It’s Past Time to Put a “Zero Tolerance” Policy on Preaching

Most fundamentalist churches and institutions have a “zero tolerance” policy on their music ministry. You’re as likely to find a drum set in the auditorium as you are to find a crucifix. “Not on my watch,” is the pastor’s attitude. “Over my dead body.” I get that, and I appreciate it. No problem. I just wish we were as serious about what’s preached as we are about what’s sung.

Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. I’ve heard more than my share of silliness from the pulpits of fundamentalist colleges, conferences, camps, and churches. Some have been famously bad—I walked out when a preacher at a camp/conference compared the high priest’s going through the veil of the most holy place with marital intimacy, for example. (No kidding. And I’m being discreet in my description.) I’ve developed a pretty high tolerance of pulpit pain in my lifetime, but even I couldn’t sit still for that one. It was evil.

But even when it’s not that bad, I’ve heard far too many preachers who apparently structured their message around laugh lines; who were more like stand-up comics than heralds of the truth; who started with a Bible passage, only to quickly and permanently depart therefrom; who mocked theology with lines like “doctorates are the enemy of revival” or “the church is dying by degrees” and such nonsense; who took swipes at the Pipers of the world even as they themselves had about the same Bible-per-story ratio as the Osteens of the world. Seriously, I’ve heard messages in fundamentalist meetings which were as “seeker sensitive” and “doctrine lite” as any you might hear at Willow Creek. It angers and saddens me to hear preaching that’s every bit as irreverent as the music we criticize, if not more so. Our tolerance of it doesn’t make sense. Do we think it’s not that important? Do we think it’s a subjective matter about which we can’t speak with authority—even as we speak in absolute terms about music? Our putting up with poor preaching needs to stop, first to honor the Lord, but also to stop literally chasing young people out of fundamentalism.

I urge those who have the privilege and responsibility of choosing guest preachers to choose those who preach the text, every time. God has promised to bless His Word, not funny stories. Insist that those you put in the sacred desk have a reputation for preaching the Bible, verse by verse, preferably expositionally. That’s not to say that I’m opposed to topical messages. I’m not, as long as they’re exegetically sound. I’m simply arguing against messages that arise from the preacher’s creative juices rather than the Scriptures. And preachers generally have reputations for one or the other. It’s time for us to be conscientious—even relentless—about this.

On a related note, choose preachers that are obsessed with the Scriptures, not themselves. It may occasionally shed light on Scripture for the preacher to share a story from his past, but not usually. Maybe I’m just a cynic, but I think I can tell when a preacher reaches a “this-will-knock-them-dead” moment in his sermon. It might be the way he smirks. It might be the way he increases his intensity. It might be the way he launches into a fail-proof joke when he gets the sense that he’s losing his audience. But when the highlight of a sermon is an intense or comical story, something’s tragically wrong. If a preacher seems to get more joy from his own stories and the congregation’s laughter than he does from the glories of Christ and the congregation’s reverent silence, pass him over.

That’s not to say that  I’m opposed to a quick(!) bit of humor that illustrates the point of the text. I’m even okay an appropriate icebreaker, I suppose. But I’ve also been in a very public situation in which I intentionally avoided starting with a joke, knowing that I was preaching on Christ’s passion and it would be inappropriate to start with a display of my wit. I just needed to get out of the way, John the Baptist-like. That’s Mark Dever’s point when he says that he intentionally tones down his personality while in the pulpit, lest people be distracted by him. That’s not arrogant; it’s humble. Turning preaching into an opportunity to “make ’em laugh” by perpetual jokes and 5-minute rabbit trails is the height of arrogance and irreverence. It’s not supposed to be about the preacher, after all. Right?

Finally, choose preachers that preach Christ, not moralisms. Though this may make me look like a fault-finder, I actually think that most of the sermons I’ve heard from fellow fundamentalists are lacking in this area—sometimes including my own. Too often, what we preach could be well received by an orthodox Jew or a Mormon. We tell the self-condemned, for example, that they need to confess harder and more specifically, when we should point them to the propitiatory death of Christ (1 John 2:1-2). We preach to college students that they should “be holy” without pointing them to Christ as both the means and motivation of holiness (2 Cor 3:18; 5:14; Rom 6). We urge decisions (especially during invitations), but base them on emotional pressure rather than the unpacking of the Person and Work of Christ, starting our sermons in the Ephesians 4-6 portions of Scripture without rooting them in the Ephesians 1-3 portions of Scripture. By doing so, we’re setting people up for failure and despair by preaching law without preaching Christ.

Frankly, this is what concerns me most. Sure, I grieve when we don’t preach the text with sobriety—but even when we do, we often highlight what we must do for Christ more than what He has done for us. Sure we must remember the former, but we need to base it on the latter—without fail. The truth is, we don’t exult in Christ. Seriously, listen to what gets the most “Amens” in your next fundamentalist conference. A message that focuses on compromising evangelicals or rebellious teens or worldly music is apt to be met with a chorus of people saying “Amen!” and “That’s right!” Meanwhile, a message focused on Christ’s atoning work and it’s affect on every day living can be met with silence or a “tell me something new” inattentiveness. It grieves me. I urge those choosing special speakers to choose those who make much of Christ. What else do we have to offer sinners, after all?

I don’t have it all figured out. I’m a young guy. I tend to preach too long. I tend to rant to show my enthusiasm. I’m embarrassed to review my own messages that were moralistic, or light, or too comical. But I do try to conscientiously preach the text and preach Christ. And it’s contagious. The young church I pastor is filled with men who are serious about ministering the Scriptures. Week after week after week we hear the Bible proclaimed and Christ exalted, and not just from me. From Joe Tyrpak, who has a conscience that is bound to the text. From our elders, whose classes I visit each week only to hear the text being soberly and fervently explained and discussed. From countless others—maybe as many as 20—who have had the opportunity to preach the Word on a Wednesday night or Sunday night or at a retreat and who never dare to chat about themselves or meander about Christian-ish themes in general without biblical backing. They can’t imagine taking pulpit time for horseplay. By God’s grace, they’ve learned to have “zero tolerance” regarding nonsense in the pulpit. And that’s important. Because the preaching people hear is the preaching they learn. If you want to help raise up exegetes, bring in exegetes.

This shouldn’t be controversial. Paul urged Timothy to “preach the Word” in 2 Timothy 4:2. Not stories. Not red meat. Not jokes. Why? Because the Word is the only thing that is able to save (3:15), that is inspired and therefore profitable (3:16), that is life-changing and equipping (3:17). Clever stories can’t do any of that.

Paul went on to warn that people wouldn’t want sound doctrine but would instead prefer preachers who would scratch their itching ears with silly myths (4:3-4). I know fundamentalists typically use those verses to criticize what’s happening “out there”—and it is—but there is plenty of fabling and ear scratching going on in here, too. Too much. And it makes me want to weep.

Preacher, get serious about preaching. Get a conscience about it. And for mercy’s sake, if you’re going to criticize John Piper or Sovereign Grace, you’d better bring it. You’d better drive your message deep into the text. You’d better have the approach of a prosecuting attorney who knows that every single thing he says has to be verifiable by hard facts, not clever jokes or circumstantial evidence. Because if you criticize men who are passionate about preaching the text even as you give it a back seat to your own wisdom, you’ll be deservedly ignored. And it’s happening a lot. A lot.

And those who choose preachers, whether in churches or camps or colleges, I’m begging you: Put a zero tolerance policy on your pulpit ministry. You might regret putting out an invitation occasionally. It happens. Sometimes there’s “a swing and a miss.” But it’s not a guessing game. Preachers have reputations. Choose those who are known for years of sound exegesis, not those who can spin a tale and work a crowd. You, too, need to have a tender conscience about preaching. “Not on my watch. Over my dead body.”

Zero tolerance.


108 Responses

  1. Thank you Pastor Chris for an outstanding article. Thank you for your passion about this subject. I cannot agree more. I spoke to my son this past weekend who shared his tremendous dismay over a couple of sermons he heard last week. The timing of this article is excellent.

    The point you make is identical to the same point made almost twenty years ago by Dr. McLachlan in Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism. The day is getting late and this message does not seem to be taking hold as it should. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. Second. I joined the church I’m in now because they do guard the pulpit. They preach in robes (totally not necessary, I know), and when you put a robe on, you watch what you say, why, and how. You are no longer “you” but the speaker of God’s message. It’s serious stuff. As it should be.

  3. Good word, Chris.

    It reminds me of an audio clip that a friend sent me last weekend: 32:00-34:00 of this sermon from BJU’s opening conference last week.

    Update (Jan 20 at 3:15 PM): It appears that BJU has removed this sermon from Sermon Audio.

  4. Thanks for this, Chris. It’s so easy for me to read this and jump on the whole, “That’s right! You tell them!” wagon and neglect to take this introspectively. As a young preacher just starting to get my legs it’s so easy to neglect sound preaching in my desire to gain popularity and reputation.

    It’s also discouraging to try to change my own preaching to reflect a proper, biblical model, but so important. I know that when I was younger I was “good” at preaching. Unfortunately I was “good” at bad preaching. Going from there to being “bad” at good preaching while trying to improve is challenging and often discouraging. Your post has been a timely encouragement to me in this area.

  5. Amen and amen.

    One problem, though, for the average person in the congregation, is that is you bring up any of these points with a preacher, you’re looked on as critical or a troublemaker (I don’t bring up any of these things to pastors, personally, especially since I am a woman.) I think this kind of thing is what people mean when they say they’re “not being fed,” yet I have heard those folks criticized from the pulpit as having something wrong with them. And what’s sad is that some of these men are not heretics — they’re doctrinally sound good men who say that they value exegetical preaching, but yet they do many of the things described here. All I know to do is pray that the Lord would show them these things.

  6. Mr. Nail, meet Mr. Hammer. Spot on. Thank you, Chris. :)

  7. Great post, Chris! I’ve had some of the same thoughts for years. I remember as a youth pastor sitting in a camp “preaching” service and “keeping score” between the number of Bible verses read and stories told. Too often the stories won!


    ahem…I mean, well said, Chris.

    Good stuff.

  9. Thanks for your two cents. It really isn’t necessary to have good preaching in Fundamentalist circles because we all know that Calvinism is killing our churches so we need more name calling!
    Anyway, I do agree with you whole-heartedly and as I have time to preach on occasion at my church I will keep this in mind. The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to bring men to salvation. So we better make sure we preach the Word!

  10. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by ChrisOAnderson: Working link for Zero Tolerance on Preaching:

  11. AMEN. You are right on target. I was very sad about those two sermons we heard last week. They were very counterproductive to the cause of Christianity.

  12. Chris,

    You’re obviously correct. I’m not sure you go far enough.

    My personal opinion is that fundamentalists will demonstrate they’re serious about contending for the faithful exposition of Scripture, not only when they do so in their own pulpits, but also when they separate from those who don’t.

  13. That post was well overdo. Thank you Chris. I found myself applauding throughout.

  14. […] Chris Anderson writes another excellent article, this time dealing with text-driven preaching. Here is a short preview: Sure, I grieve when we […]

  15. THIS IS SO GOOD! Yes, caps are intended because I am shouting this. I’m so thankful Pastor Drew Conley at my church, Hampton Park, fits this exactly. But I’ve heard way too many so-called messages that do not faithfully proclaim God’s Word and are just trying to entertain. Thanks so much for this! I wish I could get everybody to read this!!!!

  16. Obviously, I meant Pastor Conley fits what preachers are supposed to do. :) Thought I should clarify.

  17. Amen. Thanks for telling it like it is, Chris.

  18. Excellent. Thank you. Messages, like the one Naselli pointed out, is what is driving away the young guys and killing fundamentalism. I agree with Ben. Faculty and admin members won’t be taken seriously about what they believe if they don’t separate from this kind of preaching.

  19. Thank you! Pastors do NOT “walk on water” & this is another reminder of our need to pray for them! They have a tough responsibility. We are so grateful for you & ours who are faithful & you men who encourage each other.

  20. I genuinely understand the basic point that is being made, but I do want to know what is wrong with drums?

  21. Actually, Naselli, I heard those sermons. While they weren’t “great” sermons, they were better than average. For an evangelist….

    I hate having to listen to evangelists as they tend to have formulaic sermons that epitomize bad preaching. At least that preacher had A) a point and B) a unrehearsed fresh approach to achieving it. When thinking over his sermon, it wasn’t deep, and in many ways seemed to be a running commentary of the text. Certainly not my preference, but light years ahead of most other evangelists. (I do like Svinstksy as he gets the pain over with quickly. :-p )

    So, that sermon had a high rate of stories, but he also kept on focus and was fresh. That counts for something.

    As to a solution to the dearth of decent preaching? I don’t know. How does a person encourage change without being ostracized? The pastor leads. He sets the tone. How can one troublemaker in the pew change the direction? From what I can tell, most people in the pew believe that they have to submit and so put up with bad preaching.

    And yeah, this is why people are leaving. That and when the pastor says that XYZ is wrong because “it is.” At least the “enemy” actually attempts a logical argument….

  22. Thanks Chris. To rehearse what everyone else has said–Well put.

  23. Wonderful advice for pastors and pulpit committees. But what if you attend a church where this sort of thing happens all too frequently? How do you approach a pastor who thinks you’re just a self-deceived insubordinate who’s worshipping at the Reformed altar? How do you entreat? I’m broken over that… I don’t have a father to ask, so I don’t know how to “not rebuke an elder, but encourage him like a father.”

  24. Amen, brother Chris.

    Maybe we should start a “please guard the pulpit” petition =)

  25. Totallly agree with you main point. Well said.

    One question though. You said, “I walked out when a preacher at a camp/conference compared the high priest’s going through the veil of the most holy place with marital intimacy.”

    Was it the corn-pone, tasteless style of the presentation that caused you to walk out? Or, are you saying that the metaphor is completely baseless and offensive?

    Isn’t it the case that God himself compares his relationship to his people with marriage? Doesn’t the Song of Solomon have any metaphoric application to Christ and his bride?

    Not at all trying to nit-pick or argue here. Just wondering, thinking, and trying to figure things out. I don’t think expositional preaching of the text can or should exclude the poetic, metaphoric, symbolic.”


  26. Chris,

    If God wills it I aspire to pastor some day, and this post has been a very real encouragement to me. Thank you for writing and posting it.

    In Jesus,

  27. Chris,

    Excellent post, and very much needed. However, on a more positive note, I do see a change in the right direction in Fundamentalism, and that gives me much encouragement. When I was in school (many years ago), expository preaching was an almost unknown subject. Now, it is taught and embraced by many. Still have a way to go, but we’ve come a long, long way, at least by my observation. A lot of good changes have occured in 40 years. I pray it will not take 40 more for the reformation to be complete!

  28. Excellent article, Chris! I am humbled and challenged! Greatly appreciated your clarion call to action! Makes me thankful for where God has placed us, but also careful not to take it for granted.

    As to the sermon, I agree with Naselli, but just identifying it doesn’t help…

    So what is the next step? Who is going to talk to him? Who is going to ask about why and who they bring to the pulpit? Will no one speak and will no one hear till a generation is gone?

    We were taught to dig deep and know what God’s Word said and preach that. So the reason for the season of leavin’ is that the examples brought in to preach weren’t doing what we learned.

    We were/are challenged to be humble and learn and find “nuggets.” But humbly, I’m not made for “nuggets.” I was made to feast on the beauties of Christ, to see the horror of my sinfulness, to wonder at His redemptive work, to be shocked by the stunning reality of justification, to be overwhelmed by the imputation of His righteousness to me, to sing about His adopting me and giving me the hope of eternal glorification with Him! So a prayer about God knowing what I need and He not disappointing me is probably the wrong way to start any venture into God’s Word–cause it starts with me.

    So the sermons may have been, “better than average. For an evangelist…” Really?!? Is that the response this call has engendered? No, no, no! We need to man up and pursue Christ. He said that if your church doesn’t have invitations, you should leave. It seems like the solution to the dearth of decent preaching may be leaving churches till they die.

    Think of it this way: You are in Haiti. You are starving, but you are committed to Haiti because you have always lived there, it’s your home and what you know. So 1) you are either going LEAVE to go where there is food or 2) you are going to STARVE or 3) you are going to CALL loudly for food to be brought in. People in Haiti don’t care that they look crazed as they scream for food, should we care?

  29. Good on ya Chris,
    pray for the seminaries especially–to be able to stay afloat in order to promote careful exegesis & exposition. I fear some of them will face (are facing) tough financial times due to lower enrollment. We need a continued generation of men willing to labor in the text, and let it do its labor on them…

  30. Pursuit of care in purposeful preaching using Scriptural depth while maintaining doctrinal purity is certainly worthy (and, as noted, lacking notably in notable places). But as with most passionate pursuits that warn about the ditch alongside the road, sometimes too much retreating from that hazard lands us in the ditch of the road’s opposite side. It’s the pendulum effect. Avoiding the extreme of one end often drives us to the extreme of the other end (which isn’t necessarily a good place to rest).

    Paul’s admonishment to preach the Word must be understood in the context of the departures from the faith discussed in the previous passage. Here is a call for purity of the gospel—just as Paul does time and again to warn Christians concerning the heresies of Gnosticism and similar false gospels that do the itching which many of our household end up scratching. The danger is not the jokes or the cleverly devised word-crafting that some preachers use to enhance sermons. Jokes do not necessarily cheapen. That road of logic leads to the legalism of medieval monasteries condemning laughter or the occasional smile.

    To be sure, the Driscoll-esque distortions should be condemned as much as the all joke or all heart-string-pulling sermons of some fundamentalists. But keep the emphasis on the danger—lack of Christ and the doctrinal depth of sermons. Constant abundant seriousness in the pulpit countered by relaxed, light-heartedness outside the pulpit, teaches (maybe subconsciously) that our lives should be divided into the secular and the sacred. An example of Christ preaching the kingdom to tax-gatherers and sinners amid the enjoyment of a meal ought to do wonders to the concept of entwining all of life into God’s story at all times.

    Again, certainly there are times and issues that call for serious handling. But even in protecting the seriousness of gospel issues and the depth of doctrinal discussion, we should be careful not to add to our unwritten Christian Talmud extrapolated rules by which we may judge the God-honoring quality of sermons.

    And, note—I am not in any way arguing against the line of reasoning that Chris employs here. I agree with Chris. Sermons need to incorporate wise and thorough treatment and application of Scriptural doctrine. I am simply raising a flag to say—Don’t forget about the other ditch.

  31. Point of clarification: I was not suggesting that the sermon referenced by Naselli was “great,” just opposed to it being completely vilified. He may have had too many jokes, but overall the content of his sermon was better than average. And it came across as fresh and not a well-oiled sermon #123.

    In a perfect world, all sermons would be perfect. In reality though, we need to remember that “better than average” is just that: an improvement over average. That’s always good. Maybe not to our personal specification, but still better than simply average or below-average. Let’s be certain that we don’t cast stones needlessly. Learn from examples, but remember that God still uses flawed instruments. He uses me after all.

    Anyway, preaching frustrates me. Mostly because I feel as if the preacher is giving me nothing that I couldn’t gather with 10 minutes of Bible reading and thought. Many preachers fail to challenge.

    Still there is change coming. BJU has been teaching better expositional styles and has certainly changed my approach to sermons. (I went through seminary at BJ before moving to a different sort of ministry.)

  32. You know, when I was in school and a young preacher, I knew everything about what was good and bad in preaching also.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  33. @don
    Could you clarify your comment? If I am reading it correctly it is absurdly arrogant and condescending. I hope I’m not reading it right. Are you accusing Chris and those who agree with him of being know-it-alls because they are young preachers? Are you implying that young preachers have no right to observe contemporary trends that are unbiblical and respond to them? I sincerely hope I’m misreading your comment.

  34. Yessirree! Couldn’t agree with you more. It’s usually annoying if not disheartening to hear a personal story being related that has little to do with the rest of the sermon. Also, as someone just out of high school who’s gone to church since I was 2 weeks old, I have heard far too many sermons that start out “Turn with me to such-and-such-a-passage” only to read it and leave behind for an irreverent introductory look at the Scriptures in order to ramble off on a speech (not sermon) about this or that moral topic. Preachers should take Christ’s words to Peter to heart in their ministry “Lovest thou me?… Feed my sheep.” Love people by giving them Truth.

  35. @Jeremy
    You are reading Don correctly. Sarcasm (to tear flesh) is not a pretty modus operandi, but it inflicts pain and gets attention.

  36. A quote I found in Harper’s magazine (in an article about abuse of prisoners in Gitmo) that seems like it has relevance here…

    If the heart of the military is obeying orders down the chain of command, then its soul is accountability up the chain. You can’t demand the former without the latter.

    Pastors have great authority over their congregations (the natural, psychological authority of a bully pulpit, if nothing else). And they need to be equally accountable when other preachers (or members of their own congregation) call them into question. Fundamentalist preachers are just about the last bastion of zero-accountability leaders. I’ve had a pastor tell me that I could believe what I wanted to in my own head, but I was not to tell him about anything about which I disagreed with him. He said it was insubordination according to Hebrews 13:17. (I had been as gracious as I knew to be, so I don’t think my tone was the issue.)

    The abuse of the pulpit has got to stop. It’s not a place to talk about whatever you’re annoyed by. You’re there to deliver GOD’S mail, not yours.

  37. Is it more glorious to laugh or to be unchallenged?

    I agree that our goal is the glorious Christ and that comes through a faithful proclamation of the word. But this has nothing to do with the amount of stories or laughter, it has to do with exegesis. I could be boring and not tell stories and still not be faithful to the text.

    I am certainly not about titles or movements because i think that is part of the problem we become so focused on reforming a movement that we waste a lot of time. I am pretty sure all of you would say i have left the Fundamentalist camp and i am very happy to say that you are right. I am not going to spend time defending my “camp” because i am not in one. How often do you write off a preacher because of his music? He can preach the glorious Christ and lift high the word, and then close with a song that has drums. Do you rejoice in the preaching of Jesus or do you fume about the beat?

    I am certainly not arguing a music style i am arguing for God focused preaching, even if you don’t like their style of music. Stop trying to save your movement! point people to Jesus and if the movement is good it will be fine. Have you ever thought that maybe young people are leaving your movement because they love Jesus! I did.

  38. […] post on the mytwocents blog. Let’s hope that more young fundamentalists start speaking out. […]

  39. Well said as well as much needed. In summary: we must learn how to distinguish between what is trivial and what is important. At a minimum, we must set priorities and stick to them. Power for preaching is found in His gospel, name, Spirit, and wisdom. It behooves us to become connected to the right power sources.

  40. […] Bible , Blogroll Leave a Comment Chris Anderson makes a great point over at his blog My Two Cents.  He is exactly right that we too often have been guilty of tolerating and even encouraging […]

  41. FWIW, I wasn’t addressing one individual or institution. I was intentionally general, as I think it’s a longterm and fairly widespread problem.

    That said, I don’t at all believe (as was suggested elsewhere) that there is something in the “DNA” of fundamentalism that makes this sort of preaching unavoidable. There are great exegetes in healthy fundamentalism, including Minnick, Doran, Mazak, Conley, Horn, Barrett, Berg, Brooks, etc., not to mention many laboring in obscurity.

    I appreciate the comments, however, both here and on FB pages. Apparently there’s an appetite for Bible-based, doctrinally-sound preaching, especially among young people. And that’s something to rejoice in.

  42. One need not “walk a mile in someone’s moccasins” or have many years behind the sacred desk in order to be commended for carefully critiquing a preacher’s message according to God’s Word–Acts 17:10f [the Bereans were critiquing what they heard from an Apostle no less!]

    The school where this message was presented would surely want to state that they supported the importance and autonomy of the local church–and yet this one’s message is “if your church does not have invitations, find another church?” Is it a joke? Is it serious statement? Apparently, the latter.

    There are so many other Swe@tt-esque statements in this message, so much tripe, all this sing/song stuff done at a Jr. High level, [and I wouldn’t want our Jr. Highers treated this way!]– I would hope that if my child were there, he/she would risk demerits and walk out…Seriously. If I heard the message, I would back him/her up.

    I know a young man in his late 20’s considering ministry. I suggested this school to him to consider as one of his alternatives. At this point, I would be dismayed at the idea that he would go into this kind of preaching–as part of the norm–if it is part of the norm.

    How does a student go from this to Minnick? One who is willing to be a blood earnest fool for Christ, versus a message of so much tom-foolery? [Obligatory ad hominem waiver: please note I have not stated that the speaker is a fool, or the like. It is possible to critique ideas without “hating” the one who promulgates them.]

  43. Wow. Amen, and amen.You are spot on. I am so thankful for our pastor who adheres to what is in this article.

  44. Don,
    If I am reading your comment correctly, which I believe I am. You are saying that young men cannot evaluate older men’s preaching? In the interest of full disclosure I am a young man, 25 to be exact. I am also progressing toward being a preacher. I think that would firmly put me into the camp which you imply should not be evaluating preaching.

    Allow me to give some reasons why I disagree.
    1) We are discussing a biblical issue. This is not a preference. When a preacher uses the text to create his own meaning he is robbing the Holy Spirit of his original intended meaning. I don’t prefer that a preacher avoid that. I demand that a preacher avoid that because it is unbiblical.

    2) I do not know you and cannot speak for you, but I have heard other men hold to similar opinions. You suggest that I should keep my mouth shut about a clear biblical issue because I’m being a know-it-all. However, if I were to leave a church because I believed it’s music was unbiblical or because its pastor dressed inappropriately I would imagine that you would applaud my boldness and commitment to Christ. I know other men who hold to your opinions regarding young men would.

    3) Maybe the reason older men aren’t speaking up is not their maturity but the build up of years of complacency waiting until they were “old enough” or experienced enough to challenge unbiblical behavior.

  45. Thanks for this post, Chris. What you have stated here is truth. I appreciate your straightforwardness. No mincing of words here or attempts to soften the blow. I would urge as you do at the end of your post, that each man beg for God’s light to pierce his own soul in this area, not only the guests he brings to the pulpit.

    Barbara H and Josh McCarnan speak truth here also. Unfortunately, those of us who are screaming for food are painted as the bad guy, rather than the responsibility being laid to the one who is charged with bringing the feast.

  46. I also want to add that I am thankful that I am in a church with a young pastor who does faithfully preach the text.

  47. First, like others I am incredibly thankful to be apart of a church with a pastor (Drew Conley) that understands this. His Christocentric and doctrinally rich preaching keep me coming back again and again. Not because it is easy, but because it digs deep and recognizes that Christianity makes tremendous claims on my life. I go away refreshed by a deeper understanding of a sovereign God and how my entire being is to be wrapped up in Him.

    But also like others here I have a practical question. How does one approach those who speak/bring in speakers about the lack of this kind of teaching? Hearing that I should leave a church because it doesn’t have an invitation and for the first time having revealed to me that because I learn from certain ministries that I am likely to name my kids John Calvin, “Pied” Piper, or Sovereign Grace rather than be interested in pursuing God puts its over the top. But recognizing the problem can’t be enough. So how do I practically approach leadership pointing out this issue in a way that won’t get immediately brushed away?

  48. Chris,

    You used “I” so many times in these paragraphs it is astounding. When you finally referred to the passages of scripture, you began to use the word “we.”

    Fleshly reaction to a problem is not the solution. (Eph 4) Taking action according to the scriptures is the only solution to any fleshly living. Everything else has a form of Godliness but denies its power.

    You defend John Piper and others with blanket endorsements implying that their intellectual efforts should gain unqualified acceptance of their teaching, since they are not in the Fundamentalist camp.

    If you would listen carefully to “Christian Hedonism Unpacked” you will find that Piper does the exact same thing that you accuse these unamed fundamentalist preachers , evangelist, schools of — He unpacks Edward’s paragraph of commentary about the scriptures and in only one instance even refers directly to the scriptures themselves. He then says that because of discovering this he wants to have more influence than Edward’s in our day.

    How is this any different from what you have reacted to in your comments?

    Proactively develope your ministry around the scriptures. Think biblically and hold everyone to that standard. What the scriptures mean is preserved in heaven. Our understanding of it is something less.

  49. I agree with your observation, but feel you go somewhat overboard on getting back to basics. Preaching Christ is contextual and needs to be examined but also brought out how we can apply it in our modern day culture. If the need to slam Willow Creek is your way of waking up Fundamentalists and setting them straight, the whole movement needs some deep soul searching.

  50. mike,
    is this an accurte sumation of your post by paragraph?
    1, i do not lik eyour choices of pronouns.
    2, you should not have an opinion, you are not diety.
    3, Piper isn’t perfect
    4, an example to prove #3
    5, see….
    5, develope, think, and hold your ministry to a standard that we can’t possibly know.

  51. I receive your humble evaluation of my typing skills.

  52. Pastor Chris,

    Thanks for the excellent post. I saw this link on one of my friend’s facebook pages and i almost flipped out when i noticed halfway through the article that it was written by you! I was like, “I know that guy!!”

    Anyway, On to more serious things. I can’t agree with you more about many of the fundamentalist churches and the sad lack of solid preaching that occurs there. I would love nothing more to see my fundamental churches come back to what they have forsaken and start preaching the whole of scripture again. I can honestly say that few things grieve me more in the church today than the fact that many institutions that were once the most biblically centered, Christ-Focused places have lost sight of that focus. I’m not trying to standard bash here, but when your standards and “moralisms” as you called it begin to become more important than the Word and we “give it a back seat to your own wisdom.” I would love to see churches that are focused more on what someone believes about God than what they wear to church or what music they choose to worship through. I can honestly say if that happens i would run back to the fold of fundamentalism, because honestly i am one of those young people that was run out of fundamentalism by this exact kind of thing. I hope that there are more fundamentalists out there who share your sentiments. It’s articles like this that make me say amen and hope that one day fundamentalism might once again be revived to a movement that whole heartedly serves the Maker of heaven and earth. I pray for that day.

  53. To add to my short thoughts earlier:

    I have some sympathies (with some caveats) for Chris’ complaint in the original post.

    1. With respect to the state of preaching in fundamentalism, I submit that the state of preaching ON AVERAGE outside of fundamentalism is no better than it is within. The point should not be that poor preaching is endemic to fundamentalism but to the varied skills and abilities of the men who enter the ministry.

    2. With respect to the current emphasis on expository preaching, I submit that it is fast becoming an overemphasis. I have listened to some expository messages that were like “listening to paint dry” (to modify the metaphor). The fact is that much of the mighty preaching of the past that moved multitudes in revival was not expository at all. Take, for example, Jonathan Edwards, or Spurgeon. There are many other examples. What we have today is a narrow-minded attitude that does not understand or appreciate the complete picture of historic preaching or the value of various styles and methods.

    With respect to my own comment about the value of time in learning to appreciate and evaluate preaching – well, it stands to reason, does it not? As a student I can recall deliberately setting my stance so as to fall asleep without attracting attention when certain preachers came to the pulpit. Years later, I recall sitting and listening to the SAME preachers with rapt attention. It was amazing how much the old boys improved over the years!

    Yet here in this thread we have a whole rush of judgementalism, certain that the preachers of fundamentalism are frauds who shouldn’t dare to darken the back side of a pulpit. Amazing.

    FWIW, I attempt to be mainly expository in my own preaching, partly because I believe it is important for weekly local church ministry and partly because it is easier than to preach a topically correctly. If you care to check my claims, I’d invite you to have a look at the sermons on our church website,

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3
    Don Johnson

  54. Scripture reference or references on music in the church? Thanks.

  55. Thanks! This needs to be heard. I can’t tell you how many times after such preaching that you described I have been told not to criticize. I appreciate the warning about being proud, unnecessarily critical, and fleshly. However, there comes a point where it seems that such warnings are ways of protecting the status quo and not dealing with the devastating results of such preaching.

  56. I appreciate Chris’s sentiments on the preaching, and have gleaned alot myself from Chris’s preaching and song lyrics.

    Like others mentioned above, I don’t understand the appreciation for equating a drum set to a crucifix and allowing it “over my dead body.” But I’m confident that Chris will either be sanctified or glorified into a better view on that someday! :)

    So overall, great post!

  57. @Don J,

    Expository preaching is overemphasized? Seriously? We’re focusing too much on preaching in which the point of the sermon is the point of the text? In the words of a wise man I once knew, “Tell us more things.”

    And would the fundamentalists please put the tired old, whiny “yeah, but evangelicalism is just as bad” argument to rest. First, fundamentalists are the ones who claim to be the ultimate manifestation of biblical Christianity. So it’s time to put up or shut up.

    Second, no one is leaving “fundamentalism” for “evangelicalism.” No one is arguing that “evangelicalism” is better off than “fundamentalism.” Let’s offer evidence, or let’s stop pretending that’s the case.

    The essential argument I and others are making is that, in some segments conservative evangelicalism, one will find a more robust commitment to the gospel (and even a more consistent commitment to separation) than in broad swaths of fundamentalism.

  58. Don,
    Do not mean to be irreverent in ANY way, but I’m sure that if Jesus were here on earth today, many would “despise His youth” because he definitely went against the status quo of the day.
    I have heard that same argument in the past and it is often used when someone has given Biblical reasons for what they are trying to argue for or against. “Well, he’s just a young guy. He’ll learn.”
    It appears to me that many times, older fundamentalists (generalalization yes) want to stand for their pet doctrines, but don’t stand for the points of Scripture that may go against what they believe. That will drive/has driven many younger men who seek to be biblical away.

  59. Ben,

    A couple of points in response…

    Is your definition of expository preaching something like this: “preaching that exposes the point of the text” or is it something like this: “preaching that takes a segment of scripture and explains how each part of it makes a certain point (or several points)”? As I recall, the latter is what is usually called expository preaching in the textbooks. Topical preaching on the other hand has no less obligation to be responsible to the meaning of the text, but it isn’t the same as expository preaching. And I think that the emphasis on expository preaching has robbed us (in general) of an appreciation for great topical preaching, as well as other styles.

    So we should be sure we are talking about the same thing if we are going to argue about it.

    As for the “tired old argument”, I am not saying, actually, that fundamentalist preaching is on average the same as evangelical preaching on average. Personally, I think fundamentalist preaching on average is better, but that is just an opinion, I certainly haven’t sampled enough of both to know for certain. And it is also my opinion, that, on average, it is certainly no worse.

    Your other points seem to depart from the point of Chris’ post and I don’t see how anything I said raises those points either. I think you are continuing arguments we have had in other places, so I’ll leave them alone for now.


    Regarding the young vs. old issue… well, it is certainly possible that the young can have good insight, but the fact is that experience does count for something. Over time, I have cone to realize that preachers are not as bad as the young experts think they are, generally speaking.

    I realize that comment rankles the young. Well, that is part of your life experience. You will get to rankle someone else when it is your turn.

    But it seems quite irrational to totally dismiss the voice of experience because of the group-think of the young.

    Don Johnson
    Jerimiah 33.3

  60. If my people will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land.
    Solomon missed the blessings of this point in his personal walk even though he stated the verse in his youth.
    Each of us should feel that we are as obedient to sense of the scriptures as we can be. Many times frustration with others who seem to understand less than we do is inevitable.
    They are responsible for what the Spirit has revealed to them and we are held to a different more rigorous standard according to what we are given. At times our perception of what we think we understand is over blown and swings wildly away from the intent of the scriptures. We should be humble, prayerful, Christ seeking, and repenting of our short comings.

    I apologize if my initial post did not convey this more clearly.

  61. I recently moved into the area and don’t come a fundamental background. After visiting many of the so called “good ” churches in Greenville, I found that there were hardly any that had great preaching. Expositional preaching is dying in this country (that includes Greenville) and it is sad. Seminaries are not teaching exposition of the Bible and they are putting out preachers who don’t know anything except how to give “bubble gum for the mind” on Sunday mornings. This problem is a big reason we are a mess today in the “Christian ” circle. If you want to hear great expositional preaching, listen to people like John MacArthur or my dad, Ron Glass ( We (churches) need to get back to really learning and understanding God’s Word and the only way to really do that is through expositional preaching.

  62. Chris,

    Thanks for stirring up this hornet’s nest! For me, the foundational issue is this: Fundamentalists, who claim to be the most Biblical in their Christianity, are too often woefully Un-Biblical in their preaching.

    You are exactly right. It’s time to get a little more “noisey” in pointing this out, and holding Fundamental preachers to a higher standard. How can we claim to be representatives of true, Biblical Christianity, and fail to give the Bible it’s proper place in our pulpits?

  63. @ Geoffrey– I live in Greenville and can give you several churches that have great expository preaching if you’re interested.

  64. Chris:

    You wrote, “I’ve heard more than my share of silliness from the pulpits of fundamentalist colleges, conferences, camps, and churches…. I walked out when a preacher at a camp/conference compared the high priest’s going through the veil of the most holy place with marital intimacy, for example. (No kidding. And I’m being discreet in my description.) I’ve developed a pretty high tolerance of pulpit pain in my lifetime, but even I couldn’t sit still for that one. It was evil.”

    Two Thoughts:

    1) Two close friends of mine were at a mission’s conference several years ago. The preacher was a Reformed/Covenant man, fairly well known. In his sermon he spoke of Abraham’s tent (Genesis 18) when the angels came to him before proceeding to Sodom and Gomorrah. The preacher equated Abraham’s tent to the NT church, an OT type of the NT church. Had they not been working so hard to refrain from laughing and being seated on the 2nd row they would have walked out. Point is- Bad preaching is not exclusive to any one movement. It can cut both ways

    2) I appreciate your revulsion of the camp/conference message. I likely would have beaten you to the exits, but if it was as vile as you indicate would have openly rebuked him before departing. Driscoll routinely ventures into sexual innuendo, filth speech; he delights in it, is unresponsive to admonitions and will not repent of it. Why do you suppose Mark Dricsoll is not subject to the same harsh, well-deserved criticisms and walking out of his venues? In spite of this he is still given keynote slots at certain conferences of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals.

    While I am sensitive to “pulpit pain,” one must wonder if some men, who still identify with Fundamentalism, have become desensitized to the “pulpit pain” Driscoll routinely delivers from his pulpit, the Crystal Cathedral, Desiring God and Gospel Coalition pulpits.

    For your consideration,


  65. This is very similar to a discussion that grew, oddly enough, out of a review for that not-so-hot book I alluded to in another post here. Dunno. Maybe I am overly simplistic, but when I look at something like Jonathan Edwards’ list of resolutions (of which there were 70– and he resolved additionally to review them weekly, which implies an investment of time in meditation) I come away with an idea that perhaps great preaching comes from marinating oneself in the Word for the benefit of oneself, and the greatness of the preaching is the result of overspill from a full and contrite heart. It’s not about loving to study the Book, but loving to find Him there. But many fundamental pastors are so busy orchestrating programs and activities and bus routes (do they do that anymore? ;) ) that their study time is reduced to scrambling for “what I can find for me to give to them this week”…it seems backwards. My two cents…maybe I’m all wet.

  66. Extremely well said Diane.

  67. Don,

    There is good and bad expository preaching. There is good and bad topical preaching. The issue with topical preaching is that, by definition, the preacher is setting the agenda for the sermon, not the inspired text. And when that’s a preacher’s pattern, his flock likely has reason for concern on a number of counts.

    I’m not sure how much difference there is between our definitions. Texts can make multiple points. But I can see how the two definitions might play out differently.

    In any case, Chris said he’s not opposed to exegetically sound topical preaching, and I’d concur.

    Concerning the tired, whiny “evangelicalism is no better” argument: You can say that my response is off topic and avoid answering me, but you brought it up. Saying I’m off topic is a flimsy excuse to avoid the flaws in your defense of fundamentalism. My point is, I think, a direct corollary to Chris’s: If fundamentalism thinks it’s the ultimate example of biblical Christianity, then stop tolerating unbiblical preaching.

    As many fundamentalists have said, “It’s not what you teach; it’s what you tolerate.”

  68. Ben,

    I answered your objection about the “evangelicalism is no better” argument. I didn’t say it was off topic. It was your other two points I didn’t bother to answer.

    You need to read yourself carefully.

    Don Johnson
    Jerimiah 33.3

  69. Ben:

    You wrote, “There is good and bad expository preaching. There is good and bad topical preaching.”

    Agreed. So, receive God’s blessing from the “good” that speak to you; appreciate what you can from the “bad,” reject the rest. IMO, there is room for both systems and a preacher should strive to excel at both.

    In my 30+ years as a believer I have heard good and bad expository and topical preaching. Far and away good from both.

    One of my personal favorites from the Topical (closley expositional) side would have to be “Children, Have Ye Any Meat” by the old time Methodist Evangelist Sam P. Jones (who had his shortcomings as we all can find in our own ministries).

    I have a hard copy of his sermon in my files. I recall the Sword of the Lord reprinted it back in the early-90’s.

    FWIW, I will link to an article that may be helpful read to all on topical preaching. See- Topical Preaching Can Be Truly Biblical. It also includes examples and warnings of how topical sermon preparation can do harm to the intent of Scripture.


  70. @Lou Martuneac

    You said, “Driscoll routinely ventures into sexual innuendo, filth speech; he delights in it, is unresponsive to admonitions & will not repent of it. Why do you suppose Mark Dricsoll is not subject to the same harsh, well-deserved criticisms & walking out of his venues? In spite of this he is still given keynote slots at certain conferences of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals.”

    This is an excellent example of what Chris was referring to when he wrote, “Preacher, get serious about preaching. Get a conscience about it. And for mercy’s sake, if you’re going to criticize John Piper or Sovereign Grace, you’d better bring it. You’d better drive your message deep into the text. You’d better have the approach of a prosecuting attorney who knows that every single thing he says has to be verifiable by hard facts, not clever jokes or circumstantial evidence.”

    Sir, I am not defending Driscoll but rather accuracy when presenting the facts of your case against him. Respectfully, your information is inaccurate.

  71. I’m hoping this discussion is winding down. The post certainly touched a nerve, which isn’t a bad thing, I suppose. There’s a longing for Christ-centered, biblically-sound preaching. Who knew? :)

    A few quick reflections:

    * I don’t think it helped that it immediately turned personal. I’ve been frustrated by several messages in recent weeks (from more than one pulpit), but it’s a much bigger issue than a particular institution or individual or message. This post was in the works for 20 years. I hope that larger point isn’t lost in the midst of “Yeah, ____ messages was really bad.”

    * I’ve recently spoken with two of my friends who often face this sort of decision-making. I spoke with them before writing anything here, and the results of both conversations were profitable. I urge those who have these sorts of concerns I share hear to graciously communicate them with the appropriate people. Talk to them, not about them. I’ve found them very appreciative of kind suggestions and critiques.

    * I’m really not all about controversy, but there are times when moving an issue forward requires a few sparks. “Contending for the faith” sometimes means addressing issues within, not only issues without. So these conversations might be uncomfortable, but I don’t think they’re unprofitable. In fact, I think we need to be open to giving and receiving some self-critiquing like this. It’s not as easy as pointing out problems elsewhere, but it’s much more helpful.

    * I don’t deny that there’s plenty of poor preaching in evangelicalism. I said as much. But I believe fundamentalists should (a) try to improve, rather than comforting ourselves with the idea that it happens elsewhere, too, and (b) focus on where we actually have influence rather than talking about what’s happening “out there.” That does little good.

    * I have, in fact, criticized this same sort of shenanigans coming from Mark Driscoll. You can see the post here.

    * Age has little to do with this discussion. Young people are yearning for sound teaching, which is cause for rejoicing, not frustration. FWIW, I think they’re more captivated by the message of a Piper than the man himself. (He’s old, by the way.) Also, the preachers whom I mentioned as good examples of sound preaching are all older than me. It’s about one’s attitude in the pulpit, not one’s age, or even whether one is preaching topically or expositionally. It’s about the humility to make the message of the passage the message of the sermon and endeavoring not to distract from that. Pretty simple.

    * I’ve been most encouraged by pastors who have responded by saying that they needed the reminder for their own preaching. I needed the reminder, too.

    * I do think the fundamental institutions with which I’m familiar and with whom I fellowship are being more careful in this area. I’m glad for it. And frankly, I’m glad that messages like those I noted in the original post capture our attention—they’re becoming the exception rather than the rule. That’s good. Again, we’ll inevitably have an occasional message or speaker we regret. It happens. But I think the trend is definitely toward more solid preaching, and I appreciate the leadership of those who are laboring to that end.

    * Lastly (and obviously, I think), I don’t agree with every comment posted here. But I’m glad for the discussion. It’s necessary, both in private and in public.

    Now move along and get ready to preach well Sunday. :)

  72. Chris,
    Thanks for your post. It was something I needed to hear and thanks also for all of your asterisks. Great stuff!

  73. Chris:

    Thanks for the summation. One closing note from me.

    You wrote, “Age has little to do with this discussion. Young people are yearning for sound teaching, which is cause for rejoicing, not frustration. FWIW, I think they’re more captivated by the message of a Piper than the man himself.

    The message of Piper among other concerns includes propagation of the charismatic sign gifts. Furthermore, Mike Riley noted several years ago- On the Ministry of John Piper:

    The most problematic example of Piper’s non-separatism, however, is his reaction to the heresy (open theism) in his own denomination…. Piper’s rejection of fundamentalist separatism cannot be chalked up to ignorance of the position…. Thus, his decision to maintain unacceptable ecclesiastical associations is made in full knowledge of the Scriptural position on separation, but in conscious rejection of it.”

    These messages from Piper make for “bad” unsound (expositional or topical) preaching. Tragically, some of our “young people” are being drawn toward and swallowed up by it. This IMO is not “cause for rejoicing!”

    Kind regards,


  74. Lou,

    Your quote from Riley’s article (which I think was well done) is a bit selective. I think you’d profit from the rest of it, as well as the portion you quoted.

    Let’s leave it there.

  75. Thanks Chris. I do have the complete article by Mike Riley on file in my archives.


  76. […] Posted on January 21, 2010 by Chris I’ve been shocked by the number of hits my recent article on serious-minded preaching received. Mercy. The discussion has sprawled—here, on FaceBook, and in private notes. Some of […]

  77. Very interesting . . .

    I don’t often see things like Chris, but, really, how can anyone who cares about the Bible disagree with his main point here?

    I never agree with Don, but I do actually think he makes a good point about the hubris of youth. Been there done that. And, I’d agree that if “expositional” just becomes a shiboleth it’s not worth much. I’ll settle for good preaching (I know, I know we must define that).

    It’s not unusual for me to agree with Ben, and I couldn’t agree with him more that the “I’m rubber, you’re glue” defense of fundamentalists is waaay too tired and played out. It’s nothing but an avoidance mechanism and disgusting partisanship.

    Listening to just a bit of the linked message reminded me of how long it’s been since I’ve had to sit in that kind of a meeting — and how long it will be before I do so again voluntarily. However, years and years ago, I actually knew that speaker personally (although casually), and I must say that he was a very caring and committed Christian who wanted to help others know Christ better. Now, remember, I’m presbyterian — haven’t been in a service with an “invitation” for many years — I’m just saying be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Very interesting Chris. Thanks.

  78. I’m not young, (45) did not grow up in fundie circles–saved at 25, came to an IFB at 29–without much of the backdrop others here have. What I have noticed is this–the indifferentists, conservative evangelicals, etc., really don’t know us, but man do some of the men in our pulpits like to think they know them! And they can tell you all the evils of Piper, et. al., ad nauseum, but will not realistically and consistently critique our own. Or, if they do, they may go on witch hunts for “leanings”– “although he said he affirms this, clearly he is convinced of that”, “because of his calvinistic brotherhood, although he disavows this heretic, he is actually desiring to be in that same heretic’s camp” [put in arminian, revivalist, labels too where you desire.]


    As a church planting pastor, one of the hardest things to get our people to do is to stop applying biblical truth to everyone else (esp. those wicked homosexuals, abortionists, atheists, etc.) and instead turn the searchlight of truth onto themselves.

    I see Chris calling us to that–movement/idea-wise. My peers, and the older guys will “lose” my generation, and the pimply-faced guys coming up, if we keep up with the kind of preaching referenced here; and more importantly, if we continue with the kind of imbalanced tolerance promoted by some here for the disrespectful way that the sacred desk, the sacred Word, and the sacred Body are handled. It’s not enough to use playground, schoolboy rhetoric to try to throw in a red herring.

    May we be unstoppable in promoting pulpit (and lectern) excellence—beginning with ourselves, and “our own!”

    [Caution: wordly, NPR “Car-talk Reference:] And although Chris threatens never to come to Michigan, and may even leave Fundamentalism every time he hears me say this—I say “thanks Chris, I agree with you!” If I muddied clear waters, or fine-tuned what you meant as general, I am sorry.

  79. Chris, not intending to be anonymous. Don’t know why there is not a link on my stupid little “theologshmeolog” moniker–Sam Hendrickson

  80. Chris,

    I am 41 and not sure if I am an old or young fundamentalist at this point. The Word of God is what is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword. A Word-laden sermon with a spirit-filled preacher is going to bring glory to God. If both of these elements are not working together the sermon is not going to be Christ centered. You can be right in your doctrine and preparation and yet sinful in your life. I guess that I weary over discussions of expository vs. topical. Just give me Spirit-led preaching that incorporates His power through the correct use of His Word and that is what I desire.

  81. Chris,

    A few more thoughts about my previous post:

    I am weary of the idea of who is more holy or more separated. I am weary of what school did you go to or what camp are you in. I am weary of the speech police that seem ready to pounce on a Christian brother who might have made a mistake in their sermon or in their affiliations.
    I am a weary, Bible-preaching, separated, young/old fundamentalist that hungers for a moving of the Spirit’s power. I long, crave, and pray that God would send us a Holy Ghost revival. I yearn to see God’s love shed abroad in the hearts of many new believers that are rescued from an eternity in hell. I bask in the truth that I am a child of the king, chosen by God almighty and will soon be with my Father and Savior in glory.
    I am not weary in well doing, but weary of labels and carnality in both myself and others.

  82. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. The bickering and endless backbiting and fighting and calling out preachers who are doing their best to serve the Lord is deplorable.
    All you need to do is look back to the old testament to see what happens to people that mock or condemn God’s prophets.

    Perhaps, instead of typing another reply or criticizing mine, you could head out to a mall or a park and witness to some one about the Glorious Gospel of Christ instead of your petty divide and conquer.

  83. With respect, Concerned…

    1. You just called out a number of preachers, and I presume that they’re doing their best to serve the Lord. Is your comment deplorable? Are you ashamed of yourself?

    2. All you need to do is read the Old or New Testaments to see how seriously the Lord takes the preaching of His word. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 wouldn’t be a bad place to start:

    “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

    3. Are you prepared to apply your reasoning across the board, to preachers of all stripes? Or to musicians of all stripes? I hope not.

    4. Sincerity isn’t the issue. Nor is skill, at least in delivery. It’s a matter of reverence and sobriety and humility before the text. And no, I’m not ashamed to press for that.

  84. Gentlemen. Let’s keep some balance on this topic. Explanation, illustration, application are all necessary for a good sermon. Preaching is more than mere explanation of the text (i.e., exegesis.). An unsaved Hebrew scholar can do that! Preaching is God’s word through a person. People have personalities that God chooses to use. They answer to Him, not us. And winning the heart of the audience to the preacher is not necessarily contradictory to honoring Christ if our lives are what they ought to be and drawing attention to ourselves is not the goal. Paul said, “be ye followers of me as I am of Christ.” And concerning a balanced use of humor, does God himself not have a sense of humor. The most spiritual men I know are the most natural men. God reveals Himself through their personality. There is variety in preaching. God didn’t gift us all the same. Some preachers are teachers, some are exhorters, some are evangelists. You cannot be what God didn’t make you to be. Be yourself.

  85. I’ve been away all day and would like to add a few summary comments.

    First, although I briefly mentioned it in one of my posts on the thread, I want to reiterate and emphasize more strongly this point:


    We do need better preaching in fundamentalist pulpits than has been done in some cases in the past.

    It is true that some present preachers say and do things that are pretty stupid, both in and out of the pulpit.

    However, my complaint with the reactions on this thread is to the bitter judgementalism that characterize many comments. I have learned that it is far too easy to be critical of the preaching of others. I once was. I have learned that God can use an uncultured boor to speak to me. (He used one to speak to Spurgeon, after all.) I have learned that some whom I once thought to be uncultured boors (or bores, or whatever) turned out to be just fine godly men and the problem was me.

    Further, I am complaining about the way complaints like this are used to slam fundamentalism and justify leaving it. Fundamentalism is a philosophy of vigorous defense of the gospel against its denial or betrayal. Complaints like these are pretty shallow justifications of leaving the fundamentalist position. The complaint goes like this: “Preaching like this is what caused me to leave fundamentalism.” Right. As if fundamentalism was defined by a kind of preaching! Fundamentalism is instead defined by a commitment to defending the gospel against its denial or betrayal. How is some bad sermon the justification for abandoning that commitment? My point in raising the bad sermons of evangelicalism is that you aren’t changing the scene, you are just changing the players.

    In other words, you are abandoning a philosophy of defense of the gospel because of the bad preaching of one group so you can align yourself with another group that has plenty of bad preaching of its own? That makes sense?

    Finally, with respect to saying, “young people are hungering for good preaching so they go where they can get it, i.e., to a Piper…” My point on the comparison with preaching in evangelicalism is to say that not all evangelical preachers are Piper. Not all live in Minneapolis. Their choices are local (as far as local ministries go). So the average of poor preaching is a problem no matter where you are, usually.

    I hope that helps to clarify my point of view. In blog discussion, we are often typing quickly and not expressing ourselves as well as we could. Hopefully I have taken enough time this evening to make myself a little more clear on some of these points.

    Don Johnson
    Jerimiah 33.3

  86. Don:

    Appreciated your comments above.

    You wrote “Further, I am complaining about the way complaints like this are used to slam fundamentalism and justify leaving it… Complaints like these are pretty shallow justifications of leaving the fundamentalist position.

    Most of those who complain about fundamentalism have left for evangelicalism already. They keep a presence in fundamentalism, they try to retain the “fundamentalist” label; why I do not know. Maybe they think they can embrace the practices of the so-called “conservative” evangelicals and call it “fundamentalism.”

    In any event, last summer just before the FBFI annual conference I was speaking to one of its leadership. We discussed the angst and anger of some YF guys. He wondered what could be done. I said, if they want to leave for the ce camp, let them go.

    You wrote, “Fundamentalism is…defined by a commitment to defending the gospel against its denial or betrayal.” A good partial definition. And here we have men who want to identify with fundamentalism, but they have already begun to embrace, promote and attend conferences sponsored by certain evangelicals who hobnob with the “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18), i.e. those who deny the Gospel.

    Is it possible that their problem is not so much with the preaching in fundamentalism? Isn’t it possible they are attracted to evangelicalism, want to be evangelicals, are committed to evangelicalism and simply need to legitimize the shift, and complaints about preaching ease the transition for them?


  87. Lou, this is a post about serious, selfless, text-driven preaching. If you want to question the “fundamentalicity” of those frustrated by preaching that ignores the Word, do so on your own blog.

    I seriously wonder sometimes whether our loyalty is to the Scriptures or to labels. The fact that this post is even deemed controversial is a sad thing.

  88. Chris:

    I apologize for any offense taken to my previous commentary. I was simply interacting with Don’s comment.

    I do agree that absolute fidelity to the Scriptures should be our primary concern. There is a growing loyalty to labels, fellowships and coalitions; we all see it.


  89. I guess you chose to continue the “divide and conquer” holy huddle isolationist approach as opposed to sharing the gospel with the lost…surprise surprise

  90. Wow. Just got back to this thread, and what a tempest it continues to stir!

    Chris, you have my gratitude for raising an important, could I say, fundamental issue. If the quality of preaching from fundamental pulpits is not seen to be one of the most important issues of the day, we’re in greater trouble than we realized.

    There is plenty of poor preaching within the broader context of evangelicalism. That’s why evangelicalism is in big trouble. If we want to see fundamentalism thrive, it will happen when, and only when, fundemantal pulpits sound forth a clear “Thus saith the Lord” that is an accurate reflection of Biblical truth. We’ve had too much opinionated preaching that is not an accurate proclamation of Biblical truth.

    One of the greatest strengths of expository preaching is what it does for the preacher. It forces him to study. It forces him to dig deeper than his current level of understanding. It forces him to better understand the Scriptures he preaches to others. What we need is more Biblically knowledgeable preachers unfolding Scripture to their people. Where that is done, churches thrive. Where that is lacking, churches shrivel. And I’m not necessarily talking about numbers. I’m talking about growing in grace and knowledge. I’m talking about true spirituality. I’m talking about Christ-likeness.

    The health of the church depends upon the health of the pulpit.

  91. Concerned,

    I am assuming, of course, that you were blogging today from a mall or park while you were witnessing. Was that difficult to do?


    Good words, my friend. I, too, cannot believe that anyone could possibly have a problem with anything that you wrote. Usual suspects, I suppose.

  92. Chris,
    I had never viewed your blog before this topic was posted on FB by a friend. So as an observer I read your comments and posted what seemed apparent.
    That was certainly a mistake on my part. Paul sums up how I feel in 1Cor 4:13 ESV “We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.”
    The pastor who took our poor family under the church’s wing when I was a child was a biblicist who had left SB convention b/c of apostasy. He set a very high threshold of Word and deed.
    Since then, I too have seen and sat under less than adequate preaching. For me one particular preacher I have had the most difficult time with came to Christ as an adult some 30 years ago. (Similar to the evangelist that was denegrated in the first few postings in this thread who was saved out of singing in nightclubs at age 40.) Superficial, cursory management of the scriptures seems to reign in each of this pastor’s presentations. God used 1Corinthians 4 to help me subdue my thoughts to the captivity of Christ. I erased these veses the other day and instead presented Solomon’s prayer of dedication. I will let them speak for themselves (especially vs 3)
    1 Corinthians 4
    1Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.
    2Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
    3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.
    4For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord.
    5Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.
    6And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
    7For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
    10We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.
    2 Corinthians 10:11-1312 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you.

    It is no wonder families are disintegrating faster than they can be formed with the true passions of pulpiteers being revealed here. May God have mercy upon us and grant us godly sorrow.

  93. What do we do with Scriptures that tell us to judge at one point and not to judge at another? What do we do with passages that call for encouragement and rebuke on one hand, then teach us that to our own master we stand or fall?

    Discernment comes about in understanding the motivating conflict of the ages–the conflict between a trust/faith/following of God and trust/faith/exaltation of self/humanity. That was the conflict in the Garden when Adam and Eve removed their trust from God to place it in themselves. We see it as the Tower of Babel was built. We see it in Israel as they again and again looked to themselves or Egypt or Syria for protection rather than looking to God. We see it all the way through to Revelation’s earth-dwellers and heaven-dwellers.

    When we evaluate Scripture, God shows us that the attitude of our actions in our own self-aggrandizement or in trust of humanity fails. When we judge for selfish motives, we err. When we are in pursuit of Christ, we may succeed in rebuking for his glory and encouraging for his purpose to help us all to maturity in Christ.

    Of course, we will all say that we are speaking, encouraging, rebuking, admonishing for God’s purpose rather than in pursuit of our own lusts, but God surely knows our hearts and it also comes out sometimes in what we say. But our response probably should not be to constantly rebuke the rebukers on pretext that God never wants Christians to examine the Christian community. While encouragement toward humble-hearted correction is always a good reminder, to piously (even with sincere piety) argue for silence in the face of that which does not honor Christ does itself not honor Christ.

    The passionate appeal that Chris presented for careful handling and delivery of the Word is a good and right encouragement. And even the discussion that followed can be helpful as long as our true motives are not to rip and tear, not to bolster our own egos, not to follow our own pet pursuits, but to build each other up for the furtherance of the glory of our God.

    I really thank God for this blogging medium. I learn an incredible amount from others that whittles away at my prior falsely constructed opinions and perspectives. So while I would encourage everyone to make sure your motives are in Godly pursuit, I would also encourage you not to be silent, but press on for the benefit of us all.

  94. Chris,

    Thanks for this article. Really good stuff.


  95. […] Zero Tolerance. Chris Anderson speaks on the importance of guarding the pulpit. […]

  96. […] Chris Anderson (from his post  “It’s Past Time to Put a ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy on Preaching“) Tags: Christianity, Preaching, The Gospel, Truth Share this […]

  97. […] Bible is Not Play-doh January 28, 2010 vizaviz Leave a comment Go to comments A good post over at Chris Anderson’s blog from last week. Something to whet your appetite: Put a zero […]

  98. […] If you disagreed with Chris Anderson, you probably haven’t read it […]

  99. I am at once challenged and humbled. Thank you Chris for a stirring reminder of what I was faithfully taught in Seminary and had faithfully demonstrated to me by my pastor during those same formative years.

  100. Stunning discussion starter of a post. Not a fundy myself, but feel you have slammed important nails on the head. Personally think the church needs a good dose of bicameral preaching to balance it.

  101. Thanks for a valuable link!

  102. […] the preacher is not a clown. word […]

  103. Brother Chris:

    I read the article at 9Marks. I believe I see a disconnect between what Grudem wrote in a portion of the citation above and what he does in practice. Allow me illustrate.

    Grudem wrote, “Essentially, they stood in the pulpit, pointed to the biblical text, and said in effect to the congregation, ‘This is what this verse means. Do you see that meaning here as well? Then you must believe it and obey it with all your heart, for God himself, your Creator and your Lord, is saying this to you today’!”

    Now, the Scriptures are clear in that we are to have no fellowship with and refuse to cooperate with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14-ff; Eph. 5:11) the deadly “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). The meaning is very clear. These are God-given mandates to believe and obey. As Anyabwile noted, “to obey it as obeying God Himself.”

    That being established- how do we reconcile Grudem’s admonition above with his having signed the Manhattan Declaration, which put him in willing fellowship with “enemies of the cross of Christ?”

    My point that if we are calling for “zero tolerance policy on preaching” then we must not tolerate a mixed message; don’t you agree?

    Kind regards,


  104. Lou,

    Your comment isn’t germane to the discussion. I cited a good article on preaching that related to the original post. I didn’t say Thabiti or those he quotes are perfect, nor did I bring up the MD. In fact, I’ve expressed my disagreement with the MD very clearly on this blog. You don’t need to look for a loose thread to pull every time an evangelical says something true.

  105. Chris:

    I’m asking you stick with me here a little longer; OK?

    I followed your link to 9Marks and found there a good admonition on preaching. I liked it a lot, however…

    As I noted earlier he (Grudem) and Anyabwile both call on men to believe and obey the Word of God. Grudem, however, brushed aside the biblical mandates that forbid entering into any cooperative effort with unbelievers when he signed the MD.

    Respectfully, that IMO is no mere, “loose thread

    Now, if we are going to hold men accountable, have zero tolerance for the various concerns you raised, which are valid concerns; shouldn’t we be ready to hold men equally accountable for preaching faithfulness and fidelity to the Word of God, but take steps that are not in absolute fidelity to the God’s Word?

    That is why I used the contents from the article you linked to above. It illustrates an example of when IMO we should take a zero tolerance stance.

    Do we have some agreement here?


  106. […] Our recent discussion on why serious-minded, fervent preaching is so important […]

  107. It might be a good idea to write a follow-up article to help people know what truly is “unbiblical preaching” and how to biblically handle it when it happens. How long of a story is appropriate? How many personal illustrations mean that the preacher is self focused? Is it possible, even plausible for some to be so caught up in their perfect sermon prep and delivery that the power of God has been “intellectualized” out of the sermon prep and delivery? Are we training college students, seminary students and church members to be legalistic in preaching styles? We recommend men like Piper who have doctrinal error and major separation issues yet we may dismiss a man who is backwoodsy, less eloquent and doesn’t know all the latest spiritual buzz words. I’m not saying Chris has done this, but the “controversy” in this article comes from some of us who are way too familiar with the prideful critical spirit of the preaching police. (again, not saying this is Chris – I just think his blog post empowered them to badmouth more preachers who don’t preach exactly as they feel they should)

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