Category Archives: Preaching

Broken Compass

My friend asked upon reading my Facebook intro (Something to do the day after)to my last blog, “What do Christians do now that the president is still the president?!”  I assume she was asking, “What has changed that has so many people bummed out.”  On the surface, nothing.  But the election revealed, in black and white clarity, America’s moral compass is broken.  

Proverbs 13:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”  What would our founding fathers say about legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and same-sex marriage in some states?  What would they say about mandating people pay for abortions?  What would they say about religion, holiness, and morality as it effects the nation?

Let me introduce you to John Witherspoon.  Witherspoon was a Presbyterian minister, President of Princeton College, a New Jersey delegate to the Continential Congress, and signer of the Declaration of Independence.  The following is an excerpt from a sermon called The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men.  Preached in Princeton in 1776, Witherspoon offers some great wisdom for us in connceting our faith and our national character.  There is some real practical advice and truth offered here to anyone who would “turn from our wicked ways and seek God’s face.”  Here’s John…

“Suffer me to recommend to you an attention to the public interest of religion, or in other words, zeal for the glory of God and the good of others. I have already endeavored to exhort sinners to repentance; what I have here in view is to point out to you the concern which every good man ought to take in the national character and manners, and the means which he ought to use for promoting public virtue, and bearing down impiety and vice. This is a matter of the utmost moment, and which ought to be well understood, both in its nature and principles. Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue. On the other hand, when the manners of a nation are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigour, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed. This will be found equally certain, whether we consider the great principles of God’s moral government, or the operation and influence of natural causes.

What follows from this? That he is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion, and who sets himself with the greatest firmness to bear down profanity and immorality of every kind. Whoever is an avowed enemy to God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country. Do not suppose, my brethren, that I mean to recommend a furious and angry zeal for the circumstantials of religion, or the contentions of one sect with another about their peculiar distinctions. I do not wish you to oppose any body’s religion, but every body’s wickedness. Perhaps there are few surer marks of the reality of religion, than when a man feels himself more joined in spirit to a true holy person of a different denomination, than to an irregular liver of his own. It is therefore your duty in this important and critical season to exert yourselves, every one in his proper sphere, to stem the tide of prevailing vice, to promote the knowledge of God, the reverence of his name and worship, and obedience to his laws.

Perhaps you will ask, what it is that you are called to do for this purpose farther than your own personal duty? I answer this itself when taken in its proper extent is not a little. The nature and obligation of visible religion is, I am afraid, little understood and less attended to.

Many from a real or pretended fear of the imputation of hypocrisy, banish from their conversation and carriage every appearance of respect and submission to the living God. What a weakness and meanness of spirit does it discover, for a man to be ashamed in the presence of his fellow sinners, to profess that reverence to almighty God which he inwardly feels: The truth is, he makes himself truly liable to the accusation which he means to avoid. It is as genuine and perhaps a more culpable hypocrisy to appear to have less religion than you really have, than to appear to have more. This false shame is a more extensive evil than is commonly apprehended. We contribute constantly, though insensibly, to form each others character and manners; and therefore, the usefulness of a strictly holy and conscientious deportment is not confined to the possessor, but spreads its happy influence to all that are within its reach. I need scarcely add, that in proportion as men are distinguished by understanding, literature, age, rank, office, wealth, or any other circumstance, their example will be useful on the one hand, or pernicious on the other.

But I cannot content myself with barely recommending a silent example. There is a dignity in virtue which is entitled to authority, and ought to claim it. In many cases it is the duty of a good man, by open reproof and opposition, to wage war with profaneness. There is a scripture precept delivered in very singular terms, to which I beg your attention; “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart, but shalt in any wise rebuke him, and not suffer sin upon him.” How prone are many to represent reproof as flowing from ill nature and surliness of temper? The spirit of God, on the contrary, considers it as the effect of inward hatred, or want of genuine love, to forbear reproof, when it is necessary or may be useful. I am sensible there may in some cases be a restraint from prudence, agreeably to that caution of our Saviour, “Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rent you.” Of this every man must judge as well as he can for himself; but certainly, either by open reproof, or expressive silence, or speedy departure from such society, we ought to guard against being partakers of other men’s sins.”

You can find the whole sermon here.  I’d love to hear your reaction to Witherspoon, so please share your thoughts.  I’ll share some of mine in my next post.

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The Pulpit and Politics

Should pastors preach on political issues? I have heard both yes and no. From my congregation I have heard people tell me, “I’m a big believer in separation of church and state.” I’ve also heard, “Why don’t we hear about these thing from the pulpit?” I believe that pastors have a responsibility to preach on political issues…..sometimes. Not all the time, but definitely some of the time.

I believe that because there is nothing outside the realm of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. As Christians we don’t get to compartmentalize our life and surrender only parts of it to Jesus. We do not have the option of saying, “Be Lord of my life here and here, but not here.” I also believe that the wisdom contained in the Scriptures can and should guide our lives, especially in how we live them out in society. The whole “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “You are the salt of the earth, light of the world” thing means we should be informed and active for His glory in the world around us.

Most pastors want to avoid controversy that preaching on a political issue is sure to bring. I certainly don’t want to cause rifts in the church. But if the Bible says something about a particular issue, don’t you want to know what it says? Don’t you want to know what God’s opinion is on the subject so that you can live in accordance with it? The Bible certainly doesn’t shy away from political issues. It is full of examples of preachers confronting, encouraging, and preaching to rulers, kings, judges, cities, and whole nations. And the topics range from adultery, extortion, private property, taxes, freedom, limits on power, role of governments, poverty, and the list goes on.

It has only been recently in American history that we expect preachers to remain silent on issues. During the Revolutionary War the British called the clergy, “The Black Robe Regiment” because of their preaching and influence in current affairs. Preachers did not shy away from preaching on God-given rights, limits of power, freedom, equality of all men and so on. And their legacy was passed on. What would have happened if preachers had remained silent on the issue of slavery? What would the civil-rights movement have been like if Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had decided not to preach on political issues?

As I stated earlier, I believe a preacher should preach on political issues. Not all of the time, but when it is needed. Take for instance the issue of marriage. Since when did marriage become a political issue? The church has been consistent about what marriage is and is not for two thousand years. Marriage is an institution established by God. The pastor who remains silent in the face of the government redefining it is not worthy of the calling and leads his or her people astray.

The Apostle Paul told the church at Ephesus, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Acts 20:26-27. As a preacher, I know that I have a duty to proclaim, as best I can with love, the whole counsel of God. I am not looking to offend anyone by doing so. But I have found the truth contained in the Word of God is offensive all by itself. Perhaps the reason most people don’t want to hear about politics from the pulpit is because it would require some rethinking and possibly even – change.

Over the next month I am going to be addressing some political issues and exploring what the Bible says about them on my blog. On October 24th I am leading an Election Issues Forum at my church so this will be kind of a warm up. I have found Dr. Wayne Grudem’s book Politics According to the Bible very helpful. You can hear Dr. Grudem speak about pastors preaching on political issues here.

I hope we will have some good discussions and gain insight into the wisdom God offers to us in the political arena. DISCLAIMER: I do not pretend to think that my opinions on these issues are from the mouth of God. I have tried to form my opinions based on His Word, but I am still quite falliable – just ask the Mrs.

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Filed under Beliefs, Bible, Church, Freedom, Government, Preaching

Dale Tedder’s Journal

Dale Tedder is a good friend of mine and minister at Southside UMC.  I encourage you to check out his blog.  He has a ton of great stuff and resources available, especially when it comes to discipleship, men’s ministry, and family ministry.  You can click on his link in the right hand column under Blog Roll.  His most recent article, It’s the Doctrine, Stupid, is great to get a foundational grasp on why what we believe matters so much.  Enjoy.

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Words Are Necessary

Years ago as a youth director I inherited a poster as I moved into my new office that had a famous quote from St. Francis, “Preach the gospel always. If necessary, use words.” It expresses a great truth. Every sphere of our lives, the totality of our existence, is to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. All our thoughts, actions, reactions, and our words are to preach Jesus. However, after a few months I began to notice that the quote from Francis was being used to justify not preaching the gospel.

A mindset had developed among the youth that as long as we did good things, then we did not have to talk about the sin that was corrupting our lives, repenting from it, turning to Jesus to forgive, cleanse, and save us from it, and receiving new life from Him. And we certainly did not have to share that good news with those around us. “A picture is worth a thousand words. Actions speak louder than words.” It had been decided that words were not necessary.

I see the same thing in many churches today. The emphasis is on our “social witness.” As Methodists we love to say “both/and” not “either/or.” We are to preach with words and deeds. However it appears that our “both/and” has made the Word ride in the back of the bus.

What are we preaching? I hear plenty of ideology and works, but not the gospel. I hear calls for racial reconciliation, gender inclusion, even churches that call themselves “reconciling congregations”. But I do not hear calls for reconciliation with God. Where are the cries for repentance from sin and the good news of new life found in Christ?

Perhaps the reason we are more willing to preach with works more than words is because the message is foolishness. The world has rejected the idea of sin and to hear the gospel is to hear that apart from Christ we are already dead in sin with no hope. Hearing a message that says, “We are wrong and must turn to Jesus and be forgiven or be destroyed in our sin” is not going to win favor among the intellectuals in our society. We will be looked down upon by the cultured and sophisticated. To preach Jesus as the only way to the Father will cause us to lose the moniker, “open-minded.” Is that label more important to us than helping sinners “flee the wrath to come?”

I heard a well-known Christian speaker celebrating the success of a mission trip to Mexico with some college students. He told them how great it was that they were able to minister to the needs of the people and share the love of God with them without even having to mention the name of Jesus. Really?

Jesus began his ministry in his home synagogue and read from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19.

And again in 4:43 He says, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I came.” Jesus definitely did both. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, raised the dead, associated with the outcasts, found the lost and much more. But it was for His message, not the healings and good works, that Jesus was crucified.

Demonstrating the kingdom of God by our actions is integral. I am not trying to diminish that at all. I am hoping that our church will once again put words to our actions. “For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” Romans 10:13-14.

To do good works without preaching the good news makes us the United Way not the United Methodist Church. We must preach the Gospel. Words are necessary.

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