Saturday, December 19, 2009

Pastor or Entertainer with a Message?

There are some pastors who error in that they speak as comedians with a message. Some error in that they are not comedians, but they don’t have a message either. There are some who preach the God’s Word, but do so through entertainment. There are some who preach seriously, but they’re not preaching God’s Word.

It is hard to criticize a pastor who preaches a passage, explaining the text accurately and with good explanation, but does it in such a way that is missing the gravitas of the passage. On the one hand it is refreshing because hearing anyone who gives an accurate treatment of the text is good. On the other hand it is annoying because the constant jokes make it difficult to think seriously throughout the sermon. It’s hard because it is fun to listen to a speaker who makes you chuckle and laugh.

Despite the reality that it is enjoyable to listen to this kind of preaching, I would never want this kind of speaker to be my long-term pastor for the following reasons:

1. I wonder if this person can be serious about anything for any length of time. How will they act in a funeral service? Will they make a joke when my spouse is in the hospital? Do they understand that there is a time for laughter and a time for weeping?

2. The Bible is not a book of jokes, nor do the truths it contains give way to laughter. Life can be funny and light-hearted, and laughter is good in its rightful place, but studying Scripture is not the time to make weighty matters light. Sermons should convict sinners, edify believers, challenge the soul, encourage the weak, break the strong. It shouldn’t make anyone jovial.

3. A sermon filled with modern illustrations and funny examples is out of necessity not filled with biblical illustrations or historical background. At the end of the sermon you might understand the truth, but you won’t understand the text—and there is a significant difference.

4. Pastors who are entertaining to listen to, no matter how correct their message, are reliant upon their personality and not the truth. People flock to them because they enjoy listening to the speaker, not because they love the truth he speaks. The fact that he speaks the truth legitimates their flocking to him, but it doesn’t cause it.

5. One of the important goals of good preaching is to teach by example how to study the Bible. An entertaining sermon week after week after week cannot achieve this goal.