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Preachers' Pet Peeves: HOBBY HORSES


Have you ever sat under a preacher who vociferated every sermon on some pet peeves in which he insisted that the congregation should do something that he wanted the people to do; but the Bible no where said so? And no matter what the subject of the sermon was supposed to be or what passage was supposed to be the text, the preacher was obsessed with those issues and went off on them out of context?

Examples may be

1) the people must tithe (though the Church no where has such a command) or
2) the people must attend all the services of the church (though all the Bible says is not to forsake the assembly), or
3) the people must teetotally abstain from all alcohol consumption, even though the Bible says to stop drinking only water but to drink a little wine for the stomach's sake and the oft infirmity.

If a preacher wants money, he may be tempted to preach on tithing. Tithing goes back to Abraham who in only one instance of his life gave ten percent to Melchizadek, ten percent of the spoils that Abe collected from fighting with the Mesopotamians when Abe rescued Lot and the Sodomites from king "Chedor Cheese Laomer" (Chedorlaomer). Israel was under the obligation to tithe to support the Levites who were helpers at the Tabernacle. They in turn had to tithe to support the priests. Since the law was in force until Christ died on the cross, of course we find Christ endorsing that Israel should pay tithes under the law.

But in the Church epistles, where giving is the subject, the subject of tithing is strangely omitted if it were transferred from Israel to the Church. For example, in 2 Corinthians where giving is a very major subject, Paul never demands tithes. Everyone is to give freely as he purposes in his own heart.

If a preacher loves being on a stage with an audience, he may take to molesting the people with a demand that they attend all services or certain services. But the Bible only gives a general admonition not to forsake the assembly. Moreover, there is no particular day set aside in the New Testament for church attendance by regulation. We do observe in Acts that they met on the first day of the week, evidently on what we would call Saturday night, since the sun went down around 6 PM starting a new day in the Biblical reckoning of days. Having two meetings in a day, morning and evening (or even three which I found in England, morning, afternoon, and evening) is nowhere mentioned in the NT. Also, there is no Wednesday night meeting in the Bible.

What is more lame than interrupting the study of the Bible during a sermon to rant on church attendance? The people the preacher rants at are attenders, for crying out loud. There the regular attenders sit, longing for spiritual sheep food, and what do they get but dog food, pet peeves that are not in the Bible. The preacher may go on and on about how evil it is that certain people are not here. He may speculate on their worldliness for not being there; they are watching football or something. He may spend a long time in a long prayer where he prays for those who are not attending that they should repent of their lack of attending.

But if the preacher wants an audience, the best way to ensure that is by studying to show himself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, by preparing a delicious spiritual meal for those who come. Increasing the quality of the music and raising the height of the praise service may also help. But he is advised to make the meeting so interesting, informative, and encouraging that the people delight to come. It is not a matter of trying to twist arms: "You've got to come; you've got to come; God demands that you come." The preacher is advised to be a teacher of God's word; tell them something they didn't already know, not just platitudes. Try expository preaching. Read a verse and then explain what it means with illustration. Like Christ, use parables. After teaching what the verse means, give the application; again use illustrations. Work at the sermon. Cursed be he who keeps his hand back from the sword. The Word of God is the sword.

Practice that sermon. Preach it to the wife, to the dog, to the trees. Know it so well that no notes are required. Know it so well that if a heckler got up and heckled every sentence, the preacher would not be flustered. Know it so well that if an amen came after every sentence, no loss of the train-of -hought would result.

Why are people getting ants-in-the-pants and playing the restroom game? In some disorderly churches there may be this unseemly parade of persons in and out of the sanctuary during the never-ending sermon. In some disorderly churches there may a seat-of-the-scornful, where young people chatter during the sermon and pass notes. But let the preacher have prepared such a great sermon with such interesting images that it captivates the attention. Then no adult needs to seek relief by "going to the restroom."

And don't drone-on way past your preparation. Neither think you shall be heard for your long preaching.

Be encouraged. There is the Word of God. Proclaiming it is powerfully effective.