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.
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.