A DISTINCTIVE PULPIT: EXCERPTS FROM THE SPIRITUAL SWORD OF JANUARY 2018
The theme of the January 2018 issue of The Spiritual Sword is “Being Distinctive In The Pulpit.” In the forty-eight year history of this great journal I doubt if a more relevant or needed theme has been addressed, particularly in the light of current developments in the Lord’s church. Following are some incisive excerpts from each article in this timely issue. You are urged to reflect seriously on them.
“There was a time when preachers of the gospel enunciated the fundamentals. They preached what men must do to be saved. No young person who ‘grew up’ in the church was left with any doubt about the necessity of obedience…. / For many years I rarely heard of any young person who left the church and went into denominationalism. Some became unfaithful and went back into the world, but with the teaching they had received most could never be comfortable in joining any denomination. / What about our young people today? Do they understand the plea of churches of Christ? Could they discuss it or speak to others about it? Could they tell someone else what to do to be saved and give scriptures for their answers? Do they know the difference in the church and denominationalism? What could they say to any other person about why they are members of the church of Christ?” (Alan Highers, editorial, “Are We Preaching Our Plea?”)
“The pioneers of the restoration movement were committed to book, chapter, and verse preaching. After all, they reasoned, if we are going to have in the present age the church as set forth in the New Testament, then we must preach the same things that produced that church and those things that are necessary to keep the church true to the will of God.” (Hugh Fulford, “What the Pioneers Preached”)
“Several years ago an elder in the church made this statement to me. He said, ‘Our preacher is a fine man. He is loved by the congregation. He does not preach error or false doctrine, but you could listen to him every Sunday for a year and never learn what to do to be saved.’ Sometimes we err not only by what we preach, but by what we fail to preach.” (Alan Highers, “What the Pioneers Preached”)
“The contrast between the Lord’s teachings and those of the scribes could easily be likened to that between the Lord and many preachers today. Matt Walsh wrote an article pointing to this very problem. He noted that the ‘modern church’ has as its primary goal the avoidance of anything that might offend. ‘And this is precisely why they’re dying. The problem is not merely that they’re boring people…. The problem more specifically is that they’re starving people. There is no substance, no meat, in the message being preached. The congregants sit there and slowly starve to death.’” (Gary Hampton, “What Is Distinctive About Our Message?)
“One man said, ‘I have learned more about the Bible in six months in the church of Christ than I knew in twenty years as a deacon in a denomination.’ Churches of Christ emphasized and should still emphasize ‘thus saith the Lord.’ People ought to be able to see (and hear) the difference in the church and denominationalism.” (Alan Highers, “What Should the Hearers Hear?”)
“Sermons that convert are not afraid to examine and explain the scriptural necessity of baptism, worship without mechanical instruments of music, the role of women in worship, marriage, divorce, and remarriage, the Day of Judgment or hell. In this day and age where preachers want everyone to feel good, be happy and never offend, [they] refuse to preach on some subjects, including many of the above.” (David Powell, “Sermons That Convert”)
“The reason churches are being torn apart by false doctrine today is a lack of distinctive preaching yesterday. When ‘What Can I Do to Improve My Self-Esteem?” replaces “How Noah’s Ark Is a Type of the Church,” it is only a matter of time. When doctrinal sermons on fundamental issues are [considered] old-fashioned, the next generation of the church will accept denominational baptism, put women in leadership roles, use instruments in the early service, and plan a yard sale with the denomination down the street.” (Allen Webster, “The New Testament Church Is Distinctive”).
“All Christians should know the Scriptures well enough to recognize false teaching when they hear it. Some congregations languish in vulnerability, because preachers and teachers, wanting to be positive, have ceased to warn against what is false.” (Phil Sanders, “Refuting and Dealing with False Doctrine”)
“A number of years ago on a plane flight I overheard a woman say to her seatmate, ‘I don’t know much about the Bible, but I know what I believe.’ That summarizes the attitude of many in our world today. Oblivious to what God has set forth in his word, people have devised their own religious beliefs and practices, as well as their moral standards, from a ‘smorgasbord’ of religious notions, all while being in total ignorance of what the Bible teaches. This underscores why we as people pleading for the restoration of New Testament Christianity, must boldly proclaim the necessity of Bible authority in all things!” (Hugh Fulford, “The Necessity for Bible Authority”)
“The Word of God is distinctive, meaning it is different, and not like any other of men’s speeches or thinking, but the Gospel is clear and plain, and, therefore, we have the reason why we should take careful interest and consideration in how we handle it (cf. II Tim. 2:15)!…. / Devotion to the Lord and His Word will make a distinctive preacher, with a distinctive message.” (Gary Colley, “Distinctive Preaching in the Pulpit”)
“Thoughtful persons recognize that what is called Christianity today is a morass of conflicting and confusing doctrines, rituals, and sectarian churches and cults. Caring people are frustrated over divisions in families and among friends. People of goodwill who want to be followers of Jesus know it would be better for all to be on common ground spiritually. Paul appealed ‘that ye all speak the same thing’ (I Cor. 1:10). If all speak the ‘same’ thing, it has to be one thing. That one thing is ‘the faith once for all delivered,’ i.e., the New Testament system of faith and practice (Jude 3).” (David Pharr, “Preaching the Restoration Plea”)
“First, let us consider the false view that ‘only the things Jesus actually spoke are binding upon us today.’ Why would anyone hold to this position? Without impugning the motives involved in such a claim, we cannot help but wonder about the connection in the minds of those who hold this view between this and the fact that they want to reject what Paul said in his letters about women’s roles in the church (see I Cor. 14:34-35; I Tim. 2:8-15), marriage (Rom. 7:1-3; I Cor. 14:1-40), worship (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), homosexuality (Rom. 1: 26-27; I Cor. 6:9-10), and the importance of teaching only what is written (II Tim. 1:13; 4:1-5; et al.).” (Jay Lockhart, “Teaching to Observe All Things”)
“What happens to Christians and the Lord’s church when we fail to grow in knowledge? Obviously, the world drifts further and further away from God, and the church stops growing. There is another tragic thing which happens and which we may fail to see. The door is opened to false teaching.” (Dan Jenkins, “Growing in Grace and Knowledge”)
Please ponder these words of warning and exhortation. You may subscribe to The Spiritual Sword at: Getwell Church of Christ / 1511 Getwell Road / Memphis, TN 38111 / Phone: 901-743-0464.
Correction: In last week’s “News & Views” the sketch of John T. Johnson incorrectly identified the place of his death as being Lexington, Kentucky. It was Lexington, MISSOURI, where he was engaged in an evangelistic meeting. I apologize for the error.
January 23, 2018