I’m taking “Exploring Christian Ministry” at the moment, and we’ve been on the subject of preaching this week. This was one of our discussion forum questions, followed by my answer:
How can we keep from crossing the line between coercion/manipulation and persuasion?
I have strong feelings on this subject because I feel I’ve seen so much coercion and manipulation from the pulpit over my lifetime. Manipulation, especially. Pastors have a unique position from which to speak, a privilege that most people in the church never have. They should handle it carefully. These are a few of my thoughts:
Preach Christ, not yourself. I’ve seen preachers talk about how much time or money they gave to the church, in order to guilt people into giving more. It’s not about you. It’s ALWAYS about Christ.
Don’t preach to specific people. It’s one thing to try to bring God’s Word in a way that is relevant to your specific congregation. It’s another matter when everyone can tell that you’re really talking about so-and-so and his problems with his wife, or whatever the case may be. Respect the dignity and privacy of the people in your congregation.
Don’t preach as a reaction to hurt or frustration. We had a pastor who used to jokingly say, when he was upset with people in the church, “It’s time to put on my prophet robes and get out the big hammer.” I was his secretary, and knew he was kidding. But I’ve also seen it done. The pastor has had it up-to-here with something in the church and “yells” at the congregation. Some people leave feeling shamed. Some people leave feeling angry. And a lot of people leave wondering, “What brought that on?” Very few leave feeling they’ve heard from God. Don’t use the pulpit to get even.
Don’t belittle groups of people in your sermons; not the Catholics, not the homosexuals, not the Calvinists – no one. Preach the truth on a specific subject and let the Word of God be what helps people come to the right conclusions. You don’t know who in your congregation will be wounded and closed down by a cheap joke or a dismissive remark.
DO consider preaching a privilege to be handled with the utmost care. DO remember that it’s not your own skills that put you in that position, but the call of God. DO remember that you are not responsible for results, only for being obedient.
One of my classmates replied with this comment: I am printing your post so it can be used to pass on to the pastors I am associated with. This should be converted to “A pastor’s Commandments”. So that’s gratifying.
What about you? Would you add any “commandments” to the list?