Sad Substitutions For Preachers/Preaching

Preaching for God's Glory This is a very short book, but a good one: Preaching for God’s Glory by Alistair Begg.  In it, he explains what solid, biblical, edifying, and God-glorifying preaching looks like.  He also deconstructs poor preaching by talking about “sad substitutions” of a preacher and his sermons:

1) The cheerleader.  This well-meaning fellow has a peculiar need to be liked and accepted.  Whatever the context of a particular message, he is going to be positively inspirational.  A good Sunday for him is one where his people laugh a lot, are affirmed and affirming, and go away more self-assured than when they arrived.  …The preacher’s task, he feels, is to ‘pump them up’ and prepare them for the daunting week that awaits them as soon as they leave the building.  …Whether they were confronted by the truth of God’s Word or humbled by God’s presence is largely lost sight of in a quest for wholeness that replace a concern about holiness.”

2) The conjurer.  When we hear the congregation declaring, ‘Wasn’t it amazing what he got out of that?’ we should not immediately assume that the news is good.  When the preacher refuses to do the hard work of discovering the actual meaning of the text in its context, and when he divorces discovery and application, just about anything can be conveyed – and often is!

3) The storyteller.  This  man has convinced himself that since everyone loves a good story and since people tend to be less inclined to follow the exposition of the Bible, he will develop his gift of storytelling to the neglect of the hard work of biblical exposition.

4) The entertainer.  Too often these days one is invited to preach with no thought given to the preacher being part of the worship throng.  Instead he is invited to relax ‘backstage’ until it is time for him to ‘do his thing.’  …This tends to foster an environment where the people come to sit back, relax, and assess the performance….”

5) The systematizer.  I am referring here to the preacher who views the text of Scripture merely as the backdrop for a doctrinal lecture.  This is different from the individual who in the course of exegeting the passage draws out the elements of Christian doctrine.  The systematizer’s theological framework is so pronounced that it predominates the exposition.  …’There will be little sensitivity to literary genre.  All the texts will be flattened out to the prosaic level of a theology text-book.'”

6) The psychologist.  This is what we might refer to as airline preaching.  In one airline magazine there is a regular feature provided by a psychologist.  …Unfortunately, the pulpits of growing numbers of churches are being filled with pseudo-psychologists who have decided to become purveyors of ‘helpful insights,’ most of which can be (and often are) delivered without reference to the Bible.  It is a kind of ‘fill in the blank’ approach that provides the seven principles for effective fathering or the top ten challenges facing couples today.”

7) The naked preacher.  In our ‘bare all’ culture it has become increasingly in vogue for preachers to use the pulpit as a place for sharing their faults and foibles, and to make an attempt at ‘authenticity.’  By this means they let the people know how ‘real’ they are, as if the people needed help to make such a discovery!  …The sermon is not the best place for such sharing.  Preachers must point to Christ, telling the story, not to point to themselves and share their story.

Begg also says he could have spent more time talking about “the politician” preacher or “the end-times guru” or “the hobby-horse rider.”  In a word, we have to understand that not all preaching is equal (or maybe we could say not all “preaching” is really “preaching”)!  If you want a positive view of solid preaching, Begg goes on to explain that in the chapters after the above quotes (which come from chapter 1).  You’ll have to get the book if you want to read more: Alistair Begg, Preaching for God’s Glory (1999, 2011).

shane lems


2 comments on “Sad Substitutions For Preachers/Preaching

  1. Truth2Freedom says:

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.


  2. Hi Shane, here is a clip by a sports coach about how to bring out the best in women, and how to bring out the best in men. This coach has found that he needs to use a very different leadership style with women. I wish pastors would take this on board.

    As a woman, I’ve often felt that the man in the pulpit is treating the entire congregation like the are men, and driving them, hectoring them, verbally pummelling them, because he knows that is how he and other men can be led to do their very best.


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