Thursday, April 24, 2008

Soft and Hard Preaching

Brad Thayer, blogging at the Third Avenue Baptist Church Blog, comments on a John MacArthur quote from T4G. In fact, the quote mentioned in the post by Brad was my favorite part of his sermon. Along with this, he also said that, "Hard preaching makes for soft hearts." Although this isn't a popular view, I tend to agree with him.

When I was serving the Lord in East Asia, once a year all of the people ministering with our organization would travel to another Asian country for an annual meeting. It was a special time that everyone looked forward to.

There were administrative things to take care of but the highlight of the week was the preaching and worship. These were times when over 1,000 fellow workers would join together in singing and praising God together. Many of these people had spent the past year mostly alone and in remote places without the abundance of Christian fellowship that we often take for granted here in the U.S.

The first year I was there, the pastor from America literally spent almost 30 minutes of his sermon telling typical Southern Baptist corny jokes. It was like he as a stand-up comedian. Granted, he was really funny, but I couldn't help being discouraged because I could have stayed in my hotel room and heard funnier and better jokes on TV.

I was discouraged because for the past year I had been laboring to do the work of an evangelist and church planter. There were so many times of loneliness, emptiness, and fatigue. There were times of great trial and even when things were going great, there was a great deal of pressure and anxiety regarding new converts and beginning churches. I came to that meeting tired and spent, and desired and needed the gospel preached to my broken heart.

Instead of truth, I got jokes. Instead of preaching, I got stand-up. Instead of the Word, I got stories. Thankfully, I had friends who were going through the same things and we ministered to each other through the reading of Scripture and prayer.

The reason I mention all of this is because I am convinced that battle weary Saints don't need jokes and stories to encourage and strengthen them. They need hard, heart softening, Christ centered, gospel proclaiming, expository preaching. From my humble experience, John MacArthur is right. Soft preaching does make hard hearts and hard preaching makes soft hearts.

5 comments:

Ben Bartlett said...

Riley,

Great post! Thanks. History and experience both confirm that the gospel is advanced by passion for God and His Word, rather than an ability to stay loose and well-humored.

Riley said...

Ben,

Thanks for the comment. Aren't you thankful to be a member at Third? I know I am! I feel that all of our elders and especially Kurt are both throughly engaging and faithful to preach the gospel in a way that is able to pierce our souls. Some people might feel that sermons without jokes and many stories would be boring, but I feel that the sermons at Third are anything but boring.

On the other hand, it might be a problem if a pastor tried to put such a rigid guard up against anything humorous or "light" that he became about as interesting as rock. Nevertheless I would rather listen to a rock preaching the gospel than the alternative.

The Ladds said...

Riley,

Was it intentional that you posted this after the heads up that Joel was on his way to the Ville? Sneeky, sneeky.

Benji

Riley said...

Benji,

I didn't even think about that. No mischief on my part.

linley said...

So well written! Right on.