Thursday, May 1, 2014

Preaching what you do not believe?

It is not the first time I have encountered this.  Preachers who complain that they preach on Sunday what they cannot in their hearts believe and refuse to accept. . . preachers who make up their sermons because they cannot speak from the vantage point of faith.  One more time I read a post by a clergyman, no longer a preacher, relieved at not having to live the deception any longer.

One person put it this way:  I remember when I was a preacher that there were days I felt a profound polarity between what I believed and what I was expected to say. The pressure to bend to expectations was more than I could sometimes bear. I know many preachers under this pressure.

This is something I do not understand nor do I have much patience with -- those who stand in the pulpit may not be rock star preachers but I think it is fair to say that their hearers expect them to believe what they preach.  I am not saying that the preacher is not himself struggling with this belief.  Indeed, I preach to myself every Sunday and often times the texts expose the great weakness or temptation or doubt that I face personally.  But I do not preach my doubts or my weakness.  I preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  I stand under the cross with the rest of the hearers for the Word that I speak is not mine but the Word of Christ spoken not only through me but also to me.  If the words are mine only, then there is little cause for the hearers to listen to me rather than any other point of view.  The words of the preacher have authority only because they are the Word of the Lord, in a different but no less profound way than the lessons which we read and end by saying "The Word of the Lord."  I say this not to elevate the preacher but to elevate the Word preached.

I would expect folks in the pew to be shocked and disappointed upon finding out that what they heard on Sunday morning is different from what the preacher actually believes.  If anything we expect some measure of integrity from the clergy, namely that they will not deceive the hearer by preaching something they do not themselves believe.  I know that this is predominantly a problem when the preacher is more liberal than the people in the pews and feels compelled by job security to keep his doubts and skepticism to himself.  But it can also happen when the preacher's confession changes in the opposite way.  I have known preachers who have struggled with knowing when it is time to give up the call because they have come to believe that the Lutheran Confessions are true and faithful but they are not in a Lutheran congregation.  They key here is to preach faithfully until that point when you cannot.  At that point you owe it to your hearers to be honest.

There have been situations in which the pastor could not in good conscience confess the Apostles' or Nicene Creed.  In the same way, when your conviction is no longer consistent with your ordination and call, then it is time to call it quits (if not forever, at least for now, until you can return to the office with the integrity of your convictions in tact).  These are not small matters.  Two friends have left churches when they found out the pastors did not believe what the Scriptures said.  In one case the pastor believed the resurrection to be purely spiritual and that someday the bones of Jesus would be found in a cave in Palestine.  In another the pastor flat out denied the efficacy of baptism and insisted, contrary to the church's catechism and confession, it was nothing but a mere symbol.  In both cases, the folks in the pew felt they could not stay there but the right move would have been for the pastors to remove themselves or be removed.  There is no cause for or reason to justify a polarity between what is preached and the faith confessed.  


You’ve all heard of the #nomakeup challenge haven’t you? Or “stars without makeup”?
And the men who are mocking the challenge with their own pics?
This preacher is unwilling to take the #nomakeup challenge because, well, he has to make stuff up every Sunday.
I remember when I was a preacher that there were days I felt a profound polarity between what I believed and what I was expected to say. The pressure to bend to expectations was more than I could sometimes bear. I know many preachers under this pressure.
- See more at: http://nakedpastor.com/2014/03/one-preacher-says-no-to-the-nomakeup-challenge/#sthash.5FtQZzLA.dpuf

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I could not possibly do that!! It makes the preacher a con man, a charlatan, a complete fraud. It is a gross disservice to Christ and His Church.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Carl Vehse said...

There have been a number of LCMS pastors who preached to their Lutheran congregations for months, if not years, while actively considering or even preparing to join the Roman or Eastern church.

How many more of such pastors exist, like ticking time bombs, in the Missouri Synod today?

And, more generally, how many LCMS pastors in their heart of hearts don't really accept C.F.W. Walther's Kirche und Amt as “the definitive statement under the Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions of the Synod’s understanding on the subject of church and ministry" and "the official position of the LCMS"?

ErnestO said...

I think when one has received the call and attends seminary/graduates they should pray for and expect to have to wait for "the baptism of the Holy Spirit" before going out and preaching........unless of course the call was simultaneous to the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

I also share with you the belief that there is no cause for or reason to justify a polarity between what is preached and the faith confessed.

Anonymous said...

When was that text made the official doctrine of the Synod?

-Peter

Janis Williams said...

Fr. D, unfortunately, there are all too many "out there" who fall into this class. Just heard a sermon by a pastor (Methodist) who not only preached his Easter sermon from the gospel of Peter (gnostic), but added canned laughter to the audio online!

Thank the Good Lord, there are faithful men who are not con men! Unfortunately, there are a lot of used car salesmen in the wrong vocation, also!

Anonymous said...

Dear Janis,

Do you have a link to that Methodist Easter sermon from the Gospel of Peter? I can scarcely imagine it, but I would like to see it, if possible. I know a lot of Methodist (many in my own family) that could stand to hear about this.

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

Cliff said...

Even though today many pastors are not good preachers(presenters), and any weakness in faith is amplified, but on the other hand, sincere men of faith come through with a powerful message if their heart is in it.

Rev. Kevin Vogts said...

A brother pastor sings in a community Bach chorus, sitting next to an Episcopalian layman. The gentleman thought they would be in fellowship, but when the pastor explained he was LCMS not ELCA, the gentleman replied, "So you actually BELIEVE all that stuff we confess in the Creed in every week?"