If you go to church long enough the preacher will eventually say something you don’t like. How should you react? Take your pick of any number of Biblical reactions.
- Threaten him with a sword (1 Kings 19:1-3). It made Elijah cry. But if he is half as hard-hearted and hard headed as you suspect swords may not shut the fool up. So, if that doesn’t work,
- Beat him up (Jer. 37:15). Some preachers don’t know when to quit. So if he keeps meddling, there is another option,
- Drop him in a muddy hole (Jer. 38:6-13). But you are too lazy to dig a muddy hole. I hate high maintenance people. Here is a more New Testament approach,
- Off with his head (Mark 6:21-29). Certainly a more messy approach. If you don’t like the sight of blood, I have a more humane suggestion,
- Lions. Feed the joker to the lions (Daniel 6). But you forgot to renew your zoo pass, darn, how about this one,
- Stone him (Acts 7). Perhaps you not as skilled as David with a stone. So if you are a bad shot with a rock. How about this one, the ultimate in shut up juice,
- Crucifixion! But you sure don’t want the scoundrel to come across Jesus-esque. Martyrdom always backfires so that’s no good.
- There are plenty of good beating techniques in the Bible you could employ. Or,
- Perhaps a less Biblical approach would be easier and less violent. Park your tail at home, and use the extra time to call other people and explain why you are so offended. Just don’t go back!
Before you phone a deacon, I would like to remind you of the art of satire. You may not find me funny, but I promise you, I am not advocating any approach to offense that involves muddy holes, lions, beatings, swords, or separating anyone’s head from their shoulders. But preachers do make us mad! Grrrrrrrrrrr! So without muddy holes or a fatal trip to the zoo, what do we do?
Value the mandate of comprehensive preaching.
If your pastor is faithful to preach the Bible you are going to experience more than sore toes from time to time. You should also get an encouraged heart every once in awhile. Just when you thought you had it all together comes a verbal spanking. Two weeks later, the same pastor that brought you a brow beating will seem like your greatest supporter. It’s not the preacher! That’s the Word (2 Tim. 4:2).
There is a comprehensive call to preaching that involves both topic and tone. We want to be like Paul and not fail to proclaim the whole counsel of the Word of God (Acts 20:27). Wouldn’t it be nice if we could spend the rest of our lives in a series on the Song of Solomon – but we can’t! We need the righteous demands of Leviticus as much as we need the saving grace of Galatians. We may be most interested in Revelation, but we can’t fail to understand how it all began in Genesis. What Abraham did is just as important to our faith as understanding what the anti-Christ will do.
There is also a comprehensive tone to preaching. 2 Timothy 4:2 instructs the pastor to preach to encourage people and also to straighten them out. Sometimes he will lift you up. Sometimes he will bring you down. If your pastor is worth his salt, he will preach the word whether you like it or not. This is what Paul means when he tells preacher Tim, “in season and out of season.” The effectiveness of a sermon is not judged by popular vote, but by righteous change.
Evaluate their word with the Word.
You and I may not like a message, but that does not mean it isn’t right. In Acts 17:11 the Bible calls the Bereans noble and it says that they would listen to what Paul preached and then examine the Scriptures “every day” to see if what he was preaching was true. It is more comfortable for me to hide the areas of my life that are out of step with Scripture. I don’t like conversations that point out my faults, but that does not mean that just because something feels wrong that it is not right. Take what your preacher said and compare it to Scripture. If he is faithful to the text you will find that your problem is not with the preacher, your problem is with God.
Distinguish what is infallible and what is fallible.
Here is the problem with preachers. We make mistakes. We have bad days. We don’t like people from time to time. There have been times when I have preached a message out of anger. I said what was right Bionically, but my motive made it all wrong. It is possible that the preacher may say the right thing, but he may say it the wrong way. You have a fallible pastor. You also have an infallible Word from God in the Scriptures. Are you angry about the way he said what he said, or are you angry at what was said? Distinguish what is fallible with what is infallible. Extend grace to your pastor, but also employ grace for yourself. He may be angry, discouraged, dejected, or tired, but his faults do not excuse you or I from the righteous demands of God’s Word. Preachers fail. God’s Word never fails.
Take a hard look at yourself.
There is not a single spanking I can reflect on and say with honesty to my parents that I enjoyed any of them. Yet as a 40 year old man I can look back and see that I deserved it and that every act of discipline was profitable for my life. Proverbs 3:11 tells us not to despise the chastening, or the discipline, of God. The next verse says that the Lord loves those He corrects. A pastor that truly loves you will not withhold from you Biblical messages just because you may not like them. Righteousness is a greater benefit to our life than sin. What kind of friend would allow you to blindly walk a path of cursing when he knows the way to God’s blessing?
Don’t harden your heart.
If you want to make a major mistake, avoid hard messages at all cost. Grow bitter in your disdain for the messenger. Use your offense as an excuse to be like you are. Go to a church where the pastor hasn’t offended you yet and tell people, “God moved you.” Or, better yet, stay home.
The Bible never speaks well of those who harden their heart to God’s Word. There are a variety of reasons people turn a stiff ear to preaching, yet they all end the same; destruction (Matthew 13:14-15). The most dangerous thing about a hardened heart is that it feels right. You feel justified. The message doesn’t bother you any longer because you remove yourself from it. There is no discomfort, in fact, you’re numb to the whole thing.
The truth of the matter is, I am more concerned when things don’t bother me, than I am when they do. Conviction is not comfortable, but I count it the good grace of God toward me when I feel it. I want the Word to hurt from time to time.
So before you throw your pastor to the lions take a hard look at the Word and a hard look at yourself. Righteousness is better than rebellion. Count your offense as convicting grace. Evaluate his words and your life Biblically. What began as an offense may lead to righteous change.