What saith the word?
As Christians, we are trying to build and encourage believers. We want to encourage unity, and increase knowledge among the members of the congregation. The question is whether preaching can get the job done. Some say yes, and others say no.
If I may speak for myself when it comes to “preaching”, often times I feel as though my message was not presented as well as it could have been. However, I look back at comments from others who remarked on my “worst performances” and said that sermon really “hit the mark” today, or “I got a lot from it”. Both the preacher and the listener have to realize that the power is not in the speaker, it is in the word of God which has been delivered truthfully. There are many great “religious” orators that deliver sermons or motivational speeches that are either lacking scripture for support, or even worse are erroneous teachings. What good did their preaching do? None! However, the most poorly given sermon which is completely accurate regarding God’s word and used in context, will still accomplish its task to a crowd seeking the truth.
Increasingly, many people and congregations are wondering whether preaching works.
Because of this belief, many congregations are considering other methods to get across their message. Some of these methods include: praise teams, drama teams, small groups (without church oversight), and counseling groups which meet at the church (without church oversight). The question must be asked, what methods were given in the scriptures for spreading the Gospel? The answer in the Bible on how to produce Christians, or how to help a Christian Grow, is preaching and teaching.
Some suggest the real work of ministry only happens in face-to-face personal relationships. It can of course work in this type of relationship and we have examples of this in the Bible. Yet, one is wrong to suggest that preaching cannot “get the job done”. Preaching has been proven to work throughout the centuries, and is recorded in numerous historical biblical accounts in the New Testament.
Every week, the whole congregation gathers to hear God’s Word and be uplifted and equipped through a sermon and the other acts of worship. During the middle of the week, another opportunity is given for the entire congregation to gather together to study and be edified. I believe that preaching and teaching still works when preachers and teachers study, pray, and deliver Biblically true sermons or Bible study classes. Preaching and teaching still work because God still speaks through His Word! Preaching and teaching still works because the power is not in the speaker. Yet, with that said, an honest heart will be affected by the most poorly presented sermon or Bible study class, if it is in agreement with God’s word and given in the manner of love and truth.
Often times, we justify our actions based on what those around us in the world are doing. For example, wearing clothes which meet society’s definition of fashion, but which leaves nothing to the imagination of those around us. Or, maybe it is watching a movie that society says is entertaining, but is filled with things that devalue our spouse or future marriage partner, or are inappropriate for any Christian to view. Many think if the “majority” is doing or watching it, it can’t be that bad. The majority has been wrong so often, that it is hard to believe any rational thinking person would take comfort in what view the majority holds. Siding with the majority is often time just laziness. It is often easier to accept the group’s approval of what already has been decided, than to research, pray, seek wise counsel, and then make a decision based on the scriptures. Other times, siding with the majority is due to the fact that the person is ignorant to what the Bible teaches on the matter in question. Sometimes, it is simply peer pressure and not wanting to walk the lonely road.
Society has normalized inappropriate speech, and therefore many have become accustomed to using it. Examples would be euphemisms such as “darn ‘it” or “OMG”. Yet, if we don’t speak and act different than the world, how will they know we are different? Unfortunately, inappropriate speech is only one area where Christians have followed the way of the world. The majority of our society has approved of things such as abortion, fornication, divorce without Biblical reason, drunkenness and all other sorts of evil behavior, therefore many think it must be right about those things.
Often, there remains an unchallenged belief that if most say it is OK, then it must be OK. An additional problem is that our Post-modernistic society discouracges condemnation of another’s behavior, no matter how bad it may be. However, the minority that often knows the truth is not the majority on these matters of “what is or is not acceptable”. We must also admit that being the minority does not make one correct. There are many groups in the minority which teach false religious doctrine or hold extreme views which contradict the scriptures. Therefore, we must not ask if the question at hand is a majority opinion or minority opinion, but rather an issue which the Bible addresses. We must have the courage to swim against the stream and uphold the truth regardless of how many support it. However, be ready, standing for the truth can be a lonely road to walk.
Our Lord warns us of false teachers in Matthew 7:15, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." They will appear to be godly, but they are not. Satan himself can transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). The Bible makes it clear that some will teach truth while others teach error. What makes false teachers so dangerous to our souls is their appearing to be righteous. "For many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). We have many false teachers today teaching many different doctrines Any deviation from the scriptures makes a doctrine false, even when it is only a slight departure. We also read in Acts 20:30, "Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them." False teachers are becoming more prevalent today with the apostasy that is now occurring. Many of these teachers focus only on love and relationship while disregarding the following of God’s will revealed through His commands (Luke 6:46). 2 Peter 2:1 says, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction." Notice, often they do it secretly and people are unaware of what is happening. They are destructive because of all of the souls that will be lost.
How do false teachers spread these false doctrines? "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:18). Also "… through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not." (2 Peter 2:3). What they say may sound good, and they may cause many people to follow after them. Yet, we are not to be "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive" (Ephesians 4:14).
We are warned, "Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines" (Hebrews 13:9). Why are we warned in this manner? Because we are to "Let no man beguile you of your reward" (Col. 2:18). We can be cheated and lose our souls forever in eternal punishment if we follow any of these many false doctrines that are being promoted today. The next logical question is how should we treat those who are promoting these false teaching? 2 John 10-11 commands, "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds". His point is we must never give anyone encouragement in their false teaching. If we do, we also become guilty. Yet, it does not stop there, we are to correct those who teach falsely. Titus 1:11 “Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake”. This may requires both private and public rebuke and correction (Titus 1:13, 1 Tim 5:20). So we must beware of false teachers because they are very dangerous to our souls. Like the Bereans, we must "search the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Be careful, it is only the scriptures "which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 3:15).