Preachers in the news. I get nervous every time someone asks, “Did you hear about the preacher . . . ?” Just yesterday I was asked to verify the veracity of a story about a preacher in our state by a friend who lives, and preaches/pastors, in another state. While many a story chronicles the moral failure of preachers (read, sexual sin), Frank wonders about the mishandling of the bible by preachers. Shame on you he warns.
Frank invited me to write a “Guest Post” for his site. I returned the favor and asked Frank if he would put something together for The Edge of the Inside. Frank sent a brief bio,
Bio – Former Baptist pastor of 15 years. Currently owner of Fruzie’s Collectibles and blogger at Pulpit 2 Pew. Member of FBC, West Palm Beach, FL. Married to Suzie. Father of 4. Grandfather of 3.
Moving from Pulpit to the Pew has given Frank a different perspective. Here is his post. What are your thoughts?
RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY HANDLING THE BIBLE
When Paul wrote to his apprentice, Timothy, he included these words:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.
(2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)
What is it that should bring shame on Christians in general and preachers in particular?According to this verse it would be to mishandle the word of truth or the Bible.
The first example of shame in the Bible was in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned. When Adam finally came out of hiding from God, he acknowledged his shame of nakedness that resulted from being disobedient to God. In his shame he covered himself and hid from God. If we mishandle God’s word, it should cause this same type of posturing.
Sadly, I am seeing and hearing far too often of preachers who arrogantly flail away in the pulpit while mishandling the word. I am not writing merely about those who clearly value their own opinions despite what the Bible says. Nor am I writing about those who scandalize the church with their excused actions. The Joel Osteens, Ted Haggards and Bishop Longs of our day are easily identifiable by anybody with an open Bible.
I am talking about those who can thump their Bible the hardest. They can shout the loudest about an infallible Bible. Yet they attempt to pass off shoddy exegesis as the Word of God. Usually what they wrongly conclude from the text happens to coincide with one of their hobbyhorses.
For example, recently the pastor of a large Southern Baptist church was preaching from the book of Ezra at the same time his church was lacking the resources to complete a renovation project. In Ezra 3, Israel has just finished laying the foundation to the temple. They had returned from years in exile during which the temple had been destroyed. God had brought them back home and now the temple was being rebuilt. The Bible records this as the response of the people:
And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD,
“For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
(Ezra 3:11-13 ESV)
The people who could remember the earlier temple wept when they saw what had been lost being restored. The rest shouted because they knew God was doing a great thing. The older generation sounded like the father of the prodigal son. He wept with joy when his errant son was making his way home. He had remembered the son from earlier days, and he was overcome with emotion at his return.
So, how did this Baptist pastor handle this word from Ezra? He compared this older Israelite generation with those who would mumble and grumble in his church about the old days. They were complainers who stood in the way of those who rejoiced over a new day. The agenda was clearly to pony up at the offering plate to complete the renovation work. Perhaps that was needed in that church. That’s not the point.
To declare it as a mandate from Scripture was to mishandle Ezra 3. For that he should be ashamed. Pastors, please be diligent in preaching the text. We who are listening desperately need that.
11 comments on “Preacher Shame – Guest Blog from Pulpit2Pew”
I am glad to have a pastor whom I believe strives to “rightly handle the word of truth”.
I hope that all of us (ministers or not) would do the same, even though many times the word of truth cuts deep into our own hearts and lives.
Jeremy, your pastor is hopeful that if he errs, those listening will come alongside and help him see better. Much like Frank is want to do for whomever fits the description he gives of mis-handling the Scriptures.
Todd, thanks for posting this article. My intent is not to be hyper-critical of pastors. I once was one. I try to remember to pray for my pastor and others that I know. When I pray I do pray that they would rightly handle the Word and that they would be morally pure.
Frank, I do not think your post is hyper-critical. At the same time preachers/pastors should not get a free pass. I remember reading Van Horn’s Pew Rights. We should expect to be called out for manipulating a text. As you know, this goes on more often than we admit. Consider some of the ways preacher/pastors have justified certain practices which fall under the “normative principle” pawning them off on congregations and others as following the “regulative principle” thereby attempting to shut down and drown out any objection.
Todd, I agree that there should be no free passes. In your response to Nepo, you wrote of your people coming alongside of you. At times, the errors may be due to shoddy prep work. When this happens, pastors need to be encouraged to put in the work beforehand.
I am more concerned when the errors are attempts to line people up behind a particular agenda that the text is not addressing. Or, as in the case I mentioned, actually turning a good public response (weeping) into a sinful one (grumbling).
Yes, and that is what I meant by a mashup between the “normative” and “regulative” principles. For instance, in the recent Leadership video with Driscoll, Dever and MacDonald, the underlying issue for multi-site/video venue rests on the use of the text. If a person chooses/opts to support a multi-site strategy follow the “normative” principle and suggest the Scriptures do not prohibit such a model rather than use the “regulative” principle and force a text to address what it clearly does not. The text then suffers under the weight of a pragmatic move. In that way, you have, as Driscoll noted in a follow-up video, sharp disagreements between he and Dever. And, the subsequent argument sounds al awful lot like, “My church is bigger than your church so there. Argue that fact.”
For we Baptists, that is what often gets us into a jam. On the one hand we want to promote only what we find in the Scripture and so follow the more “Reformed” regulative principle. When we run to the end of that rope, we point out our preference does not violate Scripture and so employ the “Normative” principle, which in fact is more Baptist and AnaBaptist. That said, the clash between the two only becomes apparent when the same pastor/preacher employs one when it suits his vision and then changes and opts for other other when his vision requires it. And yes, this presents a huge problem for which shame may well be in order if our fall back is, “Thus saith the Lord.”
What correlation, if any, would this have with Jesus’ statement about people misleading others and it being “better that they have a millstone ties around their neck and be tossed into the sea”?
Not speaking specifically about pastors, but with anyone. Am I reading too much into the “manipulation” part? Frank used a pastor as an example but the point I think is manipulation of scripture, which anyone can do (Satan himself does it).
Nepo, I think there would be a connection only if the degree of misleading is one which damns people. Misleading on secondary issues is severe, but not as much as leading somebody into hell.
Sweet. I was hoping an explanation of normative and regulating would come along here sooner or later. That’s what I get for not finishing college, having to pick things up as I go along.
What a wonderful illustration of the word. I remember growing up and raised southern Baptist my parents and Pastor always teaching the once saved always saved. Then as a young teen I was confronted by another faith to show her that scripture. As I searched and searched and not finding that quote I had to go to my father and he explained it to me. It is there, just not those exact quotes. People often get confused when they are told something and we haven’t reached the concept as a growing christian of the meaning and that’s when I branched out on my own to study and learn Gods word and not so much on what others had to say about it. Its not the preachers fault just a higher educated view point I think that confuses some.