A Critical, Scolding, Fault-Finding Ministry? (Grimke)

Meditations on Preaching

Sadly, some preaching is full of critical, fault-finding, and inflammatory themes and tones. Some preachers develop a hypercritical attitude and it constantly shows up in their preaching and teaching. All they ever seem to do is criticize other people and positions. And, of course, sometimes laypeople who constantly hear hypercritical sermons develop hypercritical attitudes themselves. All this benefits no one, causes conflicts, and is a dark spot in Christian circles – and sometimes Calvinistic circles specifically. Ironically, sometimes preachers who believe the doctrines of grace don’t always display grace in their preaching and teaching. They might preach about grace, but they preach in a way that is not gracious. Speaking of this, I really like how Francis Grimke addressed this topic:

“A scolding ministry is not likely to be a happy one or a helpful one. It creates an atmosphere that is not favorable to profitable seed-sowing. It indisposes people to listen as they should to what is being said. The truth should be spoken, and spoken plainly, but not in a censorious, fault-finding spirit. People get tired very soon with that kind of ministry. The preacher, if he is wise, will not shut his eyes to what is wrong about [around] him, but it is a mistake for him to be all the time harping on the dark side of things. There is a time for reproof, for rebuke, for calling people sharply to account, but that doesn’t mean that it must be kept up continually. It is a mistake to do so.”

Francis Grimke, Meditations on Preaching, p. 49

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015