Thursday, June 23, 2011

THE PERILS TO A POWERFUL PULPIT

By Dr. John Edmund Haggai | Haggai Institute

1. First is the peril of slight.
An improper evaluation of the pulpit's potential power leads to its sad collapse.

It is true, the preacher's task is never done. He can never sit down and feel there is no work on the desk, no letters to write, no calls to make, no problems to pray over. Nevertheless, he must cultivate that fine sense of discrimination. He must maintain a priority list, and preaching should be at the top.

The ministry itself is to blame for the decline in pulpit emphasis. We have indulged in amateur psychology, sociology, political science, and an empty eclecticism. While wise-cracking our way to popularity, we have failed to challenge men's lives.

The preacher is not a priest nor a presiding elder. He is a prophet. He is not to spend his time lighting candles, arranging furniture, or leading a ritual. A priest never brings a spiritual revolution. A prophet does. The preacher is to declare the whole counsel of God. He is to "preach the Word."

The first step to a revitalized pulpit in America is a proper evaluation of its importance.

2. The second peril is slovenliness. This naturally results from slight.
A man will give his most strenuous effort and his best hours to the thing he deems most important.

It is rather out of proportion for a man to spend twenty hours on a forthcoming financial program and only four hours on a forthcoming sermon.

How many preachers there are who complain they get no time to study until after 10:00 o'clock at night. Gentlemen, God help us to protect our time, as we protect our reputations and our families.

A man may prepare his head for the pulpit in a few hours, but to prepare himself takes time. Preaching is more than the prating of platitudes. It is the projection of the Gospel message through the total personality which has become the incarnation of the message projected. It is one thing for a preacher to master a sermon. It is a finer thing for the sermon to master the preacher.

Carelessness, neglect of study, failure in mental and spiritual growth, reliance upon antiquated jargon and threadbare clich├ęs, taking success for granted — all of these will precipitate a sad and sudden collapse of pulpit power.

God deliver us from undisciplined minds, cold hearts, and crippled wills. A quick wit, a facile use of epigrams and witticisms, and a supply of tear-jerking stories will not take the place of the message of God preached in the power of God by a man of God.

3. A third peril is substitutes. This quite logically issues from slovenliness.
When a man is consistently unprepared he welcomes substitutes. Indolence bestirs his conscience which now tortures him. He knows he has nothing for his people, so he gladly accepts a substitute.

Said one preacher in Detroit to an evangelist friend of mine, "We haven't been able to attract large crowds at our revivals, so we are going to have a Gospel film revival."

One Church secured a man to lead singing with his feet while standing on his hands.

Music is great, but it is no substitute for Gospel preaching. It will not do for us to substitute the potentially powerful Sunday night service with vesper hours, panel discussions, and candlelight meditations. As Vance Havner has said, "My friends, when they come lugging out the candles, you may know that the power isoff."

There is a danger in substituting organization and organizational programs for virile Bible preaching. My present staff, our program at Ninth & O Baptist Church, and the fact that I have graded two Sunday Schools and have started on the third (and may the Lord help us) are evidences that I believe in organization. But organization is no substitute for preaching.

The pulpit acrobat is a pervert and not a preacher. The man who makes his pulpit a showboat rather than a lifeboat is vitiating the potential power of his pulpit. On the other hand, the sacred desk is no platform for the display of philosophical pyrotechnics. The Christian preacher is a descendant of the Hebrew prophet, not the Greek philosopher.

There is no substitute for preaching. Preaching, as set forth by Phillips Brooks, is the truth of God communicated through human personality. Men magnify methods. God magnifies the man.

The pulpit is imperiled when the preacher permits any substitute for Gospel preaching.

(To be continued)

Copyright © 2011 John Edmund Haggai

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