brief concordance. And yes, these days, the internet has almost made it obsolete. I type a line from a verse into the search blank and hit "go," and instantly, I'm told where to find the verse I was looking for. It's a wonderful help.)
Here is the paragraph, verbatim:
You do not need a concordance; you do not need a book of scriptural reference; you do not need to look up a whole lot of stuff on the internet; and you certainly do not need any theological books written by other people. God is never boring, and He would never insult His children by offering them second-hand goods; what He will do is inspire you to share your convictions, your testimony and your own intimate knowledge of His kingdom—if you let Him! His offer to "provide all you need" includes whatever anecdote or experience you will need. Any preacher who starts off like this: "A funny thing happened to me this week," will be sharing right out of their own Christian walk. It will be real! If God has called upon you to preach this Sunday, He will always have already provided you with whatever you need to make your points! You will be obedient, and you will be preaching the gospel.
I read that and wonder how any preacher could be so far off-base, so screwed up in his thinking. He thinks his testimony is greater than the Word!!
I am hardly believing this.
I had heard of such bizarre, shallow preaching, although honestly, found it hard to believe anyone would a) do it and b) counsel others to follow their example.
Years ago, I heard of a preacher who began his sermon: "Let me read the text, and then I'll give you something solid—my testimony—to hang it on."
Is that ever backward! The solidness in our proclamation is the living Word of God, not our testimony.
Your testimony and mine may be polar opposites.
One person has a testimony of the Book of Mormon inspiring him. Another finds comfort in Mary Baker Eddy's foolishness. One person tells of speaking in tongues before they were saved, and another of speaking in a known foreign language without being tutored in it.
Keep your testimony. Give me the Word of God.
If you wonder why some denominations keep turning out spiritual dwarves who know nothing about the word other than the few passages they keep hearing again and again, this is why.
If you wonder why some churches produce angry members who self-righteously look down upon Christians of all other denominations, this is why.
If you wonder why some pastors with shriveled souls make the Pharisees of old look like wild-eyed liberals, this is why.
If you wonder why some sermons are shallow and self-centered and negative to the point of being poisonous, this is why.
If you wonder why Christians who love the Lord and love His Word shy away from churches that glorify the preachers' silly experiences, this is why.
"Preach the word ... For the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine ... And they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn to myths. But be self-controlled in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, and prove your ministry" (2 Tim. 4:2a- 5).
You may preach the Word or you may preach fables (shallow, made-up stories such as the testimonies of some people). You and I are to preach the truth and to preach sound doctrine. But the truth does not arise from inside my soul. It resides in God's holy Word as inspired by the Holy Spirit. I must look there, not within me.
Lord, help us to get this right. The souls of so many depend on it.
Joe McKeever is retired from the pastorate but still active in preaching, writing and cartooning for Christian publications. He lives in Ridgeland, Mississippi.
For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.
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