As a very young Christian, I remember always hearing the phrase, “Preach the Word!” I was blessed to have been saved into a ministry that taught the Bible from cover to cover, word by word, chapter by chapter and book by book. I never entered into a worship service and heard anything but the Bible being taught. When the Lord called me into a teaching ministry, I only knew of one way to teach the Bible and that was to teach the Bible. This can be done in various approaches but it is done with one main source of information and that is the Bible. I have listened to one scripture being expounded upon for an entire message but it was specifically centered on that scripture with references from other scripture and nothing else. The point here is we don’t need anything else to pump up God’s word. There is nothing in this world which can enhance His message to us but, it appears there are those in the Church that insist on bringing the world into the pulpit every Sunday morning and mid-week service. But, it goes beyond the pulpit; what is the message Christians carry out of the building on Sunday morning? What are they telling their co-workers on Monday morning? How many have been a witness for Jesus? How many have told their unsaved friends, co-workers, family members or strangers about Jesus? Jesus is the Word (Jn.1;1) and He should be the central focus in our lives as Christians but we are easily sidetracked by the things of this world. I know because I am as guilty of this as anyone but not to the extent of some Christians. Example: It is that time of the year again, football season. Now I can sit and watch football for an entire Sunday afternoon. I am a football fan, well, I am a sports fan and I love to watch football but I cannot allow that to take priority in my Christian life. Years ago, on Super Bowl Sunday, as I walked into church for Sunday evening service, I was approached by the Pastor and this was his comment to me, “I didn’t expect to see you here tonight.” Now, I had never missed a service to stay home and watch football,or anything else for that matter, and I was offended by that remark and I told him so. What I am saying here is that we can have those things in our lives but they should never distract us from our service to Jesus. Pastors will bring the world into the pulpit and Christians will allow the world to take president in their lives. We need to take heed to what the Apostle Paul told the young pastor, Timothy,
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 2 Tim. 4:2 NKJV www.biblegateway.com
Of all the information which is available to us today, nothing is more important in our lives than the word of God. In this country alone, there is more access to the Bible than possibly any place else in this world; there is no excuse for Christians to not know what the word of God says but many times when asked simple questions about the Bible, Christians can’t answer correctly. Now, here is the disclaimer: I am not referring to all Christians but there all far too many who are not the Bible student they should be. It is not the pastor’s responsibility to be the only Bible student in the church. Again, the Apostle Paul instructs Timothy in this matter,
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Tim. 2:15 NKJV
When Paul told Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth, the literal translation is, “cutting straight the word.” The NLT says it in a good way, “…who correctly explains the word of truth.” In other words, be a student of the word and be able to explain it to those who don’t know. A Christian doesn’t have to be a pastor to do that and he/she should be able to explain when asked or at least know how to find the answer in the Bible and get back to the person who asked. Bible study is not boring, it is not difficult nor is it something we should find to be a burden. If the things of this world has more influence on a Christian than the word of God, he/she needs to re-evaluate their Christian life and their walk with the Lord.
So, what are Christians hearing, if not the word of God, when they attend a church service? Well, there are many topics but I will concentrate only on a couple or a few or, well, let’s see where this goes from here.
Preach The Word, Not Worldly Topics
I am going to focus the remainder of this writing on what a person might hear on any given Sunday morning when entering into a local church. There are some local churches today that like to take the topic, worldly topic, and sprinkle the word of God over it as a seasoning; in the same way you might put a seasoning on your food to enhance the taste of it. The main emphasis of the message is not God’s word but instead the worldly topic. The scripture used in the message is nothing more than a way of using the word out of context to meet the agenda of the person delivering the message. In this way, the pastor or teacher can say that God’s word supports this particular worldly topic. This is done for all kinds of non-Biblical topics. The one which always comes to my mind when speaking about this is the prosperity teachers. These guys have been around for a long, long time; the movement keeps changing the name. In the late 1940s it was known as, “The Latter Day Rain Movement with The Kansas City Prophets” and then it became known as the Word of Faith Movement and more recently as, “The New Apostolic Reformation”. Although these movements include other core beliefs, prosperity is always one of those teachings which is included. Some of the ideas which these teachers would use as God’s directives were and are absolutely ridiculous. Their entire message is how God wants you to be prosperous, how He wants us to be wealthy and they twist the scriptures to support the message. Of course, most of these scriptures,which they use, refer to our spiritual prosperity. Taking the parable of the sower and turning that into a get rich scheme, by giving, is just one of many examples of how these people twist God’s word to get people to send them money. They have no shame as to what lengths they will go to deceive people. In that parable, as Jesus explained the harvest, well read it for yourself,
But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” Mark 4:20 NKJV
Years ago, Oral Roberts used this scripture as a basis for his “Seed Faith” ministry. The idea was if you gave him $100 you might receive $3000, $6000 or $10000 dollars in return. How big is your faith? This was nothing more than a scam used to get people to send him money. There is not any place in God’s word that teaches this; we don’t give to the Lord to get rich or to expect any monetary return. God is not a stock market or a gaming agency. We give as form of worship but there are those who will enter into the pulpit with this message and the only one getting rich is the guy delivering the message.
Freddy Price once threatened to post all the bounced tithe checks on a bulletin board in the main lobby of his church, The Crenshaw Christian Center but, his legal advisers told him not to do that. He was upset about the amount of bad checks he was receiving for tithes. Instead of attempting to publicly humiliate and embarrass these people, he should have had them counseled concerning their finances. But, I’m sure that as they continually listened to his false teachings about wealth, they felt pressured to give when they had nothing to give and that led to writing bad checks to the church. They needed to know the truth, if you don’t have it, don’t write the check. I personally witnessed this while watching his Sunday morning service on television. No, I am not a supporter of his ministry. I used to watch it before I went to church just to see what kind of crazy stuff he would talk about. I just couldn’t resist! The bottom line on the prosperity teachings is, there is no scriptural basis for what they teach. The Bible is clear on people who desire to be prosperous,
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Tim. 6:9-10 NKJV
The other type of worldly teaching that comes to mind is the “feel good” message or “feel good about yourself.” The most popular and followed teacher in this category is Joel Osteen. He is one of the best motivational speakers in the Church; the only problem with that is the Church doesn’t need or require motivational speakers. The Church needs and Jesus requires teachers of the word. Joel Osteen has a tremendous following because he never says anything that will put conviction in the heart of the listener. I know there are many who would read this and when they get to this point, they would stop, call me some choice names and think of me as a divisive person causing division in the Church and being negative and a bunch of other stuff. Well, the truth is the truth and if Jesus asks me to speak for Him, which He has on occasion, I will deliver the truth! I think Joel Osteen is a very pleasant and nice guy; he just doesn’t deliver the hard truth of the gospel. He also has been beat up for not being able to deliver the gospel when challenged on national television or for stating Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith is OK with him and other so called public gaffes. Sometimes it seems as if he just doesn’t think about what he is saying when being interviewed by these secular media outlets. That tells me he is not Biblically grounded. Again, he has a tremendous following and therefore is responsible for delivering the truth of the scripture and the gospel as well as the consequences of unrepentant sin and failure to receive Jesus as savior. He just doesn’t preach this message. In fairness to Joel Osteen, the following transcript from a Fox News Sunday interview with Mike Wallace speaks for itself,
God hasn’t called motivational speakers or teachers of selective Biblical passages to shepherd His flock. When God calls men to preach and teach His word, He has called them to preach and teach all of it, not selected passages. I attended a local church for a short period of time as a young Christian and I never head this pastor speak about the end times or the rapture or the book of Revelation. When I asked him why, he responded with this answer, “I was not called to teach that part of the Bible.” I was stunned; I had only been a Christian for about four years but I knew this wasn’t right. Also, this pastor endorsed the use of worldly topics and theories to enhance Sunday morning messages, but that is for another time and another writing. In the same way God warned Ezekiel concerning his duties as a watchman, (Ezk. 3:17-21) I believe that same warning applies to those called to teach and preach His word. Deliver the whole message so those who don’t know Jesus as their Savior will know and have the opportunity to receive the free gift of salvation. James, in James 3:1, says that not many should be teachers since they will receive a stricter judgement. Are you teaching the truth or something to suit your agenda? That is simple to understand, yet many are teaching anything but the truth of the word or anything but the word of God. And that will bring us to what might be the most controversial topic which we witness every time there is an election.
Preach The Word Not Politics
It never fails, every time there is an election, discussions and arguments seem to never cease. Disagreements over candidates and what they believe in or what their agendas are and what the planks and the platforms are. When I was young, I didn’t quite understand all the political jargon and I couldn’t figure out what politicians were going to do with planks and platforms. It sounded like they were going to build a house or some other building. Well, it is all too clear to me now and when I read or hear about churches or pastors being heavily involved in the politics of an election, I have to question who they are serving, Jesus or the candidate. I read an article the other day about a church in New Jersey that is going to have a series of messages centered around the election, the candidates and the issues involved. During the message, those in attendance will have the opportunity to text message their opinion or answer to the topics being presented. It is the pastor’s idea on how to poll his church on the issues of the election. I just have to wonder what these people are going to take away from these Sunday morning sessions. Where in the Bible or just the New Testament, does it tell us to discuss or teach on the presidential election? Where does it instruct us to discuss politics during a worship service? Who do we worship when attending these services? (I’m beginning to question who) Look, Sunday morning worship service is supposed to be for worshiping Jesus; He should be the only one we are concerned with during any worship service. There was a local church in the city of Baltimore a few months ago who was thought to be in danger of losing it’s tax exempt status because the pastor was endorsing a candidate from the pulpit! There is only one who deserves endorsement from any pulpit and that is Jesus. This is my opinion and I will stand by it, “Keep the politics out of the pulpit!!” Jesus was not political; you will have to show me in the Bible anywhere concerning Jesus being political. Many of His followers during His earthly ministry thought He had come to defeat the Romans and return their independence. This was not His agenda, even though the opportunity presented itself enough times. Jesus never opposed the Roman rule, actually, He instructed His disciples to be obedient to it. He opposed the religious leaders of that time, not the political leaders. He had the opportunity to rebuke Pilate and the Roman government but that is not why He came. He came to provide salvation for all, not overthrow the Roman government. Many Bible teachers, students and pastors have used scripture in a way to support their political activities or agendas but these scriptures are really taken to a point of stretching the truth of their meaning. The scriptures used have nothing to do with politics, voting and are improperly used. Jesus must be heartbroken every time someone steps up and begins a political speech on a Sunday morning or any other time a worship service is in session. What did Peter discuss on that first Sunday morning, that Pentecost Sunday message he delivered after the Holy Spirit descended on the Church? What was the content of his message? Was it how to overthrow the Roman government? How to do away with the religious rulers of the day? Was he calling for a special election to recall the high priest? NO! It was about Jesus. That should be the example every Christian church should follow every Sunday morning, election or no election. The politicians agenda have no place in the pulpit on Sunday morning. After all, who places these politicians in the office which they hold?
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Rom. 13:1 NKJV
So, save the argument over candidates, Jesus will put into office the one He wants there! That should settle all the debates but it won’t. Christians will continue to argue, beg and plead with others concerning who the right guy is for the office. Pastors will continue to take the worldly, political message into the pulpit and in doing so, will cheat those in attendance of the opportunity to hear the word of God.
I’m not saying that we can’t discuss this topic with each other, there is a time and a place for that and it is not in the pulpit. I’m not saying pastors and spiritual leaders can’t discuss politics, but not in the pulpit. The Lord has given us liberties in our Christian lives but we don’t need use those liberties to appease the flesh (Gal. 5:13). So, by all means discuss the election and other worldly events and watch football but keep it all in the right prospective. And, if you attend a church which discusses politics, how to become wealthy, how to feel good about yourself, how to be a better you or any other worldly message, you might want to start looking for a new church to attend. You should want to attend a church which will preach the word and nothing else.