4 Ways To Fail As A Preacher

4 Ways To Fail As A Preacher October 16, 2019

Jesus wishing the sermon was over because listening to lazy preachers is the worst. 

One of the best follows on twitters, as I think I’ve mentioned before, is IFB preacher clips. Someone is taking the trouble to watch a lot of sermons and chop them up into bits so that you can see some of the crazy things happening in pulpits all over the place. This one got shared a lot last week, because it definitely falls into the Oh My Word Please Write Out A Text category. Basically the preacher, or whoever it is, catastrophically wanders away from the point to complain about the absence of a mother in the story of the Prodigal Son.

I can’t tell you how much I love this—oh alright, I’ll try anyway.

1. It shows the degree to which Jesus is held in regard in this kind of preaching. That would be not at all. Jesus is not lifted up in his own scriptures by so many preachers in so many pulpits. Whereas, the story of the Prodigal Son is, get this, told by Jesus himself. Like, God himself took on human flesh and came so that we could hear all the words of God that we had tried busily for centuries and millennia not to hear. He came and, you know, with language. He told clear stories about what the Kingdom of God (his kingdom) is even like. In other words, when you’re reading through the gospels, which are trustworthy but that’s another post, you’re getting a perfect glimpse into what Jesus thinks is important. So if there’s no mother in the story, that’s because Jesus wasn’t telling a story about the mother. Searching around looking for her on the page is really dumb because the story’s not about her.

2. It shows an insane incomprehension of the gospel itself. How can I say this without losing my temper? The sermon time is for the proclamation and exposition of the gospel* and the gospel is not about your behavior. It’s not about what you do. You’ve done a lot of bad things, so many in fact, that God had to take on human flesh and come not just to speak, but also to die, because we violated his holy law, and could not earn any kind of favor or merit or goodness that would restore us to a relationship with him. We had done it so badly that he had to come and do it for us. So in the story of the Prodigal Son, which is, get this, about the gospel, the son squanders all that the father had given him and has to come back and get help from the father, which is humiliating at first, but rich in grace and love in the end. It’s not about the mother.

3. It shows a total blind ignorance of the lives of most women in the church. Oh my word, sir, is that really the besetting sin of all the women? That they go out to get their nails done and spend an hour in a tanning bed? I don’t know any men—not one—who are not happy for their wives to look beautiful, to attend to the small dignities that make life pleasurable and kind, who know that a woman who has time to take care of herself is a better mother, a more gracious person. What on earth? Similarly, I don’t know any women, especially in the church, who are so vain that they actually neglect their husbands and children. I mean, granted, I don’t go to his church, but if I did, and he called women out like that, I would get up and walk out, because the text isn’t about the negligent behavior of mothers, its about the gospel.

4. It shows a terrible laziness. If you are a preacher and you think it’s ok to just stand up in the pulpit and spray your unconsidered words in every direction like a firehose held by no discenering hand, that the preaching time is for you to go off about your pet subject, you should climb down and go do something else.

What’s so great about IFB pastor clips is that this one isn’t even the best one. There are lots worse. If you want your eyes to have a reason to roll into the back of your head and to experience a deep body shudder, go on, give them a follow.


*Of course it is fine to talk about Christians behaving themselves properly when the text does, as long as you’re still grounding all that behavior in the prior gracious work of God, but seriously, that should all be clearly spelled out in the text, as I just said…should I say it again?

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