NOTATIONS, OBSERVATIONS, AND QUOTATIONS
Preachers should be kind, gracious, and loving in their presentation of the gospel. They need to be thoughtful and respectful of their audiences. There is never a time to be rude or discourteous in the pulpit (or in everyday life, for that matter). The apostle Paul said to the young preacher Timothy, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (II Timothy 2:24-26, NKJV).
At the same time, the faithful preacher cannot and must not compromise the truth of God’s word. Paul also told Timothy to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Timothy 4:2, KJV). Preachers must not hold back the truth of God for fear of making some of their hearers angry. Paul asked, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth” (Galatians 4:16)? Unfortunately, that sometimes happens.
We who preach need to spend much time in prayer before we enter the pulpit that we will be kind and gracious toward our hearers and that we will speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). I arise early on Sunday mornings (usually by no later than 4:30) to spend time reviewing my Bible class and sermon notes and “bathing” them in prayer for God to help me to be considerate of my audience and to speak as I ought to speak—kindly, graciously, lovingly, with wisdom, and yet with firmness and conviction. I would commend this practice to all who preach.
I am fascinated by the multiplicity and diversity of church names that I see today in our increasingly pluralistic religious world. In our area we have the Freedom Church, the God Why Church, the Fellowship Church, the Heartsong Church, the Love’s Way Church, the Gracepoint Church, the Joy Church, the CrossLife Church, the Cornerstone Church, and various others. Interestingly, I have never seen a church calling itself the Obedient Church, the Faithful Church, the Committed Church, the Narrow Way Church, the One Way Church, or the Bible Adherence Church. Perhaps these would not be as appealing to prospective members as those previously mentioned.
One of the great congregations among us is the North Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, TN. The Sunday morning worship attendance is consistently above 600, but the impressive thing is the attendance at the other scheduled services. On a recent Sunday the attendance was as follows: Sunday morning worship—663; Sunday morning Bible classes—453; Sunday evening worship—442; Wednesday evening Bible classes—446. Through the years this church has been blessed with a stalwart eldership, able preachers in the local pulpit, and outstanding preachers for twice-a-year gospel meetings.
In my “News & Views” of last week I included a sketch of the grand old gospel preacher, F. B. Srygley, along with a quotation from him. Brother Srygley said, “I was baptized in Rock Creek by Joe Halbrook, a little more than sixty-four years ago. I have wobbled along all these years, but I have not turned directly around and started the other way” (The Warrior from Rock Creek: Life, Times, and Thoughts of F. B. Srygley 1859-1940, Earl Kimbrough, p. 480).
I doubt if brother Srygley ever “wobbled,” but I would to God that all preachers (as well as all Christians) could truthfully say what brother Srygley said. Sadly, we have an increasing number of preachers who have “turned directly around and started the other way.” They have abandoned the way of the Lord for various denominational and community churches. With an air of superiority about them, they think they have “journeyed to freedom” and found “the more perfect way” (to adopt an expression from the apostle Paul, though in context he was discussing another matter, but which seems to fit the notion of these so-called “newly enlightened” ones who once were part of us).
Worse still, however, are those who remain among us, but bring their denominational (Catholic, Protestant, and even Jewish) thinking, doctrines, practices, and terminology into previously faithful congregations of the Lord, seeking to restructure those congregations along the lines of the generic, ecumenical brand of “Christianity” that has become so popular in our land. The plain, distinctive message of the New Testament has been lost on the minds of many preachers, elders, deacons, teachers, and members of the Lord’s church in general. It is to be hoped that at least some of them will “come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil” before it is too late (II Timothy 2:26).
March 27, 2018
April 4, 11, 18, 25: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN