How often have we heard the boast in the Independent Baptist world, “We preach the Word of God”? It is said as if we were the only group left that could make the claim. Can that statement hold upon careful examination? Is a honest preaching of the Bible the true description across the majority of the group? I really don’t see how that statement could be defended. There is much noise, but little exposition of what God’s Word actually says. There’s plenty of heat, but I fear, little light!
What is really going on? Don’t just take my word for it, or look only at your own church. Look at the sermons in the more well-known Independent Baptist periodicals, or listen to the sermons in the more popular and well-attended conferences. Listen or read and be honest–how many really take a passage of Scripture and expound and develop a message from just what is said there? I don’t deny that many begin with a good text, and even if it draws out a point or two, it often just deteriorates into these ideas that the speaker thinks we need. If you don’t believe me, take the main points of many of these messages and see if you can find them in the text.
What you often get is 10 points you should follow, or 7 steps to Christian living, or a call to give and go soul winning, etc. It might make a dandy blogpost, but it’s a pitiful sermon. What is the word of man should be presented as such, not as the Word of God. Attaching your words to a text does NOT make it the Word of God! Preachers are not at liberty to throw out all their ideas as God’s Word. You can’t hide under the “topical” label either as a real topical message will still be only what God said.
Let’s give an example. I have been reading in Ezekiel, so I just picked a spot and looked for a verse to illustrate my point. Here is the verse and a preaching outline I made:
Ezekiel 44:4 “Then brought he me the way of the north gate before the house: and I looked, and, behold, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord: and I fell upon my face.”
Sermon title: The Glory of the Lord Filled the House
I. The Glory of the Lord Fills the House in our Praise
II. The Glory of the Lord Fills the House in our Prayers
III. The Glory of the Lord Fills the House in our Person ( a point on faithful church attendance)
So what do you think of my little outline? Here’s what I think. 1. It is asinine. I put it together in a few seconds without even studying the passage. I fear far too many sermons are put together in the same fashion! 2. It is absurd. There is nothing of praise, prayer, or faithfulness in the passage. Even if we used these as stretched applications, these points could in no way said to be what the passage is about. 3. It is accuracy deficient. (You see I am a poor at alliteration and this is why I rarely alliterate and don’t allow the first letter of a word to dictate my next point!) In that sermon I substituted my word for God’s Word and that is always a sorry trade.
Sometimes this kind of preaching just gets worse! We hear personal preferences given as if they came straight from Heaven. Why is the preacher’s preference on all these little things not mentioned in Scripture any better than anyone’s sitting in the audience? I have heard, for example, why we shouldn’t have a guitar in the church, or a screen, or a chorus instead of a hymnbook. It often spirals from there to things like why we shouldn’t have a purple shirt, or not have a beard, and on and on. It would help if some started speaking up and telling such preachers to get over themselves!
Then there are personal agendas and petty politics. Under some feigned flight of righteous indignation, how often do we hear some slamming of another Independent Baptist preacher, church, or college right from the pulpit? When you stand to rise a little higher if they fall a little lower, your sincerity is hard to swallow. Whatever you want to call that, it is not preaching as the Lord views it. There is often a pushing of a platform (most cliques in the Independent Baptist world have a distinct one) at the expense of God’s Word. Instead of First-Century Christianity, it sounds like Twenty-First Century American politics! That is not a step in the right direction I assure you!
What we are left with is little of the Word. I believe wholeheartedly that this is the greatest issue before Independent Baptists today. Most of the other issues are merely symptoms of this issue. To fail in our key duty of giving the Word of God is to but fail across the board.
So I don’t only discuss the bad side, I should tell you there are a number of younger guys who see this problem and are dedicating themselves to actually preaching His Word. May the Lord increase their number! Likely, the future of Independent Baptists will be decided here.
FIND ALL POSTS IN THE SERIES HERE:
It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution